Ralph's Blog

Smile!

Posted on Fri, Oct 12, 2018 @ 23:10 PM

 

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When we interview applicants for a job at Ralph’s, we of course want to know the usual stuff—their work and education history, why they want to work with us, what relevant skills do they have, etc.

But one of our most important criteria isn’t something that can be put on a resume. It’s how they smile.

Some people have friendly natures. Others … not so much.  We want the friendly ones, the ones who smile naturally.

When someone calls us, we want the person who called us to feel like we’re smiling at them through the phone. If you visit our showroom, we want you to know you’re visiting friends.

We realize that we can’t give you the flooring of your dreams if we don’t know what your dream is.

Our team members genuinely want to help you.  They get satisfaction from that. So, while we’re talking to you about your choices, we’ll be getting to know you so we can better advise you about  those choices.

What interior-design style do you like? How much traffic will this flooring get? What is the flooring in the rest of your home? What’s your vision?

We’ll ask these questions with your best interests in mind. We’ve been around a long time (50+ years) because we prioritize customer satisfaction over short-term profit.

We won’t rush you. We’re not going to “sell.” You’ll have the time you need to look for yourself, and all the time you want from us.

If you give us the pleasure of being one of our customers, we will perform the project with your satisfaction top-of-mind. Just ask anyone who knows us. Providing our customers with beautiful, high-quality flooring and a great customer experience is our mission.

We want a smile on your face. That puts a smile on ours.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

Hardwood Floors For Your Home From Our Home

Posted on Fri, Sep 21, 2018 @ 23:09 PM

 

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At Ralph’s Hardwoods, we like to keep things local. 

We’re happy to be located in Black Creek, and we’re very pleased that most of our employees live in or near town. We’re one of the leading employers in Black Creek, and we benefit greatly from the strong work ethic our employees learned growing up here.  

And as a member of the Black Creek Business Association (of which I’m  the current president), we’re actively working with other local businesses to improve the town. For example, the association worked closely with the local American Legion post and the town to build a Veteran’s Memorial in Black Creek. 

We’re all part of the same community, and that’s the way we like it. 

Our local focus is also reflected in how we source the wood we use for our customers’ hardwood floors. Unlike many of our competitors, we insist on using local companies in Wisconsin to get our wood. And these companiesAacer Flooring, Hardwood Floors of Hillsboro, Kwaterski Bros. Wood Products, and Shawano Wood Productsaren’t just located here; they get their wood locally from Wisconsin or neighboring upper midwestern states 

There are several advantages to this local wood: 

Quality. Upper midwestern hardwood is harder and more stable than domestic wood from other regions.

Uniqueness. Every region's trees have their ow appearance characteristics, and we're proud to provide flooring that clearly came from our region. It looks different (and in our opinion, better) than wood from anywhere else.

Lower cost. Because local wood involves less shipping cost, we can pass those savings to our customers.

Reduction of environmental impacts. Shorter shipping distances also reduces fossil fuel use

Locally sourced wood supports area businesses and provides our customers with beautiful flooring that’s true to our local character. With our love of doing things locally, that’s a win-win for us all.  

To learn more about our local hardwood, and see how great it looks, please visit our showroom in Black Creek. 

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

What Makes Handscraped Hardwood Flooring Unique?

Posted on Wed, Sep 05, 2018 @ 13:09 PM

 

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Hand-scraped hardwood floors have a unique look. Although they have gone in and out of style, it doesn’t change the fact that they are a beautifully unique floor. If you’re wondering what makes handscraped hardwood flooring so unique and popular, we’ve got the answers.

When it comes to choosing hardwood floors, people generally want something that will fit into their home well. Style can be significant, as well as the amount of maintenance the floor requires. As you probably know, all these factors influence the final decision. Therefore, it’s only logical that those types of flooring that fit more styles and require less maintenance are more popular. Here are some of the benefits and defining characteristics of handscraped hardwood flooring.

