Ralph's Blog

Preventing Damage to Your Hardwood Floors

Posted on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 @ 10:04 AM



Hardwood floors are highly durable and can last for decades, but they do require some simple care beyond routine cleaning. 

It’s not difficult—all you need to do is follow a few basic steps. 

Protect heavy traffic areas. 

Place throw rugs on heavy traffic areas, such as in front of sinks, by doors that lead outside, and in hallways. The rugs will not only be decorative, they will prevent those areas from wearing faster than less-walked-upon areas.  

Use non-slip cushion pads under any rugs, but don’t use foam or carpet pads because they may leave a residue. (Wait two weeks after a floor is finished before putting down any rugs.) 

 Install floor protectors on chairs and couches. 

Chairs and couches will naturally slide across flooring as people sit and rise. To protect against scratching, use felt-tip glides that you tap into the bottom of the legs. If you need these protectors, you can order them here. (If your furniture has casters, we recommend using rugs underneath.) 

Limit direct sunlight. 

Intense sunlight will discolor hardwood floors, so do your best to protect your floors against direct sunlight—using area rugs in places that receive a lot of sunlight or keeping curtains closed as much as possible during heavy sun times 

If you have indoor dogs, keep their nails trimmed. 

Long nails can scratch the finish, so keep them groomed. (Your dog will also thank you!) 

Maintain a stable relative humidity in your home. 

Hardwood floors shrink and expand with changes in relative humidity (more so with solid-plank floors, but even engineered flooring experiences some shrinking and expanding). As humidity increases, the floor takes on moisture and expands, and excessive moisture can lead to cupping. As the humidity decreases, the wood loses moisture and shrinks, which can cause gapping between boards. 

To prevent cupping, an air conditioner and/or dehumidifier should be used in the summer, when the relative humidity outside is high. When it gets cold and the relative humidity outside drops, a humidifier should be used to prevent gapping. The ideal is to keep the relative humidity as close to 40 percent as possible, no higher than 50 percent in the summer and above 30 percent in the winter. 

If you have questions about how to keep your hardwood flooring looking its best for years to come, give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902, or stop by our showroom 

Tags: engineered hardwood flooring, custom hardwood flooring, caring for your hardwood floors

The Deadmans

Posted on Fri, Apr 13, 2018 @ 23:04 PM

technology-3216744_1920-611641-editedBruce Deadman first met my father, Ralph Lorenz, at a home show in 1984, where he could see firsthand what finished hardwood flooring from Ralph’s looks like. 

“I was impressed by Ralph’s product, and the way you did things,” Bruce said in a recent interview.  

And he liked my dad, who founded Ralph’s. So, Bruce—who is an attorney for Davis and Kuelthau in Green Bay—hired us to install oak hardwood floors in the first home he ever built, in the Bay Highlands neighborhood in Green Bay. 

Since then, whenever Bruce has moved and needed hardwood floor work, we don’t even call anybody else,” he said. “Ralph’s is cordial, professional, and you have a great product.” 

In 1994, the Deadmans built another new home, in Hobart. They again chose us to install oak floors, but with a little lighter color. It was also our first time working with that contractor, who liked our work enough to give us continued work over the years. 

And when Bruce’s mother was building a home on Green Bay in Dyckesville, he recommended us to her, and we installed maple hardwood flooring in the kitchen and family room.  

She lived there for almost 20 years, until she had to go to an assisted living facility and has since passed away. The Deadmans have lived in that house for several years now, but for awhile, it wasn’t permanently occupied.  

Deadman remembers one weekend during that time when he and his wife were hoping to attend the 2012 Super Bowl in Indianapolis. They had won the Green Bay season ticket holders lottery to be able to get tickets if Green Bay made the Super Bowl, and Green Bay was favored to do just that. But then New York beat them in the playoffs, and the disappointed Deadmans decided to spend the weekend instead at their mother’s former home on the Bay. 

Now Bruce is very glad that it worked out that way, because when they arrived, they quickly heard water running. The icemaker had malfunctioned and had been running water all week. 

“It had basically wrecked all the hardwood floors,” Deadman said, so he called us to fix the damage. 

“All I had to do was call you,” he said. “You had all the plans. Your team didn’t even have to come take measurements. They just came out and got the job done. In a very stressful situation, they were outstanding.” 

While the Deadmans were living in Hobart, we also refinished their floors for them, using the Swedish finish that they love.  

“We were very happy with that, and I would certainly recommend using the dustless option,” Bruce said. 

Bruce, who used to do some legal work for me and so knows me that way as well, said it’s comforting that we’ve continued the customer-focused philosophy that Dad created. 

