Flipping Houses

5 Remodeling Materials I Swear By (Perfect for Flips, Rentals—You Name It!)

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3 Articles Written
renovation interior with vinyl plank flooring and faux brick wall and gray paint

Remodeling a house can be a huge undertaking! Especially for an inexperienced investor or homeowner who has no clue how to choose materials and selections. There are so many things to consider in terms of remodeling materials. From the budget, to the tastes of the buyer, finishes, color schemes, textures—it’s enough to make anyone’s head spin!

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Most of the best and frequent flippers have systems, and repeat them over and over again. This applies to the offers they write, the contractors they hire, and even the materials they use. Becoming familiar with materials not only gives the investor greater control over their budget, it also allows them to make quick and easy decisions on their renovations.

Many of my flips, regardless of the shape, size, or location, follow a very similar system. And I use versatile materials over and over again. Here are five of my favorite materials for any renovation.

Top 5 Materials I Choose When Remodeling Homes

1. Vinyl Plank Flooring

The best thing about vinyl plank flooring is that you can use it in every inch of a house. If you buy one that is waterproof, you can install it in every room in a house. This stuff is incredibly versatile! It is easy to install and great looking, too!

You can buy it for less than $2 per square foot or upwards of $5 per square foot, depending on the quality you are looking for. I’ve had it installed for as little as $1 per square foot, but a good estimate is $2 to $2.50 per square foot for installation. It comes in dozens of finishes and can match any existing color palette or finish.

Photo: StyleByEmilyHenderson.com

The other great thing about vinyl plank flooring—especially for landlords and homeowners with dogs and young kids—is that you can replace it piece by piece. If you simply need to replace one or two pieces, you would have to uninstall the floor to that point but could reinstall the pieces that are still in good shape.

Related: 4 Rehabbing Materials That Are Always Worth Spending a Little More On

2. Flat Weave Carpet

This type of carpet is stylish, looks nice, and can be used in indoor and outdoor spaces. This is an easy upgrade for sunrooms, patios, lanais, and even garages. It adds texture and dimension to any space and can fit a variety of décor. This type of carpet comes in various styles, colors, and fibers, as well.

Photo: DF Designer Favorites

Flat weave carpet selections are typically less expensive than other rugs and can also accommodate a low door clearance.

3. Butcher Block Counter Tops

Just like the vinyl plank, the color and texture finishes for butcher block counter tops are plentiful! This material can add dimension, round out selections, or even be considered an “upgrade,” depending on the market. Check out how incredibly different these two kitchens can look using the same materials!

Photo: HomeDepot.com 

Photo: Zillow Digs home in Phoenix, AZ

Butcher block counter tops are inexpensive (at least when compared to quartz or granite) and relatively easy to install. Not to mention, they are trendy and appeal to a wide range of buyers or renters. As an added bonus: they are naturally anti-bacterial, which makes them ideal for kitchens or bathrooms. Extra care must be taken to protect the wood, though, and these counter tops cannot be cut on.

Related: Rental Property Deal Analysis & Property Tour (Before & After Rehab!)

4. “Agreeable Gray” Paint

Gray paint—everywhere! A light gray paint throughout the house with white trim allows for a pristine finish to any renovation. It is bright, sharp, and feels luxurious.

If you want to add an accent wall, just go a shade or two darker, or pick a blue, pink, brown, or even green in the same color family (any paint store or paint department at a hardware store can help you ensure your accent blends with your primary wall color). This ties everything together and can pair well with most counters, cabinets, and tiles.

The photo below was from my first flip. One (perhaps the only!) thing I did right was chose the paint colors. The light gray paint spanned the entire house, and I added one darker accent wall as an upgrade. The gray ties together the flooring, door, and the trim and looks clean, complete, and new.

This was from my first flip. One (perhaps the only!) thing I did right was chose the paint colors. The light gray paint spanned the entire house, and I added one darker accent wall just as an upgrade. The gray ties together the flooring, door, and the trim and looks clean, complete, and new.

5. Drop Light Fixtures

Again, just like any materials, these range greatly in price but can add a lot of dimension to a renovation. They also feel luxurious and—if placed right and chosen appropriately—can make a basic renovation go from “blah” to “glam”!

Photo: LNC Home

You can add an element of luxury like the above picture or something traditional and rustic like the below picture—or anything in between!

Photo: FeastHome.com

The best part about drop light fixtures: you can totally DIY these and make a one-of-a-kind space!

This is an inexpensive and easy DIY project that can add so much to your renovation!

Photo: Etsy.com

There can be a lot of uncertainty when undergoing a remodel, whether it is your own residence or a house you are planning to flip and sell or add to your rental portfolio. It helps immensely to have a handful of go-to materials and selections when planning your budget, quality of finish, and renovation timeline.

