Should I Refinish The Hardwood In My Flip House?
I’m sitting in my business partners’ rental house and he asked me, should I refinish the hardwood in a house I'm going to flip?
Yes, you should absolutely refinish the hardwood in your flip house for 4 reasons:
1. Similar cost for a better end product.
2. Higher Profits
3. Most Eco-friendly option
4. Durability & Reparability
After refinishing the hardwood in many flip homes, let me tell you why the best investors choose to refinish rather than cover up their hardwood.
Similar cost for a better option
I get it. The less money you spend to make your rental house look great, the more money you will make. Right? Right? Well the numbers don’t lie. Let’s begin by comparing some cheap LVP (Luxury Vinyl Plank) and laminate (plastic top with pressboard in the middle essentially) to see approximately what the cost savings will be.
So, what LVP, LVT (Luxury Vinyl Tile) or laminate would you put in your home? If you said the cheapest, you would be making a mistake. The cheapest products, give you house a cheap feel and buyers will notice. Most of the successful flippers I have worked with are purchasing plank and laminate flooring for about 1-2$ a square foot even though it can be found for much cheaper. Installation rates vary widely across the United States. Reputable companies who carry insurance and are properly trained will always charge more. We highly recommend using a company who fits this description. If you don’t, you are playing with a loaded gun and just begging for a lawsuit.
So, how much goes a good company charge to install floating floor in a residential setting? We put up a poll in Facebook's largest floor installation group. The group consists of 7000 flooring installers. Most of them run their own businesses. The average cost of laminate installation was around $2.20 per sq. ft. Many companies did it for far less, while many did for far more (1.50-3.00). You will get what you pay for here. A company that installs for nothing typically has no insurance, no training and often times no (or bad) reputation.
So, you can see the average cost of a decent LVP or laminate combined with rate to install it will likely cost you 3-3.50$ a sq. ft. If you doing it for less, you should probably question the company you hired and the quality of your product. The floor in your flip house is not the best place to save money. Obviously in a nicer home, it will be more. The same goes for refinishing.
Let’s look at the cost to refinish hardwood in your home. Obviously, the condition of the floor can make a floor more expensive to sand and finish, but most of the time this is not the case. With 90% of the floors I sand, there is no additional cost for damaged flooring. There are several things that can cost more money though. Pet stains. They typically require patching or a very dark stain (they don’t sand out). Rotting wood- it will need replaced.
Most homes will not have either of these, so it will be a simple flat rate. On average floor sanding rates start at 2$ to 3$ per foot across the USA. This will include sanding and 2 coats of oil base polyurethane. (We recommend Poloplaz Primero) That is all the protection a flip home needs. This means your floor will be a natural color. We recommend going with a trendy stain like a gray or dark brown. This will add an additional .50$ per foot to the price. (on average) So, you will be looking at between 2.50$ per square foot to 3.50 a square foot depending on the area you are in. Places like Chicago will be very cheap while New Hampshire, for example, is expensive.
Higher end profits
In the end, you will be looking at roughly the same cost to install laminate or have the hardwood refinished. So, how does this bring more profit?
With the internet being so commonly used now, consumers have become increasingly more educated on the products they spend their money on. A quick Google search will inform you that people spend more money to have hardwood because they perceive it as a superior product to plastic floors like LVP and laminate.
Don’t believe me? Install hardwood in your home and then have the insurance adjuster come look at your property. He raised my home value an additional 10% when I put in some Red Oak flooring throughout the entire first floor.
The average hardwood floor can be refinished 4-6 times depending on how badly damaged it is each time. The average laminate or hardwood floor is trash after 5 years. Laminates and LVT flooring are made of essentially plastics and glues with some pressboard like internals. While many different companies will tell, you they are environmentally friendly, this is the wrong way to think about it. To buy new flooring will cause factories to increase production, trucking companies to increase routes, petroleum companies to increase drilling and the list goes on.(Not to mention the old one will go into a dump) To get your current floor refinished, it only requires a very small number of new products. The main cost is the labor to those who do the work. That means most of your money is going to support small local business. This is a double win.
What happens when you get a nice big scratch in your laminate floor from an air hose that drags a sharp tool across it while the trim carpenter is punching out at the end of your renovation? That’s right. You're screwed. You will have to either attempt a floor patch, which is very difficult with a click and lock floating floor, or you can pull up the molding and begin disassembling the floor until you reach the area where you scratched. Either way, your options suck.
So, let’s say the same thing happens over real wood. All of a sudden, the solution became much simpler. You tape the boards off (probably should have the floor guy do it), sand down the spot, re-stain and coat it, and it's as good as new. The repairs often don’t even require sanding unless it’s a dark floor that has been damaged fairly deep. A lot of times, a very light sand and some new polyurethane on top will do the trick.
Ever seen a beat-up laminate floor? It looks awful. Compare that to beat up real wood. It just looks rustic. Wood wears at a much slower pace than laminate does and maintains an overall better appearance over time. It absorbs damage and with a good finish (polyurethane) over top, it can hide damage very well. I see many floors that go for 15 years and still look pretty good in well cared for homes. Not to mention, wood doesn’t go out of style. It’s a classic, like Converse shoes or a 57 Chevy truck.
How about carpet?
Carpet is by far the cheapest type of floor to put in a flip house. Even cheaper than what you would pay for laminate. So why not just cover the hardwood up with carpet? It would be the cheapest, right?
Yes, it would be the cheapest, but it would also be like shooting yourself in the foot before running a marathon. Carpet DOES NOT ADD VALUE TO YOUR HOME. It adds less value than laminate and LVP by far. If you're flipping houses, you need to be thinking, "what flooring is trendy? What floor will make this house stand out to where it sells quickly for the highest profit?" The answer is never carpet. Do not cover your hardwood with carpet. Carpet is the most out of style than it has been in years. 25% of the jobs I do, is uncovering carpeted hardwoods. Now is no time to be ignoring trends. It will hurt your end profits.
What if I can’t sell my house?
I see a lot of houses that started off as flips but just turn into rentals due to market conditions or unexpected expenses during the flip. Now, what happens if you put a cheap laminate floor in your home but now you need to rent it out? Guess what. It will be ruined within a year. You will have to re-floor the place completely. If you had gone with refinishing the existing hardwoods, you could just put a new coat of polyurethane down and moved the next tenant in.