Warm and Classic Appearance

The effect of hand scraping used to be quite common in the old days of making floor planks. When woodworkers used the draw knife (a single blade with a handle at both ends) to scrape and smoothen the planks, it left marks on the wood. Those used to be typical for wooden flooring, and Hand-scraped hardwood floors have a similar look. It adds a certain charm and aesthetic appeal to both modern and older homes. Hand-scraped hardwood flooring perfectly matches antique furniture and provides a unique appearance to every room.

Scraped By Hand Vs. Machine

There’s a noticeable difference between floors that were handscraped and those that were done by machine if you know where to look. In genuinely handscraped floors, every plank will have a unique pattern. Placement is crucial and should have a bit of a flair for the artistic. However, with machine scraping, the designs will be more uniform, repetitive, and less pleasing to the eye.

Handscraped Or Distressed?

Sometimes the terms “handscraped” and “distressed” are used interchangeably, but they’re in fact two very different types of flooring. Distressed flooring is when dings and dents appear in the floor making it looked aged and well used. Unlike handscraping, a distressed look is often done with a machine. Although we have done several distressed looks manually, it's not a very popular look today. Its general aim is to make it look like the floor has gone through a lot more wear and tear, especially with features such as artificial wormholes. As opposed to that, handscraped floors only have subtle markings left by the artisan, which makes them ideal for many homeowners.

Pros and Cons of Handscraped Flooring

One of the more apparent advantages of Hand-scraped hardwood floors is durability. In households with children, prone to floor-damaging accidents, an extra dent or a blemish on a Hand-scraped floor won’t hurt the overall appearance. However, the installation process can be challenging, which is why hiring a professional is a must. Also, since there’s a considerable amount of effort put into producing hand scraped planks, they’re often more expensive. Many homeowners find the price is worth it, once you consider the uniqueness of Hand-scraped flooring, as well as its durability.

 

These are the main reasons why Hand-scraped hardwood flooring has gotten so popular. If you feel like it might be the right thing for you, we’d love to consult with you about any of your hardwood flooring needs. Visit our showroom to take a look at what we offer!

 

 

 

 

 

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, finishing touches, finishes, stains & textures, remodeling, installation

The Forgotten Meaning Of Labor Day

Posted on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 @ 23:08 PM

 

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Labor Day is one of those holidays whose meaning is often forgotten.

For some it’s the unofficial end of summer—a last chance for fun and sun before the weather chills. For others, it’s just a three-day weekend. Hopefully, for everyone it’s a fun, relaxing day.

But holidays are days of celebration, and we shouldn’t lose track of what we’re celebrating on Labor Day.

Mother’s Day honors mothers; Father’s Day honors fathers, Memorial Day honors veterans. Labor Day honors anyone who gets up every day to go to work.

It’s usually about making money, but not always. It could be volunteer work or taking care of children and a home. Whatever type of labor it is, people who work hard know it. It’s a huge part of your life.

This work deserves more than just a day off, although that is of course nice. On Labor Day, we should give some thought to the value of work. We should take time to appreciate those who get things done, even on days they might not feel like it.

It’s also a day when employers should be thankful for the hard work their employees do. As the owner and president of Ralph’s, I know that I think about how grateful I am to have such a wonderful team working together to make Ralph’s succeed.

If you’re not willing to work hard, then you don’t last at Ralph’s. That means that our long-term employees—of which we have many—are all folks who don’t mind “rolling up their sleeves.” They give their all to their jobs and take satisfaction from it. They have great work ethics.

I hope all of them will enjoy this Labor Day, doing something they enjoy. I also hope they take a moment to congratulate themselves for consistently laboring to fulfill Ralph’s mission to be the best hardwood floor company possible.

And I hope that you too have an excellent time on Labor Day.  Just remember to appreciate those in your life who work hard. And don’t forget to feel good about all the work you do.

You’ve earned it.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

Floor Protectors for Furniture

Posted on Wed, Aug 22, 2018 @ 12:08 PM

 

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New hardwood flooring is a beautiful investment that can give your home a completely fresh look. Of course, making sure that your new floors are protected is the next logical step. There’s a variety of floor protectors for furniture to choose from, starting with felt pads to mountable rolling casters and entrance mats. Whichever protectors you want, you should be aware that you still have to install them correctly. Let’s have a look at some floor protector options and how to use them.

