Eco-Friendly Wood Flooring: The 6 Most Sustainable Choices

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What is it that makes some wood sustainable, and puts others on the “do not buy” list? For starters, sustainable wood is legally sourced. In 2008, the U.S. banned the import of timber from illegal sources—but of course, it still happens. If the supplier you’re buying your wood from can’t tell you where it originated, chances are it did not come from a source that manages forests responsibly.

Secondly, sustainable wood should carry the seal of the U.S. Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC is devoted to ensuring that forests are regrown, biodiversity is preserved, and air and water quality are protected. The non-profit’s stamp of approval indicates that forest operations met 57 criteria ranging from protecting local wildlife to minimizing use of toxic chemicals to letting loggers unionize if they want. Wood products from forests managed to FSC’s standards bear the FSC logo, as well as a “chain of custody” number which makes it relatively easy to trace them back to their source.

And finally, FSC-certified wood does not come from clear-cutting (which is among FSC’s standards, but bears singling out), or from forests in which “high conservation values” are threatened. Selective harvesting protects the soil and the forest ecosystem. Clear-cutting leaves areas open to insect infestations, disease, and mudslides. Plus, it has a negative impact on climate change. A study done on forests in the northern US found that soils there store up to 50 percent of the ecosystem’s total carbon. That carbon is more easily released when the trees are cut and essentially scraped off the land. With these criteria in mind, what are the types of sustainable wood available if you need a new floor?

Wood from FSC-Certified Tree Plantations

Tree plantations help relieve the pressure to harvest natural forests, as long as those forests aren’t replaced with plantations. One advantage of domestic tree plantations is that they produce and ship locally, reducing the carbon emissions otherwise generated when lumber is shipped from another continent.

Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood comes from sources like old warehouses, boxcars, military structures, underground piers, dismantled houses, and even logs pulled from the bottoms of rivers where they sank on their way to the mill.

Typically, reclaimed wood is more expensive due to the extra labor required to retrieve the wood, clean it, re-mill if needed, and remove the nails that still may be embedded in the wood. But if you can afford the price, this is one of the most eco-friendly options available. It keeps the wood from rotting or ending up in a landfill, it reduces the need to plant and harvest more trees, and it perpetuates the reduce-reuse-recycle formula that is such an important part of the sustainability equation. Since reclaimed wood is considered recycled content, it meets the “Materials & Resources” criteria for LEED certification.

Companies like Oldewood Reclaimed Wood Flooring showcase the beauty of reclaimed oak, maple, Douglas fir, and heart pine here.

Salvaged Wood Flooring

Many trees are bound for the waste stream because they’ve become too “old” or diseased, because they stand (literally) in the way of development, or because they suffer from storm damage—but all of these trees still make great planks. In fact, these high-performance FSC-certified floors (pictured above) were repurposed from salvaged shipping crates made from tropical hardwoods.

In communities ranging from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Los Angeles, California, local entrepreneurs are turning fallen trees into flooring and furniture, too.

Bamboo

Bamboo is replacing wood for many consumers who want both the beauty and the durability of wood without the potential environmental impacts that come from harvesting forests. The plant fiber is naturally anti-bacterial, water-resistant and tough. Plus, bamboo is so fast-growing, it won’t diminish hardwood forests that have taken decades to mature. Bamboo is 13% harder than maple, and 27% harder than northern red oak, while expanding and contracting 50% less.

Cork

Cork comes from the bark of the cork oak tree, which can be safely harvested so as not to harm the tree. In fact, the bark regenerates within three years for harvesting anew, which makes it a particularly renewable resource. Because it’s dense and a little spongy, cork is particularly good for rooms where you might do a lot of standing or need some noise absorption, like kitchens and basements. You do need to protect it from fading in intense UV light, so don’t install it in a sunroom or in front of a big bank of windows. Also, cork expands and contracts depending on humidity levels, so it wouldn’t be ideal in a more tropical setting.

