True hardwood floors tend to be impractical for many multifamily properties. They are simply too costly and require a lot of maintenance. However, it is possible to get the same warm, clean lines, textures, and shades with a faux wood floor instead. Multifamily developers are installing these flooring options in lieu of carpet more and more. Three options include luxury vinyl floors, laminate, and engineered wood.
Luxury vinyl floors. Don’t let the word “vinyl” scare you anymore. We’re way beyond the 1980s when it comes to vinyl design. Today’s faux hardwood vinyl floors are durable, affordable, and can be put throughout an entire unit, bathroom included. It’s a great option for multifamily properties looking to maintain a single flooring option throughout, and it’s not going to be an issue if the floors get wet. This means not only can you clean it with a mop, but you can also use most cleaning products without worrying about it being too aggressive on the surface. Vinyl is made of completely synthetic material, and it’s made both in squares and planks. Because the material is so thick, it may be that you find the textures look more like real wood because such depth can be used in the embossing. However, unlike laminate floors, which tend to feel warm, vinyl can feel cold on your tenants’ feet–especially if it’s laid on top of ceramic tile or concrete.
Laminate. This is a popular option, and an option that comes in so many different shades and textured looks that it’s really easy to mistake as actual hardwood. Whether you’re looking for something that trends toward grey or hickory; blonde maple or deep tobacco; distressed, high gloss, or wire brushed; laminate wood flooring is easy to install and easily mimics the natural color and grain of real hardwood. It’s resistant to staining and scratching, and it’s made up of three layers–a particle board wooden base, a layer of image, and a transparent layer meant to absorb wear. You don’t necessarily want them in rooms with excessive moisture (so bathrooms and laundry may be out), but they are a great choice for multifamily units with pets and children. When installing, you don’t need nails, staples, or (in some cases) even glue. Unlike engineered wood, however, what you’re seeing is simply a picture of a wood-grain image. There’s no actual wood besides the particle base.
Engineered wood. This flooring is made with a plywood base covered in a veneer that is 100 percent real wood. Most engineered wood comes pre-finished, and it’s not something you want to sand more than once or twice because the real wood finish will pull away. Solid wood floors can only be installed with nails or staples; engineered wood allows for fold-and-lock, glue, staples, or nails. It is possible for these floors to chip, but they tend to handle moisture a bit better than true hardwood floors. Considered more “stable” than hardwood because of the way the plywood’s layers run perpendicular, you may find that engineered wood requires a bit more budget than other options. It also may not be ideal for units that allow large pets, as animal claws may pierce the veneer. They do, however, hold up under heat, so if you’re looking to install radiant heating beneath the floor, this may be the best choice for you. The ideal spaces for this type of faux wood are living rooms, hallways, and bedrooms.