Building a vacation/rental house - what would you do differently?

New here and love all the info. We are building a lake house in South Carolina and plan to rent the house when we aren’t there. What would you add or do differently if you were building? (lock out areas, storage for extra bedding, security, types of flooring, furniture, paint that is easy to clean, etc.). Any feedback to make a comfortable family vacation home and rental on the side to off set some costs.

Make everything durable and easy to clean. That doesn’t mean throw all style out the window but if you have a choice, pick the durable item. Tile or vinyl plank instead of wood or carpet floors, for example. Shutters instead of drapes. Metal instead of wood. Also energy efficiency when possible. Look to the future.

Think about how hard it is to keep things clean. For example, glass shower enclosures look great until they are covered with hard water spots. Oiled bronze fixtures, same thing. I have hard water and went with brushed finish fixtures and a shower curtain.

Paint is easy to change with changing styles. Tile or flooring isn’t. Think about what will still be appealing 5-10 years from now.

At the same time, if it’s your vacation home you have to have it set up in the way you like.


Larger deck and an outdoor kitchen.

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Composite decking instead of wood, I used the composite decking for my interior stairs as well. They look good and luggage being pulled up the stairs does not damage it. Put hard wired usb’s at table height next to the beds. Vinyl flooring is very durable.
As KKC said shower curtains instead of glass doors.
Leather furniture


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Or better yet, create a “wet room” bathroom with concrete subfloor, tiled. My showers require neither shower curtains nor doors. They do have a 4" lip at the entrance, so the water doesn’t just flood the floor, but it wouldn’t matter if it did.

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I didn’t have a curtain for about a year but I realized after staying in my own Airbnb room and showering there that it’s chilly in the winter and curtain helps keep heat in as well as reducing the water in splashing on the rest of the floor.

Almost all floors in El Paso are concrete foundation (in other words, only old homes have crawl spaces or attics (and those homes are typically 80+ years old now).

I’d ensure that there was as much home automation incorporated so that you could check up / manage as much as possible remotely. Lighting, Water heater, HVAC, Cameras, Entry Lock, etc.

FYI: There is a recent HGTV (Canadian) show that focuses on redoing vacation rental homes. I’ve watched one episode (DVR’d the rest) that is actually surprisingly good.

It’s hosted by a guy (Scott McGillavey) who had a similar show where he did “income properties” expanding living space to create a rentable guest apartment. The difference with his shows to the rest of the schlock designer makeovers is that in both series he helps the owners develop a business plan, marketing plan, and pricing for the rental.


@kerib, I’ll say what no one else has said:

Build it so that you can certainly afford it, even if it doesn’t ever get rented.


When furnishing, keep in mind, some of your guests will probably be of size. I tried to make sure my furniture can support 350 lbs & added extra supports for the box springs.

As you furnish & accessorize, keep in mind rentals are notorious for being damaged and things going “missing”. Don’t put anything in the condo you will have a meltdown if it is damaged or goes missing.

A friend has some incredibly expensive art. I think her guests don’t realize what it is or the value or we would be searching pawn shops to get it back. 95% of my guests have been wonderful people. It doesn’t take much for the tiny percentage of irresponsible guests to create a financial problem.

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Even though stainless steel appliances look good there is a lot of work going into keeping them shined up, I agree with the vinyl floors and limit area rugs and carpeting

There are some great answers above so I’ve little to add.

Because you’re building the house you have the opportunity to visualise and allow for your guests’ activities and movements.

An example would be the areas that have fabulous views will likely be the areas where guests will sit to eat (or snack and drink) so make sure that they are easy to clean.

I’d avoid any sort of surface that ‘doesn’t show the dirt’. For example, I’ve found that plain white floor tiles are easier to clean than white mottled ones. (The floor is going to be cleaned after every guest anyway and the mottley ones never look quite as pristine).

You’ll probably need more storage than you think for supplies. When you think about the bedding, loo rolls, bin liners, coffee, bottled water, tissues, toiletries etc. etc. etc. that you’ll need to keep locked away, the space is soon gobbled up.

Avoid ‘glass things’ as much as possible when you’re furnishing the place - no glass-topped coffee or dining tables, definitely not glass shower screens, only the minimum number of mirrors required for guest convenience.

