When you’re looking for flooring for a rental property, there are several elements you should be thinking about. It’s not just a case of what looks good to you. It’s much more than this, as it’s not just you in the mix.
When you’re in charge of a rental property, you have various obligations. To the tenant, you have to provide a residence that meets their needs in terms of comfort and practical concerns. If you don’t, they may not stay for long. On top of this though, you have obligations to the building owner, be it yourself or another party altogether. The property that you’re looking after has to feature durable fixtures and fittings that will give value for money, or you’re not doing your job.
We’ll look at some of the more popular flooring choices and assess them in terms of the main concerns that apply to rental properties. So without further ado, let’s begin.
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What’s Special About Flooring for Rental Properties?
When you’re selecting a floor for a rental property, there are certain factors at play that might be more important than when you’re choosing a floor for your own home.
OK, we all want durable floors. However, with rental property, this is even more important. Tenants can be a little more casual with the landlord’s property than if it were their own. This can be especially the case with certain demographics, such as students intent on lubricating their studies. Consequently, landlords need a floor that’s hardwearing and easy to care for. Waterproofing’s handy too.
The most conscientious tenant is unlikely to do much more than push a vacuum cleaner around, and even that’s not guaranteed. So, you need a floor that doesn’t mind a certain level of neglect.
You want to rent that place out, and a floor’s appearance can make all the difference between, on the one hand, a perma-occupied space that’s earning decent bucks for you and, on the other, a lonely unlived-in property that’s forever on the shelf and doing nothing for your bank account aside from draining it.
You’re not going to want to spend a fortune on it. After all, you’re not going to be the one to benefit from the look and feel of it. When you’re weighing up the cost, remember to include not just the initial outlay for the materials but also any installation costs and the expense associated with care and maintenance.
The good news, however, is that you can claim the cost of the flooring and the installation back as a permissible expense. However, there are issues with this, covered by the term floor depreciation.
Broadly speaking, the wonderful world of floor depreciation splits into two hemispheres. Firstly, the shorter recovery period. If the floor is carpet, then you can depreciate the cost over a mere five years. If, on the other hand, it’s adjudged to be more permanent, such as luxury vinyl or hardwood, then you have a longer recovery period: you have to spread the depreciation over 27.5 years. Wowzers. It could be worse, mind you. If you’re renting out non-residential real estate, such as offices, it’s a whopping 39 years.
For a whole lot more guidance on all sorts of depreciation matters for rentals, check out this YouTube video.
Best Flooring Types For Rental Properties
- Engineered Hardwood
- Ceramic Tile
Here’s a rundown of the best flooring for rental property in no particular order. Keep reading below for a detailed description of each flooring type so that you can decide which one is best for your needs, budget, and expectations.
There are two forms of vinyl we’ll look at here: vinyl sheet and luxury vinyl plank.
This is the stuff that you probably automatically think of whenever vinyl is mentioned unless you’re into retro-audio, in which case your fingers will be twitching at the mere thought of a box of discs to go riffling through. For most though, vinyl is the flooring material that comes in an enormous sheet that you cut to order from a massive roll. It’s cheap, it’s durable, and it’s easy to lay. In fact, it’s tempting to say that we have a winner already in the best flooring for rental stakes. Thanks for reading.
Hang on though. Just because vinyl sheet can deliver at a low price, it doesn’t mean that it’s perfect for every rental application. After all, the bedroom that’s got vinyl flooring is not a bedroom that will be happily lived in by everyone. As far as coziness goes, the vinyl sheet’s not all that. Homely and cuddly, it is not.
It’s also not as durable as a lot of materials, being quite vulnerable to tears and scratches. So, overall, unless your budget is super-tight or you’re furnishing the place with a 70s kitsch vibe, vinyl sheet is probably not the best choice. This is why we haven’t given it as much attention as we’ll now devote to some other flooring options.
Now, this is flooring of a different league. Luxury vinyl is not vinyl sheet with pictures of Beluga caviar and Cristal champagne on it. It’s got an altogether different construction to deliver a far superior performance.
