Home Improvement, Wood Floors

Can Hardwood Floors Help With Next Year’s Tax Bill?

Post_and_Beam_Barn_KitchenIt’s April 15th and one more tax deadline has passed. Regardless of whether you paid or you received a refund, you probably wish you could have done a bit better. Like every year, I assume, you vow that this year, you will take advantage of all the tax deductions available to you. Perhaps an overlooked tax deduction is right at your feet.

Home improvements are some of the most common and the most accessible deductions. Some, like major repairs, can be deducted in the same tax year. Others, like hardwood flooring, might not earn you a same-year deduction, but it will make your home more enjoyable while you are living there and come time to sell, your flooring could perform double duty by increasing the sale price and lowering your ultimate tax bill.

Naturally, if you are making home improvements for tax benefits, consult with your tax professional, but if you expect to have at least $250,000 in equity in your home ($500,000 if you file jointly), it’s a good idea to start hedging against a big capital improvement tax bill if you do decide to sell.

The IRS has very specific definitions for home improvements. It must actually be an improvement. In other words, if your home has carpet and you replace the carpet, it probably won’t be covered. If you paint your home, repair your roof or water heater, it will likely be considered a repair and you might be able to write it off for the same tax year. However, if you add to the value of the home with added rooms, a remodeled kitchen or bath, fencing, a deck, a security system, central air or you got it, flooring, it is considered an improvement to the home and you may be able to claim it against your capital gains. Here is a more detailed list of acceptable improvements.

If you are looking to sell your home in this year, you might want to calculate your equity – keeping in mind that Bay Area properties are currently hot and you might end up selling for more than your listing price – and see what improvements could keep you from having a big capital gains tax after your sale. Depending on your tax bracket, the capital gains tax could be anywhere from 15-20% of the profit above the capital gains threshold. In other words, if you sell your home for $300,000 in profit, and you file single, you could owe between $7,500 and $10,000 to the IRS. You might want to ask your real estate broker, but a new floor might end up saving a lot of money.

If you aren’t looking to sell your home this year, it’s a good idea to space out home improvements, instead of having to do everything right before you sell. Granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, new kitchen and bathroom fixtures and hardwood floors are some of the easiest and most cost effective ways of increasing your home’s value while potentially decreasing your tax liability once you do sell.

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Amber Flooring in the News

Amber Flooring Project Featured In The New York Times

Screen Shot 2014-04-02 at 4.01.32 PMWhile Amber Flooring has had significant regional acclaim, it’s rare that a Bay Area project earns a writeup in the Paper of Record, a.k.a., the New York Times. However, a Berkeley home, which was remodeled in 2012 and was a collaborative effort between Amber Flooring and Mueller Nicholls, has garnered such attention that its beauty is even the talk of the East Coast.

The home, a 1912 Mediterranean Montecito-style single family home in the Berkeley Hills, is inhabited by Signey Judd, Jonathan Wade and their two children.

“We had looked at hundreds of homes, and we fell in love with this one on the spot,” Signy says. “It faces the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay, and our view is framed by redwood trees — it’s not even a cityscape. The original architecture is simple and clean, and we remodeled, so it’s not traditional Mediterranean anymore, but we kept the bones. We spend a huge amount of our time outside, in the yard and on the deck. We have enormous sliding doors that sort of open up the whole back of the house.”

Source: New York Times

The remodel was spearheaded by Bay Area builders, Mueller Nicholls, who specializes in cabinetry and comprehensive remodels.

The main living area is all new with gorgeous white oak flooring, which was custom-colored with Rubio Monocoat 0 VOC Penetrating oil finish, which is environmentally green. The existing flooring, including the bedrooms, media room and stairs, was sanded and finished.

The result is comfortable and homey as well as well as modern and sophisticated.

To view the entire article and a slide show of the home, visit the New York Times.

Orinda Residence Tropical Wood Flooring
Wood Floors

Hardwood Floors Boost Resale Value

Orinda Residence Tropical Wood Flooring

Orinda Residence Tropical Wood Flooring

I have a confession to make. I am addicted to home shows, specifically to House Hunters (yes, I know the whole show is fake, but I love torturing myself by seeing where my buying dollar will go in places like Kansas City, as opposed to the Bay Area).

On the show, there are a few constants. Everyone, and I mean pretty much everyone, wants big master suites, granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors. Some people are happy with laminate flooring to provide the look of hardwood floors, but the vast majority want the real thing.

