One of the highlights of my month is visiting the in-laws with my wife. It’s not just because I actually do have a good relationship with her mother, it’s also so I can have a peek around their apartment complex.
I always find it fascinating to see what improvements, if any, have been completed. I knew something was in store for me this visit because they’ve been talking for some time about their new flooring. I didn’t expect to be so pleasantly surprised by what a difference it made. Their new vinyl flooring looked amazing. It was clean, flat and the wood effect looked almost real—my wife was convinced they’d had wooden panels laid! It was a world away from their old carpet.
It can be easy to forget that something as simple as flooring can transform an entire space, and multifamily owners shouldn’t underestimate it. It is, however, an investment, and there are a lot of questions that can come with it. If simply replacing the carpet can have such an impact, is it something every multifamily apartment owner should consider? What solution is the most affordable? What are renters actually looking for? What’s the best option?
What are Your Options When it comes to Flooring?
For decades, carpet was seen as a must-have, but that’s no longer the case. More and more multifamily owners are tearing up the carpet in favor of these hard floor alternatives:
- Vinyl flooring has been around since the 1930s but has become increasingly popular with the introduction of vinyl planks and tiles that make fitting and replacement much easier. That’s not to mention the range of styles that are now available, which allow you to achieve an incredibly realistic wood effect.
- Laminate flooring is made of a thin fiberboard that has been topped with an image of wood or stone. It’s 99 percent wood and easy to fit, but it doesn’t look as good or last as long as the real thing.
- Real hardwood flooring isn’t usually considered because of the hefty price tag, but if you’re willing to make the investment, you can’t go wrong.
- Tile flooring may be synonymous with bathrooms, but it doesn’t have to be limited to one area of the house. Kitchen and living areas can also look stylish with tiles and your feet will love the cool relief they offer from the hot Californian sun.
- Concrete flooring, whether polished or finished with a sealant, it offers a cost-effective and contemporary alternative.
- Rubber tiling may be common in commercial spaces, but this style is creeping into more and more residential abodes. Forgiving underfoot and easy to care for, this is an affordable and practical alternative.
- Stone flooring comes in a variety of different colors, textures and types. It’s naturally cool so, like tile, it’s perfect for LA weather and gives a natural, earthy look to apartments.
How do They Compare?
With a number of options to choose from, it’s important to understand how they all stack up in terms of looks, cost, and durability.
From rustic charm to contemporary cool, almost any look you can imagine is achievable using one of these flooring options. Understanding the look and feel of each material can help you to decide which is the perfect match for your apartment:
- Vinyl flooring comes in such a variety of designs and styles that almost any look is achievable. A high-end version can look nearly as good as real hardwood flooring while remaining cheap and easy to clean and repair.
- Laminate flooring looks elegant and modern in any area of the home, but without the luxury feel of its real wood counterpart.
- Hardwood flooring gives a uniquely warm and luxury feel to the property. Typically used to add rustic charm to a home, it can also add contrast and depth to contemporary properties.
- Tile, like vinyl flooring, can mimic almost any style and design, including wood. Patterns can help to create the effect of space while allowing design trends to permeate the floor, rather than work around it.
- Concrete flooring is probably the most contemporary of all of the options. It also provides a unique tone that works well with wooden furnishings to create a clean, bold and stylish look.
- Rubber, like vinyl and tile, comes in a variety of different designs. Looks-wise, it can work in almost any design, but the real difference is felt underfoot. Soft and forgiving, it helps to create a modern, warm feel in the home.
- Stone flooring adds an unmistakably rich and earthy look to the room. It’s versatile enough to achieve both modern and rustic looks but perhaps works best in the kitchen or bathroom.
Repair and Replacement
All of the these options are superior to carpet in this respect. Carpet will typically last between 3-5 years, but replacing carpet can be a nightmare. There’s a reason carpet cleaning is a multimillion dollar industry—no one wants to replace the entire thing after one dropped glass of red wine.
Hardwood flooring, on the other hand, should outlive you. It can also be sanded and refined multiple times to get rid of marks and scratches, and it also means that you can avoid replacing all or part of it.
Tile, stone and concrete flooring can all easily last for 50 years or more assuming regular maintenance and cleaning. Tile and stone flooring will need to be resealed every five years or so, but concrete flooring in residential homes simply needs to be cleaned regularly to ensure a long lifespan.
Depending on the thickness of the planks or tiles, vinyl, laminate, and rubber flooring can last anywhere from 5-25 years. They are easy to install and replace due to the interlocking nature of the planks and tiles, and are far less likely to attract the type of stains common with carpets because they’re so easy to clean.
It goes without saying that hardwood flooring is by far the most expensive option, with a cost per square foot of up to $14. Thankfully, the other alternatives provide more cost-effective solutions, though the cost will obviously vary with quality. Concrete and rubber flooring are typically much cheaper and can both be bought for less than $5 per square foot. Vinyl, laminate, stone, and tile are still reasonably priced, with typical costs ranging between $5-$10 per square foot. While the initial outlay for hardwood flooring may be more than carpet, the durability and ease-of-care of these alternatives make long-term savings achievable for the informed apartment owner.
Making the Right Choice
Even after understanding how they compare, choosing between these options isn’t always straightforward. It all depends on you, your property, and your tenants.
Who are Your Tenants and What do They Prefer?
When deciding between flooring options, it’s important to think about how your decision will impact current and future tenants. After all, it’s no good renovating your apartment block if it’s not going to help you attract or retain your ideal tenants. Here are some of the questions you may want to ask yourself:
- What’s the average age of your tenants?
- Do your tenants have young children?
- Do your tenants have pets?
- Are you looking to attract young professionals, families or senior citizens?
- How will reflooring disrupt tenants’ lives? How will you minimize this disruption?
- How easy is it going to be for tenants to clean the new flooring?
- Are your tenants dissatisfied with the current flooring? Do they even want new or different flooring?
Answering questions like these will help you to narrow your focus and choose a type of flooring that will look great now and in the future. If your tenants are elderly or have young children, they may prefer the added softness and warmth that carpets bring. If you allow pets, you may also find vinyl and laminate flooring will quickly become scratched by our furry friends, so a more durable material may be preferred.
What are Your Plans for the Property?
It’s always important to keep in mind your plans for your multifamily going forward. Investing in real or faux hardwood floors can be a great investment, but only if you stick around long enough to reap the rewards. The increased rental rates or sale price of your property may not immediately reflect the price you paid for new flooring, so if you plan on selling the property shortly, you may be better saving the investment for a new property.
Turn to a Professional
Whichever option you decide to move forward with, it’s important to hire a trusted and reliable contractor to help with the renovations and ensure your new flooring looks as good as it did in the catalog.