Rather than the homogenous material of vinyl sheet, luxury vinyl is constructed from an assembly of several different layers. Starting at the top, we have a wear layer that deters damage from everyday usage. It’s usually made from ultra-tough aluminum oxide and often has scratch-resistant technology built-in, as well as anti-bacterial properties.
Under this is the design layer, which is really just a photo of some wood or stone. The design’s authenticity is helped by having a large number of variations in the pattern – it’s often the case that a dozen or more uniquely patterned planks are supplied in a given variety so as to prevent duplicate planks from having to lie next to each other. Authenticity is also assisted by having texture and micro-beveled edges form part of the design.
Beneath the design layer is the solid core, often made of a wood or stone polymer. This is the heart of the construction and provides the beef of the floor. It’s also impervious to water ingress, which is a key benefit.
Finally, we have the backing, which is a layer intended to lend stability to the structure. It may also assist with acoustic muffling.
So, is luxury vinyl a good bet for a rental property? Let’s go through the requirements and see how it measures up.
Luxury Vinyl Durability
Luxury vinyl has a good reputation for toughness and is used in many areas where durability’s a must. As long as the wear layer’s up to it, luxury vinyl will deliver. Ideally, you’re looking for a wear layer of 20 mils or thicker.
This kind of wear layer will render the flooring suitable for just about all domestic settings and, of interest if you’re renting out offices or shops, some commercial settings too. Warranties at this level will usually give lifetime residential coverage, although you should check that the guarantee covers rental properties.
Finally, on durability, luxury vinyl is at the top of the waterproof charts, so is an especially good flooring material for use in bathrooms, basements, or wherever things might get particularly watery.
Luxury Vinyl Maintenance
The good news is that luxury vinyl takes very little looking after. A regular sweep-up is all that’s usually required, with the odd damp mob when things get a little on the lived-in side. Should there be any real damage done to the floor, the offending planks can’t be refinished, but they can be relatively easily replaced with new ones.
Luxury Vinyl Appearance
Luxury vinyl can look very good. It doesn’t have quite the character of natural materials, but it’s not a bad simulation. Some people find it a little too matt, even dull, in appearance, so this might be worth thinking about if you want a floor that will catch the eye.
Luxury Vinyl Cost
Luxury vinyl’s not the cheapest option, but you can pick up some fairly decent gear between $3 and $5 SFT. The more you spend, the better it tends to look and perform, but you’re probably not going to want to spend much over $5 SFT unless you really love your tenants. Mannington Adura Max, Smartcore Ultra, or Coretec Grande are just some popular options worth considering.
Ever since the late 1970s, laminate’s been used in a wide variety of settings for which wood was held to be too expensive or otherwise unsuitable. It can sometimes be dismissed as an inferior copy of wood (or, less commonly, stone or ceramic), but this can be a mistake. Laminate has a good deal to offer, especially for rentals.
Like luxury vinyl, laminate flooring has a multi-layer construction, featuring different materials as we go through a cross-section. At the top is a wear layer, usually aluminum oxide or similar, that repels step damage. Under that is the design layer, which, just like with luxury vinyl, is a photograph of whatever natural substance is being aped.
Beneath the design layer is the core, which often features HDF, sawdust, or wood pulp. Underneath this is the backing layer, doing its stability and acoustic thing, as well as acting as a barrier against water ingressing from below.
All the layers are fused together with resin, extreme heat, and pressure. There are two basic types of laminate: Direct Pressure Laminate, which consists of the above construction, and High-Pressure Laminate, which usually features an extra layer or two of paper and stiffer resin. It’s also put together with a higher level of pressure (1300 pounds or more, since you ask).
For most residential settings, DPL is fine. If, however, you’re letting out your property to a bunch of tap-dancing gorillas in stilettoes, you’re going to want to look into HPL. And, if they’re any good, ask about their representation too.
Laminate can be a tough customer, demonstrating great scratch resistance and sometimes more dent resistance than luxury vinyl. The durability of laminate flooring is rated with the Abrasion Criteria (AC) scale. Choose a variety with a rating of AC4 or 5, and you’ll have a floor that can deal with just about anything it’s likely to encounter in a residential environment.
Warranties are commonly around the 20-year mark, although better is available with the more expensive brands. Again, always check that a warranty covers rental properties.