“I don’t have any plans to ever call anyone else,” Bruce said, adding that it might not be long from now, as the Deadmans are seriously considering replacing some carpeting with hardwood flooring. 

One thing’s for sure: When they call, we’ll be ready!  

Thanks, Bruce and Sandy, for being such great and loyal customers. You’re the type of customers that make it a pleasure to be in the hardwood floor business.  

Tags: stories, about Ralph's, Ralph's news & events, Wisconsin

Caring For Newly Finished Hardwood Flooring

Posted on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 @ 09:04 AM



Made of strong wood with finishes that are more protective than ever, hardwood floors are extremely durable 

But when the finish is fresh, it’s much more sensitive than it will be after it fully cures.  

During this brief time, we recommend that homeowners follow these guidelines: 

Maintain a warm room temperature 

Once the floor is finished, the room temperature needs to remain between 68-75 degrees for one week. The floor must be warm for the finish to cure properly. 

(For new sand-on-site floors or refinish jobs that involve re-sanding, the room temperature should also be between 68-75 degrees for at least one day prior to the sanding.) 

Help your floors dry 

Ventilation helps finish dry. It also helps get rid of the strong finish smell. So, six hours after the last coat of finish has been applied, go by your home and open any doors or windows you can without entering the homecreating as much cross-ventilation as possible. Let the air flow for 15-30 minutes before closing up again. 

The next day, you can return home and begin walking on the floor Open all the windows and doors for a half-hour to an hour, turning on any fans to help with the ventilation, and then close up again. Heat also helps the finish dry. 

Wait to move in furniture 

Don’t put furniture (or appliances) in the room for at least 24 hours after the final application of finish. And when you move it in, set it in place rather than dragging it across the floor. If it’s too heavy to lift, use plywood over blankets or some other method of protecting the floor while you move the heavy load. 

Wait to cover the floors 

Rugs on hardwood floors are a great way to protect floors and add to their beauty. But for the first two weeks after finishing, the finish is still curing. So, for two weeks, don’t cover the floor(s) with rugs, or anything else (such as cardboard boxes during a move).  

An exception is when construction is still going on. In that case, cover the flooring with soft rugs, sheets, blankets, etc., during the day but take them up at night. 

Don’t mop for a month 

Until the finish is sufficiently cured, which can take up to a month, using any liquid to clean (including hardwood flooring cleaners) can weaken the finish.   

If you spill something on the floor, use a damp cloth on that spot only.  

Get ready to enjoy 

Hardwood floors with modern finishes will look wonderful and resist damage for many yearsoften decades—without any need for refurbishment.  

So, be patient as you follow these guidelines. A month of pampering your new finish is a small price to pay for the lasting enjoyment you’ll gain.  

Tags: engineered hardwood flooring, custom hardwood flooring, caring for your hardwood floors

You’re Under Arrest! … Say What?!

Posted on Fri, Mar 30, 2018 @ 23:03 PM



April Fool’s Day is a day you shouldn’t forget about. If you do, you might get got.

I found that out the hard way a few years ago when some co-workers at Ralph’s pulled a classic April Fool’s gag on me.

It wasn’t planned. It just came about because local Black Creek police officers made an innocent mistake.

Ralph’s was in the process of expanding and remodeling our facility in Black Creek , and an area that used to be a parking lot was now muddy ground waiting to become a pretty lawn. While turning around, the officers pulled into this area and quickly realized it wasn’t a parking lot anymore.

The next day they honorably returned to apologize for the ruts they left and to see if they needed to compensate Ralph’s for damages. But before they reached me, they were intercepted by some of my devious colleagues, who realized very well that it was April Fool’s Day.

When the officers did find me, I wasn’t at all prepared for what they had to say:

“Are you the son of Ralph Lorenz?”

“Yes.” (Is Dad alright? What has happened?)

“Well then, Mr. Lorenz, we have a warrant for your arrest.” (Warrant?)

“For what?” I stammered out. (Huh?)

They started explaining how this was a special warrant that didn’t require them to tell me the charge, which didn’t make sense to me. I kept asking questions, getting a bit upset. Then I noticed the giggles from Shirley and Tracy.

Oh, yeah, it’s April Fool’s Day!

It only lasted about a minute, but I was fooled. They got me!

And someday I will find a way to repay their “kindness.”

I love this kind of playfulness among the Ralph’s team. It reassures me that we are a real team.  We enjoy working together—and our customers see that. Genuine teamwork results in stress-free, better-than-expected experiences.

When sports teams play well together, they call it “chemistry.” The Ralph’s team has that.