Felt Pads

Felt pads come in a few varieties and different sizes: self-adhesive, tap-in felt glides, etc. Once installed on your furniture, they enable you to move it across your hardwood floor without damaging it. We recommend tap-in floor glides  They should go on anything that is going to moved frequently such as dining room chairs and tables.    Stick on glides can go under items that may be moved less frequence such as a sofa table or hutch.   If you do not have a wood base, you should use the stick on glides but check them often as there is a tendency for those to come off.  Make sure to check the felt pads often and clean them if they’re dirty. If you notice they’ve gotten damaged, replace them before the damage causes scuffs on the flooring.

Entrance Mats

While entrance mats aren’t usually for furniture, they’re still essential floor protectors. A large percentage of all the dirt and debris gets into your home on the soles of your shoes. An entrance mat works non-stop on preventing dirt from entering your home and scratching your floors. That will minimize tracking of dust and water, so you won’t have to clean your floors so often. They’re the first line of defense of your hardwood floors.

Cup-Shaped Protectors

Cup-shaped protectors are usually plastic or rubber. They’re similar to rubber grippers in the sense that they’re also not used for furniture that’s frequently moved. They’re better for heavy stationary objects. You can install them by placing them on the floor and resting the furniture legs on top. Cup-shaped protectors provide excellent weight distribution which decreases the likelihood that heavy furniture will damage the flooring.

Cloth Gliders

Your hardwood floors are supposed to last for a long time, but they won’t if you don’t take care of them. Furniture protectors can help you with that — and here at Ralph’s Hardwood Floors, we can help you with flooring. Come to visit our showroom for more information.

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

Do What You Love And The Money Will Follow

Posted on Fri, Aug 10, 2018 @ 22:08 PM

 

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When I was 27 years old, working as a computer programmer, I came home one day very stressed out. It had been a difficult, trying day at work.

I’ve never minded hard work, but what made this day so frustrating was that I had accomplished very little. I had spent all day on just a few lines of code, trying to get them to work. I felt like I was banging my head against a wall.

“Is this what I want to do with my life?” I asked myself. I knew that answer was no, but I didn’t know what else to do.

Not long after, I was in a bookstore, and a book caught my attention. It was Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow by Marsha Sinetar.

I bought the book with the obvious intention of reading it. But I never did.

Nonetheless, I think of coming across it in that bookstore as a pivotal moment in my life. The title said it all for me, directly addressing the dilemma I was facing.

I knew that I wasn’t doing what I loved. And I knew that what I did love was Ralph’s, the company my father founded. I had begun working there as an installer when I was a teenager, and I kept working there during college when I was home for the summer. I got a lot more satisfaction doing that work than I ever did working with computers.

I also knew that my father was ready to retire, and that I could probably take over the company if I wanted.

But I had a big concern. Money!

I just didn’t think I could make enough in the hardwood floor business to justify switching from what I was doing. “I can’t afford to do that,” my mind kept telling me.

But here was someone writing a book saying that I shouldn’t let that concern stop me.

So, when my father did retire, I decided to follow my heart and not listen to the worries of my mind. I took a leap of faith and dedicated myself to Ralph’s.

As president, I decided my own salary, but there was no way I could pay myself as much as I had been making. I knew that going in, but I took the pay cut anyway to do what I loved.

And just as the book promised, the money did follow. Ralph’s has grown considerably over the years, and I’ve been fortunate enough to make a good living pursuing my passion.

I still haven’t read that book, and I doubt I ever will. I don’t need to. I’ve lived it.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

Area Rugs and Hardwood Floor Care

Posted on Wed, Aug 08, 2018 @ 08:08 AM

 

area rugs and hardwood floor care

After installing hardwood floors, taking proper care of them is imperative if you want them to last long. There are different ways to protect hardwood floors from traffic damage and the everyday wear and tear. One of those ways is using area rugs where needed. Let’s take a look at some things you need to pay attention to when shopping for an area rug, as well as why area rugs and hardwood floor care go hand in hand.

