Ralph's Blog

Putting Together Your Custom Home Dream Team

Posted on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 @ 11:09 AM

Building your dream home starts with your vision. You’re the one who knows what you want and are ready to invest to make it happen.

But it takes a team effort to turn your dream into a reality. And it's up to you to select who's going to be on that team.

The Architect

Finding an architect to convert your vision into professional blueprints is the first step most people building a custom home will need to make.

Look for an experienced architect who truly listens to what you want and offers creative suggestions on how to fulfill your wishes without breaking your budget. Good custom home architects freely share ideas of their own, but they never forget that the home is a reflection of your tastes and needs—not theirs.

The Builder

Most custom home builders take great pride in their skill and are committed to building exactly the home you want.

But to avoid the occasional bad apple, be diligent as you evaluate contractors. Ask to see examples of their work, do Internet research, and talk to previous customers, all the while looking for the following characteristics:

  • A reputation for quality craftsmanship.
  • Dedication to detail, as if it were the contractor’s own home being built.
  • A proven ability to not go over budget.
  • A history of meeting deadlines and completing projects on time.
  • A focus on customer satisfaction (e.g., returning phone calls, consistently providing updates, doing what the customer wants instead of what’s easiest or most profitable).

The Interior Designer

You may have a general idea of how you want the home to look inside but aren’t sure exactly how to pull it off. If so, you can include an interior designer in your team.

As with the architect and the builder, look for an interior designer who clearly understands that their job is to provide you with the look you want, not what they would chose for themselves.

Specialty Contractors

You may also need contractors to perform specific tasks, such as custom hardwood floor installation, which is the role we’d like to play on your team. The same considerations you have used for the rest of the team also apply here.

We’re Here to Help

Ralph’s Hardwood Floors is glad to direct you to companies that we’ve worked with and know do quality work. We’re a great place to start recruiting your "players."

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, about Ralph's

No dust, no fuss. Sanding hardwood floors doesn't have to be messy.

Posted on Sun, Sep 23, 2012 @ 16:09 PM

If you’ve decided to install sand-on-site hardwood floors in your home, or if you’re preparing to re-sand existing hardwood floors, you’re undoubtedly excited about how great your new floor is going to look.

But as you select a hardwood flooring expert to sand your floors, be sure not to overlook an aspect of sanding that’s far less exciting, but nonetheless important—the sander’s dust containment system.

Dust Can Be Avoided

A top-quality hardwood flooring sander will sand your hardwood floors and leave very little dust in your home, and that’s what you should demand. Always ask prospective sanders what dust-containment method they use.

The answer you want to hear is that they evacuate the dust out of the home into a trailer. In this system, hoses are attached directly to the sanding machines, and the dust is sucked by an extremely powerful vacuum engine straight into the trailer, eliminating nearly all dust created from sanding  your floors.

Other methods also have hoses attached to the sanding equipment, but the vacuum machine is small enough to be brought inside, which means it has a less-powerful, less-efficient motor. And sanding without any dust control at all...don't even think about it!

Hardwood Sanding Dust

If you’re having floors installed before they’re finished, the installation equipment can also be hooked directly to the dust evacuation system. This technology isn’t perfected yet, but its use can substantially reduce dust caused by old floor removal and installation of new hardwood floors. 

Insist on Experience

Don’t hesitate to inquire about a company’s history of dust evacuation. Ask to see pictures or videos of jobs they’ve done, and talk with them to gauge their commitment and ability to keep your home as free of dust as possible.

Keeping dust from becoming a problem may seem like a minor consideration in the overall process of adding or re-sanding hardwood floors, but it won’t seem minor if you end up struggling to clean up persistent dust. Selecting the right hardwood flooring company for the job will allow you to enjoy your new floors as soon as they’re completed, without having to worry about the mess left behind.

No Fuss, No Dust.

Tags: restoring hardwood floors, dustless sanding, remodeling

Installing Hardwood Floors Is a Labor of Love

Posted on Tue, Sep 18, 2012 @ 15:09 PM

Hardwood floor installation is a craft that requires considerable expertise, combined with an artisan’s attention to detail and appreciation of quality. If you’re preparing to have hardwood floors installed, those are the attributes to look for in an installer.

An installer should be motivated by personal pride in their work. For a good installer, a poor installation job would be shameful.

Installers also need to understand and value the emotional and financial investment homeowners have in their hardwood flooring. An installer’s mission should be doing an exceptional job and pleasing the customer, not on getting the job done faster or with a higher profit margin.