Tags: stories, about Ralph's, Ralph's news & events, Wisconsin

What Is Hardwood Floor Stability and When Is It Important?

Posted on Wed, Mar 28, 2018 @ 10:03 AM


stability floor-858510-edited.jpg

“Stability” is a hardwood-flooring term that all buyers of hardwood flooring should understand. 

It refers to how hardwood flooring reacts to humidity fluctuations. The less a wood shrinks and expands due to fluctuations, the higher its stability. 

Stability is important to homeowners because when hardwood shrinks or expands, the edges of a plank can become higher than the plank’s center (cupping) or gaps can open up between planks (gapping). In a worst-case scenario, the planks can even buckle away from the subfloor. 

Homeowners need to consider the humidity conditions in their home when choosing a species of wood for their flooring—and when deciding whether to use solid-plank or engineered hardwood flooring. 

When properly manufactured, engineered hardwood has higher stability than solid planks. Engineered floors consist of a top layer of hardwood veneer, adhered to a backing of composite material constructed with layers of wood running in opposing directions. This “lattice” design of the backing creates a “pull” that reduces the growing and shrinking that can occur with humidity fluctuations.  

As for natural wood, popular species with high stability include Red Oak, White Oak, and Ash, while Maple, Hickory, and Cumaru are examples of popular species with relatively low stability.  

When Stability Really Matters 

In many cases, stability isn’t important because humidity levels in the rooms with the hardwood flooring are going to stay relatively constant. But in other situations, stability is a very relevant consideration. 

For example, bathrooms will of course experience frequent, wide humidity swings as people bath and groom every day—cold water, hot water, steam, no water at all, over and over. We recommend the stability of engineered hardwood, even if the home has solid-plank in other rooms. (Luxury vinyl tile is another option.) 

In below-ground rooms or rooms with concrete subfloors, such as finished basements, humidity and hardwood floors don’t mix well at all. In this situation, humidity fluctuations aren’t the problem—below-ground rooms are just so naturally humid (i.e., damp) that engineered flooring, with its higher stability, is the only viable hardwood option. Fluctuations are bad, but constant high humidity is even worse, and as a certified installer, we won’t install solid-plank floors below grade.  

Stability is also an important consideration if a home’s windows (or doors with screen doors) will be frequently opened, such as in a vacation home at the shore. The humidity will fluctuate based on whether air is being let in and how humid that air is, and hardwood with higher stability might be advisable. Vacation homes also require either hardwood flooring that’s  forgiving of humidity changes or a way to control excess humidity while the owner is away from the home. 

If you’re unsure about how important stability is for your project, or you want guidance on how to pick the most stable options, we’re glad to provide our expert advice. Stop by our showroom any time during business hours to consult with one of our hardwood flooring professionals. And while you’re here, you can see for yourself the many stunningly beautiful hardwood floors that are available! 

Tags: engineered hardwood flooring, custom hardwood flooring, caring for your hardwood floors

4 Tips For Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Posted on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 @ 09:03 AM


floor cleaning

One of the many cool things about hardwood floors is that they’re extremely easy to clean.  

If they’re surface-sealed (finished with urethane or polyurethane), as most modern hardwood floors are, then you can keep your floors tidy, well-maintained, and beautiful with these four simple tips: 

1.  Sweep or vacuum regularly 

Dirt or debris can scratch your finish, but it’s easy to remove. Simply sweep it up with a broom or use a vacuum. If you vacuum, be sure to use a vacuum cleaner with a soft-bristled brush that doesn’t rotate. 

Another option for removing dirt and debris is a dust mop with a microfiber pad. 

2. Mop floors using an approved hardwood floor cleaner. 

When your floors need mopping, it’s very important that the hardwood floor cleaner you use is approved by the manufacturer of your finish or pre-finished flooring. We recommend Glitsa Clean. 

Prepare the cleaning solution according to the directions or use a pre-prepared solution, and simply spray the cleaner on the floor and wipe it with a microfiber mop. 

3. Don’t let liquids stand. 

Surface-sealed finishes protect against liquid spills, but if the spill remains too long, it could cause the finish to whiten. This whitening can be cleaned off, but you can avoid the problem altogether by wiping up spills as soon as you’re aware of them, using anything that’s non-abrasive (e.g., cloth rag, paper towel, or hardwood floor mop). 

4. Never use a steam cleaner on hardwood floors. 

Manufacturers of certain steam cleaners (e.g., steam mops) claim that their products can sanitize, deodorize, and clean surface-sealed hardwood floors. But flooring and finish manufacturers continue to recommend that their customers don’t use steam cleaners. 

These steam products may appear to work wonderfully at first, but over time they cause finish to wear down faster. 