Getting comfortable with the materials and processes can add great peace of mind!

Do you have any favorite finishes or materials? 

Share in a comment below!

Erin Helle is an Army veteran turned entrepreneur specializing in flipping houses, turnkey renovation products, and real estate investor coaching and education. Erin pursued real estate with fury, purchasing 19 doors in her first year as an investor, with a deployed husband, a toddler, and a newborn. She owns single family homes, a duplex, a triplex, and a ten-plex. She also regularly flips houses in the Nashville and Clarksville markets in Tennessee.

    Marvin Tu Homeowner from EASTVALE, California
    Replied 12 days ago
    Wonderful suggestion!! Do you have any walk through or before/after pictures that you can do an article on showing the style and thoughts on some of the projects you've done?
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 12 days ago
    Yes! great idea for a follow-up! I am just finishing up one right now that has some of these selections!
    John S Lewis from Jackson, NJ
    Replied 12 days ago
    Nice tastes! I did use a very light grey for my rental and my flip. It's actually called Big Chill from Sherwin Williams. Love it! And so does everyone else.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 12 days ago
    Great! I really like sherwin williams paint!
    Andrew Syrios Residential Real Estate Investor from Kansas City, Missouri
    Replied 12 days ago
    Not a fan of butcher block counters (particularly the older ones) but we did recently switch to vinyl plank flooring and really like it.
    Erin Pinto from Maui
    Replied 11 days ago
    Why not butcher block?
    Austin Montgomery Rental Property Investor from Enterprise, AL
    Replied 11 days ago
    The problem with butcher block (at least for rentals) is as you noted - they require upkeep. Tenants are not likely to take good care of them.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 4 days ago
    I do agree and have only put these in one rental- a rustic cabin- they worked well as far as appearance, but we will see how they fare over time! I mostly use these in my flips.
    Roger Mohnani from Richmond Hill, New York
    Replied 12 days ago
    excellent very helpful thank you
    Margaret DelColle Real Estate Agent from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
    Replied 12 days ago
    Great points and suggestions. I would stay away from those big glass covers on the light fixtures. I'm afraid a tenant would break them. LOL. They look great though. All of our rentals have back cement patios. I paint the cinderblock walls a sage green to give a sense of some greenery. You get some green anyway you can. I also like to paint the walls and floors of the basements. White walls and a Light Silver grey cement paint in high gloss. Makes the Laundry area look cleaner and more civilized and the basement can be used as a craft room, office area, man cave... etc. The white walls and the Light Silver shiny floors help to make the basement look lighter and not so drab. Hopefully, these easy and inexpensive additions will make a tenant pick my house before another.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 12 days ago
    This all sounds amazing! And I think you're on the right track...just need to outdo the competition and you will keep it rented! :)
    Aisha Duff from Savannah, GA
    Replied 12 days ago
    Great article! I love the butcher block but always wondered about the upkeep and durability when it comes to tenants. Dont know if I would use it, but like the vinyl flooring. I will look into that for this kitchen/laundry renovation we are doing
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 4 days ago
    The vinyl is great for kitchens and laundry rooms!
    Denise Brown-Puryear from Julian, North Carolina
    Replied 11 days ago
    Great Article! Whenever we have a turnover in, I go in immediately and do "minor" glam upgrades. This keeps me ahead of the competition in the rental market and up to date stylistically. Our color design scheme is based on light earth tone colors (Sherwin Williams - Canvas Tan) (light n' earthy) that works well for us. I love updating light fixtures (the hanging ones) and we add inexpensive under counter lighting (purchased from Habitat Restore) which brightens up the kitchen workspace. We have a vacancy coming up and I will try the vinyl plank flooring in the living room area (don't like carpet at all). As for counter tops, I too am concerned about the upkeep and maintenace of butcher block (especially with long-term and short-term rentals). Look forward to your next article with more pics! Thanks for sharing.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 4 days ago
    Denise and PJ- completely agree! That underlighting takes everything up a notch!
    PJ Kolnik from Chicago, IL
    Replied 10 days ago
    Cabinet uplighting and underlighting is such a great add, can be really affordable and take those cabinets from basic to high end really quick. You can get a sixteen foot strip of whites at Home Depot for about 40 bucks that you can either plug in or direct wire to a switch.
    Thomas Hundtoft Rental Property Investor from Grand Junction, CO
    Replied 11 days ago
    Nice. Just finishing up a remodel and this is great advice.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 4 days ago
    Great! I'd love to hear (and see) how it goes!
    Simon Stahl Rental Property Investor from Oakland, CA
    Replied 11 days ago
    Any opinion on porcelain floor tiles instead of vinyl? Even cheaper and more durable, and I think they look great.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 4 days ago
