The coronavirus has left its mark on our lives in a multitude of ways. As scientists work to find a vaccine, landlords and real estate investors are also searching for ways to keep their properties disinfected and their tenants safe.
Wall-to-wall carpeting had been on trend in interior design heading into the new decade, but that flooring choice might come to a screeching halt in the age of COVID-19. In fact, taking carpet of any kind out of the equation -- including area rugs -- would be one way to take on the virus in commercial and residential properties. Here's why:
Viruses love porous materials
A study shows that coronavirus can continue to live on plastic, stainless steel, and other hard, nonporous surfaces for up to 72 hours. Carpet is a porous surface, and in the CDC's white paper "Guidance for Cleaning and Disinfection," it states, "Soft and porous materials are generally not as easy to disinfect as hard and nonporous surfaces." There is still much to be learned about how long the virus can survive on carpet.
"Even if scientists come out and say there is not a significant risk in carpeting, the public perception of a sterile environment is key to successful leasing and selling right now," says Andy Bhatt of SW & Associates CRE. "Carpet has a public perception of just being harder to clean." He notes that carpet removal could actually be used as a leverage point for negotiating sales.
Carpets are hard to maintain
Once upon a time, carpets could be kept mostly clean with regular vacuuming and the occasional steam cleaning, especially in high-traffic areas. But a vacuum and carpet shampoo are no match for coronavirus. Regular maintenance of rugs is no longer just about removing dirt and allergens -- it's about saving people from potentially dangerous germs. The best way to avoid this is to strip the floors of carpets and stick to hardwood floors or other easier-to-clean surfaces.
"Multifamily and traditional residential-style investment where the leases are long term [carpet] is not as much of a concern," says Bhatt, saying that landlords have to clean the carpets in between tenants anyway. "However, when there is daily turnover or public traffic, disinfecting and deep cleaning carpets every day is just not doable."
Carpet's not meant for the long term
It's no surprise that carpet gets dirty, particularly in high-traffic areas. But it also gets worn down with frequent steps. And for those who work from home, carpet is seeing a lot more attention these days. Many carpets are made of synthetic materials that simply aren't as durable as hardwood floors and other surfaces. Add many more hours of foot traffic each week, and carpets will be looking worse for wear much sooner than normal.
The bottom line
Until we know more about coronavirus and how long it lives on porous surfaces, you could be taking a gamble as an investor with carpet for flooring. For peace of mind -- not to mention far less maintenance -- it might be best to opt for hard flooring for your properties.