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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Everything You Need to Know About Window Replacement

Columbus Ohio Remodeling Contractor SemBro Designs Home Improvements

A window replacement is a sizeable investment—but it’s well worth it, in terms of making your home more energy-efficient, visually appealing, and comfortable. We sat down with Columbus Remodeling Experts to ask your top questions and make the window replacement process more manageable. Here’s what he had to say.

How can you tell that it’s time to replace your windows?

People have many different reasons for replacing windows.

First, because they need to. Second, because they want to. I like to think of it as comparable to two different types of surgery. If you have a ruptured appendix, you need it. But if you’d like to have body sculpting, for example, it’s because you want it. It’s much more fun, I imagine, for a surgeon to help people feel more happy about the way the looked, versus the other surgeries, even though both give you a certain level of satisfaction as a doctor. So we really like it when people contact us to say, “I want my home to be more beautiful and/or more comfortable.”

With those kinds of projects, do you ever do any major replacements, such as to the wall structure (ex: enlarging the window, etc)?

There are times a customer will contact us and say (for example) “I have a new pool going up and I’d like to turn this double window into a door or a sliding door.” That’s one of the projects we’ll take on as a company. A lot of times, people who are in the window/door replacement business truly aren’t qualified or interested in the extra time and work it takes to involve a mason, to do siding, or finishing out the new opening, or building out transition pieces between existing flooring and the new door, etc. But we have a qualified crew that does this at least a few dozen times per year.

What can a homeowner expect with their first initial meeting with either on a sales floor or a contractor?

One thing that separates us from other window companies is that we offer 18 brands of windows to choose from. I designed our business around the CarMax model—we offer lots of different brands, and we’re happy to give our opinions about the different brands, but ultimately it’s up to the customer. So on a typical first visit, we spend more time listening than talking, so that we can determine what you want and if we have a product, and if we have the skillset needed to do your project—and if we don’t, we’ll point you in the right direction.

Once you get to the quote/estimate, what should a homeowner expect to see in it?

We’ll come out and take some measurements, for estimate reasons, and give you an on-site estimate (based on that info), specifying each window opening based on its “room name” (living room, etc). Then we come back with specifics for each window—the energy efficiency rating, the sound transmission, how much each window costs individually, etc. We like doing this more than giving a lump sum price on the back of a business card, etc. This builds confidence in a homeowner about us, and it enables them to make changes if needed, based on budget. For example, if you want a big picture window facing your backyard pool, rather than two smaller windows, we’ll print out both options (prices) to give you the choice. This is important because that big picture window could require much heavier glass, or it may require tempering the glass. As a result, a project that should’ve been $10,000 is now $12,000, so this helps you plan and adjust your budget for the project.

You said that when you make the estimate, you also include the energy ratings. What are some of the energy considerations when you’re replacing your windows?

If you have a super energy efficient window, it’s definitely going to improve your home’s energy efficiency, and therefore decrease your monthly utilities, but the trade-off is that it will make your home much darker. So I like to look at it by each particular project and what they’re trying to accomplish, and also room by room. If they say “upstairs on the west wall is a game room, and it’s always hot up there, we might go with a more energy efficient option there on that side where the sun sets (than we would across the front of the house) because otherwise, they end up with these dark living rooms.

Is there a time of year that’s best for replacing windows?Is there a time of year that’s best for replacing windows?

It depends on where you live. If you live in Minnesota or Michigan, winter is a really tough time to have your windows open and people in your home. But in the southern climate, where we are, the phone typically rings all year round. A lot of homeowners who delayed their project for years and years say they wish they’d done the replacements sooner, because they realize they could have enjoyed the improved comfort, reduced energy bills, etc, for so many more years. Plus, the prices of new windows continues to rise each year, so waiting 5 years to save money doesn’t make sense. So if you think you’re going to do it eventually, it makes sense to do it sooner rather than later.

Have you seen any new products on the market, etc, that you’re excited about/that seem to be taking off?

Milgard Windows and Doors came out with a product line called “Essence”—it’s a full fiberglass-framed window with a real wood interior. When most window companies offer a wood product, it’s a wood window that has some form of a small thin layer of cladding on the exterior. But in our climate, once water gets behind that cladding, it can’t get back out—and then the wood begins to rot and the cladding pops off.

But Milgard’s window is different. The entire window is made from a composite material, and the wood is on the inside, where it’s not exposed to any of the elements. It works well for humid and wet climates, or for really cold climates. But one of their latest products was a radius top casement window. They’re the only company in the US making this radius top casement window, where you don’t have to have a divider between the top and the bottom. For example, sometimes you see a window that has an arch on top of it, or there’s a bar separating the arch from the window beneath it. So they’re able to take a product that’s a composite 4×8 sheet, almost plywood—it was considered the product of the year by Window and Door Magazine.

Anything else you’d like to add, or any advice for homeowners?

There are two chief components for a successful, “I’m happy, I’m smiling at the end of my window project” project. The first is finding a window you like (meaning you’re happy with the look, performance, color, and warranty), and the second is a good installer. Unfortunately, I see the mistakes that other people have made, and the problem is almost always not the window itself, but the installation. Having a great window with a bad installer is, in my opinion, a bad window. If anything, you’d be better off having a great installer installing a bad window. This is something that people tend to overlook, the installer. Focus a lot more than you are now on the installer, more than the window itself.


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.


6 Kitchen Renovations That Really Pay Off

Kitchen renovations can cost you big time, but when it comes to home improvements, this is the sort of project that has a lot of pay off.