    I think that's a great option, but I like that the vinyl can be used everywhere- can go straight from the kitchen to living space, to bathrooms and laundry rooms.
    Greg Shpunder Investor from La Fargeville, New York
    Replied 11 days ago
    Ive done vinyl plank in about 10 units now and will probably never switch to anything else. Cheap, pretty, no grout lines, and easy to replace if damaged but hold up well! Also have been doing the gray paint for a while and wondering what the next new neutral will be. I always put in ceiling fans with fixtures (that use normal size bulbs) when possible, surprisingly they are not that expensive and add a lot appeal for a prospective tenant.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 4 days ago
    I agree about the ceiling fans! I love them, and most tenants do, too!
    Lizbeth Castellano New to Real Estate from Connecticut
    Replied 11 days ago
    Newbie here, but I really enjoyed this article. I'm very early in the process but can see using these recommendations when I get my first door! Thank you!
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 4 days ago
    great! glad this helps!
    Mike White Investor
    Replied 11 days ago
    When I did a wood countertop for a large island in my own house they were just as expensive as granite, and far too easily scratched to consider for a rental.
    Ryan Bray Rental Property Investor from San Diego
    Replied 11 days ago
    Are you renting to millionaires??? Those houses are beautiful...
    Ryan Bray Rental Property Investor from San Diego
    Replied 11 days ago
    Also, wood counter top seems far more problematic compared to quartz or granite for a rental.
    Frank Scaffidi Rental Property Investor from Milwaukee, WI
    Replied 11 days ago
    I see many good choices out there for rehabs and rentals, but for your own home go with better quality. I like real wood floors, porcelain tiles and garnite or quartz tops on real wood cabs not veneered woods. If it's your home spend the money...if it's a rental LVP is the wave of the future and yes cut your costs. SW big chill or believeable buff match most colors ...grays and tans. All the best.
    Michael Casile
    Replied 11 days ago
    I agree with most. I am probably more in the starter-home category so I'm not exactly. One issue with vinyl planking outside of the wet areas ... is that it tends to get beat up when moving heavy furniture on it. I still like hardwood laminate for living room, bedrooms, hallways ... and vinyl planking in bathrooms and kitchens. The drop-down lights are a bit ornate for starter type homes ... I love a new low profile LED light I found on Amazon (12 for about $70). It looks like a recessed light (that is very bright) installs in 5 minutes, and lasts forever with low energy consumption. I have used high def laminate counter tops ... but could definitely give butcher block a try. In our beach home, we are using a thin granite in our master bath and it looks fabulous. I am going to try it in our kitchen. If I can get a granite that I can cut w/a diamond blade on my skill saw ... and get away with an over-mount sink ... it seems like a great way to fly. A little more expensive than the high def laminate or butcher block ... but still pretty reasonable and you can say "granite countertops". Hoping I can make it work on my own.
    Julie O. Real Estate Investor from Westminster, Colorado
    Replied 11 days ago
    I would never use butcher block, not sure why you think it's antimicrobial. It's just like a wooden cutting board, absorbs everything. I use quartz from a cheap source. I don't always get the color I want, but it's indestructible. I love vinyl flooring, but have found enormous differences in how it wears. Even some of the pricier stuff is easily scratched. So there I am at Lowes, trying my hardest to scratch their sample with a pen or something equally sharp. When I find one I can't damage, I know my tenants won't hurt it either. I also totally agree about fancy lighting, it's like the "jewelry" for the house. One pretty thing can really make a difference, especially since it's usually the woman making the decision if it's a couple. And it doesn't even have to be very expensive, I've bought sparkly chandeliers from Amazon cheaply. I just like to make sure they're UL approved. One other thing I've discovered for basement flooring is used carpet squares. There's a business in my area that takes these carpet squares out of office buildings that are getting remodeled or new tenants, they sell these used squares for $.25-$.50 per square foot. They're usually at least 18"x18", and backed with rubber. There are always some that doesn't even look used, and I always buy extra squares to replace if tenant damages the carpet. Very easy to just pull up one square and lay a new one.
    Cooper B. Real Estate Agent from Birmingham, Alabama
    Replied 10 days ago
    I too have found differences in LVP quality. What have you found to be the best value in terms of readily available LVP? Do you have a go-to product?
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 2 days ago
    I really like shaw brand planks but have used Home Depots LifeProof brand in a pinch because they always have a lot in stock!
    Laura Sulak Investor from Temple, Texas
    Replied 11 days ago
    Great post! I probably like it so much because I use three of the five: vinyl plank, butcher block and drop lighting. Depending on your property class and area, it’s totally worth it to upgrade to these!
