How to Make Low Maintenance Apartment Units?

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Well, to make it short, I found some great resources on this thread- How to Harden Units , but I wanted to hear more. I'm picking up my first, 10 unit apartment complex. 10 tiny studio apartments. Mostly rented by migrant workers. Simple people with simple tastes. The previous owners wanted to fix it all up nice, but I think they learned that the tenants didn't want anything fancy. Just cheap and functional. Luckily cheap and functional is my middle name ;) ...


I was just looking for suggestions, any tips or tricks, to make the lowest maintenance units possible. I'd like to avoid clogged toilets, drains, broken stuff, etc. There are no washer dryers. No dish washers. And I think I'd rather spend a bit more on stuff it if meant that it would last longer and clog less (for plumbing). 


I have glue down LTV in my home. I think it'd work great at a rental. I'd do the whole place in it. What about counters? Shower surrounds? It sounds like subway tile is the best bet for longevity. Prefab laminate is cheap and easy for counters. Not sure about longevity.

Tile. Tile floors and tile showers and tile kitchen counters. That’s the cheapest bulkiest proof stuff.

I don’t recommend this or do this one “nicer” places. But workers with tool bags and boots will eat LVL in 6 months. My thoughts

Even the stuff with the commercial rating? (For the LTV) The stuff in my basement seems pretty bulletproof. But yes, tile does seem like another good option. It'd cost more up front, but probably pay off.

Originally posted by @Josh C. :

Tile. Tile floors and tile showers and tile kitchen counters. That’s the cheapest bulkiest proof stuff.

 If you've got more skills than cash, granite tile counters are huge bang for the buck, tremendously durable, and repairable if it came to that.  For floors I've had pretty good luck with the laminate from Costco.  Tile floors other than bath and kitchen in cold climes is not recommended.

@Johann Jells I agree it’s not great looking or feeling. Especially in the cold. But it’s the most bulletproof as the question asked. The luxury vinyl does scratch. A bunch of worker’s tool bags would eat it up.

Sorry for all the misspelling above. Phones.

I know that when I bought the luxury vinyl for my home I bought the higher rated stuff, which Inwas told was supposed to be for commercial use. Hospitals,  grocery stores, etc. And though mine isn't scratched yet, I'm sure it'd scratch before tile would.

Originally posted by @Josh C. :

Johann Jells I agree it’s not great looking or feeling. Especially in the cold. But it’s the most bulletproof as the question asked. The luxury vinyl does scratch. A bunch of worker’s tool bags would eat it up.

Sorry for all the misspelling above. Phones.

 Tile holds up great, as long as it's properly installed, but I'm not a fan of how grout looks after a few years of negligent tenant care. My oldest laminate installs, about 16 years, still look great. One is my son's room, from 3 to college, and boys are hard on floors.  The silica wear layer on laminate seems tougher than the wear layer on LVP. If it does get damaged you can disassemble it and replace the planks as long as you stashed extras.

I like the fact that LVT is glue down and water proof. That means I can just pull 1 if I need to. And water cant warp it. That's two of my hesitations with laminate. I dont want to unclick 30 boards to reach one. 

What about counter? You guys think granite tile?

DIY granite tile. 2 layers of 3/4 ply, one of Ditra not CBU.  Edge of top tiles is biggest issue, I've both had them rounded over by granite shop for $5 each, and used diamond pads in a drill to polish out the square edge. Either way is much better than prefab laminate on chipboard, that crap will always get wet and fall apart.  My oldest counter is from 2005, still in perfect shape. Could you say the same for any kind of mica?

Probably true. Have many of you used the one piece, drop in, laminate counters? I just put them in at my home because I made custom hardwood cabinets and didn't yet have the money to do the counters, so for a couple hundred bucks did the laminate counters. I feel like if they are done correctly they should be waterproof. And if backed correctly,  pretty strong. But time will tell. I guess some of this will just be trial and error.

I am a contractor and real estate investor, 20 +yrs. I have tried a lot of things over the years looking to achieve low maintenance rentals.
This is what we currently do:

Flooring-glue down vinyl plank, looks like wood, pay attention to the ‘wear rating’.

Countertops- Formica

Showers-12” ceramic tile, epoxy grout, sanded caulk in corners and along the tub.

Carpet-When we do have carpet, the carpet we use is color died in the liquid state, it is a less vibrant color, but the color will not come out.

Paint-we paint the entire unit 1 color, walls, ceilings, doors, trim, and cabinets. Get good paint from a comercial paint store, use their knowledge of the products to select the right paint.

Toilets-you get what you pay for.
I like Kohler and American Standard.
Pay attention to the water surface area, and trap size. Bigger is better.

We use the same products and colors in every unit, this eliminated the problems trying to remember what we used in each unit.

Good luck!

Hey everyone, here is a walk-through video of an empty unit. I've got to do some game planning on how I want to go about this. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IOnHVNmC3Vg&featur...

Paint, I was thinking about two white walls with an accent color for trim and cabinets. Definitely more work, but also more curb appeal. 

Floor- The tiles honestly might not look horrible if the walls weren't the same color. Otherwise I still feel strongly about trying glue down LVT. I've used it in my basement, it is waterproof, if one gets damaged you just rip it off and place another one. And it has a bit warmer feel than tile. 

Kitchen, most of those cabinets don't even function and the sink is partly blocked by the stove. I liked where someone suggested installing permanently mounted screens over the drains so that food can't go down. I also think I'll go with Formica on this counter. Maybe granite later. But this looks like a 6ft, one piece, unit would drop right in. 

Bathroom- same LVT in the bathroom floor. Honestly the white FRP for surrounds seems like the easiest thing to do in the short run, but tile in the long run would be nice. Even though the vanity looks totally functional, I'm terribly tempted to replace it with a smaller unit. You can't sit on that toilet without your knees hitting the vanity. I also plan to use the trick where you mount a "decorative" board to the wall studs and then mount a towel rack to that board. As opposed to drywall. 

Otherwise, I plan to tear out the sheetrock on that room dividing wall and redo it. It looks pretty awful.