rental property rehab construction materials

Every good business develops a system that works and then they use it from then on out. I would like to determine the best type of materials to use when updating or rehabbing a rental home. For example, replace with all wood floors so less future maintenance replacing carpet every year and if so what type is most durable and priced reasonable. Bathrooms – tile or prefabbed stall walls, tile floors, kitchens --appliances what to spend what to supply. Keep in mind, I don’t want to purchase crap that will breakdown often, but I don’t need top of the line either.

Love your thoughts — thanks! Tam

First, let me say that the quality and expense of materials will depend on your target tenant pool. If you’re wanting to use laminate wood floors, you can usually find it for about $1.40 or so per sq ft. If it’s on sale, you can find it for $1/sq ft. Laminate will be scratch resistant (not scratch proof), but water will hurt it. We’ve replaced living/bedroom flooring in our rentals with both carpet and laminate. The carpet came out of our personal residence and was in decent shape. There’s plenty of carpet out there for less than $1/sq ft and you can find those install specials from Lowe’s and HD. The advertised price is only for laying the carpet in the rooms. You get charged extra for them taking up the old, disposal, carpeting stairs, etc. If you have hardwood floors, consider painting/staining & sealing them.
For kitchens and baths, I like to use composite laminate tile. It’s easy to work with because you can cut it with a utility knife, but it’s not paper thin like the cheap-o peel and stick tile. It looks good and is about $1.50/sq ft.
Bathrooms - We used shower wall kits in our apartments. They cost $90 each for the wals and about another $20 for the adhesive/caulk.
I’ll get decent used appliances as cheap as I can for the kitchen. Most of the time I’ll just supply stoves and refrigerators. If there’s a hook-up for a dishwasher, I might put one in. An appliance guy told me it’s good to use stoves with manual controls (avoid the ones with the touch pad controls) for cheaper rentals. He said if the tenants get bugs in there, the bugs will go straight for the touch pads and screw them up.
I recommend you don’t skimp on the paint with cheap stuff because the money you save per gallon will the be spent by you putting more paint on the walls with more coats to cover. The extra time spent won’t be worth the cheaper paint price.

Justin, what type of wall kits are you using for your showers? Are they holding up well to scratches and cleansers?

I got them from Menard’s for about $90 each. It’s a 5 piece kit that can be trimmed to fit. It’s really just thin shiny plastic sheets. One of them had a couple shelves and a handle built into it. The rest were just flat. I installed ours over wood paneling. Very easy to do, didn’t take much time, and the residents just loved them since all they had before was makeshift shower curtains. When I was in the store looking at these wall units, I thought they felt like they wouldn’t hold up but they’ve been in a couple units since summer of '07 and we haven’t had any issues with them.

I think I saw something like that at Home Depot. I just bought a property and it had the cheap shower stall, however it’s so thin that it cracked and fell apart as soon as it was touched so now I have to replace it. Anyway, looks like Home Depot has one that’s a stronger plastic that claims it’s 4-5 times thicker. Feels more solid, but it’s $187.

The other thing I’m doing is sanding the hardwood floors. It’s an old building with nice hardwoods underneath. I’m up to 12 units and I bought the sander used from a Home Depot rental center for $600 a couple of years ago. I think the issue here is that people love the look of hardwood floors so it makes it easy to rent. But on a living basis, carpet is quieter, warmer, easier on the feet. As I’m just interested in getting it rented quick and for top dollar, the look of hardwood floor wins out over carpet.

For appliances, I’ve gone new mostly. Usually they do free delivery and take away of old appliances. If you buy used, you have to go get it. For instance, I can get a new nice looking stove for $400-$450 (typically Lowes or Sears requires that amount before free delivery) and they deliver for free and take away the old one. If there are tenants there, I don’t even have to do anything, just tell them when it’s showing up and they take away the old one. Now if I had to go get one (don’t have a truck) and carry it up and get rid of the old one, it’s more of a hassle. Plus used nices ones on craigslist seem to be in the $200-$300 range so by the time I factor in my time, I’m not really saving that much, maybe $100 and then it’s used with no warranty so you really don’t save anything.

