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Which is the Best Carpet for Rentals?

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A landlord generally wants to provide a decent environment to live in for his or her tenants. This often includes having decent carpeting that is clean and undamaged. But the primary goal of an owner who rents out a house, condo or apartment is to maximize the return on investment, and one of the best ways to do that is to keep expenses down. With that goal in mind, which is the best carpet for rentals?

The first instinct of most landlords is to go cheap. In fact, many who own rental real estate just install the cheapest carpeting they can buy. At least they think they get the most inexpensive, because they look only at the up front cost. But to reduce costs over the long term, and so maximize returns over time, a property owner needs to consider two other factors when shopping for new flooring.

The first factor is the durability of each particular type of carpet. In general, nylon carpet is the most durable, but durability depends on some other factors too. What is called the "face weight" of the product, for example, is usually in a range between 20 and 80 ounces of fiber per square yard. Heavier rugs are more resilient, and a face weight between about 30 and 50 will usually represent the best value in terms of price for the longevity.

Tufted carpeting should have a "tuft twist" of 5 or higher for good durability. This measure represents the number of times the tufts are twisted together per inch.

A density rating of 2,000 or higher is a good idea as well. The heavier carpets will usually be the most dense, but not always, so it's important to ask. A low-quality carpet will show the backing when bent--a good test to perform when shopping.

Usually the name brands are built better than the off-brands. Look for something like "100% Mohawk Nylon" or "100% Mohawk Nylon" on the label. If it's a good brand there will usually be a good warranty. Look for a "texture retention warranty" (or something similar) of at least 10 years.

The other factor besides price and durability is stain resistance. Ask the salesperson if the carpet comes treated (most do now), and how often you will need to reapply stain resistant treatments. A cheaper carpet may end up being replaced before it is even worn out due to stains, especially if the renters have children.

To put this all together, you'll want to gather the following three bits of data for each product:

1. Price

2. Expected cost for necessary stain treatments over the lifespan of the product.

3. Expected lifespan.

Once you know these three things add the price and costs (numbers one and two) and divide this by the expected lifespan in years, to get a per-year cost. The product that has the lowest per-year cost is likely to be the best carpet for a rental property if your primary concern is making the most on your investment.

Finally, if you are comparing carpets from different retailers, be sure to add total installation costs when doing your calculations.

Other Tips for Carpeting a Rental

The padding underneath the carpet matters too. Quality is determined by density. For most areas a pad that is 3/8 to 1/2 inch in thickness, and which has density/weight rating of at least 6 pounds is sufficient. You can go with a thinner pad that is denser for high-traffic areas. This isn't just an issue of comfort for tenants. Cheap, low density pads can wear out in a few years and allow the carpet to be damaged. Some warranties may be invalidated if the padding is sufficient, so ask the salesperson about this as well.

The best prices for carpeting are often in low-rent areas of town. A fancy display room in a high-rent mall cost a lot, and those costs are passed on in the form of higher prices.

To reduce the costs even further, consider using more than one type of carpet in a rental unit. Low-traffic areas that are not likely to have children in them often, like a master bedroom, can be carpeted with a less durable product which will probably last as long as the better carpeting in the rest of the apartment or house. Peel and stick carpet tiles are a money-saving option for children's rooms. Buy a few extra tiles for replacing individual stained pieces between renters.

You might also consider avoiding carpet altogether. Tile for rentals can be cheaper in the long run. Tenants can always buy area rugs if they want something softer under their feet.

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