Caring About Quality and Customers

Of course we’re biased, but ask any of our customers, and they’ll tell you that Ralph’s Hardwood Floors has a genuine, consistent, and demonstrated commitment to craftsmanship and customer satisfaction. We don’t employ installers who aren’t obsessive about installing the floors just right—so that the flooring performs as it should, looks its very best, and delights the homeowners paying for it.

Color Brilliance Hickory Stained Dark with kids playing resized 600

That enthusiasm for quality comes naturally to Ralph’s—it’s part of our heritage. Our founder, Ralph Lorenz, started the company in 1965, the same year his son, Rod, was born. Rod learned the craft “at his daddy’s knee,” and is now our owner and president. Ralph instilled in Rod a love of finished hardwood flooring and a dedication to customer service that continues to this day. And Rod has passed on that passion to our installers.

Always Learning

Ralph also passed on his technical knowledge to his son, and Rod in turn shares what he’s learned with our installation team. The result is that Ralph’s has developed time-proven techniques and skills for hardwood floors installation that our competitors simply don’t have.

But we’re certainly not buried in the past. Rod and our team always stay on the cutting edge of innovations in materials, application techniques, and market trends, continually refining their installation process to take advantage of new possibilities.

Looking for the Signs

When you’re shopping for a hardwood flooring company, pay attention to signs of how interested the company is in serving you.  Are they flexible in their scheduling? Are they friendly? Do they offer honest advice or are they just trying to make a sale? Do they have a long history of satisfied, repeat customers?  Are they as concerned about every small detail as you are? Are they passionate about quality?

At Ralph’s, we can confidently answer “yes” to all those questions. We hope you’ll stop by our showroom or contact us so that we can begin helping you get what always makes us happy—gorgeous floors that make you happy.

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Tags: about Ralph's, installation

5 Factors That Affect Installation of Hardwood Floors

Posted on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 @ 12:09 PM

When customers walk into our showroom looking for expert advice on how to get the hardwood floors they want, we work closely with them to explore their many options. We strive to be a valuable part of a team effort.

But after you make your choice, the ball’s in our hands. It’s up to us as the installer to turn the beauty you envision into a reality.

That’s why we are committed to getting every detail just right. We realize that precise installation is absolutely necessary to attain the full potential beauty of finished hardwood floors.

The average experience of our installation crew is more than 15 years, and that experience has taught our team how to manage the following five critical elements of installing new hardwood floors or refinishing existing ones:

1.    Temperature

Hardwood expands or contracts based on temperature and its relationship to relative humidity, so installers must be constantly aware of temperature fluctuations. They must understand how temperature affects wood movement and adjust their installation accordingly.

2.    Moisture

Likewise, humidity can cause swelling that installers must take into account. Particularly in new homes, humidity levels can be high if the HVAC system isn’t installed and running and/or if there is moisture from concrete, plaster, and paint. So we test the humidity and if it’s high, we use commercial dehumidifiers to correct the situation.

3.    Species

The reaction to temperature and moisture variations differs between wood species, so it’s essential to have knowledge of each species’ specific behavior as the temperature and moisture variables change. What applies to one species doesn’t necessarily apply to another.

 Install 2011 004

4.    Appearance

Installing finished hardwood floors requires an artist’s appreciation for beauty. Our installers are proud of their craft and of each floor they install. Just like you, they want your new floors to look spectacular. They will take all the care necessary to achieve the best appearance.

5.    Coordination with Trades

Our sales staff act also as project managers who coordinate with trade professionals we trust to ensure that installation is minimally disruptive and that the job doesn’t suffer delays that negatively affect quality.

It’s not just the wood or finish you chose that will determine how your finished wood floors will look—you also need a superior installer like Ralph’s Hardwoods to ensure your floors look as lovely as possible. 

Ralph's Essential Guide to Selecting the Perfect Hardwood Floor

Tags: about hardwood floors, installation

Where's Ralph? Find the Best Hardwood Floors in Wisconsin

Posted on Fri, Sep 07, 2012 @ 13:09 PM

When my kids were small, they had such a great time pulling out the “Where’s Waldo” books and searching each and every picture until were were able to find Waldo. Always distinctive and different, among the sea of others on a busy beach or in a shopping mall, we could always spot Waldo.

Over the next few weeks, seekers of beautiful hardwood floors will be given the opportunity to look for Ralph’s among the new construction and remodeling projects being showcased.

