An office with carpeting pre-fitted by the landlord will cost you much more – Why?

In this article we explain why you should avoid signing a lease on an office suite or building that has already been fitted with carpeting or other types of floor coverings.

A standard carpet tile layout design in a London Office

The carpet tiles provided with your  new office might well be good quality and well fitted, but are they exactly what you want?

Carpet tiles are the most common type of floor covering in offices, but you’ll also see sheet vinyl, luxury vinyl tiles (LVT), engineered plank laminates & natural wood veneers and occasionally even broadloom carpet.

But which type and style meets your businesses needs best? 

When taking a new lease on a vacant office you’ll want to personalise the space with layouts, furnishings and floor coverings that express your company’s unique identity.  Very often though, the landlord hands over your new office space with an existing floor covering which might be any of the aforementioned types and of varying qualities and states of repair ranging from brand new to heavily worn.  Seldom is it what you would elect to have, given the choice.

So, is this an issue that requires your careful consideration before signing a lease? 

Yes! – absolutely it is.  The fact is that if there is an existing floor covering, then at some point it’s going to cost you,  potentially heavily, either up front,  further down the line or more likely, both.

So why is that?

Firstly, lets look at the reason why there might be an existing floor covering rather than a bare floor waiting for you to apply your ideal choice and design. 

In brand new office building developments or those that have been refurbished to a high standard (prime office space), it is most common to find a new or excellent condition exposed raised access floor ready for you to cover it in any way you want.  This is the ideal scenario and we will explain why later.

Raised access paneled floor in London office with no covering

A new raised access floor ready to take a new floor covering, such as carpet tiles or loose lay LVT

But more often than not, SMEs have to aim their sights on slightly less expensive office space that hasn’t had high spec fitouts, and which usually comes complete with carpet tiles – or vinyl, laminates or a mixture.  This is because the office will have previously been occupied by another company and will, at best, have only received a basic makeover after they exited in order to make it a little more appealing to a prospective tenant. The previous floor covering will remain, or be replaced (usually with something as cheap as possible), but rarely removed and left bare, simply because the sub floor is likely to look a bit of a mess – and costly to clean up or repair – once old tiles are taken up.  At best, removing old carpet tiles and not replacing with new ones would usually leave a sticky residue behind (this is as a result of the adhesive that is used to hold the tiles to the floor) and it would be difficult to walk on whilst prospective tenants are viewing the property!

Clumps of bitumen backing and paper left stuck to the floor when incorrectly fitted carpet tiles are removed for replacement.

Incorrectly fitted carpet tiles are often immensely hard to remove and can leave behind a real mess – as seen here

So why should this matter to you?  Surely you can just take the office on as it is, complete with the new or used carpet tiles the landlord has provided, and get a flooring contractor along to replace it all before you move in. 

Well, yes, you can certainly do that, but here’s the thing.  First and foremost, you will have a dilapidations clause in your lease agreement.  It will normally say that you have to leave the office in the same state, layout and specification as you found it – which means that if the carpet tiles were blue and new, you will have replace them yet again with new blue ones when you move out.  That’s right – during your tenancy, you’ve had to foot the cost of replacing your carpet tiles twice!   

And what if they were really good quality ones, but simply not the colour or style you want?  The simple answer is that when you move out you’ll end up with an even bigger bill because you’d be expected to replace them with the same style and quality.

Can we not take the landlords carpet up and store them, then put them back again when we move out you ask?  No,  unfortunately not as it’s just completely uneconomical to do it this way.    Storage is costly, and in any case a great many of the tiles will have been cut down to fit into the sides of the room, or around floor boxes and pillars, and there’s simply no way they’re going to go back down again the same way in 5 years time!

Another issue is that carpet tiles (and other types of flooring) are often quite difficult to remove. If the previous flooring contractor didn’t use the right adhesives, or, as is often the case,  in a hurry and didn’t apply it in the right way, the tiles can become permanently stuck to the floor and removing them involves immense physical effort and often damage to the subfloor which in turn needs to be repaired before the new covering can be fitted.  This is all going to cost you, perhaps dearly.

The solution? –  It’s simple.  Wherever possible, take an office with no carpet, no laminate or vinyl flooring – in fact nothing but a nice clean sub surface in good condition (typically raised access floor panels, concrete screeded or plywood if over old floorboards).  This then gives you the freedom to quickly and easily lay the floor covering of your choice, and then remove it and dispose of it when your tenancy agreement ends, leaving the floor in exactly the same condition as you found it.   Do this and you pay once, not twice, and you get exactly what you want.  And remember, having to do it twice doesn’t necessarily mean twice the cost. It could cost you many times more if you’re having to replace expensive flooring, or if it involves extensive repairs to the subfloor surface.  

By Crispin Maby, Octopus Interiors

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