Carpeting has its upside. There’s nothing like a soft carpet on bare feet, especially in cold weather. Carpeting can make for great insulation in older Bay Area homes. However, even the best carpets only last a few years and before they need to be replaced, you’re bound to find stains which can’t be removed. Hardwood is much easier to clean and to maintain.

Another appeal of hardwood is consistency. The same flooring throughout, especially if the panels are laid lengthwise, gives the home greater flow and can even make it feel larger. A well-finished floor can even work in kitchens and bathrooms. Rooms can easily be customized with area rugs.

If your home doesn’t come with a hardwood floor and if you don’t like the look of laminate (which has the look of hardwood printed onto wood fiber), an easy compromise might be engineered hardwood.

Engineered hardwood shares a similar tough core material with laminate, but on the top, is real hardwood. Like with laminate, engineered floors are easy to install. Most float above the base floor and are attached with a tongue and groove connection.

The problem with both laminate and engineered floor, is that there is little to nothing to work with in case of scratches or deep stains. Real hardwood, while less water resistant and less damage resistant than the other two types of floors, is easy to sand and to remove damage from. Hardwood flooring, like laminate and engineered flooring can also be installed using the floating tongue and groove style and the investment is definitely worth it for your home’s resale value.


This home office can easily be converted into a guest bedroom and even workout room, with a few touches. Image from Flickr.

Tips for Consolidating a Home Office/Guest Room/Exercise Room

This home office can easily be converted into a guest bedroom and even workout room, with a few touches. Image from Flickr.

This home office can easily be converted into a guest bedroom and even workout room, with a few touches. Image from Flickr.

The Bay Area has some of the most beautiful homes in the country, but many lack in space. It’s not uncommon for a family to use every available bedroom, leaving guests to stay in the living room. If there is an extra bedroom, it’s typically needed as a home office, which still leaves the living room for guests.

The solution, of course, if you have a home office, is turn it into a combination guest room, home office and maybe workout room. But, as someone who works from home, the last thing I need is a cozy/comfy bed in the same room – especially as the 3:00 lull begins to hit. A treadmill would be much more conducive to having a fully productive day.

Is it possible to turn a small extra bedroom into a multi-functional room and still maintain your home’s beautiful decor? With a little creativity, absolutely:

The first step, naturally, is to ask yourself what you really need. Do you have to have two 27″ computer monitors when one laptop will suffice? Figure out what paperwork can be scanned to your hard drive and shredded, to save filing space. Your book collection is part of who you are, but in a home office, limit them to the books you need. In other words, minimize. You have limited space for furniture, so only use the furniture you absolutely can’t live without.

Please yourself first. Unless you have guests more than half the year, decorate for your tastes. Hang pictures you like. Place small but beautiful plants throughout the room. Minimize the knickknacks, but if you collect miniature shoes, display them proudly. They can always be put away when guests arrive, if you want. Remember, a home office/workout space should motivate you.

Think up. Preserve precious floor space by using wall shelves.

Buy space-economical workout equipment. Buy a folding treadmill and adjustable weights. Instead of a bulky stationary bike, buy a spin bike or buy a trainer for your outdoor bike.

But do think about your guests, at least a little. Red is the most motivational color, but it’s not very relaxing. Rather than paint a red accent wall (which I highly recommend in some situations), hang some red artwork and other accents. To encourage relaxation for your guests, go neutral or go green. While red might encourage you to churn out work or power through your workout, green will encourage you to spend time in the room, which is also important for work.

Now for the big question – where to sleep? When you are working with around 100 square feet of space, a bed takes up a lot of room. Smaller than a queen, and your guests are probably not going to be all that comfortable. A daybed is an option, but daybeds tend to look little girlish, unless done right. For small rooms, I recommend a foldout sofa. They aren’t like they were in days past, when a bar went across people’s backs. Invest in an upgraded mattress and your guests will be thanking you. If a sofa takes up too much room, you can always clear a little space come guest time and provide them with an air mattress. They are actually fairly comfortable these days.

Provide some guest storage. At the very least, buy a folding suitcase rack. Put a small dresser in the room and clear out the drawers when guests arrive. Put a small alarm clock (preferably one with a cell phone docking station) and a lamp on one of the side tables.

Lock up personal papers and password protect your computer. No one, even family, needs to know your personal business.

Clean and clean some more. When I am working, I barely notice the clutter on and around my desk, but trust me, guests will. Declutter. Lock your desk drawers and filing cabinets. Dust, vacuum (including the walls) and clean the windows. Fresh flowers will add a beautiful scent and make guests feel at home.