Who These Tips Aren’t For 

These tips aren’t meant for hardwood floors finished with natural oils or other penetrating seals. And everyone should remember to wait a month after a floor has been finished to use any cleaning products on the new finish. They’ll be fine until you can start cleaning them! 

To learn more about how to care for your hardwood floors, click here. To order cleaning products, click here. Or stop by our showroom. We’re glad to advise you on how to best care for your hardwood floors.

Tags: engineered hardwood flooring, custom hardwood flooring, caring for your hardwood floors

Treating Your Customers Like Our Own

Posted on Fri, Mar 09, 2018 @ 23:03 PM


portside blog image.jpg

Portside Builders has been using Ralph’s as its hardwood flooring subcontractor for more than 30 years—in large part because we make their customers happy. 

Ralph’s works well with our customers and treats them really well,” said Portside’s president, Paul Shefchik, who directly manages sales and marketing. “And if there are any issues, Ralph’s will come back and fix it.” 

Portside—a custom-home builder and remodeler based in Door County—has a reputation for high customer satisfaction, and Ralph’s helps them meet their customers expectations.  

When Ralph’s does floors for Portside, “It’s going to be done right and on schedule,” Shefchik said. 

Staying on schedule is crucial for contractors. Delays not only cost them money, they can seriously upset customers. Contractors need subcontractors like Ralph’s that are dedicated to getting work completed on time, and at Ralph’s we love having a go-to Portside coordinator for each job that helps us do just that. Portside’s coordinators know their projects inside-out, and when we need an answer, they get us an answer quickly. They make coordinating scheduling easy. 

Portside’s customers also benefit from Ralph’s recently remodeled showroom, Shefchik said.  

Ralph’s has a really nice showroom,” he said. “They can really show Portside’s customers a lot of the options available. 

Portside’s customers can walk on, touch, and see in person the choices they’re considering (or haven’t yet considered because they were unaware of them). And Ralph’s experienced staff is glad to consult with them to ensure they’re getting hardwood floors that are right for their lifestyle, home environment, and personal taste.  

Shefchik also appreciates the high quality of the work Ralph’s does, installing and finishing floors that look great and perform well. 

Ralph’s is as good as anybody I’ve seen,” he said. 

Shefchik foresees working with Ralph’s for many years to come because of our help with customer selection, expertise at installing and refinishing, ease to work with, and commitment to pleasing Portside’s customers. 

“In all aspects of what they do, Ralph’s is an excellent partner,” Shefchik said.  

We also think Portside is a great partner, and we frequently recommend them to our customers. Portside is an expert custom-home builder, and it’s reassuring that many of the same faces there in the early days of the Ralph’s/Portside partnership are still there. We trust and respect Portside. We enjoy working with them. 

That’s exactly the type of relationship Ralph’s wants to have with contractors. 

Tags: stories, custom hardwood flooring

Hardwood Flooring Trends: Brown Colors and Wide Boards

Posted on Fri, Feb 23, 2018 @ 23:02 PM



A clear trend in hardwood flooring is toward floor colors a bit lighter than the grey floors that have been popular in recent years.

We’re getting more requests for “natural-looking” flooring that mixes some brown (and/or subtle pastel) with grey shades—or that is even outright tannish or golden brown. These floors have a “light” tone—certainly lighter than a pure or almost-pure grey color.

This trend was evident when we recently traveled to two trade shows (one as attendees; one as exhibiters).

Wide boards were also prominent—a continuing trend made possible by advances in engineered hardwood, which can be stable at greater widths than solid-plank flooring.

Many people love the appearance of wide boards, as well as the corresponding long board lengths. The look is reminiscent of floors installed in a home a hundred or more years ago, when the common milling methods available at the time resulted in long, wide planks. Now the planks can be wide, long, and stable.

I don’t want to overstate this. There are plenty of people installing grey and not-so-wide floors right now, and those floors will look great for years to come. Yes, there are trends, but hardwood floors don’t become unfashionable, regardless of trends. They stay in style.

It’s really a matter of personal taste. You should select the flooring that fits your aesthetic sense, not what’s trending. Something else will be trending soon enough.

Nonetheless, if a style is trending, customers will be asking for it. And we’re ready to provide it.

We have an extensive selection of brown/grey and light-brown prefinished flooring, and for customers who want those colors on solid-plank floors, we can do that for them with our staining techniques. As for wide floors, we offer engineered hardwood as wide as 10” (compared to the 5” maximum for solid-plank floors).

We invite you to visit our showroom to see these trending looks (and much more) for yourself.