Waterproofing’s not 100% with laminate, but it can give pretty good splash resistance, which is why it’s often used in kitchens. You may need to write into the terms of the tenancy that they don’t leave water standing on the floor for any length of time. Yes, it should be a given, but, alas, it is so often not.
As with luxury vinyl, just a sweep and the odd mop will keep the laminate in good shape. However, the mop should be no more than a little damp. A slop with a sopping mop will not be appreciated by laminate and may result in water damage. Where damage does occur, either from water or wear, you can replace the affected areas with new laminate sections.
If luxury vinyl can seem a little lackluster, laminate is like its more extrovert cousin. Fabulously vibrant varieties are available, and they can really catch the eye of any prospective tenant. OK, they may not compensate for the busy road or the grandstand view of the local incinerator, but they may help sway tight decisions your way.
If you’re really after a bargain, you can find laminate for around $0.99 SFT. This won’t be the best quality though, so it won’t stand up to much in the way of everyday stresses and strains before the lamination itself starts to come undone. Up your budget to $2 to $4 SFT, and you’ll get yourself a floor that you can count on, such as Pergo Outlast or Mohawk RevWood.
Next up on our list of the best flooring for rental property is carpet. The perennial favorite of the householder who likes things warm and cozy, a carpet’s got its adherents, but most of them tend to be owner-occupiers. There are real issues when it comes to carpeting a rental property, as we’ll see.
Carpet comes in all manner of pile thicknesses and depths, made from natural materials such as wool and grass, as well as from synthetics such as nylon, or can be a blend of natural and synthetic to give softness as well as strength.
One of the major advantages of carpeting in a rented environment is the soundproofing it gives. Where you have a house with multiple occupants, with all the comings and goings of numerous tenants, it’s super-beneficial to have flooring that absorbs the noise of some of that traffic.
While carpeting’s not suited to every room – eg, carpeted bathrooms are very much not the thing nowadays, they have a lot to offer the rental sector.
A weekly vacuum clean will keep most carpets looking passable. A bi-yearly shampooing is desirable in that it gives a deep clean and refreshes the fibers.
Where carpet is a real pain is when it gets stained, as anybody who’s stuck with a red wine mark in the middle of a lounge carpet will tell you. If you don’t get at it straightaway, you and that stain are going to be inseparable for a long, long time. And can you rely on your tenant to get busy with salt or bicarb in good enough time?
This is where carpet tiles are a great option. Simply replace the tiles that have been affected by your tenant’s less-than-firm grip on their glassware, and things are as good as new.
Of course, carpet can look fabulous. The right shade and pile in the right room will be a delight every time you walk in. Even tiles, often thought to be the poor end of the carpet scale, can look fantastic if you make the most of the options to mix and match colors and patterns to give your tenant a really vibrant setting for their TV watching.
There’s a carpet for every budget, from $0.50 to $10 and up per SFT. For an average bedroom, a cost of around $500, including installation and waste removal, shouldn’t be considered uncommon. Remember that you can claim this expense against tax, with a recovery period of only five years. However, there’s a caveat. If you glue down rather than tack, the carpet’s considered a permanent part of the property, so a recovery period of 27.5 years applies.
4. Engineered Hardwood
Not many landlords will consider solid hardwood to be an appropriate flooring material. OK, it looks sensational, but it costs a packet and just isn’t that durable. It’d be like buying a Hockney original and hanging it in a rental with no glass in the frame. In fact, with no frame at all – just glued to the wall. In short, you’re probably asking for trouble.
However, engineered wood might be a contender. It’s not terrifically well-known compared with laminate and carpet, but engineered wood’s making inroads due to its combination of looks and durability.
What is it? Well, the term actually covers a whole bunch of different products, but what they all have in common is that there’s wood in there, combined with another material, such as plastic and treated, to make it more durable than solid wood.
Engineered Hardwood Durability
Solid wood scratches immensely easily and can end up bearing the signs of a busy household very quickly. Engineered wood is a little less prone to wear and tear, having been treated to make it tougher.
Where it really stands apart from solid wood is its ability to deal with splashes. Although it’s not as resolutely waterproof as vinyl, engineered wood performs very well in a bathroom or kitchen environment.
