What is the Best Flooring for a Residential Rental Property?

hardwood floor in a rental property

When I worked the sales floor for ReallyCheapFloors (before we upgraded to smarter and better-looking salespeople), I loved to work with rental homeowners and flippers. Why? Because it was so easy! With rentals, the #1 concern when picking out a floor is the price. After all, the reason we are in the rental business is to make money. And the best way to make money is not to spend it! Or at least save where you can, which is where ReallyCheapFloors.com comes into play.

In this blog, we will not discuss flooring costs as much as we will flooring types and grades. My goal is to help you select the right floor for your home so that you get the BEST VALUE rather than the lowest price. A really cheap floor that needs to be replaced after each renter is not a good value. We need to save money initially on the floor, but we also need to save money by purchasing a floor that doesn’t require frequent replacements. This is where the significant savings come from.

Residential vs. Rental Flooring

Emotion is always a part of the decision-making process when a homeowner picks out flooring for his or her new residential home. I get that. We want the perfect color or a specific texture. Maybe the width or grade of a floor is important.

In the rental business, a 5” wide plank floor will not cause the rent to be higher than a 3” width one. Nor will a Select floor rent for more than a Cabin grade, in most cases. Indeed, in high-end homes, we should worry about using a cheap floor, focusing merely on price could reduce the value of the home. However, as most homes entering the rental market will be average to below-average in valuation, we can safely assume that using value-oriented flooring will not hurt the value of the home. However, the money saved will always be in the owner’s pocket, which is our goal.

3 Main Types of Flooring

The 3 main flooring types we will discuss today are LVP, or vinyl planks, engineered hardwood flooring, and solid hardwood flooring. Each flooring category has it’s own strengths and weaknesses. Your knowledge of what your property needs should allow you to select the most appropriate floor for your home. If you aren’t sure what your rental property calls for based on the subfloor, your region’s climate, or if a high vacancy rate due to being a vacation rental can affect your floor performance, call us today to discuss how these variables affect product selection. 

1. Luxury Vinyl Plank

LVP is today’s Golden Child. Inexpensive, tough, waterproof, and easily installed, this is an excellent choice for most rental properties. When most LVP floors are waterproof, that also means pet-proof and kid-proof as well. Most also have an attached back, which will cut down some on sound. This is especially important in multi-family rental applications. If you want to learn more about luxury vinyl plank read our extensive luxury vinyl plank post to get the skinny on construction, manufacturers, and what makes a “good” LVP product and a bad one. 

What makes LVP hard to buy is the available different construction types:

  • Pure Vinyl Composition
  • WPC, or Wood Plastic Composition
  • SPC, Stone Polymer Composition

Pure Vinyl Composition

Pure Vinyl is how almost all LVPs were made 4 or 5 years ago. Armstrong and Mohawk committed heavily to this construction. Armstrong is still making floors this way at their factory in Pennsylvania, which I have visited. Pure Vinyl was a good product, but technology passed it by a few years ago. Today, some of your low-end choices at some of the big-box stores will be a pure Vinyl Core, but due to its lack of stability in wet areas, or direct sunlight, it is not an excellent choice for rentals.

WPC – Wood Plastic Composition

WPC floors are much more stable. With companies like COREtec leading the way, WPC floors offered vast improvements over the pure vinyl core, mainly due to being waterproof and more durable due to the layering used in the construction. At the beginning of the WPC product cycle, the price wasn’t a huge issue, and most floors were well made. Inevitably, the retailer’s demands for lower prices resulted in floors to be made with softer cores and fewer components. The result was a market filled with floors that dent badly due to dropped items or even sliding furniture. WPC floors do offer a warmer feel as well as more sound deadening, due to the softer core, but that denting problem is a biggie in the rental business. Renters are known for not caring too much about taking care of your home. Why would they go easy on your floors? Yeah…. they won’t.

WPC cores & SPC cores detailed breakdown

SPC – Stone Polymer Composition

Which leaves us with SPC floors. Stone Polymer Composition. The newest generation of LVP floors, and certainly the best for a rental application. Why? Well, I will tell you:

  • SPC floors are tough. SPC floors have stone construction, these floors are much denser than any other LVP floor. That means no denting. Can it be dented? Sure, but it is difficult. We have done tests in our warehouses on all kinds of floors, mainly drop tests using 6-16 oz steel balls, and we never dented an SPC floor. From any height. It was impressive. We could drop an 8 oz ball from 3 ft and dent a WPC product every time.

 

  • Most SPC floors are stable. Again, in the race to be the cheapest, retailers and manufacturers have started making some low=end products. How do they get the price down? By making inferior products, and excluding some components that add durability. The most common way is to leave off the bottom layer of the core, called the balancing layer. The reason this layer is there is to increase stability, and we need it. Do not buy any floor that features a wear layer under 12 mils, as that floor will not have the balancing layer. In my experience, manufacturers will not warranty these floors against separation or warping due to moisture or direct sunlight. At ReallyCheapFloors, we offer a 12 mil high-quality floor from COREtec for $1.89. While you can save 20-30 cents buying a 6 or 8 mil floor, why would you take that risk? For a savings of $200 on a 1,000 sq ft home, it is not worth the risk.

