Some floors, and especially rental floors, get gross. Not just surface gross, but years worth of dust and dirt baked in to create a special sauce of grime that no one wants the recipe for. Your options are pretty limited when it comes to affordable, reversible materials.
While researching possible floor options for a recent rental makeover, I came across lots of affordable vinyl options, but I needed something that wasn't just cheap, it also had to be temporary.
TrafficMASTER Allure 6 in. x 36 in. Hickory Luxury Vinyl Plank Flooring (24 sq. ft.) from Home Depot; $42.96
I bought a luxury vinyl tile product from Home Depot, which was $42.96 for about 24 square feet, to cover an old bathroom tile floor. It comes in long strips, which look more like a real hardwood floor versus tell-tale square adhesive tiles. It also has a slight texture —again, approximating real wood, which is kind of nice. It's still just vinyl though, so if the subfloor is uneven, or has thick grout lines, you'll see and feel the imperfections. Since the tile underneath was very uniform and smooth, with very small grout lines, it worked just fine. According to the manufacturer, it's also pretty water resistant (read: not flood proof) so it's appropriate for wet places like bathrooms.
Installation wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done, but it took some time and patience. The offset light blue section you see on the plank above is what they call a "Gripstrip" and means you don't need glue or adhesive. Each plank overlaps with the one installed before it, and they stick to each other versus the floor. The finished floor free floats on top of the existing floor.
The instructions are readily available and helpful if you have questions about whether this floor would work for you. Since it's a pretty straightforward process, I'll spare you the step-by-step tutorial, and just leave you with a few tips if you're curious.
This stuff is both hard to cut, and easy to chip or break, if you can believe it. Straight cuts are pretty easy. Using a utility knife and a ruler, you can score and then snap it apart. Be firm when pressing down your ruler in order to get a straight, not jagged line. Rounded cuts, like the ones around the toilet, were a little tougher. I wound up using the utility knife to lightly trace the line freehand over and over until it was scored enough to snap. Tin snips might make the job even easier, but it's possible without them as well.
Tip #1: Plan Your Layout
Plan your layout in advance so you don't have to make any awkward tiny cuts. Stagger the planks so there isn't a continuous seam, and so the floor looks more natural.
Tip #2: Templates Are Super Helpful
Each plank comes separated by a sheet of paper which is: a) handy for keeping each plank separate from its sticky bed fellow; and b) the perfect shape and size to use as a template. As you cut the tiles to fit around the toilet (and possibly a pedestal sink) outline the needed shape on the paper first, trim the paper to the exact size and shape, then use that as a template to mark all the lines and cuts on the actual plank.
Tip #3: Don't Panic About Gaps
Unlike carpet which can be easily patched, and whose fibers hide uneven edges, this stuff is less forgiving. You can always finish it off edges with caulk, so don't worry too much if there are jagged edges where the floor meets the wall or fixtures you're cutting around. In Joseph's bathroom, there were a few spots where I didn't do a great job with the seams, and you could see a glimpse of white tile through the crack. I experimented with a little wood filler (almost like spackle for wood) and it did a decent job of camouflaging the white and making it look seamless.
Tip #4: Mind the Threshold
Many rentals use a metal strip to cover the seam between two rooms, and this was the case for Joseph's transition from kitchen to bath. Again, replacing this trim is incredibly easy to do. Just pry off the existing strip (and then clean up all the dust and dirt that's accumulated underneath), measure and cut a new strip, then hammer into place with the provided nails.