Palm Wood

Palm trees that no longer produce coconuts are getting a second life as a building material. This variety of palm flooring (shown above) includes Flat Grain, Edge Grain, Sugar Deco and Red Palm. Both palm and bamboo floors may be bound together with formaldehyde or other chemicals you wouldn’t want off-gassing in your home. Before you buy, find out what kind of binders were used to manufacture the floor. If the floor must be installed using glue, make it water-based. And finish the floor with a low- or no-VOC finish.



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From kitchen upgrades to total home remodeling, SemBro Designs and Remodeling knows how to do it right and we love to build the confidence of every Columbus client, year after year.

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8 Questions to Consider Before Your DIY Bathroom Remodel

So you’ve caught the DIY bug and are feeling inspired by the new year to tackle your own bathroom remodel—congratulations! You’ve got this under control and can be confident that you’re making the right decision in remodeling your bathroom to add extra value to your home. Plus, if you’re doing this on a budget you’re adding even more value to your pocket by cutting down on the expenses of renovation by doing most of the work yourself. You clever homeowner, you.

But before you get started, there are some questions you’ll want to consider that can make everyone’s life much easier. And when you’re done and enjoying the peace and quiet of your brand-new (well, kind of) bathroom, you’ll be glad you did.

What’s your mold protection plan?

There are many different options for mold-proofing your bathroom, but you’ll want to have the materials prepared and ready to go to streamline the process. Once you’ve stripped your bathroom down to bare bones, it’s time to re-build from the ground up, and if your bathroom is prone to mold, it may be worthwhile to investigate your mold protection options. For example, blue board is a form of drywall that’s mold resistant and only costs a few dollars more.

Don’t forget the fan.

It may not sound like a big deal, but think about all the moisture your bathroom creates on a daily basis, trapped in such a small space. A fan is a necessity in keeping your bathroom as healthy and mold-free as possible. But what kind should you buy? If you opt for a separate fan and light, your overall cost will be cheaper, but they’ll be trickier to replace. If you decide to go with a combination fan, you’ll be spending more money, but will be choosing the more convenient option.

What kind of budget do you need for professional services?

There’s a lot you can do on your own for a bathroom remodel, but if you’re touching plumbing or electricity, you will need to hire a professional. A remodel is a great opportunity to assess if your current bathroom is working for you and move outlets to a more convenient location or update plumbing to more efficient versions.

Does the layout of the bathroom work for you?

It may be easier than you think to freshen the layout of your bathroom without actually making a lot of changes. For example, an easy option is to rip out a linen closet and replace it with cabinets. It’s a big change without the added expense of moving plumbing.

And let’s be real about the purpose of a bathroom and not forget the little things, like where is the toilet paper holder going to go? Plan the flow of your bathroom strategically and you’ll avoid any unwanted surprises later on.

Do you have what it takes to do a tiled shower?

If you’re considering replacing your drop-in shower with a tiled version, you’re going to have to do your homework. With mudded tiled showers, the need to waterproof is real and it’s not always easy. There are a lot of steps involved, so research and preparation is key.

Do you want to spend the money on a shower door?

If you’re yearning for a fancy-schamncy glass shower door, but don’t have the budget at the moment or want to reallocate those funds for other important things, like a heated toilet seat, keep in mind that because glass shower doors are standard-sized, you can always add one later. Stick with a colorful shower curtain for a while while you save up for a shower door.

Don’t tiptoe around the tile.

What size tile do you want? Larger tiles are harder to lay down because they are less forgiving, but you can cover ground faster with them. However, they are also more slippery, so inside the shower, you will need smaller tiles with larger grout areas for your feet to hold on to. Mosaic tiles are a good idea for anti-slip protection if you don’t want rugs on your floor.

What do you want to do with your cabinets?

Before you seal the deal with your DIY bathroom remodel, you’ll need to make a decision about your cabinets. First up, thoroughly check inside each cabinet for water damage. If you will need to replace the whole cabinet, you can then decide if you want to have a custom bathroom cabinet made to fit a piece of pre-cut countertop or go the other way around and have a countertop cut to fit your cabinet.

