Rental Unit - Hardwood Floors

9 Replies


There has been a lot of posts around flooring questions which I have reviewed but still haven't been able to find an answer to mine. I am remodeling one of the units for my 4 plex in North Oakland CA (B Rental).  I am planning on refinishing the hardwood floors.  It is a one bedroom and I plan to hold the property long term.  The unit is set up so that the front door opens to the living room which you walk through to the kitchen and then the one bedroom is off the kitchen along with bathroom.  The living room has oak floors which are in decent shape.  The kitchen and bathroom have Douglas Fir which can be refinished (only kitchen - bathroom in bad shape).  The bedroom has oak but there are multiple water stains and contractor said wouldn't be worth replacing.  I am thinking of refinishing living room and kitchen (tile in bathroom) and then doing Vinyl or porcelain planks (floating) in bedroom.  

My two questions are:  

1) Is it worth refinishing the Douglas Fir?  I have heard Douglas Fir is pretty soft and can get beat up (especially in a rental).

2)  Would it look strange to a renter to have three different floor types in the three rooms (Oak, Douglas Fir, Laminate)?



yes, Kyle, lots of flooring discussions on BP... But each situation is unique as you know...much depends on market, your skills, budgets, etc.. There are a dozen ways you could go.. So here's what I'd do....I would refinish the wood, something I have done with some success myself just for cost of rental sander, sand paper (all three grit levels), and stain and poly....get a bid on hiring it out, too.. But  I'd do the vinyl laminate in the bath with simple flat wood transition into hall (poly and stain the transition too as you can buy bare wood lengths in bulk).. 

I'd do double or triple coat with a strong poly. Then I would cover living room with new area rug, leaving tag on, put a great new doormat in outside and inside, add a runner in the main hall and a matching in one in the kitchen...give them some Casters for under furniture in bedrooms... That may help you in easy turn around, tossing area rugs and mats after a multi year tenancy, and vaccine and damp of luck...

@Kyle Rosseau 

Clearly, you are thoughtful about your property's aesthetics and your future tenants' concerns. Most landlords wouldn't devote much time to consider such a situation so you are already ahead of your competition. 

If you can refinish those floors then I would do it. If not, I think you are ok with putting nice tile in the kitchen and bathrooms to save on cost and future wear and tear. With the likelihood of water hitting those floors, hardwood floors will certainly take a beating.Well-installed tile with premium grouting can last you for decades. Grouting is key should you go this route. 

Good luck


I refinished old growth1860s  fir and it looks good. It looked pretty bad at first too. The main issue is if the nails are coming up and also you can only do it so many times.

For the bathroom  I would be inclined NOT to use laminate, it is not so water tolerant.  For bathroom, ceramic tile is the best choice and the most longevity, next choice is vinyl.  You may need to go with vinyl due to needing to add a new subfloor with ceramic tile you could wind up with a higher bathroom floor depending on what you put in.   If I had a wood floor in the kitchen I would have kept it. 

For bedrooms I don't like tile because here it is too cold. If it is normal in your area use it or you can get something a bit warmer.  You can pull off different floors if you are careful with patterns.  I think that what looks weird is  wood look  laminate, tile,  or vinyl up against  a  real wood floor.  It screams fake.  I guess there are statement colors that could work against wood like driftwood but I never tried it.

Floating floors have come a long way since Pergo hit the market in the 80s.  I've installed most flooring but have never done a ceramic floating floor.  I can't see it not having issues with cracking tiles over time and wouldn't recommend it.  We have laminate in some of our rental bedrooms and it holds up ok...just have to remind renters not to wet mop it.  You might want to use a slightly darker finish on the bedroom to high most of the water stains or at least tone them down a bit.  

1) Yes

2) Not if the renter is strange... seriously though, if done correctly (i.e., at door transitions)... different colored floors in different rooms not uncommon at all... it's done all the time, with carpet especially.

Great question, Kyle. I'm with @Michael Boyer on this one. I'd refinish the wood and put vinyl in the bathroom. If you refinish all the wood at the same time and stain it all, hopefully you can get a consistent enough color that the two woods don't look out of place -- though I'm not familiar enough with the woods to know if the grains will clash or absorb the stain to different degrees. I'd pick the brain of a flooring expert when they're out giving you a bid. 

Definitely go with two or three coats of polyurethane, though do consider the off-gassing smell. I put on a double coat of minwax polyurethane, and the tenant is still complaining about the smell 6 months later. Different brands or low VOC options may be better.

You can put tile in the bathroom, which can look great and is very durable, but the vinyl is likely going to be cheaper. Yes, tile can last forever, but in my opinion after 10-15 years the styles change enough that I don't mind ripping up 10 year old flooring to put in the latest trends so the unit stays fresh and updated. With a floating vinyl, it's quick and easy to replace. The Allure Trafficmaster flooring has worked well for me so far.

As @Colleen F. suggested, I'd avoid the laminate. It warps easily when wet, and vinyl plank looks just as good for about the same cost.

Keep the flooring consistent. Don't go the cheapest route. 

Thanks everyone for the responses!  I think I am going to refinish the living room (oak) and kitchen (Douglas fir) and then put vinyl plank (oak color) in the bedroom.  Each room is separated by a doorway so I don't think the variation in flooring will make that big a deal and from my research and everyone's comments hardwood will hold up better than laminate.  

Let me ask you a question or two. Do your renters tend to be long term? Do you do your own maintenance?

Question  one refers to the fact that every time you flip renters you're going to have to refinish the floor. I would suggest suing the fairly new system from Basic that requires NO sanding. But there is still the cost involved in material and time

If you do your own maintenance,  then the labor cost is on you.

Wood gets scratched up no matter how well you try to refinish it more so that a flooring product that has an AO or double layer of ceramic bead that is factory applied, such as LVT's.