A comment we hear over and over again, “I can always tell when I walk into a house where Ralph’s has finshed the floors.” What an amazing compliment to our company to know that among the sea of our competition, we stand out so significantly.

So, I work here, but I still have to ask “What makes us so different?”  All day long, I am surrounded by a show-stopping showroom. I walk on these beautiful floors day in and day out. And as beautiful as they are, I have to think about what made them this way. The answer is simply, from the bottom up, uncompromising quality. Starting with high quality suppliers, employing a caring sales staff that truly desire to turn a homeowner’s vision into reality, and hiring only the best craftsmen to carry out the plan. Also, in the unlikely event something needs to be fixed, a full-time customer service manager is available to take care of our customers after the project is complete.

September is a very busy month for us. Our crews have been busy with hardwood installation over the past couple of months to be ready for the upcoming Fall Showcase of New Homes in Green Bay. Our floors can also be seen at a Kitchen Remodel Open House being hosted by PortSide Builders on Saturday, September 15th from 11:00 to 4:00.

 You will find our floors at the following Showcases:

  • Van's Lumber & Custom Builders - 3342 Cottage Hill Drive in Green Bay (Wire Brushed Hickory)
  • PortSide Builders - 327 N. 19th Place in Sturgeon Bay (3rd Grade Maple)
  • Schmidt Brothers Custom Homes - 2160 Peso in De Pere (2nd Grade Maple with a Dark Stain)
  • TCD Homes - 2845 Creekwood Circle in Green Bay (Rift & Quarter Sawn White Oak)
  • C & C Custom Builders - 9235 Seagull Road (Tigerwood and Asian Walnut)
  • Steven Kassner Construction - 4300 Windemer Lane in Hobart (3rd Grade Maple)
  • Heritage Custom Homes - 3231 Haven Place in Green Bay (Maple, installed by other, sanded and finished by Ralph's)
  • Hurrish Homes & Development - 1016 Aster Court in De Pere (Rustic Hickory)

Stopping by these homes is a great way to see for yourself the beautiful custom hardwood sanding and finishing workmanship on display. Let’s see if you can tell which floors are “Ralph’s” floors. 

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

A Closer Look at Prefinished Hardwood Floor Warranties

Posted on Sat, Sep 01, 2012 @ 09:09 AM

Intuitively, it would seem that a 25-year-warranty for prefinished wood flooring means that the manufacturer is VERY confident in the durability of its finish.

But a closer look reveals that what appears to be a manufacturer's trust in its product and a guarantee of your purchase for the warranty period is often heavily weighted in the favor of the manufacturer.

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Pay Attention to the Details

There are plenty of quality prefinished hardwood flooring manufacturers, and prefinished wood floors are an excellent choice for many homeowners, so we certainly would not discourage the purchase of them.

But before placing value on a lengthy warranty, carefully read it. You’ll often discover they fall short on coverage, but a wise consumer won't be fooled.

The Finer Details

Most warranties include a “wear through” provision that guarantees the finish won’t wear off more than a certain percentage of the floor. But that percentage is often as much as 10 percent of total square footage—and that’s a lot of messed-up floor to live with until the problem gets so bad that the warranty kicks in!

And finish “wearing through” is not the same as finish becoming dull. Loss of sheen is almost never covered, but what are you going to do? Live with dull floors?

You will want the floors refinished, but this will have to be paid for by you—not the manufacturer. And once the floors are refinished, the warranty is void.

Exclusions Limit Value

Situations that will void a typical prefinished flooring warranty are normal wear and tear your average family will inflict on a floor:

  • Improper maintenance-Your teenage daughter cleaned with an unapproved cleaner. 
  • Improper installation-Installing your own floors or hiring an inexperienced installer can be a costly mistake. 
  • Fading caused by sunlight-Any hardwood floor will change color in sunlight, this is nearly unavoidable. 
  • Damage caused by pets-Pet nails will cause surface scratches in the finish and heavier pets can actually dent some hardwood floors. 
  • Damage caused by rough use-Tonka trucks, dropping soup cans, did we mention pets?

You Might Move

The average length of homeownership is roughly seven years. A warranty is only valuable to you as long as you own the home. Most warranties are not transferrable to new owners, therefore, the warranty adds no value to your home in the long run. 


Don’t be misled by long warranties—A company's reputation will say far more about the quality of their floors than an overinflated warranty ever will. 

Ralph's Essential Guide to Selecting the Perfect Hardwood Floor

Tags: prefinished hardwood flooring

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