Hardwood Floor Protection with Area Rugs

In theory, area rugs protect your hardwood floors by taking the brunt of the daily traffic, furniture shuffling and the like. That’s all true — area rugs prevent sunlight damage, furniture scratches, debris, dust and water from outdoors, etc. You can choose runner rugs for the high-traffic areas such as hallways and entryways, oversized area rugs that would cover a larger area. However, there are a few things to consider other than size and color when shopping for an area rug.

Area Rug Materials for Hardwood Floors

You’ll want to focus on breathable materials such as wool, which is always a good choice. It’s durable and will absorb most of the damage that would otherwise be inflicted on your floors. The surface material is essential, but the backing of the rug will determine whether it’s a good fit or not. Since the backing will be the part that touches the floor, make sure you avoid rugs with a latex backing. The backing can trap moisture and residue can make the floor slippery underneath.

Non-Staining Area Rugs

Another thing to look out for is whether the area rug you chose is non-staining. If it isn’t, the first rainy day and dampness from outside could ruin your floors. By opting for non-staining area rugs, you ensure that the colors and dyes from the carpet won’t seep into your floors when the carpet gets wet or damp. Always read the label, because the manufacturer will usually put a warning if the color may run through the rug.

Area Rug Pads

Rug pads are used to keep area rugs in place and to protect hardwood flooring. Unfortunately, not all rug pads get the job done. A poor choice could cause serious harm to your hardwood floor finishes. Plastic pads can move and cause scratches when dirt gets under the pad Natural rubber and felt are better options, as they can keep your rugs in place without sticking to the floors.

 

With these tips, you’ll be able to keep your hardwood floors in great shape for a long time. If your hardwood floors need refinishing or renovation, come visit our showroom for a closer look at our offer!

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, finishes, stains & textures, natural oils, caring for your hardwood floors

Working For The Weekend

Posted on Sat, Jul 28, 2018 @ 23:07 PM

 

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We had just unloaded our equipment at the shop at the end of a difficult hardwood-floor restoration job.

“Have a good weekend,” we told each other with a weary laugh.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t Friday evening. It was a Monday night after a long weekend of work.

We were joking about having a good weekend. Our weekend was over. We had to be back at work in a few hours. All we had time to do was go home and sleep.

I was in college at the time, home for the summer and working at Ralph’s for my dad, who founded the company. I wasn’t crazy about working weekends, but I understood why we were doing it. This job was for a business rather than a homeowner, and commercial customers often want us to work weekends so we don’t disrupt their work week.

We worked Friday evening and expected to be done early Saturday. But sometimes a job takes longer than expected.

This particular job was for a retail business that wanted their floors re-sanded. The problem was the floor was full of nails. We had to keep changing our sandpaper because the nails dulled the sandpaper and caused it to leave streaks. This slowed us down considerably and kept us working until Sunday night.

The thing that sticks in my mind about our jokingly saying, “Have a good weekend,” was that no one really seemed upset. We were joking around after all, in good spirits. No, we hadn’t spent the weekend like we normally would have, but we had done something worthwhile. We had turned a decrepit old floor into a beautiful floor.

I also still remember another weekend-long commercial job that I worked on as a young installer. An insurance company had 20,000 sq. ft. of hallways with a herringbone pattern on the floor, which they hired us to refinish.

With herringbone flooring, some boards are oriented horizontally and some are oriented vertically. This multi-directional pattern presented us with a challenge because it’s difficult because no matter how you do it the floor is being sanded and finished across the grain of the floor.  There were a few sections that need to be corrected and it took us until Monday to make the floor look the way it should.

Several of the guys I worked with on those long-ago, all-weekend jobs are still with us. Robyn, Al, and Randy all remember the feeling.  We try our best to avoid those weekend killers for our crews—using our accumulated skills and smarter scheduling. But if it’s necessary, we get the job done.

Even if it means working when everyone else is relaxing.

 

 

 

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

Enjoying The Extra Mile

Posted on Fri, Jul 13, 2018 @ 23:07 PM

 

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Customer service is a cornerstone of Ralph’s business philosophy, and it has been a priority for me since I was a young man.

