VOLUME VIIIRe-Evaluating the Floor Types
By Thomas Cochran
Whether a property owner is eyeing the floors of a new investment or reconsidering the floor type after a tenant moves out, choosing the right flooring material can be tricky. Common flooring materials are wood, laminate and carpet. However, Florida homes commonly use ceramic and tile, and tile and stone flooring are popular in Texas homes. All of these materials vary in durability, life span and cost. Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of these floor types can make this decision easier.

The Basics
Real wood flooring is made from solid hardwood and comes in boards. These boards can be unfinished, which requires staining and varnishing post-installation. Or, they can be prefinished (sanded, stained and coated with polyurethane), which is becoming increasingly popular.

Laminate flooring is manufactured from fiberboard made of wood byproducts. It has three layers: a core layer, a design layer and a protective layer. The core layer is made from the fiberboard. The design layer is printed to mimic real wood or stone. And the protective layer is a clear film that protects the product from scratching and scuffing, without worrying about nails or glue to interlock each piece.

Modern carpet comes in a wide variety of colors and styles. Most carpet is made from synthetic fibers that are looped together, but some carpet is made from natural fibers like cotton. It is manufactured in huge quantities and purchased by the foot.

Natural stone flooring is made of quarried material that is cut into uniform tiles. The most common types of stone flooring are slate, marble, limestone, travertine and granite. Natural stone material is porous, and needs a sealant or glaze to make it resistant to moisture and stains.

Ceramic tile flooring is a man-made material that is hardened in a kiln and then glazed. Tile is affordable and easy to clean, but the grout is susceptible to staining if neglected.

The average cost of real wood flooring is about $8 per square foot, according to the home improvement site The Spruce. It is more expensive than laminate flooring or carpet, but it can also last a lifetime with proper maintenance.

Laminate and carpet, on the other hand, both cost anywhere from $1 to $3 per square foot with designer flooring costing as much as $10 and $12 per square foot. However, for property owners who have a maintenance team instead of choosing to do it themselves, the labor for carpet replacement may be less expensive. Old carpet can be cut apart; stripped out; and a newer, cleaner version can be laid down and vacuumed before the next tenant moves in. Both have an approximate life span of 10 years.

Tile floors are one of the most affordable flooring options. They have a life expectancy of anywhere from 20 to 50 years, reports Forbes. Porcelain tiles cost about the same price as laminate and carpet—$3 minimum per square foot. Ceramic tiles are less pricey and can be as low as $1 per square foot.

Natural stone is one of the most expensive flooring options because it is made from a natural resource. Home Flooring Pros guesstimates stone flooring costs are between $5 and $10 per square foot, depending on the type. Forbes guesstimates natural stones like marble and granite have a life expectancy of up to 100 years.

Landlords need to determine the most likely ways their floors could be damaged before choosing a flooring material. For example, the faux wood appearance of laminate floors may be attractive and its waterproof option could work during Florida’s rainy season.

However, while it is low maintenance, scratch resistant and spill-proof, real wood can last a lifetime versus laminate’s decade-long time span. Real wood floors can also be refinished multiple times whereas laminate can only be replaced. But laminate won't be damaged as easily as wood floors by tenants moving heavy furniture.

Modern carpet isn't nearly as durable as laminate or real wood. Carpet is susceptible to stains, although manufacturing advancement has made some carpet more stain resistant. In pet-friendly homes, pets can easily ruin carpet with urine, especially if the stain is allowed to seep through to the underlay. But carpet does have a gentle, soft appearance and sound-dampening qualities, which is good for properties with multi-level units and single-family homes that need quiet home office space.

Tile is sold with a hardness rating called a Porcelain Enamel Institute (PEI) rating. Tile PEI ratings range from one to five, with five being the hardest and most durable. A good PEI rating for flooring begins at PEI 3 or above. Lower PEI ratings are not designed for flooring.

The durability of stone flooring depends on the type. Slate and granite are more durable than limestone or marble. Stone flooring is completely water and stain-proof if it is properly sealed.

Which Floor Type Is the Best?
There are advantages and disadvantages to each of the flooring materials discussed above. While there is no “right” answer for all homes and multi-units, property owners should evaluate the location, the weather, pet rules and how prior floors were treated before making a final decision.