Door number one, carpet. Door number two, tile
August 1, 2007 5:35 AM   Subscribe

What are the pros and cons of tile versus carpeting for rental apartments?

I've got a smattering of rental apartments that I renovate (and re-renovate) when tenants move out.

Until recently, I've forked out 600 bucks for new living room carpet at each renovation, but my management company wants me to switch to tile.

Their reasoning is that
1) tile lasts longer than carpet, and doesn't need replacement with each renovation,
2) radiator leaks (common for me) won't lead to carpet damage and mold (even though the carpet is a sturdy indoor/outdoor brand), and
3) I'll save money big time, an important consideration in the soft rental market we're experiencing in my area

I'm having the better floors sanded and polyurethaned, but these are in the minority. For the most part, it's tile, tile, tile (but decent vinyl tile, of course).

My only reservations are that I'll lose prospective tenants who don't like the tilely look, and that I'll create problems down the road, when I renovate apartments for higher-end tenants who insist on carpeting.

Is tile a big turn-off for rental tenants? Will it complicate matters if I decide to lay down carpet in a few years? Other pros and cons?
posted by Gordion Knott to Home & Garden (33 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Depending on what kind of building it is, tile might make life unbearable for the people downstairs, as carpet muffles footsteps and tile magnifies them.
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:39 AM on August 1, 2007

Tile is weird. When my mother's house burned down, the insurance company found her a rental house for six months that was completely tiled. The floors were uncomfortably cold, and a whisper in the living room would echo through the entire house. It was worse than staying in a hotel would have been.

What about compromising with a tile, laminate or wood floor, that you put large area rugs over? Sisal is affordable and hard wearing. Those would be cheaper and easier to replace if need be.
posted by methylsalicylate at 5:40 AM on August 1, 2007

What about carpet tiles. Then you can just replace squares when you need to.
posted by FreezBoy at 5:56 AM on August 1, 2007

I have an apartment that I am switching to cheap engineered hardwood. It has a 20 year warranty,it cost about 700 for materials for a bedroom and living room and I tiled the kitchen and bath. I just find its too expensive to try and either get the carpet clean in between tenants or replace it.

As for putting carpet in again, whereas carpet you can pull up rather easily, tile you will have to basically chisel out. Its a pain in the butt.

I think the carpet squares might be a good way to go. Either that or take more of a deposit. :)
posted by stormygrey at 6:01 AM on August 1, 2007

I made sure I bought a house which had no carpet (polished wood floor is not tiles i know) because carpet is more difficult to clean than hard surfaces. However, I do live in a very warm area, and I do have children (which some landlords avoid anyway), and no-one lives under me.
posted by b33j at 6:11 AM on August 1, 2007

Tile in the living areas simply looks cheap and uninviting, especially vinyl. It's great for kitchen and bath areas, but it's exactly those utilitarian associations that makes it out-of-place for the living areas. When potential renters see the place, the presence of vinyl tile everywhere will negatively effect their impression of the value.
If I were apartment shopping, I'd certainly de-value the vinyl-tile apartments and opt for the apartments that are carpeted.

If leaking radiators are a constant problem for you, I suggest you fix them. Even vinyl can't protect you from damage. Water will find a way.

Carpet squares are only a minor step above vinyl tile in the cheap-ass-looks category. I've never seen a carpet tile installation where tiles didn't start peeling up, creating a potential safety hazard, as well as looking really bad.

And indoor/outdoor carpeting? Might as well use astroturf. There are tons of great-looking, affordable carpets out there made expressly for just your sort of application. Ask a local contractor (prefereably one that actually builds multi-tennant housing) what they suggest.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:15 AM on August 1, 2007

In my book, carpet is gross and makes for bad allergies. I've always looked to rent a house with hardwood floors. I'd consider tile, but only if it's real terracotta or whatever, not that cheap vinyl stuff that landlords in the US put in kitchens and baths. That makes everything look tacky.

Here's a link from a couple of years ago that discusses alternatives to hardwood as a non-carpeted surface.
posted by Stewriffic at 6:21 AM on August 1, 2007

Vinyl tile in living spaces feels cheap, especially after a few years of rental abuse.

Ceramic tile in living spaces is really neat in theory, but a pain-in-the-ass. As mentioned, it's cold, loud, expensive, and breakable.
posted by smackfu at 6:30 AM on August 1, 2007

I hate wall-to-wall carpet. One of my criteria when I was looking for an apartment was that it must not have carpet. I'm happy to live in an older building that has hardwood.

Still, vinyl tile could easily make the entire apartment look like a giant bathroom. You don't want that. I would suggest wood laminate.
posted by Violet Hour at 6:33 AM on August 1, 2007

We have tile throughout our home (carpet in the bedrooms), and I love the durability, the look, etc. We have a large rug that covers the main living area, so it is just as comfortable there as a carpeted room.