However, if your cabinets are not water damaged, it may make more sense to repurpose your vanity by sanding them down and painting them with a latex or oil-based paint.

Can you re-use older bathroom fixtures?

While it may be tempting to throw out all the older bathroom fixtures, like that cream-colored toilet, it may be worth your time (and wallet) to consider if you can incorporate a cream-colored bathroom scheme. You can purchase newer almond or cream-colored components, such as a toilet, to blend the old with the new without actually having to purchase all-new appliances. Now that’s some DIY remodeling to be proud of.




From kitchen upgrades to total home remodeling, SemBro Designs and Remodeling knows how to do it right and we love to build the confidence of every Columbus client, year after year.

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5 Easy DIY Bathroom Upgrades That Will Surprise You

When we built our home two years ago, I told the designer that the bathrooms weren’t my first priority. Since we had limited resources and a tight budget, I planned to DIY our bathroom upgrades later, when it was more realistic.

Now that time has come. I’ve been focusing on designing a beautiful guest bathroom, and I’ve found some impressive DIY bathroom upgrades that I didn’t realize were possible! Most of them involve very little money, and minimal work. These do-it-yourself bathroom makeovers are perfect as a long-term addition, or even as an inexpensive but stylish revamp to hold you over until you can do a full remodel.

Frame Your Builder-Grade Mirror

Many basic bathrooms come with a glass mirror adhered or clipped to the wall. Rather than pulling it off, refinishing that section of the wall, and buying a new, large mirror, you can add a wooden frame to the mirror you already have, creating a beautiful and finished look. The possibilities for style and color are endless, so this DIY allows you to really have fun and show off your design personality.

Paint your fixtures

It can be expensive and tedious to switch out all of your bathroom fixtures, but with a couple layers of auto-grade paint you can turn the old, shiny chrome into a sleek oil-rubbed bronze or matte brass. It’s an easy way to add a transformative change to your bathroom without much work—and the results are impressive.

Refinish Your Sink

Colored ceramics were a huge hit for bathrooms in the 1950s, especially in pink, mint, and baby blue. And plenty of homeowners put up with their pastel-hued bathrooms to avoid a pricey and complex remodel. But there’s a much easier and cheaper solution! Ceramic epoxy is simple to use and will refinish those older ceramics into sleek white sinks and counters. The transformation is simple, inexpensive, and really effective.

Paint Your Tile

Patterned cement and encaustic tile are so on-trend, but unless you’re starting with a new build or doing a full remodel, you probably won’t want to pull up all of your existing tile to replace it. Did you know you can get the same look with chalk paint and a stencil? I actually love my slate tile floors, but am considering trying this anyway!

Stain Your Tile Grout

I love the look of light tile and dark grout, but when we built I had everything put in white on white. Staining the grout dark is a simple and easy way to mimic the modern, international look of classic subway tile. I’ve done this at our home, and loved the results.

I had no idea that there were so many simple yet dramatic DIY bathroom upgrades besides the standard switching textiles and painting the walls. These do-it-yourself projects make a big impact by upgrading the fixtures, hardware, and whole landscape of the bathroom—you can even do all five in just one weekend!





From kitchen upgrades to total home remodeling, SemBro Designs and Remodeling knows how to do it right and we love to build the confidence of every Columbus client, year after year.

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7 Bathroom Remodel Ideas That Really Pay Off

Good bathroom remodel ideas aren’t just about saving you money. They’re about helping you start your day off right.

Let’s get real: The first room you stumble into in the morning—bleary-eyed, dazed, and yawning—should be a soothing oasis. A bathroom that achieves those lofty heights? That’s a bathroom you can love. That’s why these most special of rooms are second only to kitchens as the areas homeowners eagerly spend time and money renovating—and that catch a buyer’s eye when you’re trying to sell.
Bathroom remodel ideas: where to begin

But exactly which upgrades are the best, in terms of both usefulness and return on investment? Do you need to start knocking down walls and renovate the entire room, or you can you start smaller?

