Whenever I think of carpet I think of my childhood home and our strange deep red carpet we had throughout the house, clashing ever so coyly without out gold living drapes and our 80's angular chandelier. Growing up, hardwood flooring, or wood-like in this case, never crossed my mind as an option.
Fast forward a couple of decades and hardwood is my go to when possible, while laminate is my default when necessary. For home owners and buyers, deciding on laminate or actual wood are only constrained by pocket book and preference, but the renter is often subject to merely what's available, with no option to weigh in. What about for rental income properties?
From a landlord's perspective, does it make sense to replace carpet with laminate? Here are 4 things to consider when making your decision.
#1 Hey, Good Lookin'
First, aesthetics: laminate looks better in comparison to carpet, but of course this is a matter of preference. I prefer a clean look in living spaces, and carpet seems to carry with it visual noise. But again, this is mere preference. For what it's worth, I've spent lots of time living in and traveling through Europe, and never once did I rent a flat that was carpeted: everything was either laminate or actual wood. Whenever I think back to my days in Berlin, I remember bright summer light, high ceilings, and wood floors. Looking back now, I'd say that wood was laminate.
I frequent sites like Apartment Therapy, and usually only see wood or wood-like flooring in their spaces. Anecdotal date to be sure, yet this point speaks to which flooring carries more aesthetic appeal these days. According to their survey, 39% said carpet was "Hot," while 61% shrugged "Not." In fact, I've looked at quite a bit of properties so far, both professionally and as a prospective tenant, and I tend to see laminate or actual wood in homes, especially in hipper areas like Highland Park, Silverlake, Los Feliz, Echo Park, and Hollywood/Canyon areas. This sampling is of course unscientific, but nevertheless speaks to market preference and culture.
#2 Nothing Lasts Forever
Second, durability: from a cursory search people report that laminate has a longer life than carpet, as holds up well in especially high traffic areas in comparison to carpet. Carpet runs the risk of going thread bare in areas, or if quality carpet is not initially selected it might dampen the perceived value of the rental. Though laminate runs the risk of being scuffed, scratched, and indented especially upon tenant move-in/out.
#3 Maintenance, Baby
Third, maintenance: laminate is easier to clean. Ever wear white pants only to accidentally spill your coffee on them? Yeah, that's what I always think of when I think of carpet. Since light colors enlarge spaces visually, it makes sense to choose light colors for flooring, because it will make the space seem bigger and thereby increase the perceived value. Yet, if you're entire living room is floored with light beige carpet and you're chasing after your kids and their fruity drinks, your beige carpet is the bane of your domestic existence. Maintaining carpet is daunting: it's subject to staining, and doesn't really get to that dust-free status laminate can. Indeed, if my kiddo spills her Kombucha on my wood flooring, a simple swipe with a kitchen rag does the trick. If I had carpet, I couldn't imagine the amount of stains we would have accumulated in her short six years of life.
#4 Money Talks
Fourth, cost: the bottomline depends on what kind of landlord you are. If you're trying to get your unit rented at the absolute lowest cost possible, carpet might be the way to go. But if you understand the way perceived value works, and the dynamics or your local market, you might opt to spend a little more on laminate. Diffen reports that carpet runs $3-5 per square foot, while laminate runs $3-11 per square foot, making them both in reach even for the budget-conscious landlord.
Perhaps in a market like Los Angeles this minutiae doesn't matter, since inventory is so low. But the value of one flooring option over the other may be worth it. Whether you're a renter or an owner, which do you prefer?