As far as I know, the carpet squares mentioned above are usually quite expensive (at least the Flor brand linked). There might be cheaper alternatives, but I can't believe its anywhere close to regular carpet prices.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:33 AM on August 1, 2007

As a long time renter, I'm not super keen on the idea. Vinyl sheet would be slightly more appealing than tile. However, in either case, I'd just buy an area rug or two and live with it. I'd take clean looking vinyl over dirty or pet piss smelling carpet, but a new carpet would beat out vinyl for me. Aesthetically, hardwood, concrete floor (w/ treatment) , bamboo or slate beat both carpet and vinyl as far as I'm concerned.

One thing that I'll never put up with again is textured vinyl flooring. If it's not smooth it never gets fully clean.

The apartment I'm in now has vinyl in the kitchen/dining room and bath, but the living room and bedroom are carpeted.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:48 AM on August 1, 2007

Tile, unless you live on the beach or in the desert, is gross and impersonal.

Can you go with a snap flooring? IKEA has unbelievably cheap snap flooring (around $2/square foot, if not cheaper) and even though it is cheap and rather cheap looking, it still would be better than skanky carpet or cold and impersonal tile.
posted by banannafish at 6:50 AM on August 1, 2007

In a 'soft rental market,' I'd completely bypass an entirely vinyl-tiled apartment. Yuk.

And, yeah, the noise would be a concern.

Just about anything you can think of would be better than vinyl tile, I think. I can't even picture a "nice" apartment with it.
posted by kmennie at 6:51 AM on August 1, 2007

It's been a long time since I lived anywhere with radiators, but is there some kind of tray you can put under them to contain leaks?

Also, cork tile might be an option, but it runs 2.50 a square foot or so, and I'm not sure how durable/waterproof it is.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:59 AM on August 1, 2007

Just had another idea. What about real linoleum? You could market your apartment flooring as being green.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:03 AM on August 1, 2007 [2 favorites]

I think tile is the better investment for you. Better still you should try that laminate hardwood flooring they use on those home improvement shows - the kind you can do yourself.

Carpets harbor stains and odors - pet odors, smoke, food, pet hair, etc. Always a turn off for new tenants.

It's easier for renters to buy their own area rug if the floors are too cold, or cause an echo then for you to buy new carpet or shampoo for each new tenant.
posted by NoraCharles at 7:07 AM on August 1, 2007

I would never rent an apartment with vinyl tile in living areas - nasty. I would avoid an apartment with carpet, I could be persuaded if it was really nice and new (and not indoor/outdoor!). I would take ceramic tile on a case by case basis! and I would actively look for hardwood.
posted by crabintheocean at 7:29 AM on August 1, 2007

Another vote for harwood. Looks nice, easy to clean, and renters can always throw a rug or two down to lessen the noise. Tile outside of the kitchen and bathroom would be a big turn-off for me, and many other renters, I'd imagine.
posted by emd3737 at 7:47 AM on August 1, 2007

I was never a high-end renter. But you would have to have a spectacular place at a stupidly low price for me to rent a place with vinyl floors in the living room, because that is gross and depressing.

I did rent such a place once. It was a 3 bedroom house, plus an office, with a/c, on between 1/3 and 1/2 acre, for $600/month in the late 90s. And I still tried not to think about the vinyl living room. So unless you're planning on offering price-to-value ratios like that...
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:54 AM on August 1, 2007

I lived in an apartment that had some attractive linoleum floors, just like the ones that Stewriffic linked to above. They were durable and looked ok, and we just covered them with rugs in spaces where we needed a softer surface.

Linoleum was an infinitely better solution than vinyl tile or carpet, but I was nonetheless very glad to move to an apartment that had nice hardwood floors as soon as I was able to. Moral of the story is that almost everybody seems to prefer hardwood, but if it's got to be tile, linoleum is vastly better than vinyl.
posted by dseaton at 7:55 AM on August 1, 2007

Yes, the vinyl will be a big turn-off for rental prospects. I can't imagine how little the rent would have to be for me to have considered a place with vinyl tile floors. Even carpet tiles would be better.

Tell the management that when they install vinyl tiles in their living rooms, you'll put them in the living rooms of rentals. Ew.
posted by desuetude at 8:24 AM on August 1, 2007

If you advertise and apartment with "tile" floors, I would expect it to have ceramic tile. Vinyl tile I would refer to as vinyl. It does not create a good impression for a higher end apartment, some sort of wood flooring would be better for that.

Vinyl tiles tend to peel up on the edges, particularly if they have water sitting on them. Water will get between them and into the subfloor, so you still need to fix any water leaks. If you must go with vinyl I suggest the sheet type, the main advantage of the tiles is that they are simple to install, but presumably you are either hiring people who know what they are doing, or doing this yourself and will be experienced at this soon enough.
posted by yohko at 8:31 AM on August 1, 2007

There's nothing wrong with tile, though you'll have differences of opinion on the matter as you see above and as my darling girlfriend and I have - personally I like carpet. However it is an expense, it does collect allergens (why my dg dislikes it), and you're just as likely to have tenants hate the color you picked for carpet as hate tile.