Before you go nuts installing saunas and rain shower heads, check out this second installment in our series Renovations That Really Pay Off, for some smarter tweaks you’ll be very glad you made.
Reglaze, don’t replace, the tub

“No, no, no—do not put in a new tub,” says Rebecca Knaster, associate broker with Manhattan’s William Raveis. “It’ll cost thousands between the tub and the installation.” Instead, have the tub reglazed for “around $1,500,” which will make it look brand new.

Matt Plaskoff, founder of One Week Bath, agrees that if the shower area “is in decent shape,” it’s best to concentrate on the front part of the bathroom, which “sets the tone for the space.”
Invest in a new sink

Face washing, teeth brushing, gerbil bathing—your sink sees a lot of use. It’s also the very first thing a buyer notices in a bathroom, says Knaster.

“Step 1 for getting the most bang for your buck is a new contemporary sink,” she says. “It will set you back a few hundred dollars and make all the difference.”

Just note whether the bathroom sink you already have is an undermount (where the edge is below the countertop to create an uninterrupted surface) or overmount (where the sink lip comes up over the countertop), says interior designer Randal Weeks, founder of Aidan Gray Home.

An undermount can be difficult to remove unless it’s under a formica top. If the sink is adhered to the surface, the top will also have to go, which quickly drives up the cost. One easy and dramatic sink upgrade Weeks recommends for an inexpensive bathroom remodel is replacing separate hot and cold faucets with a sleek single-handle faucet that starts at $70.
Go for timeless tile

Bathroom remodel ideas in general should appeal to a broader range of people and provide better return on investment. While natural stone is hot, Weeks prefers neutral styles for this reason. Pricey stones are taste-specific, he notes, and can give a busy look that’s a turnoff regardless of expense.

In fact, Weeks says one of the biggest issues buyers consider when making offers is the cost of redoing other people’s “bad choices.” So go for crowd-pleasing features such as bright white subway tiles, which run a mere 21 cents each. The payoff?

“You can add $10,000 of value to your home by selecting timeless elements that won’t date it.”
Upgrade your lighting

It’s not just Snow White’s evil stepmother and the Kardashians who spend lots of time staring into the mirror on the bathroom wall. For most of us, lighting and lighting fixtures are critical elements.

“Dated light fixtures are a turnoff,” says Knaster. “For no more than $100 you can buy a basic but nice bathroom light fixture.”
Install a double vanity

The last thing you need in the morning is a battle with your partner over who gets the sink. It’s no wonder “I’m looking for a double vanity” is one of the most common things heard by Will Johnson, a Hendersonville, TN, real estate agent and founder of the Sell and Stage Team.

A double vanity typically costs between $200 and $800, with installation falling around $220, Johnson says—and it’s a wise investment when you’re undergoing a bathroom remodel. Johnson has clients who “won’t buy a house simply because there’s only one sink in the master bathroom!”
Swap in new fixtures

“Old materials such as bronze can instantly date your bathroom,” says Johnson. To knock out this easy DIY update, simply purchase new door handles, drawer pulls, and towel bars for a bathroom remodel that’s quick, easy, and inexpensive too. A nice chrome drawer pull can cost as little as $3, while a towel bar can average $30.
Get a water-saving toilet

This may not sound like a bathroom remodel idea that will do much—it’s just the toilet! But beyond updating the look of the room, a toilet replacement could save you some serious green. Old toilets use 6 gallons of water per flush, gobbling up about 30% of all residential water in U.S. homes. Go green when you swap out your throne. New WaterSense models using only 1.28 gallons per flush (e.g., TOTO’s Carlyle II 1G toilet) conserve up to 18,000 gallons of water annually. The initial cost of $974 will shave more than $110 per year off a water bill and add up to almost $2,200 over the lifetime of the toilet. Bonus: The latest water-saving thrones actually work.
But skip the bidet

Bidets may be considered the Rolls-Royce of toilet upgrades, but most bathrooms simply don’t have room for them. What’s worse: Most Americans have no idea what on Earth these things are and may even be weirded out by them.