All choices for materials and furnishings should follow careful cleaning thought! Keep your prices as high as you can without discouraging potential guests, don’t have valuables in the rental and get decent STR insurance.


If I was building a lakehouse that was for my use, I would do it in a way 1st that pleased me and 2nd that would allow me to sell it at a good price someday without having replace a bunch of stuff first. Building is a huge investment and I don’t think it’s wise to invest that much in an Airbnb listing, personally (as clearly, life is uncertain).

If you like durable and easy to clean finishes and furniture and would enjoy that yourself, then by all means, design it that way. However, if you like finishes and furnishings that require a bit more care, then design it that way and then choose your guests carefully, get insurance and charge a higher price.

A couple of specific notes.

Floors. I have a lot of thoughts about floors, lol. They are 1/6 of every room and should be chosen thoughtfully

Carpet should be out-lawed. It’s toxic unless you spend a ton for something like wool and can’t really be cleaned effectively (if you’ve ever pulled up carpet, you’ll know what I mean). Rugs over another type of flooring is a better option.

I honestly don’t understand vinyl floors. They’re bad for the environment, including yours as they are full of chemicals and off-gas for a long time. The durability is a myth as their lifespan is considered a meager 10-20 years. Even vinyl that isn’t cheap, looks cheap and feels cheap.

Linoleum is a much better option than vinyl. It is just as easy to clean, it is a non-toxic all-natural material and has a lifespan of 20-40 years (twice that of vinyl). It feels good under feet and looks like a design choice not just a what’s-the-cheapest choice. Vinyl needs to be replaced if it is damaged but linoleum can usually just be repaired. Linoleum is also made from renewable materials and is biodegradable and won’t take up room in a landfill whereas just the manufacturing of vinyl is bad for the environment.

I prefer wood floors and can speak to their durability as I look down at my 120 year old wood floors. Yes, they require some sanding and refinishing on occasion if you want them to look really spiffy, but it’s never all of them at the same time (usually hallways first). I don’t mind them looking antique personally. And they can also be repaired easily. My neighbor’s 170 year old wood floors are Elle-Decor-gorgeous and she refinishes every 15 years or so. I have sanded and refinished a whole house of floors over a weekend with one friend and a rented sander before so it’s not that big of deal to do it. However I have not ever had to install new ones. Some friends of mine recently did. It was a complex decision making effort they made and ended up sourcing some old floorboards from a tear-down and refinishing them. In a new build, I’d go bamboo for wood floors. It’s a renewable wood, is actually harder than most hardwoods, is non-toxic, easy on the environment and lasts 25-50 years at least and can be refinished easily. Refinishing wood floors is easier, cheaper and less disruption than replacing vinyl floors.

My dream is to have cork floors someday, at least in the kitchen. They are super durable and last 40+ years, are naturally water-resistant, anti-microbial, anti-allergy, anti-mildew, environmentally friendly, don’t off-gas, naturally sound-proofing, fire-resistant, resist indentations and are comfortable underfoot and safer to fall down on because of it’s natural cushion. It’s also easy to refinish and repair. If I didn’t already have these amazing 120 year old wood floors, I’d do the whole house in cork :slight_smile:

Paint. I have a lot of thoughts about paint too, but only have one recommendation for you ,)

If you think you will have a lot of rentals without much time between them, go for a zero VOCs paint so that it’s not difficult to touch-up. Even small amounts of paints like Behr stink for a week. If I showed up at an Airbnb and it smelled like paint, I’d want to leave with a full refund.

A natural paint that doesn’t smell allows you to touch up something an hour before guests arrive and they won’t know. I love the Benjamin Moore Natura. It is not cheap but has such exceptional coverage that it’s actually a great value. It is the most durable and easiest to clean Flat paint that I have ever come across. My husband is a very very messy cook and cooks twice a day. The wall behind our range is flat Natura and gets scrubbed down nightly. It looks as good as it did 2 years ago when I painted it. I could paint a wall behind you while you watched TV and you wouldn’t know I was painting unless you looked. I often touch-up the walls and baseboards in our listings during the cleaning/flip. It would be a big pain in the butt and a loss of income if I had to shut down to do the painting.