    Tim Daunch Flipper/Rehabber from Cleveland, OH
    Replied 11 days ago
    Since a lot of people said they are newbies here, keep in mind that your prospective renters ALWAYS, always should dictate your design choices. For example, every property manager worth their salt will tell you to "harden" your properties if you are targeting B or C (i.e., lower income) tenants, because they are more likely to damage your property. That means no carpet, no fans, no "dome" ceiling lights (they break the glass dome when they change the bulb), no painted concrete, no hanging light fixtures of any kind, etc. On the other hand, the examples and suggestions above are right on target for higher end rentals. In other words, there is no right answer to butcher block vs. quartz - you have to consider your market and clients first and choose accordingly. One constant that supersedes the market segmentation, though, is the old adage "no one washes a rental car". No one will ever treat your property better than you will, so don't just think about aesthetics, think about sturdiness and repair/replacement cost.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 3 days ago
    Yes, a good property manager is worth their weight in gold! Find the good ones and keep them!
    Gail W. from Leaving California
    Replied 11 days ago
    "no one washes a rental car".... <----- THIS. Love it!!
    Susan Flanagan
    Replied 11 days ago
    Good article. How about adding links?
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 2 days ago
    Thanks! What would you suggest that I link to?
    Tiwana Merritt from overseas
    Replied 11 days ago
    Great suggestions and ideas!
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 3 days ago
    Thanks!
    Farrukh Madaminov Rental Property Investor from Jersey City, NJ
    Replied 11 days ago
    Agree with all suggestions 💯 And learned something new - butcher block countertops do look cool. Gotta look into it. Thank you!
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 3 days ago
    Thanks! Glad you learned something!
    Scott C Hodges
    Replied 11 days ago
    OK, I have a question about the newer plank flooring. I am old school, do midwest renovations/flips selling in the $250-350k range, and have historically considered anything vinyl to be mediocre quality. (I totally get the hardening thing and agree with a prior comment about that, but I don't do those.) Every hard floor I've done lately has either been ceramic plank tile, good quality wood flooring, or even traditional hardwood with 3-5 layers of urethane (difficult but very impressive to buyers). But times change and younger buyers seem to think the bulletproof, waterproof vinyl plank flooring is a good thing. Does it sell better than, say, an engineered wood floor? Greys instead of earthtones? OK. Quartz over granite? eh... Not yet in my region. But somebody really needs to explain to me that buyers look at vinyl flooring, with it's....unique look and awful feel, and accept it as easily as hardwood or tile. Am I nuts or are we just talking vinyl at $3 a foot vs tile/hardwood at $5+ a foot?
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 4 days ago
    If you can afford the hardwood, do it! High end buyers prefer hard wood and I use real wood on my higher end flips.
    K McKenzie
    Replied 11 days ago
    I don’t get it either about vinyl plank. It looks okay, but to me it looks like plastic. And it has a bad sound and feel. Used it once but probably won’t use it again.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 3 days ago
    Awww...I think some of them can look like plastic, but there are great options out there that look really sharp, too!
    Kyle Bender from Grand Rapids, MI
    Replied 11 days ago
    I see some do not like the Butcher Block Counter Tops, then what should be used in a rental instead?
    Sylvia B. Rental Property Investor from Douglas County, MO
    Replied 10 days ago
    Formica - or its equivalent. Cheap and easily replaced.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 3 days ago
    Agree with the Formica. I typically look for a great deal and will put whatever is most durable for the right price.
    Stacey Lawrence Flipper/Rehabber from San Jose, CA
    Replied 10 days ago
    I am a newish flipper and am quickly realizing the importance of streamlining your materials for both ease of the flip and cost. Thank you for sharing your tips, it's all very helpful! I too love the vinyl flooring. We just put them in our last flip and everyone loved them! I used Agreeable Gray from Sherwin Williams on the walls and am obsessed with this color. I'm ready to repaint my house in this color. :)
    Phaedra Robinson
    Replied 2 days ago
    I can almost ditto Stacey's comments. I'm a new flipper but also an over thinker so streamlining is something I decided that I must do so i stay on target and budget. This article was very helpful as i get started on this new venture. Also reading your bio gave me confidence. I'm a wife, mom of a 7 and 2 yr old active girls and looking to use investing as my way to retire from corporate early to i can enjoy life and family my own way. Thank you for your article.
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 3 days ago
    Haha! I painted my whole house that gray, too! With some green and blue accents!
    Jeremy Jackson Investor from Santa Cruz, CA
    Replied 10 days ago
    Erin! Great seeing you here! Loved the article; agree 100% on the LVP for flooring. Looking forward to seeing more coming from you here :)
    Erin Helle Investor from Monterey, CA
    Replied 4 days ago
    Thanks, Jeremy! :)