Getting the most bang for the buck is important when considering window coverings for your rental property. Just like anything you buy, there is a criterion that must balance to make sense. In this case, it would be Price, Durability, Effectiveness. This is like the window person's mantra. When it comes to selling these items, a big box seller will also steer buyers towards items with the best margin.
In this article, we will cover this topic from the viewpoint of the property owner.
My daughter worked for Home Depot in many departments before becoming a manager, including the window coverings section, so I have an inside track to their offerings in particular.
Quick KN (Knowledge Nugget): the stuff on display in the many big box stores window covering display area is pretty much all high-profit items. They are inexpensive to buy, appear novel, and cost more than they should. I've seen this stuff, and I don't like them much, just based on appearance. Also, I'm told they are not very good.
So, what is the goal when buying window coverings for a rental property?
Well, here in Southern California, the renter expects privacy. All windows that look out must have window coverings that fulfill that expectation, simple as that. However, California does not explicitly state how that expectation can be filled. I can tell you this: you are in luck! I'm here to help you out with that.
There are several window covering types, and each has pros and cons, just like, well, pretty much everything. Let's see a list.
- Vertical blinds
- Faux blinds
- Rolldown shades
- Pleated shades and Roman shades
- Plantation shutters
- Bare windows
Each of the above also has variations. For example, roll down (also called draw shades) have a bamboo variant as well. For the sake of simplicity, we'll leave the list as it is above.
We do not recommend using drapes in a rental property for several reasons. However, the primary reason is that you will need to remove those drapes at some point and have them laundered at a dry cleaner for a lot of money. Our cleaners do not do that, and if they are not laundered, they will have a significant accumulation of dust.
They are wonderful for large span windows. However - for a while there anyway - people put them on pretty much any and every window. Additionally, they were also adding $2 metals tips on the tops of them so they would not have to replace slats as they broke, thus doubling the purchase price of each slat! Sure, they lasted longer on their hangers, but slats themselves, bought by the box, are relatively inexpensive, but the hangers they rest on are then the weak spot, and when they break, it's usually best to replace the whole unit. The biggest downside to vertical blinds is that, while a great idea, they have a serious design flaw: Every time the slats sway, each one is getting closer to failure.
These have a huge plus: they're cheap. Downside? They're cheap. However, they are effective. Generally speaking, you can expect to get about 4 years of life out of these blinds before needing replacement, unless they face the mid-day sun. The best use of these is on all windows, except the living/front room windows, where you're usually best off using...
These are similar to miniblinds but have much thicker slats, and they emulate painted wood louvers. Hence, faux. Faux blinds present well and are pretty durable! They aren't forever durable, they can be damaged, as it is only thread holding them together like miniblinds. Yet, the slats themselves are stouter than miniblinds. However, they are about 3 times the cost of miniblinds.
Roll down shades
Unless you're living in 1928, don't. I recently visited a home where the owner installed the aluminum-foil-thin vinyl roll-down shades, and if you want an example of a waste of money, this is it. Most roll-down shades are a waste because they do not last very long, and like drapes, they usually collect dust. There is the sheer fabric kind too, and while they may be fairly durable, the spring mechanism itself isn't. Another foible of the woven fabric style of roll-down shades is that you can see through them. This is not much of an issue in the daytime, but I for sure do not want people watching me in my house at night.
Pleated shades and Roman Shades
These are just another way of saying "dust collectors." Roman shades are overpriced, and they are the sort of blind you find in the big box displays because it's about margin. Pleated shades, like "light filtering cellular shades" are basically folded paper that you are spending maybe 4 times too much for.
Plantation Shutters are awesome. They blot out the sun, afford privacy at night, but cost a fortune! My son and I were talking about making some for my house recently, but after about 10 minutes of research, we noped out of that idea. WAY too much labor involved, which is, coincidently, why they are so expensive!
Okay, so you have a rental property, but doggonit, you don't want to be buying and installing blinds. I have heard people say a number of times, "That (the resident's privacy) is not my problem." Well, that is not true. Your renter does have an expectation of privacy at every window that looks out to the outside. Fair housing will tell you the same thing. Additionally, say your resident moves out after 5 years, good luck assigning any blind damage cost to the outgoing resident.
Fair housing allots a 4-year recommended lifespan for blinds, and judges tend to agree. The good news is that at less than 4 years of age you can prorate some of the cost for blind damage that is not wear and tear related.
So, what do we recommend?
Based on ROI, or Return on Investment, we recommend miniblinds on all windows except sliders. They are inexpensive, so they will not break the bank. A more upscale house may call for Faux blinds in the living room, and sliders ought to have vertical blinds. However, with that being said, they do bear in mind that they are not forever, and replacement costs over time are simply the price of doing business. This combo gives you the most bang for the buck.