Florist's chrysanthemum image from Wikipedia
Green Flooring, Wood Floors

Wood Floors Improve Your Home’s Air Quality

Image from Wikimedia

Image from Wikimedia

Allergies are the most common health problem facing children in the United States and counterintuitively, the problem rises as family income rises. While food allergies are the fastest growing and they are by far the most dangerous, some dangers, especially to children prone to asthma, might be in your own home. Add that to the risk to us all of airborne toxins emitted by our home’s own decor and you begin to wonder where you can be safe.

There are some fairly simple ways to clear your home of allergens and airborne toxins. Allergy-proof bed coverings can help. Washable curtains and blinds are a must. Leather furniture is far more allergy resistant than upholstered. You might know to vacuum often and that low-pile carpet is better than high. You might also know that hardwood and tile are preferable to any carpet, for allergens, but did you know that hardwood flooring actually improves air quality?

The Life Cycle Analysis of solid wood flooring conducted by the University of Wisconsin supports this idea. The study compared five different floor coverings in regard to four substances considered to be harmful to the atmosphere: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter. All these substances contribute to atmospheric warming and human respiratory ailments. The results of the study show that wood flooring had no emissions for methane, nitrogen oxide and other particulates, and minimal emissions for carbon dioxide. Wood floors also have the added benefit of not harboring allergens, microorganisms or harmful pesticides that can be tracked in from outdoors. In addition, dust, mold and animal dander contamination is minimal in homes with wood floors, which can significantly improve indoor air quality.


To even further improve the air quality in your home, add plants. Some plants are much better than others for cleaning the air. NASA conducted a study on which plants best cleared the air on the space station. They tested for the plants’ ability to remove benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene and ammonia. The across the board winners with the Peace lily and Florist’s chrysanthemum, which both eliminated all tested contaminants.

Peace lily Image from Wikipedia

Peace lily Image from Wikipedia

Florist's chrysanthemum image from Wikipedia

Florist’s chrysanthemum image from Wikipedia

All-in-all, 18 plants helped clear at least some contaminants from the environment, including the English ivy, the Spider plant, the Devil’s ivy, the Chinese evergreen, Bamboo pal, Snake plant, Heartleaf philodendron, Selloum philodendron, Elephant ear philodendron, Red-edged dracaena, Cornstalk dracaena, Janet Craig dracaena, Warnec dracaena, Weeping fig, Gerbera daisy and the rubber plant.

If carpet works best for your family, there are plenty of green options. Amber Flooring has several low VOC emissions carpets.

Gorgeous dark grey herringbone wood flooring. Image from CocoCozy.
Decorating, Wood Floors

Grey Is The Hot New ‘Color’ In Flooring Trends

Gorgeous dark grey herringbone wood flooring. Image from CocoCozy.

Gorgeous dark grey herringbone wood flooring. Image from CocoCozy.

I love color. So much so, that it shocked my husband when I said I wanted our next carpet to be grey. It turns out that I was only slightly ahead of my time. The trend toward grey flooring surfaces is going strong in Europe. Can the U.S. be far behind?

To many, grey is a dirty version of white. It’s black without commitment. It’s neither here nor there, which might seem sort of wimpy as a decorating option, but it’s absolutely unbeatable for flexibility and done right, it can be a spectacular decision.

Grey is the coming colour on European floors, and as a critic you can’t help thinking “mousey,” the word used to describe inconspicuous people, from a mouse’s grey, nondescript colour. You might say grey concrete walls and surfaces generate a hard, uncomfortable atmosphere. That’s especially the case in Europe’s winters if the weather is wet and cold and everything looks grey and dull. All the more surprising then that grey has turned into the trend colour of the season for carpets, interlock resilient flooring and engineered-wood surfaces. It was the dominant colour at this year’s Domotex international trade fair for floor coverings in Hanover, Germany. Grey does have the power to add a touch of warmth and comfort to a living room, bedroom, kitchen or hallway.

It can also tone down a space with very colourful or glaring furnishings. This year, home furnishings promise to be very colourful and having colourful flooring covering as well is just too much. “That’s simply way too loud,” says Gabriela Kaiser, trend expert at Domotex. Colourful furnishings on a light floor have the effect of making the covering even brighter. But grey can take the edge off colourful furniture and look as bright as a white surface. Thanks to this, grey has become the trend colour for walls. “We are going to see a lot more grey in future,” predicts Kaiser. All shades of grey from bright, to mouse, to almost black are in trend for floors. Another way is combine grey with beige to make what is known as “greige.”


