Laminate Flooring in Rental Properties
Amy S. Asked
I am replacing the flooring in a duplex. We have always had carpeting in the rental units, which turns out to be gross in the end, and so we are now considering complete installation of laminate flooring in rental properties OR laminate flooring in living areas (kitchen living room, basement) and “apartment grade” (cheap) carpeting in bedrooms. Tell me failures or successes/ recommendations.
I have installed laminate flooring in rental properties numerous times with no complaints from the owners. I have installed laminate flooring in several private residences with cats or large dogs, where damage from their claws was a concern, with no complaints. I have installed laminate flooring in a few kitchens and bathrooms with no complaints, I do feel however that there is a greater risk of damage to laminate floors installed in high moisture areas.
There are a few things that you may want to consider if you choose to install laminate flooring in rental properties.
Most laminates can be damaged by excess water standing on the surface. It will seep into the cracks and may lead to swelling and buckling of the floor. If you are going to use it in kitchen or bath areas look for a brand that is water resistant. A better alternative for kitchens and baths may be a product like Alure Ultra, a vinyl based 100% waterproof product. (see link below)
Be sure to install a floating type floor that, as the name implies, is not nailed or glued down. If it ever has to be replaced only the shoe mold around the perimeter has to be pulled up to allow removal of the entire floor.
Don’t use the shoe molding that is sold with the flooring. It is ridiculously expensive and comes in short lengths resulting in too many joints. Instead buy standard shoe mold and paint or stain it before installing.
When installing laminate flooring in rental properties consider using transition strips in all or most all doorways between rooms even if you don’t have to. Transitions strips allow the floors of each room to be isolated from each other. If a floor in one room is damaged and needs to be replaced It can be removed up to the transition strip without affecting the flooring in other rooms.
Many flooring companies use inadequately trained installation technicians, with little or no background in construction, resulting in poor quality craftsmanship. Almost anyone with a carpentry (especially finish carpentry) background can do a better job than many “flooring technicians.” In my experience many of the subcontractors that the big box stores use are either inadequately trained or inadequately motivated to do quality work.
Of the half dozen or so brands of laminate flooring I have installed I have only had issues with two brands. One was a discontinued low end Armstrong brand that a client bought on sale. The self locking seams failed on the ends of a couple of pieces resulting in a crack between the ends of two boards. (I have installed other Armstrong laminate flooring with excellent results) The other was a very low end (cheap) product, bought by a client at a Roses store, that had a propensity to chip at the corners as it was being locked into place. Use a mid to upper price range brand such as Pergo, Kronotex, Bruce, Mohawk (which now owns Pergo) or Tarkett and you won’t go wrong. I have also installed laminate flooring from Lumber Liquidators (St.James brand) that I was pleased with.
Be aware that some brands come with a built in pad and some without. When comparing prices be sure to include the additional cost a separate padding (underlayment) for brands without the attached pad.
If the laminate flooring is to be installed over concrete a vapor barrier must be installed.