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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9 Ways to Save Money on a Kitchen Remodel

Did you know that remodeling your kitchen is one of the best ways to add value to your home? It’s the most lived-in room of the home, so it’s important to keep it up to date, for your own satisfaction as well as for any potential buyers. The downside, however, is that kitchen remodeling can also be incredibly expensive. So how do you maximize your home’s value on a budget? We’re glad you asked. Here are some easy and affordable solutions to revamp the look of your kitchen for far less than a costly remodel.

Add new trim

Even if you hire someone to make custom trim for your kitchen, you’ll still save thousands of dollars by using your existing cabinets—and you’ll see just how drastically a change in trim can revamp your kitchen’s look. Adding crown molding trim or under-trim can transform your box cabinets with the look of custom built-ins—and if your cabinets have a lot of space at the top, adding crown trim will draw the eye upward and make your kitchen look bigger. Plus, with newer trends of mixing wood colors, it’s not as important to have uniform color anymore, so you may even save money by mixing wood trim color.

Add new hardware

Whether you choose to add new cabinets or reface existing cabinets, adding new hardware will really spruce up the look of your kitchen for less. You can even scour online or local resale shops for complete hardware sets for an upscale and unique look.

Convert a table or an old cart into a kitchen island

Instead of installing a new kitchen island, or hiring someone to build one—which may eat into your budget with the requirement of additional permits and codes—think outside of the box. Moveable islands will achieve the look you are going for, and they’ll also save you the cost of construction. Adding castors to an existing table or even a thrifted cart to make it a mobile, workable island will give you the look and functionality without the cost and work. (Check your own area for rules and regulations on building an island.)

DIY your countertops

Depending on your level of DIY savviness, you can save a lot of money on countertops. Granite is the most popular option, and you can check to see if you can score a granite remnant, although for kitchens, it can be difficult to find enough remnants to cover all of your kitchen’s surfaces.

Outside of the classic granite, you can actually make your own countertops out of cement—although it will take some serious work. For the easiest and most affordable option, choose to install your own new laminate countertop. All you’ll need to purchase is trim router with a flush-trim bit and a laminate roller, dowels, and glue and you can have a new laminate countertop in a single afternoon. Some types of new laminate even allow you to apply the new layer to an existing laminate. However, if you do choose to install your laminate countertop, don’t forget to factor in the cost of a plumber to put a new sink in or replumb your sink.

Add a backsplash

A kitchen backsplash is a very manageable project that makes a big aesthetic impact. There are different options for different DIY levels, ranging from “lick-and-stick” backslashes that don’t involve a lot of cutting, but for the most custom look with real tile, you will need a trowel and tile cutter to get the job done, along with finishing with a pre-mixed grout. You can also go with a beadboard backsplash for one of the fastest, easiest, and most affordable options for a kitchen.

Shop local for custom kitchens

If you have to install all-new cabinets, consider all of your options. Put-together box cabinets might be the cheapest option at first glance, but keep in mind that those types of cabinets may not have long-term durability. There may be many custom local woodworkers who will tear out and install a kitchen for the same price as some higher-end cabinet prices, so you may get more bang for your buck by asking for local recommendations for small business owners.

Use your existing kitchen layout

If you’re happy with your kitchen layout and are just craving a fresh update, work with your contractor or kitchen builder to maintain as much of your current layout as possible for a huge cost savings. Moving the actual layout of a kitchen—such as moving the position of an oven or a sink or a wall—will involve changing wires and plumbing, at much higher costs.

Shop floor models or dented appliances

For discounts on appliances, ask your local store if they have any floor models for sale. Many stores will offer discounts on floor models or even offer steep discounts for dented (but still fully functional) appliances. If the damage is cosmetic, you may be able to fix it yourself and still save some serious cash for the appliance. Also consider where the appliance will fit in your kitchen—if you can save a hundred dollars on a refrigerator with a small dent that will never be seen, it may be worth overlooking a minor imperfection.

Buy refurbished

For accessories, lighting, or even hardware, don’t overlook the value in shopping for refurbished pieces. Even places like thrift shops or flea markets can have high-quality, unique, and fully functional pieces that will save you money—and they’re a more eco-friendly choice, too. We call that a win-win.

With a little creativity and elbow grease, you can still save money on a kitchen remodel that will add value and beauty to your home. By evaluating your current kitchen layout, shopping local, and exploring ways to do the work yourself, you can save the money in your kitchen remodel budget for the pieces—like cabinet refacing and new hardware—that will really make an impact.




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 Range Hoods

Range hoods can be a quick, affordable way to hip up a kitchen on a budget, but with so many models and styles, they’re not always easy to parse through. There are so many questions. What’s the best brand for your wallet? What’s a downdraft range hood? We heard your queries ringing across the internet and decided to create the ultimate guide to selecting and maintaining a range hood.

Do I even need a range hood in my kitchen?

Not necessarily. If you cook often in your home (think 3 to 4 times a week or more), then you’re going to want a recirculating hood to keep grease particles from accumulating on kitchen surfaces, and also take care of smoke in case of a botched baking job.

What kind of range hoods are out there?

Options, options, options. You’ll find that when you’re seeking out new range hoods, there are tons of ways to categorize the available products. The first thing to consider is the way the hood is vented:

Ducted or Vented Hoods: These hoods are ideal, because they vent to the outside, meaning smoke, grease, and odors are drawn away from your kitchen’s interior.
Non-vented, Duct-free, or Recirculated: These hoods, on the other hand, use a filter to collect cooking byproducts up and out of the oven area.
Convertible: Convertible hoods can be installed as ducted or duct-free. There are also some differences in model. Here are some of the most commonly installed models:

1. Under-cabinet Hoods: The most common type of range hood, under-cabinet hoods fit below a cabinet above the stove range.
2. Wall-Mount Hoods: Wall-mount hoods are designed much like under-cabinet hoods, but they are attached to the wall instead of to the underside of a cabinet.
3. Island Hoods: Island hoods are suspended over a cooktop on a kitchen island.
4. Downdraft Hoods: Downdraft hoods fit into the counter next to a cooktop.

What materials are available?

A range hood can be a real statement piece in your kitchen, and there are about as many models as there are aesthetics. Both the material and the design of the hood will affect your kitchen’s overall look. A distressed copper hood with curved sides adds a vintage look, while an angular stainless steel model or glass hood is perfect for a sleek, contemporary kitchen.

What type of ventilation system is most affordable?

The true answer is, it’s complicated. Unless you’re planning a major kitchen renovation, including a new stove, the location of your oven will limit the model of hood you can buy, because you’ll need to place it according to what makes sense for your layout. However, when it comes to ducted versus duct-free, duct-free has a much cheaper installation overhead—you won’t have to have a professional called in for the duct work. On the other hand, in a duct-free unit you’ll need to change the filters every 3 to 6 months, especially if you cook frequently in your home. That’s a $15 to $30 expense 2 to 4 times a year, which can add up. If you have the money to invest in a ducted system now (approximately $500 to $1000 for the hood, labor, and duct work) then it can really pay off, especially considering that it’s a better ventilation system.

What type of hood is the most affordable?

Like most things, hoods will be cheaper if they come without extra bells and whistles. Models with features like multiple fan speeds, thermostat controls, and exhaust timers will bring up the cost of the hood. Brand also plays a part: affordable companies include NuTone, G.E., Kenmore, and Whirlpool, which will run you between $80 to $200 dollars for the hood.




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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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.