It makes sense. Greys are complementary to this year’s softer colors, which contain quite a bit of grey themselves. They also set off bolder jewel tones and metallics without competing. Greys are more durable than whites or off-whites and they look cleaner than many beiges. Grey finishes on hardwood floorings look fresh and modern. Grey stains will let the natural grains of the wood show through and when you are ready for a change, you can refinish.

For sophistication, there’s nothing like a dark grey. For balance, a lighter grey will emphasize. Since grey is neutral, I suspect it will look modern for years to come.

New Product, Wood Floors, Wood Varieties

2014′s Hottest Trends in Flooring

As the housing market is growing, so is the demand for custom touches. With that, we are seeing an upsurge in unique floors. Linda Javanovich of the American Hardwood Information Center said, “With American hardwood species running the gamut of color and because hardwood is a product that can adapt to many different decorating styles and decors, hardwood provides a degree of diversity, as well as long-term value, that cannot be matched by other flooring materials.”

So what, specifically, are home buyers and flooring buyers looking for?

Combining Species – People are creating their own designs by using multiple species throughout a room. You can create borders or even integrate a second species inside the main design. The sky is the limit.

Combining Materials – Try wood combined with tile or carpet to delineate between different areas in large open spaces.

Play With Angles – Parquets are big right now, but even more traditional floors can be given a unique look by varying the angles of the boards.

Image from

Image from

Wider Planks – Wide is the look now as are random width floor boards.

Image from

Image from

Distressed Floors – Distressed floors age better than do perfectly new and they give your home a rustic look.


Stains – Play with color. Don’t feel you are limited by the color of natural wood. Let the grain shine through with colors that are customized to your decor.

Let your imagination soar when thinking about redoing your floors. Amber Flooring consultants are here to help you find the look that you will want to show off.

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Amber specials, Wood Floors

Amber Flooring’s End Of The Year Sale

The holidays are a time of entertaining and for family. Unfortunately, they can also be a time when you start seeing your home through the fresh eyes of your friends, family and neighbors. If your home needs a bit of sprucing up, but the holiday budget is tight, Amber Flooring has some spectacular sale options that will make your entire home look like new.

Here is the list of flooring on sale. Quantities are limited. These floors are exclusive to Amber Flooring and each is customized and they vary in color, width and dimensions. Please contact Amber Flooring at (510) 652-6161 for more information.

¾” x 7” Engineered White Oak – natural:                                                   $5.99

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¾” x 4” Solid Walnut Yuri – distressed:                                                   $3.99

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½” x 7” Engineered Walnut with Monocoat finish:                                  $3.50

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¾” x 6” Engineered reclaimed White Oak – Scalon:                            $5.99

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5/8” x 4” Engineered Walnut – Pinnacle:                                          $3.50

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¾” x 4-1/4” Solid European White Oak – Vanilla:                            $6.59

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Laminate flooring image courtesy of iidudu.
Green Flooring, Wood Floors

Could New Laminate Flooring Technology Make it an Even Greener Alternative?

Laminate flooring image courtesy of iidudu.

Laminate flooring image courtesy of iidudu.

Laminate flooring, while often considered second-rate to real wood flooring, can be an alternative worth considering for many.

Laminate flooring is far more economical than hardwood flooring and because its made to look like wood (and sometimes tile or slate) home owners can expect a more uniform and more predictable look. But perhaps the number one advantage to laminate flooring is that it’s very environmentally friendly. In fact, it’s estimated that laminate flooring is 90% green.

Because laminates are printed, you can achieve a highly customized pattern that can’t be accomplished with wood.

Laminate flooring is also stain and fade resistant and can repel some water. However, because the printed pattern is only on the top layer of the floor, it can show scratches and it can’t be refinished.

Unfortunately for the reputation of laminate flooring, the market has been flooded with cheap laminates that neither look particularly good nor do they last very well. The installation of the cheap floors requires glue, which can emit a noxious fume. Quality laminate floors will “float” over an existing surface and the pieces will be snapped together.

Another advantage to laminate flooring is that since it’s not glued to the floor, it’s easy to redecorate without too much cost. Some complain about a hollow feel to laminate flooring but with a quality floor, few people will know.

While laminate flooring is close to 100% environmentally green (the majority of its core board is formed from recycled content), the top is generally printed from décor paper. A new technology that’s not yet on the market might eliminate the paper. A patented process uses wood powder to form the top layer, which will look even more natural and be more durable. It will also enable the pattern to be embossed very deeply, which will make scuffs and scratches much less noticeable.

However, the technology is yet to be introduced to North America and experts aren’t sure that it ever will. For now, there are plenty of floors which offer the beauty you’d come to expect from Amber Flooring.