Tags: stories, custom hardwood flooring

Super Floors for the Super Bowl

Posted on Fri, Feb 02, 2018 @ 23:02 PM



It’s a disappointment any time Green Bay doesn't win the Super Bowl, or at least get in it. Green Bay has been there before—playing in five Super Bowls and winning four—and fans always want the team to return.

But that doesn’t mean that Wisconsinites aren’t going to watch the game this year. There will be widespread interest in the Super Bowl—and a lot of Super Bowl parties.

Super Bowl parties have become as big a tradition, or maybe bigger, than the Super Bowl itself. And there’s no better flooring for a Super Bowl party than beautiful hardwood floors.

That’s true for any party, for that matter. Many people love to entertain in celebration of holidays, birthdays, or other special events—or just because they feel like it. And hardwood floors are ideal for entertaining.

Unlike with carpeting, you don’t have to worry about someone causing a stain by spilling food or a beverage, which has been known to happen at parties, particularly Super Bowl parties. (Picture someone doing a Lambeau Leap when the team they’re pulling for makes a big play, spilling their food and knocking over a drink.)

But what really makes hardwood floors ideal for get-togethers is that they look great.  Whatever the style of your hardwood floors—casual, formal, light, dark, rustic, etc.—they bring an undeniable classiness and flair to a home that can’t be matched by other flooring types.

No one’s going to walk into your home and say, “Wow, your floors are awesome,” if you have carpeting or low-quality tile. But homeowners with hardwood floors hear such compliments all the time.

One thing to keep in mind, however, is that furniture can scratch hardwood floors. So, if you’re rearranging chairs or tables to accommodate your guests (e.g., moving chairs close to the TV for the Super Bowl), pick them up to move them or use rugs and/or furniture pads under the furniture legs. Even then, guests may inadvertently move the furniture (e.g., fidgeting in a chair), so protection is still a good idea.

Would you like guests to cheer not just for the game, but also for your floors, when the next Super Bowl rolls around? Or at whatever type of gathering you like to hold? Stop by our showroom to see and explore the many amazing looks you can achieve with hardwood floors, or request an in-home consultation.

Tags: stories, custom hardwood flooring

A Wisconsin winter and hardwood floors? No problem.

Posted on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 @ 08:01 AM



Even after an installation or refinishing job is complete, Ralph’s relationship with our customers continues. Our goal is to make our customers more-than-satisfied during the job and for the many years they’ll be living on their new hardwood flooring. That’s why we eagerly give our customers advice on how to take care of their hardwood floors.

This time of year, when Wisconsin is deep in the season of cold and snow, one question we often get is: “Is there anything I need to do to protect my hardwood floors during our harsh winters?”

Our answer is that a Wisconsin winter and hardwood floors will get along just fine … if you keep in mind two things:

1.Changes in humidity will cause the floor to change

When it gets cold outside, we turn on the heat to keep our homes warm, and the heat will cause the humidity to drop inside the house. Wood is a natural product, and the boards in your hardwood floors will shrink as they start to lose moisture. On all situations, with solid floors, the shrinking will cause hairline gaps between planks. (During the summer months, humidity levels will rise, and the floor will pick up that moisture and expand, dissipating the hairline gaps).

Engineered flooring (a wood surface with a plywood backing) is also impacted by moisture, even though most engineered floors are designed to not shrink and expand as much as solid floors.  However, if the moisture levels drop too low, the wood surface can split or delaminate from the plywood below.

Solid wood floors perform best when the humidity level in your home is between 30-50%, and engineered floors are best between 35-55%.  

To keep moisture in your home, Ralph’s recommends a humidifier be installed on your furnace to maintain a higher humidity during the winter. (Taking showers and boiling water also help with humidity. However, if you have a large home, this will not be enough moisture to maintain a good level.)

2.Salt, snow and mud can harm your hardwood floors.

The salt used to combat snow can scratch your hardwood floors, and so can the dirt in snow and mud. The water in snow and mud also isn’t good for floors if it isn’t removed. So, it’s important to clean any trace of the winter elements if they get inside.

Consider using rugs on your floors at all entranceways into your home (even if they don’t enter into a room with hardwood floors), as well as mats outside each entranceway. And encourage everyone to wipe their feet!

If you find it difficult to remove the salt from your floors, a mixture of vinegar and water, or of a mild detergent and water, will help remove the salt. But check with us first because not all floors are suitable to clean with these solutions.

It’s really that simple. Don’t let the humidity levels in your home drop too low and keep the winter muck off your floors, and your hardwood floors will have no trouble making it through a Wisconsin winter with no damage.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, caring for your hardwood floors

Latest Posts