Engineered wood companies often dish out warranties in the order of 25 and even 50 years for residential settings. Ten years or so is more common for commercial applications.
Engineered Hardwood Maintenance
The old sweep and mop routine will keep an engineered wood floor looking great. One of the bonuses with this material is that if any sections become damaged, you can refinish it just like normal wood.
Engineered Hardwood Looks
If you like solid wood, you’ll love engineered wood. It’s pretty much indistinguishable, which is one of its key characteristics. What’s more, the range of different woods is growing larger by the day.
Engineered Hardwood Cost
There had to be a downside. It’s just not very economical, regrettably. Think in terms of between $4 and $8 SFT, and you’ll be in the right neighborhood. It’s not a cheap neighborhood. But my goodness, it’s a nice-looking one. It’s just a question of whether you want to fork out for this stuff in your rental or maybe you’d prefer to spend the money on your own floor. Brands like Provenza and Flooret seem to be popular engineered hardwood options in recent times.
5. Ceramic Tiles
This one’s a bit of an honorary mention. Although common in continental Europe, where it’s often used throughout the whole property, you won’t find many rentals in the US having this material put down anywhere other than in the bathroom.
Why this is mainly down to cost and installation expenses. This might be considered a shame because, in many ways, ceramic tiles are perfect for rentals. Not that they don’t have their drawbacks. Just ask anybody who lives beneath someone with a ceramic floor.
Ceramic Tile Durability
There’s a good reason why ceramic tiles have survived amid the ruins of antiquity. Ceramic’s a badass material that just doesn’t give up. It has scratch resistance, dent resistance, and heat resistance to spare and isn’t troubled by water one bit. Hence its popularity in bathrooms. Heck, even in swimming pools.
Ceramic Tile Maintenance
Just a damp mop will keep those tiles looking gleaming. If one of the tiles becomes damaged, you can remove it and replace it with a new one.
Ceramic Tile Looks
With an enormous range of colors, patterns, and textures available, ceramic tiles can turn an otherwise unremarkable space into the room of one’s dreams. Just ask a proud Pompeiian mosaic owner.
Ceramic Tile Cost
The cost range with ceramic tiles is truly colossal. You can get your hands on some unremarkable ones that may actually break without too much wear for about $2 SFT. On the other hand, you can push the boat out and get some fabulous-looking tiles that will give decades of service for up to $30 SFT. A more reasonable perspective might be in the region of $10-$15 SFT.
Compare The Best Flooring Types for Rental Property
|Flooring Type||Cost Per Square Foot||Average Lifespan|
|Luxury Vinyl Plank||$2.99 – $6.99||10 – 25 years|
|Laminate||$0.99 – $4.99||10 – 25 years|
|Carpet||$0.49 – $4.99||5 – 10 years|
|Engineered Hardwood||$3.99 – $9.99||20 – 30 years|
|Ceramic Tile||$9.99 – $14.99||25 – 50+ years|
When weighing up all the different options, we felt that laminate might be the best flooring for rental property. It’s hard wearing and looks terrific. And can be combined with a rug for those who yearn for a little softness. In this way, you can use it in pretty much every room, which helps in terms of simplicity and maybe expense too.
Admittedly there are better-performing floors out there, but you do tend to get what you pay for. And you might not want to have to spend that much on the place, particularly if you have more than one property to install a floor into. Just remember the golden rule with all such things: keep all your receipts. This means not just for the initial purchase but for installation, waste disposal, and any maintenance that takes place. This way, you can keep your finances as robust as your laminate floor.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about the best flooring for rental property and that you find that it helps you come to a decision on which to install in yours.
What should I look for in a rental floor?
Resilience to wear and tear, primarily. It may see a lot of use from people who may not apply the same care to it as they might if they owned it. Aside from this, you want to be sure of value for money, good looks, and easy care.
Can I claim the expense of a new floor?
You can offset against tax the amount you spent on materials, installation, and maintenance. This will be claimable over a recovery period of 5 years for tacked carpet and 27.5 years for stuck-down materials.
What’s the most durable flooring for a rental?
It’s a toss-up between ceramic tile and luxury vinyl, both of which are extremely resilient to wear and totally waterproof.