“My personal opinion is that our society is not accustomed to this practice and doesn’t see the extra value in them,” says Tracy Kay Griffin, an expert designer at Express Homebuyers in Springfield, VA. “We haven’t renovated a home yet where we thought it would be a good investment to add a bidet.” Just say nay to the bidet.


How to Hire Bath Remodeling Contractor

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We’ve got Everything You Need to Hire a Bath Remodeling Contractor

It’s time for a makeover! Whether you’re buying, selling, or just want to update that late ‘80s powder room a bathroom remodel provides great return on investment. Remodeling’s 2016 Cost vs. Value Report shows a nation-wide 65.7 percent ROI for bathroom remodels, while areas like the Pacific region, bring back 76.2 percent. The numbers are on your side, it’s time to stop the bathroom suffering.

Alex, Paul, and Leo share their remodeling expertise to prep you for your bathroom redo. Because you might as well love your loo.

What are the financial benefits of a bathroom remodel?

The bathrooms and kitchen are the primary rooms a prospective buyer looks at when purchasing a home, explains Leo. Remodeling a bathroom, updating its features, and even reconfiguring the floor plan can greatly increase the return on investment of your real estate investment. Besides improving the appearance of the room, shares Paul, you improve the functionality of the room. In addition to the value it adds to the home, a space that accommodates you and your family is important for daily life.

How long does the average job take and what are the most common remodels?

There are typically 3 phases to any remodeling and construction project, shares Leo. The planning and permitting phase, the construction phase, and the punch list finalization phase. The planning and permitting phase varies from city to city due to different procedures in each building department—however, the average time for this phase is 3-4 weeks, he explains.

The construction phase can also vary depending on if the remodel is a straight same-for-same replacement, or if plumbing fixtures and electrical devices are being added or relocated. The average length of a full bathroom remodel—taking into consideration inspections—could take anywhere from 4-6 weeks, Leo shares, citing that the most common updates for a bathroom remodel are tile flooring, tub/shower wall tiles, vanity, counter top, and lighting.

SemBro Designs and Remodeling does a lot of what they call “facelifts.” These jobs are typically completed in five to eight working days, shares Alex, while more extensive bathroom overhauls take longer.

One to three weeks is common depending on the amount of work, says Paul. His clients often start with the shower area, he says, by customizing the plumbing, tile size, setting, and design. New paint is always in order after the shower is done, he says. Next, flooring and cabinetry can be modernized with updated materials. Last but not least, the lighting in a bathroom is very important, says Paul.

How much does the average job cost?

Wouldn’t you know, there is no average job! The remodelers share the ranges of what can commonly be expected.

Most jobs we handle cost between $10,000 and $15,000, shares Alex.

The baseline for a bathroom remodel averages around $3,500, according to Paul. More frequently, a bathroom remodel can cost between $5,000 and $10,000. I personally have been involved in bathroom remodels that have cost $22,000, says Paul.

The average bathroom remodel could cost anywhere from $6,500 – $12,250, depending on size, scope, and materials used, says Leo.

The moral here? Be upfront in your requests about budget and desired outcomes.

What happens from start to finish once someone books your quote with SemBro Designs?

First, we schedule an onsite visit to make sketches, take photos, discuss scope of work, and materials, explains Leo. Then we prepare floor plans, permit applications, notice of commencement and supporting documents for the building department. We then record the NOC and submit the application package to the building department. Once the permit is issued, we perform the demolition. After the demolition we do the rough plumbing, then rough electrical, followed by framing, drywall, plaster, paint & flooring. All in that order. There are several rough inspections that occur in that sequence as well, to make sure things are going as planned. After the walls, floors, and ceilings are finished, we install the vanity, plumbing fixtures, electrical devices, and trim out all of the accessories. From there we schedule final inspections and perform a walk through to address punch list items to complete, shares Leo. When the client is 100% satisfied, the project will be officially completed.

