As an investor, nothing is worse than spending thousands of dollars to renovate a unit, moving in a new tenant, and then finding thousands of dollars in damage when they move out. When we renovate units it is our job to "tenant proof" them as much as possible, to mitigate the amount of damage that a bad tenant can inflict.
Flooring is a great way to do this, as there are tons of options out there with different price points, and ability to withstand abuse.
The flooring you choose can make an impact on the overall cleanliness of your property. If dirt, liquids, and other stains are not cleaned up, you may have to shell out big bucks for a deep clean. Here is our take on the best carpet for rental properties, and a few other alternatives you should consider.
How Carpets Impact Your Rental Property
Wine stains and questionable smells certainly don't sell a property. Unfortunately, these turn-offs may feel inevitable when you have carpets throughout your rental property. In addition to buying and installing the carpets, landlords may have to deep clean the carpets throughout the tenant's time in the unit and after they leave. These costs can impact the amount of money you make off of your real estate investment.
Some carpets are more durable than others. Some are more stain-resistant than others. Property owners will need to consider finding a carpet that will last through tenants and still make a good impression when they are ready to sell.
So...what type is the best choice for your investment?
Carpet for Rental Property - What To Look For
When you go shopping for carpets, you have to know what qualities and standards you want for your rental property. Do you need something more durable, or is stain resistance more important? The answers may vary from room to room.
The most important factor to consider when choosing a carpet is your tenants. Are you going to let families with young children stay in the property? What about college students who want to play drinking games? Pet owners? This information can help you gauge what types of stains or traffic your carpet will have to endure.
The Most Durable Carpets
Carpets certainly to endure a lot throughout their life. Feet and furniture will try and wear down the fibers and expose the bare bones of the carpet. No one wants to walk across a thin carpet that feels worn down and frayed. With that in mind, carpet manufacturers may choose certain materials or techniques that enhance the durability of their products.
Unfortunately, durable carpets aren't always the softest carpets. If you foresee your tenants walking around barefoot and trying to get cozy, you might want to compromise and find a softer material. But if durability is your number one priority, consider these factors:
If you are looking at carpets, you will most likely encounter four different fibers: nylon, polypropylene (olefin), polyester, and wool.
Nylon carpets are the most popular material on the market, arguably because they are the most durable. Their fibers generally hold their shape and are flexible enough to withstand different types of traffic.
Polypropylene follows nylon as the most durable and widely available fiber. Polyester carpets are generally the weakest, but property owners choose polyester carpets for other reasons (namely stain resistance.) Wool carpets are also very durable. They can keep their shape through years of foot traffic and heavy furniture.
Density and Height of Fiber
If you prefer numbers to weigh your options, consider looking at the density and height of different carpet fibers. Density is the measure of the carpet fibers in a single area (i.e. square yard.) The weight of the fiber itself and how many carpet fibers are woven into a single area both affect the density. Carpets that are more dense are generally more durable.
The longer each fiber is, the more it will weigh. Does this mean that longer fibers are more durable?
Not necessarily. “High pile” carpeting tends to have looser fibers and may lose its shape faster. (“Pile” refers to the fibers of the carpet that you see.) There is also a more room for dirt and bacteria to hide within a high pile carpet, making it harder to clean for tenants and professionals. High pile carpets do tend to be more comfortable (like shag carpets,) but aren't always durable.
Carpets are more than the fibers. Fibers are woven into a backing that gives the carpet strength and shape.
Different types of tile backing may influence how the carpet absorbs shock. Open cell cushions absorb shock very well and help the carpet keep its general shape and height. Closed cell cushions are more likely to wear down faster.
This is a lot to remember, but all of these factors will play into how long your carpet will last.
The Most Stain-Resistant Carpets
Feet will make an impact on the furniture, but the bodies attached to the feet may create stains. If you anticipate welcoming young children or pets into your rental property, you should pay extra attention to the stain resistance of your carpet.
Polyester wins the gold medal here. This type of carpet is generally the most stain-resistant. The material naturally repels moisture and is easy to clean. Even if you have lazy tenants, you won't have to worry too much about stains on your polyester carpet.
Nylon carpets tend to resist dirt, mold, and mildew fairly well. The fiber itself does not resist moisture well, but it may be treated with a stain-resistant coating.
Polypropylene carpets are resistant to moisture spills, but will be stained by spills that contain oil.
Carpet manufacturers treat most synthetic fiber with a stain-resistant coating. Wool carpets are not; still, they manage to be resistant to many different types of stains, including liquids and oils.
Other Factors to Consider
Besides durability and stain resistance, you might have to consider other factors before you choose a carpet.
Let's start with a big one. Wool is considered a high-quality material...but it comes at a high price. Unless you have the budget to shell out twice as much as the average carpet, you might want to stick to a more cost-effective choice. Polypropylene is the cheapest option.
Polyester is made from recycled water bottles. This statement may add to the value of an overall green rental property, or it may run through one ear and out of the other. Wool is generally the most eco-friendly carpet option, but it may upset any tenants who live a vegan lifestyle.
Different fibers handle dyes better than others. Property owners can find polyester in a wide range of brightly-colored varieties. Nylon is another option for buyers who are looking for a lot of choices. Polypropylene colors tend to be more subtle.
Alternatives to Carpet Flooring
If it seems like one type of carpet can't do it all, we'd have to agree with you. Property owners have a lot of varieties when it comes to carpet, but they aren't just limited to this type of flooring. If you aren't married to the idea of carpet in your rental property, consider a wider range of options.
Weigh the pros and cons of the following:
If you want our opinion, we suggest vinyl.
Benefits of Vinyl Flooring
Vinyl flooring can be purchased from anywhere from 50 cents to $5 per square foot, but you can get waterproof flooring with a 15 or 30 year warrant for around $2 per square, and another $2 per square foot for installation. That's not bad considering it will last more than twice as long as carpet.
It Doesn't Stain
Just take a moment to think about cleaning red wine out of a carpet. Now take a shorter moment to think about wiping red wine off of a vinyl floor. That's all.
It Can Be Waterproof
Vinyl resists all types of stains, from red wine to coconut oil to vomit. Even as tenants try to remove stains from their carpet, moisture and water could seep into the carpet fibers and grow mold or mildew.
Many types of vinyl floors are now totally waterproof, especially the newer ones that are made out of a stone polymer composite. Be careful with some of the older, "stick down" products, as those can still get waterlogged, and can often come loose from the floor.
Upon first glance, your tenants might not be able to tell that you installed vinyl flooring. Different varieties look just like hardwood floors, laminate floors, or even tile. Vinyl is significantly less expensive than hardwood, more durable than laminate, and easier to install than tile.
Again, if you want to choose carpet for your rental property, you have a lot of options. If you want to expand your options and look at other types of materials that may offer cost or durability benefits, you also have that option. Shop around and see what is best for your investment property.
For a more in depth review of other flooring, you can read our guide to the best flooring for rental properties in 2020.