It’s better to buy high quality used furniture than it is to buy cheap new furniture. High quality used furniture is cheaper than cheap new furniture. It will also last longer, be more comfortable and just be, well, nicer. Two of our apts have couches (the other is a studio) and have been open about 2 years now.

One of them has a custom-made, silk velvet, down-filled couch that is luxurious and fashionable and easy to clean that was used but in like-new condition (I imagine someone like my grandma did not allow anyone to actually sit on it) when I bought it for $60. It still looks new and fancy.

The other apartment has an Ikea couch that cost $500 and looks 2 years old now. The cover can be washed but it fades and stretches and looks ‘less-than’. I can buy a new cover but that will cost me $100, still more than my high-quality used velvet couch. I’m not suggesting a velvet couch for a lakehouse (nor judging the idea either ,) but you get the gist. I think @RiverRock mentioned leather furniture and agree with him on that.

Yes, storage for extra bedding. Storage generally! Always :slight_smile:

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Another good choice for cushions and upholstered furniture is Sunbrella fabric. It doesn’t fade, lasts and lasts for years, is water resistant, and washes up beautifully in tepid water. (Never put it in the dryer- must be hung to dry, but dries really quickly, as it doesn’t really absorb water). It comes in hundreds of colors, weaves and patterns.

Paint- put matching touch-up paint in labelled small containers so you can easily grab a small brush for quick touch-ups without having to go through your stash of paint cans and perhaps finding the 2 inches of paint that were left in them all dried up.


Have a lockable closet where you can stock supplies to replenish between stays. We actually put together a housekeeping cart to take from room to room with everything on it. It is also light enough to take to another floor, although we just put one on each floor of our old Victorian. If you don’t want to end up labeling every control or posting intricate instructions, make sure that controls are self explanatory or have little built in instructions. For example when we allowed people to use our shared kitchen they constantly broke the little control knobs because it wasn’t clear that you have to push them in before turning. We had to resort to a sign over the stove. Don’t assume that people have or know how to use everything such as garbage disposals, gas stoves, heating/cooling devices, etc. We have learned the hard way.


A good discussion and a lot of good advice, for someone else I guess… @kerib has not been back to join their own thread.



This is all great feedback. I didn’t realize I had to reply to each and every post . . . Is that the expectation? I asked for input and this great group of people provided it. I appreciate their knowledge, experience, and time to help me. I have been out on the lake enjoying and am just getting caught up. :slight_smile:


There’s no need for you to reply to every post on your topic. We often see some response from the original poster (OP) as the dialog goes on, especially on a topic like this one that generates a lot of discussion. A comment now and then from the OP lets the rest of us know that you’re still there and able to see everyone’s comments.


No it is not, sometimes a new member will ask a question then we never ear back. Glad to know you are still around.


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If you can have at least one Bedroom and bath accessible, as well as ramps, etc. I think this would open up a larger family vacation market for you. For a lake house, an outdoor shower and one bathroom available directly from the outdoors will provide less wear on your home. Add motion sensor lighted outlet plates for ease of moving throughout the home at night, reducing the risk of trip hazards. Frame in reinforcements for all towel bars, grab bars. Plan for towel hanging to cover guest capacity to your home.

If you can include a screened porch that’s a bonus.

If I were building a new home, personal or STR, I would add facilities for a double washer dryer set up.

Everything in the kitchen should be dishwasher safe. Many nonstick cookware sets are hand wash only. Avoid any wooden items (knives, spoons, cutting boards.) Buy multiple sets of glassware and dish ware so you can replace items as the are broken.

Unlike others, I prefer glass shower doors (With a frosted or obscured pattern) to shower curtains. I think people often leave the curtain outside of the tub or shower.

Central vacuum ports to sweep debris. Storage for vacuum, floor cleaners accessible to guests. Adequate hot H2O because everyone will want to wash up at the same time.

Good luck!

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I have cork floors in my kitchen and dining room. We have Australian Cypress in the rest of our home and didn’t want hardwood throughout the house.

I LOVE my cork floors. They feel great under foot, absorb sound, are easy to clean and hide a multitude of sins.