Bathroom remodels can be an enjoyable experience, says Paul. I speak with clients one-on-one by phone before a site visit to prepare myself for what they might need. After inspecting the site, I go over design options with the homeowner, then write out a specific and detailed estimate, explains Paul. Once the estimate is accepted, I send a written contract and we sign. At this point, a collection of 10% of the job’s estimated total is legal and common for a contractor to do. I find jobs go well when a client has done their homework and identifies the materials they want used. This process of material selections by the owner can take some time but is well worth the diligence, according to Paul.

SemBro Designs reviews the request and follows up with a phone call/ email to introduce themselves and set an appointment to meet and discuss a proposal for the requested work, says Alex. The proposal is written and presented to the homeowner during a secondary meeting, and if all is agreed upon, a contract is signed. From there, work is scheduled by the production manager to be completed.

What questions should someone ask before hiring a bath remodeling contractor?

Do you plan on applying for any permits? Do you have the proper insurance and licenses? Do you have before and after pictures of previous projects to preview? You want to make sure they are going by proper procedure, recommends Alex.

How long have you been doing this type of work? May I speak with past clients of yours? Who will be performing the work? How long will the process take? Will you be servicing other jobs at the time as my home? What can I do to make the process easier on you as the contractor? Get all the information you need upfront, suggests Paul, so there are no surprises later on down the line.
What do you wish new clients knew about the process?

I wish more clients knew how long some building departments take to approve a permit. Many people are surprised by the time it takes, although we do our best to communicate the timeline before any contracts are signed, says Leo.

That you get what you pay for, says Alex. And that it’s always best to have a General Contractor handle the management of the job.

Not everything goes as planned, states Paul. For example, after demolition problems like bad framing by the original home builder might be revealed. That needs to be dealt with before contractors can move forward. Another example of the unexpected could be structural water damage from previously undetectable or unnoticeable leaks. A homeowner should be prepared for these possible problems, because the total cost of the remodel will increase due to the additional work that was unforeseeable but is necessary to do a good job.

Any advice about choosing a contractor?

Unfortunately, in Ohio, licensed people will often illegally “rent” their licenses to unlicensed companies, says Leo. Look out for companies where the licensed qualifiers are not present. A second warning sign is a company asking for a large deposit up front. We only require a 10 percent deposit up front; followed by progress payments as work progresses. The key is not to overpay up front so the contractor owes you a substantial amount of work to get caught up, explains Leo. Keep pace with the work as far as payments go and request partial lien releases with each payment to be released from liability for materials or to subcontractors.

Homeowners should always check out the contractor’s insurance policies and their accreditation, suggests Alex.

Investigate the contractor’s past work and clients, recommends Paul. Good, clear communication is very important. If you can’t communicate with the contractor, look for someone else. Also, a contractor that asks for too much money up front is someone you want to stay away from.

Where can clients save money on a bathroom remodel?

Find a contractor that does most of the trades himself, recommends Paul. Although it’s not easily accomplished—because it is difficult to be good at more than one trade—it will reduce the cost of having a general contractor subcontract out to multiple companies to tackle various parts of the project. Price shopping is very important when it comes to the materials. Local retailers are the best places to buy your materials, opines Paul, because you don’t have to pay for shipping costs and there are fewer problems if a return needs to occur.

Select materials that are within a budget you can afford, suggests Leo. The actual rough work and labor will always be more or less a fixed price, but the costs can jump substantially if you select really expensive tiles, vanities, and fixtures are selected.

Alex agrees that when the client purchases their own materials it’s a cost-saver, but warns against doing so without the guidance of a professional contractor.
Where should someone absolutely not cut financial corners in their remodel?

All three resoundingly agree that you should never cut financial corners when hiring a reputable, licensed contractor. Someone who is not skilled can damage your home or your materials, costing you more money in the long run. Do your research to avoid sorrow later.

You’re all set with the questions to ask, are you ready to redo your bathroom and hire a bath remodeling contractor?


From kitchen upgrades to total home remodeling, SemBro Designs and Remodeling knows how to do it right and we love to build the confidence of every Columbus client, year after year.

Leave your Comments below!

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