WWYD: refinish hardwood and take a vacancy or put in laminate?

17 Replies

What would you do: refinish hardwood and take a vacancy or put in laminate?

The properties I manage locally have nice, dark hardwood floors.  

After a few years or wear and tear, they are going to need to be refinished.  We have only done this at our personal residence and we used a commercial grade poly, but couldn't move furniture on it for weeks.

Our apartments rent for $1300 - $1600 per month and we have never had a vacancy, we always show and rent it while occupied and have the new tenants move in the day after the other tenants leave.  So if we refinish the hardwood we would have to have a vacancy in each unit to do so.  

My solution is to install the Allure resistance vinyl planks.  We have these in our out of state rentals and they durable and look nice IMO.  

The advantage to doing this is they are a peel and stick installation (over a plastic underlayment) and can be easily cut to size.  So we could have a crew come after the tenant moves and work through the night to have them done before the next day when the new tenant moves in.  

We wouldn't need to take a vacancy and they have a 25 year warranty and are more durable for tenants.  My husband thinks the don't look nice and it would deter the high quality tenants we attract because we don't have hardwood.

What would you do?

Take a $1300 - $1600 vacancy every 5 years to keep the hardwood?

OR

Install the vinyl planks and risk turning off tenants?

Brie Schmidt, Real Estate Agent in Wisconsin (#57846-90) and Illinois (#471.018287)

That is a tough call, but I will say this....We have installed the peel and stick flooring in some of our apartments, and it does seem to turn people off slightly.  You have to weigh the risk of getting slightly lower grade tenants that don't care about the laminate which in turn may cost you more than your vacancy in the long run. In my experience the lower the grade of tenant the more potential there is for repairs when they move out.

Are you really only getting 5 years out of your wood floors before they are trashed?  We are doing an experiment on 2 of our single family homes right now with refinished hardwood.  We want to find out if the additional cost of refinishing the hardwood we found underneath the old carpet is better in the long run than having to replace carpet every so often.

@Jake Beggs  -  Thanks for the input.  The floors were redone about 4 years ago and might get through another year.  I would much rather keep the hardwood but to have over $7k in vacancy every few years to refinish them is something I want to avoid.

Does anyone know of quick dry products we might be able to use?

Brie Schmidt, Real Estate Agent in Wisconsin (#57846-90) and Illinois (#471.018287)

keep the hardwood. It is permanent.

A refinish should not take as long as the a complete strip down to bare wood.  Keep the hardwood.  It is nicer, more cost effective and it attracts better tenants.  I redid the floor in each apartment as they became vacant and all the tenants say is the floors are so nice.  It is the first thing that they say when they walk in.   It brightens the whole space and makes things look new.  I don't think I would get the same reaction with vinyl. It is a selling point for the units. 

I would agree with the other commentators.  Keep the hardwood even if there is some maintenance associated with them.  If the tenants in your area are expecting nice floors,  and your unit has laminate in it, they may not stay as long because it doesn't "feel" as nice - which would result in turnover costs anyway.  

Going a step further, since you are going to be in the unit refinishing the floors anyway, is there anything else you could do to justify the higher end of your rent range? I'm just thinking that the nicer the unit, the longer they stay, and the more they'll probably pay.  

After just 4 years, this should essentially be a "screen and recoat" not a full refinishing.  That should be pretty quick, and cheap (About $1.25 a square foot here, and we're in pretty similar markets.)  I would definitely bite the bullet and keep the hardwood.

Keep the hardwood. Refinish it as needed. Encourage tenants to cover traffic areas with area rugs. The jury is still out on how well the edges of the vinyl plank flooring will hold up over time, but the product has been improving and in lower end and mid range rentals it is a great product to use and extremely durable. 

However, I remember you rent to pet owners with big dogs, so I can understand why you may prefer to use the VPF. Wood floors can only be sanded down a limited number of times before you can't do so anymore. We have an original wood floor in one of our rental houses that could handle only one more full refinish before the joints would be compromised. That's something to consider.

@Colleen F.  - How long was the wait before furniture could be moved onto it?

@Carter Melvin  -  These were new construction units a few years ago, so they all have custom tile baths and granite/ss kitchens.  If we could rehab other things to get higher rents I would be more ok with it.  

@Richard C  - How long was the wait before furniture could be moved onto it?

@Marcia Maynard  -  yea, all of our tenants have dogs.  I will have to look into refinishing options in more detail.  They are overall in good condition, but are just getting worn

Brie Schmidt, Real Estate Agent in Wisconsin (#57846-90) and Illinois (#471.018287)

IMO, I think hardwood is the best way to go when you have pets in the house. The cheaper softer vinyl will get destroyed much faster, and as others have mentioned a clear coat of poly will be cheaper than a full resurface and finish. 

This was a full strip and redo  and he did 3 coats of poly so I think it was a 4-7 days from start to finish. No stain. Water base he can sand and apply after the dust settles, it would be quicker but I don't like it.  If the floors were in better shape we would not have had to sand all the way down, he would have done a light sand and recoat.  

 Furniture they moved in right after  maybe a day or so later although we could have waited longer per the floor guy.  They always recommend waiting but I haven't had an issue and the redo held up well even for the student renters.   After 4 years though it seems pretty quick. I had a new wood floor put in about 8 years ago with student renters and there are a couple of scratches and maybe now it could use a recoat but not desperately. In my husbands opinion I am the only one that would notice but it is natural finish not dark.

If you do periodic, and even seemingly too-frequent, screen and recoats, you will never have to do a full refinish.  In theory, at least.  

We have moved furniture on within 48 hours.  If you do this in a RI winter, when it is very dry and the space is heated, I wouldn't expect any issues.  Don't try to cheap out and reduce the heat below whatever the poly manufacturer recommends, though.  I'm not sure, but I think the ideal temp range is something like more than 60 to no more than 80.

I'd stay with the hardwood floors.  We definitely get more than 4 years before they require refinishing or even screen and coating.  One thing we give to our tenants as part of a welcome package is wood floor cleaner, so they know what to buy, and a big package of floor protector felt pads for their furniture.

As mentioned by others, we have tenants move in 48 hours or later after the final coat.

The hardwood is beautiful! The dark color is awesome and current and it will be forgiving if you can do touch up the scratches and do recoats of poly as the poly is worn...without doing a complete strip.  At your rent level....keep attracting the best possible tenants.  If you were talking $700/ month....I may say differently....mainly because the wear level would be more risky with lower end.

I have been installing nice looking dark wood color, hand scraped look laminate I am buying for $1.00 a square foot. I know you are not buying Allure for that price

Doesn't pertain to the question but, I always use lighter color floors to help minimize the wear look. 

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