I remember a couple of occasions when I was teenager working for my father, who founded Ralph’s. In both instances, the importance of customer service was really driven home for me.

In one case, we were finishing a floor for homeowners who wanted a very light color. Dad wanted to use up some stain we had overmixed the day before, but that would have made the floor darker than they were asking for.

That made me feel a little uneasy. I wasn’t thinking about the long-term benefit of quality customer service or the power of positive word-of-mouth. I just wanted the homeowners to be pleased.

I was able to convince Dad that we could use the extra stain on another job, and so we gave them the color they wanted. I can still remember how happy they were and how satisfied that made me feel.

On another job working with Dad, a customer wanted a board by some stair spindles sanded, but Dad was afraid that it wouldn’t look good if we did it. She begged us to do it; she was practically in tears. So, when Dad left the room, I sanded the piece. The homeowner was thrilled and profusely thanked me. I felt great.

It was starting to click with me—service was in my blood. I soon realized it made good business sense to go the extra mile to satisfy customers. Excellent customer service means repeat customers and referrals. But at first it was just a natural reaction on my part. It’s part of my personality.

On every job I worked on, I began asking the same questions How can we make this look better? How can we better serve the customer? At the end of the job, I wanted the customer to say “wow!” with a big smile.

And it’ not just me. Ralph’s purposely hire installers who have the same personality trait. We can usually tell. They are people who get pleasure from helping others. They enjoy that extra mile.

I’m glad I had those teenage experiences to help me realize the ultimate importance of customer service. Otherwise, I don’t think I’d be suited to be running Ralph’s.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

A day in the life of an installer

Posted on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 @ 19:06 PM

 

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Travis Shepard couldn’t imagine being glued to a computer all day.

“I’m not one of those guys who can work in an office and sit at a desk,” he says.

Travis, who has been a hardwood floor installer at Ralph’s for 15 years, prefers changes of scenery. That’s one reason he enjoys being an installer—each home is different, and each job has its own challenges.

“You’re doing the same thing, but it’s always a little different,” he says. “Every day, or every week, it’s something new. For a person who likes change, who likes working with tools and with his hands, it’s a great job.”

Travis applied at Ralph’s a month before graduating high school. He liked woodworking, and he figured Ralph’s would be a good fit.

He was right. He learned on the job how to install, sand, and finish floors, and now he’s a valued crew leader.

Crew leaders aren’t required to be at work until 7 a.m., but Travis says he likes to get to work between 6:30 or 6:45—as do most of his colleagues. That gives them plenty of time to review their work order for the day and talk with salespeople about new jobs.  (Fortunately, Travis—like most of the folks who work at Ralph’s—doesn’t have a long commute. It’s only a five-minute drive.)

Travis says the early morning talks with the sales staff is important because he gets necessary details such as the homeowner’s preferences, the layout of the home, the direction the wood should be installed, and the location of electrical outlets.

Then it’s time to load up the truck with the materials and equipment for the day’s work. After gassing up and driving to the job, each Ralph’s crew is usually at the customer’s home between 7:30 and 8. Travis enjoys interacting with the homeowners, going over the job with them and making them feel comfortable. Ralph’s crews treat each home like their own, he assures them.

Whatever the project involves—even the messy job of tearing out old carpet or tile—Travis loves being responsible for doing it right. No one is telling him what to do; he just knows what to do.

“You don’t have anyone breathing down your neck,” he says. “You feel like: ‘it’s my job.’”

The lunch break is 30 minutes, and the crew usually eats in the truck or the home where they’re working. As they’re eating, they listen to the radio and shoot the breeze.

“We’re all friends. Everyone who works here,” Travis says.

Crews usually knock off around 4, unless a job is behind schedule, in which case they’ll keep working as long as necessary.

When a project is complete, Travis leaves with a warm feeling—knowing the homeowners now have beautiful new flooring to brighten their days.

“It’s really cool, at the end of the day or week, knowing that we’ve made a difference in someone’s life,” he says. “I get a lot of satisfaction from that.”

And then he sleeps well at night!

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

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