Eco-Friendly Wood Flooring: The 6 Most Sustainable Choices


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 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 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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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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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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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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