 

  • SPC floors are cheap. As I said, we offer our Hazel Creek by COREtec for $1.99. That is a great deal of a 12 mil floor. And our color line is awesome! With Hickory, Oak, and Maple offerings, we should be able to meet any décor needs you have.

As a bonus, we can offer free freight to several locations around the US on this product, including Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and New York City. Saving money is the key to making money!

2. Engineered Hardwood Flooring

Now we can talk about engineered hardwood flooring. Let me preface this section with a disclaimer: I love hardwood flooring of any kind and may exaggerate slightly when discussing it’s positive features, and might even gloss over some of its weaknesses. I will apologize now, but not again.

Wood flooring, whether solid or engineered, is classic. Wood Floors look expensive, even if it is a 69 cent engineered Cabin grade hardwood. If LVP has one downside, it is that it looks and feels fake. Are those 2 downsides? Hardwood is the go-to choice for flooring for hundreds of years and should continue for at least that long. It is cheap, environmental-friendly, and durable. Unlike LVP, most hardwood flooring is made in the USA. At ReallyCheapFloors.com, ALL of our hardwood is made in the USA.

How Engineered Hardwood is Made

Engineered hardwood floors are made using layers of wood. This allows the floor to be installed in areas where a homeowner cannot control the moisture in the subfloor well enough to keep a solid floor from expanding or contracting. We believe concrete subfloors are the best application for an engineered hardwood floor. Many homes with wood subfloors will also use engineered hardwood floors, but other factors can cause this decision. Whether that is because of higher moisture environments due to no HVAC or proximity to water in streams or lakes, or due to the wider widths that are in high demand, engineered flooring offers us a wood product that will perform well in almost any environment.

I used engineered 5” in my last rental because it looked great, it was cheap, and I won’t have any of the problems associated with solid hardwood. I used a face sawn Somerset product from our Antique Collection. The Antique Collection features a wire-brushed surface that will minimize scratches, which will keep me from refinishing the floor if my current renter moves out. Cha-ching! Saving money! If you would like to know more about the construction of engineered floors, please check out my earlier blog post on engineered hardwood floors.

We typically offer 3/8” thick engineered floors in Cabin grade for $0.69-$0.89 per sq ft. These floors will contain a lot of shorts and natural and manufacturing defects, but the flooring will all be usable, with tongues and finish. We recommend that you purchase 10% waste, which will allow you to cull the worst 10% of the material. It will still be Cabin grade, with shorts and defects, but you can toss the worst offenders. Read more about our Cabin grade floors here.

A smart upgrade available is our ½” thick Blue Label flooring. The floors will impress you with their 8 plys and face sawn construction, which results in an engineered floor that cannot be distinguished from a solid hardwood floor. These floors sell for $1.29-$1.99 per square foot, depending on the width and wood type you select.

3. Solid Hardwood Flooring

And that brings us to solid hardwood flooring. Prefinished solid flooring can be a great value and will perform for long periods. With the aluminum oxide finishes used today, you can forget about refinishing a prefinished floor, whether solid or engineered. Prefinished aluminum oxide finishes are the toughest and most reliable in the business. 

The only problem with a prefinished solid, specifically, is the stability issue. If the moisture is not controlled in a home, cupping may be an issue. Cupping is caused when moisture in introduced to a floor, and it expands. Due to being nailed down tightly, expansion is a problem, resulting in the edges of the boards rising up. This can be caused by seasonal moisture or a busted water line. Either way, if it happens, it is a big problem.

Besides that, solid prefinished can be a great choice in a rental, as it adds a level of appeal to a home that vinyl plank or carpet floor cannot.

When choosing a hardwood floor for a rental, consider the surface texture. A hand-scraped or wire-brushed surface will last longer in your home than a smooth surface. While this may sound like hyperbole or a fast sales pitch, I can assure you that these textured floors will not exhibit a change in appearance due to changes in the gloss level caused by surface abrasion over time. Imagine a dropped laptop on a smooth floor compared to the same drop on a hand-scraped floor. Which floor will show the dent the most? That is why we recommend scraped or brushed floors. You can thank me later!

All 3 Options are DIY Friendly

All 3 of the flooring categories discussed today can be installed by anyone handy with tools and have a bit of patience. The absence of either of these qualities should trigger the hiring of a professional!

If you have further questions about our products or concerning your application, please do not hesitate to give us a call. All of our salespeople bring experience and glowing customer testimonials to make your call very informative, non-pushy, and as helpful as possible. They can be a great deal of help in helping you select your next floor.

ReallyCheapFloors.com is the largest true liquidator of discontinued, downgraded, and overstock flooring in the USA. We do not stock every floor in production. However, every product in our inventory will be the lowest price you will find for any type, color, or construction on the floor you want. We don’t have any fancy pricing guarantees. We know that you are smart enough to Google the competition to see we are typically the best price by a large margin!