That said - vinyl is gross, ugly, and wears almost as quickly as carpet does anyway. Spring to get proper ceramic tile and you'll not need to do anything with it for well over a decade (provided you pick a good neutral pattern and size). When you come up against people like banannafish in a weak market you can offer to throw in some big throw rugs. $100 at Home Depot is way cheaper than new wall to wall every turnover.

And by the way, if you're talking about new carpet every time you turn over a renter who was there 2-3 years then you need to be dinging them for a security deposit. There's no excuse for landlords trying to screw tenants out of money for normal wear and tear but full carpeting should remain reasonably attractive for at least 6 years and functional for more like 10.
posted by phearlez at 8:37 AM on August 1, 2007

If you're going to do tile, don't do vinyl -- do a real tile, a quality ceramic tile, installed well. It'll last a long time. If I were renting, vinyl would turn me away but I'd take ceramic over carpet. It's much easier to keep clean (though you have to clean it more regularly).

Noise transmission could be a problem though, in a multi-story building. A good ceramic install will probably cost a little more than carpet as well, but you won't be replacing it every couple of years, if you do it well. Consider, also, that a "good install" requires that the floor structure and subfloor meets certain deflection standards that your apartments might not be up to. Installing tile over a weak floor will result in cracked grout/tile over time.
posted by Pantengliopoli at 8:50 AM on August 1, 2007

One of my criteria when I was looking for an apartment was that it must not have carpet.

Indeed. Even if you know there's nothing living in the carpet, a potential tenant doesn't.
posted by oaf at 8:58 AM on August 1, 2007

I'll create problems down the road, when I renovate apartments for higher-end tenants who insist on carpeting.

Really? Higher end clients actually prefer carpet? I can't imagine that being the norm. Carpet, no matter how expensive, will eventually become disgusting. The first thing I'd do in any home I owned would be to rip out any and all carpet. For someone who finds it cold rugs can do what carpet does.

Cheap tile can also be a turnoff, but if you're talking about higher end clients, I'm sure you can afford decent tile/hard floors.
posted by justgary at 9:42 AM on August 1, 2007

I'm another renter who hates carpet. Lots of folks I know are redoing with bamboo, which I think is both cheaper and more sustainable than hardwood.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:49 AM on August 1, 2007

My beef with ceramic tile was that the landlord tended to use whatever tile fell off the back of his brother-in-law's truck. Which was usually big, white, commercial tiles.

But nicely-done appropriate tile would be fine, preferably in a darker or warmer color.
posted by desuetude at 9:54 AM on August 1, 2007

Another vote for hardwood/laminate floors over either alternative you are describing. I assume (perhaps too quickly) that you are in the U.S., but tiling in living areas seems much more common in Europe, and I have to say it's dreadful. Very loud.

I live in an apartment now with wall to wall carpet, and I hate it. I live in a new highrise with a great management company. I have no qualms that the carpet is dirty or filled with allergens, etc. But it closes off the rooms, makes it feet stiflingly hot, and makes everything feel darker. I much preferred the really beat up wood floor in my last place.

I would pay MORE not to have carpet if given the choice.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 9:56 AM on August 1, 2007

Tile? In living and bedrooms? Nasty nasty nasty. Wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole.

I know one person who has that in their house. They got a great deal on the place from a police auction as it is a former methlab.

Laminate "wood" floors, at minimum.
posted by Kellydamnit at 11:15 AM on August 1, 2007

I wouldn't rent an apartment with vinyl anywhere outside of the bathroom or kitchen. It looks really cheap and that makes you look like the kind of landlord that has cheap, shoddy work done (i.e. not someone you want to rent from). Carpet is also a big negative for me, but some people seem to like it. Wood laminate floors are really cheap (but don't make you look cheap), and even real wood floors aren't that expensive.
posted by ssg at 11:45 AM on August 1, 2007

I grew up with lino, and I hatehatehate it. You can never *quite* get it clean, once it's got a bit of wear on it. Carpet is okay in bedrooms, wood for living areas, ceramic tile for bathrooms. As a mid-level renter, I refuse to ever again rent a place that has the living areas carpeted, or is tiled everywhere. The first is a PITA to keep neat and clean, the second results in weekly visits to the physio.
posted by ysabet at 5:22 PM on August 1, 2007

Depends on who you will be renting to. If you will have a high turnover, than I would say the more tile the better. If you think you will attract people who will tend to stay longer, I would say carpet. They may prefer carpet for it's comfort over tile for the long term. Never tile a kitchen or bath..........
posted by hernandez5000 at 5:57 PM on August 6, 2007

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