Is Vinyl Plank Flooring the Latest Apartment Trend?

The apartment industry is finding better ways to keep from getting floored by high turnover costs when it comes to providing effective walkable surfaces under residents’ feet.

Hard-surface floors are replacing many carpeted areas in apartments, and going down by offering long-term savings to property owners and a more stylish look for renters. Vinyl plank is fast covering entire units and complementing other floors that have traditionally been topped with carpet.

Many high-end styles of plank have the look and feel of stone, wood and ceramic tile. To steal a phrase from the World Floor Covering Association, this isn’t your grandmother’s kitchen flooring.

“The biggest thing right now is the shift from soft-surface goods like carpet into the realm of hard-surface throughout the unit,” says an industry insider. “Specifically, (apartments are) moving from carpet into vinyl plank and not just in the living area, but moving into the bedroom areas.”

About half of the top real estate investment trusts in the country are installing vinyl plank at properties in varying scales. Several reasons are at play. A big one is that the flooring doesn’t have to be replaced as often, enabling a better return on investment for the owner. The average life of vinyl plank is 10 years or more, compared to about two to five years for carpet. This is just one cost-saving apartment design measure investors are using more often.

Vinyl plank offers greater long-term benefits than carpet
Like many products, vinyl flooring has gotten better over the years since becoming a household fixture following Chicago’s Century of Progress Exposition in 1933. Much like it was during some lean post-war years, vinyl flooring stands up to heavier traffic volumes and is easier to maintain. The plank variety is more expensive than roll flooring and carpet but offers a high-quality look that lasts.

For apartments that are frequently replacing carpet as units turn, vinyl plank may be a good option. All or portions of units are being recovered with vinyl plank, which is showing up in areas where carpet has been a more traditional selection. Giving a new look and feel at a reasonable cost is good way to build value and retain residents.

Plank offers the look of trendy flooring without the high investment that goes along with wood or stone floors. The extra investment in plank or carpet also helps apartments justify higher rents. Meanwhile, the resident gets a little more stylish abode without a hefty rent that comes with, say, a hardwood floor.

Plank has the look, feel of expensive flooring and is easy to repair
Vinyl plank is much more forgiving than other surfaces, especially carpet. Water resistant finishes are getting more and more sophisticated. At January’s Dallas floor market show, at least two manufacturers were touting new lines of 100 percent waterproof vinyl plank.

Plank comes in a variety of colors, finishes and textures and installs much like wood flooring. An adhesive backing secures the material to the floor and is resilient enough that planks can be easily replaced.

“One of pros from the management company perspective is the ease of repair for this product,” says our source. “When using carpet, if the carpet is damaged or stained, you have to replace the entire unit of carpet. With vinyl plank, if there is a board that is damaged or scratched, you can replace to the one board as opposed to the entire unit. You get significant long-term cost savings per unit when it relates to repairs and replacement.”

Also, vinyl plank is quiet like carpet. Depending on the construction of the building, a sound barrier may be laid between the foundation and vinyl plank floor on upper stories to reduce noise from one unit to the next.

And there is no shortage of selections. One leading manufacturer of vinyl plank offers 112 choices in color and style, either simulated wood or tile.

In the long run, vinyl plank may be a wise flooring solution over carpet for some properties.

From a resident perspective, hard-surface flooring looks a lot better than carpet. It’s easier to maintain, it’s easier to clean, has a more home-y feel. Just all in all is a better product for both the owner and resident.