Also I like to replace toilets and faucets. An old leaking toilet or faucet can really run up the water bill depending on what type of water/sewer system you’re on. And of course for a “minor” thing like that some tenants won’t tell you. Usually I get a brand name item for those types of parts as the cheap stuff will just cost you more in the long run. Some cheap faucets were breaking after a couple of years while I have some other brand name ones going strong after 15-20 years.

I noticed the same thing w/ the shower wall kits when we were deciding on ours. The one that advertised being many times thicker was about $160 then. We wanted all the apartments to be the same and we decided to go w/ the cheaper stuff. I questioned the thickness and durability of ours in the store on the display, but noticed it felt much better when we actually installed them because the display just had a small piece just hanging there and not glued to anything like it would be after installation.
I thought about sanding, staining, re-sealing hw floors. A house we’re looking at now has hw floors throughout, however, I’m strongly considering the floor paint Propertymanager talks about using for hw floors. I don’t want to have that much time invested in these floors since it’s a cheaper house and won’t matter as much.
The one used appliance place here in town I know of has a guy who will deliver, set up, and haul away the old appliance for $25. I paid that last time because we weren’t living in town at the time and I didn’t have my truck here. Now I can use my truck and I have a couple ramps too so I should be good the next time I need something. If I can find something for $100 on Craigslist, I’ll try that as the used place is a little pricier.
I agree on paying a little more for the plumbing fixtures. We used all Moen brand fixtures in the apartments. They look good and work very well.


I have found that everyone loves hardwood floors. I just clean them really well, sand or scrape off any paint drips, and fill the worst cracks. There is a 20-minute drying time urethane-type floor sealer that then goes on with a sponge mop. I forget the name of it.

Finally get a big, inexpensive ($60 at Big Lots) 8 x 10 carpet in a nice dark color and put that in the unit. The floor will look great with the new carpet and the gleaming hardwood border. You don’t need a carpet pad. This has been a good inexpensive solution for our rentals with beat-up hardwood floors. I don’t worry about stains or nicks, I just get them glossy and clean. Tenants love the carpet with the hardwood.


Are you referring to Universal Sealer? It’s about $27 a gallon and it’s meant for bare wood. Dries in like 40 minutes and it’s like a coat of poly. Usually you put that down then put down another layer of poly right on top of that without sanding.

I just want to share this company because this will give you discount if you rent some toilets now.

whats up with these “toilet posts” ?

Anyways… you really install tub surrounds on wood paneling? I dont think thats a good idea.

I have used surrounds AND tile in showers, and I still cant decide which I like…but the tile does LOOK AWESOME…and will definitley hold up longer… but I also LIKE doing tile work - very satisfying…however, I can put one of those surrounds up by myself in like 45 minutes…so that is pretty hard to beat.

Floors - I’m still looking for a good permanamt solution… I usually buy old props that usually have solid oak floors that someone has had covered in carpet for 20 years…so I have them refinished which is pretty cheap and seems to hold up…have a place i did 4 years ago - have had a turn EVERY year so lots of traffic and the floors still look great …

Just put laminate in a place for the first time… was super cheap and easy to put in… but I’m concerned about it…as I know it is vulnerable to water, and if it gets jacked up it is hard to repair…which means the whole floor will have to be re-done.

after typing this out… I;ve come to my conclusion - If you rent to A-holes who wreck your unit it doesnt really matter what you put in. and if you make a place decent and rent to decent people you will get better results in the long run…although I have only been at this for 5 years

I wouldn’t do it for a flip, but for a cheap rental it works well. The paneling was in good shape so the wall panels adhered to it just fine.

justin0419 - checked out the link in your sig… is that your band??

Sorry for hijacking the post…

No, but they’re our friends. They’re awesome and we’re hoping their cd is a big hit for them! My wife and I are getting ready to go see them tonight. Babysitter should be here any time…

My question is why was there wood paneling in the shower before?!?

The building is about 60 or so yrs old. It was converted to apartments later. When they did this, they just put in tubs. All the walls in the building were covered with wood paneling…bathrooms included. The end of the tub just had a partial wall built there to enclose the tub. In order to put in showers, we had to extend that wall higher.

Tiles is affordable and durable too. Heat proof and scratch too. Cost benefit should be considered according with time.