It’s impossible to own a home without pondering the occasional (or hey, a whole lot of) home improvements. And the great thing is that a lot of the time, creative energy, and yes, cash you spend on such renovations don’t just translate into a space you love, but also into a higher home price whenever you decide it’s time to sell. Only which ones offer up the biggest return on investment? To find out, we’ve launched this new series, Renovations That Really Pay Off—and, for our inaugural installment, we’re tackling the big kahuna: kitchens. Here are six home improvement projects in this all-important room that experts say come with significant financial benefits down the road. Cha-ching!
Kitchen renovations made easy: amp up the appliances

Call it a need for eye candy, but shiny new appliances—fridge, stove, stainless-steel dishwasher—have a huge impact on prospective home buyers, according to Realtor® Top Solutions.

Range Hood and Contemporary Kitchen Cabinets Signature Pearl

High-end appliances are also typically the most expensive kitchen renovation, usually with an equally high ROI. Cannistra mentions one home with outdated appliances that sat on the market unsold; once the owners updated everything, “they received two offers the first week” and the house sold at “significantly higher than asking.”

But don’t feel like you have to replace appliances at once. Just swap out what you can—when you can—so by the time your home’s on the market the overall buyer impression is “Hey, nice kitchen!” rather than “The ’70s sure were a crazy time, eh?”

One caveat: “Keep the appliances and plumbing where they are,” suggests Justin Riordan, founder of Spade and Archer Design Agency, “because the rule of thumb is to add $5,000 each time you relocate either.”
Refreshed cabinets

After appliances, cabinets are the most expensive item on a kitchen upgrade checklist, averaging between $3,900 and $12,000. So don’t leap into trashing the old ones.

“If you have existing wood cabinets that are still in decent shape, instead of completely refacing them, give them a fresh coat of paint,” says Tracy Kay Griffin, designer for HGTV’s “Get It Sold.” Rust-Oleum makes an easy-to-use Cabinet Transformation kit.

Another small remodeling project with instant impact: replacing the cabinet hardware. “Choose a satin or brushed finish so they don’t show fingerprints,” says Erin Davis, lead designer and co-owner of Mosaik Design & Remodeling in Portland, OR.
Kitchen sink

Given the sink is the most used item in your kitchen, a brand-new one will pop—even if it’s on an old countertop. So consider installing one with two troughs or made of stainless steel, the most popular material, according to Consumer Reports.

For the truly budget-friendly kitchen renovation option, get a fancy new faucet, suggests Griffin: “This is quick and inexpensive but can make a huge difference.”
Charging stations

The home invasion of smartphones, tablets, and other constantly charged electronics means there are never enough power outlets in a kitchen. This may explain why the National Kitchen and Bath Association’s annual trend report shows that almost two-thirds of homes have rigged up charging stations where all these gadgets can easily be plugged in.

Businesses such as Kitchen TuneUp can modify cabinets or drawers in one day by adding hidden power strips and other tech-friendly amenities.
New countertops

A new countertop may be pricey, but Realtors agree that the impact of these kitchen renovations on future home buyers is huge. And don’t just take it for granted that you should go for granite; the NKBA report shows that quartz countertops have more cachet these days.

Also remember that replacing a countertop “provides an opportunity to install a new glass or subway backsplash for additional punch,” says Davis. “A budget-friendly option is to install a 4-inch-high splash out of the same countertop material.”
Wood floors

When it comes to kitchen floors, nothing beats good ol’ wood. The NKBA report shows that wood is the most popular kitchen flooring, favored by 82% of homeowners. And compared with the fancier and hard-to-install tile options, it’s a relatively inexpensive option, too, averaging $9 to $12 a square foot.
Bonus: One renovation that may not be worth it

Sure, knocking down a wall to create the oh-so-trendy open kitchen may seem like the thing to do these days, but in purely financial terms of ROI, it may not make much sense as a kitchen renovation.

“While open floor plans remain a popular choice among buyers, the return on investment for tearing down a wall to create a great room isn’t as high as other kitchen renovation projects,” says Melanie Cameron of the Cameron Team at Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage in Wilmington, NC.

The reason: According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost Vs. Value Report, small kitchen renovations have a ROI that’s almost 20% higher than a major renovations. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t open your kitchen up if that’s what you’re pining to do; just don’t bank on it paying off big time down the road.

Forget Man Caves, Backyard Bar Sheds Are the New Trend

The new home and garden trend is sweeping the internet, and it’s actually pretty amazing and doable. We’ve seen she-sheds, but this puts a different spin on making the most out of your shed. DIY bar sheds are popping up all over the place, and some of them are pretty darn creative. With a wide array of different options, this is one of the least daunting DIY home projects we’ve come across in a while.

The fun thing about bar sheds is that you can get as creative and elaborate as you’d like. Plus, it gives you a place to put all of those beer mirrors and bar games you’ve been storing in your garage since your college days.

Check out some of these amazing bar sheds and prepare to be inspired to transform your own basic shed into a mini-backyard pub that’s sure to impress.

This bar shed was created by adding some new doors, a bar, seating, a little porch and some fun pub games.

This bar shed proves that even a tiny shed can make a cool bar. They simply cut an opening in the side of the shed and added a couple of bar stools to create a place for guests to lounge.

On the outside, this looks like your standard backyard shed, but when you open it, you’re all of a sudden looking at a 1950’s inspired bar.

This rustic backyard bar uses string lights and a pop-down bar top to create a welcoming watering hole.

This classy, fully-loaded bar shed is complete with a TV and looks so cozy, you may never want to leave it.

Want more bar shed inspiration? Head to Pinterest or contact SemBro Designs for some amazing ideas that you can easily replicate.