Ralph's Blog

Borders & Medallions: Kicking Hardwood Floors up a Notch

Posted on Sat, Oct 27, 2012 @ 12:10 PM

One of the great appeals of custom hardwood flooring is its distinctiveness, which largely results from two factors—its natural attractiveness (beauty stands out) and the inherent uniqueness of custom designs.

A wonderful way to enhance this distinctive beauty and uniqueness is to install hardwood borders or medallions.  

Whether as part of custom hardwood floor installation in a new or existing home, or as an addition to an existing floor, borders and medallions provide innumerable creative possibilities for you to design your dream floor, the floor that makes you personally go “wow.”

That’s the ultimate distinction—flooring that’s a true reflection of your unique personality and taste.


Borders can be as simple as a single strip of contrasting (but complementary) wood, or as elaborate as intricate, multi-colored decorative patterns and designs, which are ideal for formal areas such as foyers or dining rooms.

Borders are often used to break up space in large open homes, or to unite different rooms into a common design theme. Many people like borders around their kitchen area. Some people simply use borders for feature stripes in doorways or archways. Use them in any way you like—they’re your floors!


Custom-designed medallion inlays are like signatures. They are as personal as it gets. Indeed, some people choose to have their family crest recreated as a medallion.

Medallion designs can range from the use of just a few types of wood to the use of hundreds of different sizes and numerous species. You can even use other materials such as stone, marble, metal, and glass. Most people are amazed at how complex and stunning medallion designs can be.

Complimenting Medallion

Medallions are often installed in foyers or entranceways, but in whatever room you put them (e.g., living room, study), they immediately become a focal point that defines the entire room, creating an unquestionably distinctive character.

Prefabricated vs. Custom

Ralph’s Hardwoods works closely with Oshkosh Designs and Yarema Marquetry, and we proudly use their extensive selection of prefabricated borders and medallions. There are lots of prefabricated choices available to help you design a highly personalized floor.

We also offer our own specialized designs, and we have years of experience working with customers helping to develop their individual custom designs.

We can help you accomplish also almost any vision for hardwood borders or medallions that you have.  

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Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors

Giving Hardwood Floors a Makeover

Posted on Mon, Oct 22, 2012 @ 08:10 AM

Remember how great your finished wood floors looked when they were new? Take a good look at them now. Do they still look as beautiful? Or have they become dull and scratched?

You may not have even noticed this wear and tear because it happened gradually and you see the floors every day. But people who visit your home will notice. It’s the same phenomenon that occurs when you haven't seen a niece or nephew for some time—people who see them every day may only be vaguely aware of how much they have changed, but to someone who hasn’t seen them in a while, the change is dramatic.

Saras_floor_before_USEAnd worn-looking hardwood flooring isn’t just an aesthetic problem—it’s a sign that the finish is wearing off. If the finish gets too thin, water can turn the floor grey, and the wood is highly susceptible to other damage.

So what can you do to restore your finished hardwood flooring to its previous splendor and provide the necessary protection for the wood? Will hardwood floor sanding be necessary?

When Refinishing Is the Answer

There are cases when a worn floor will need to be re-sanded, or even replaced if there’s not a thick enough layer of wood to allow for sanding. But often you can restore the beauty and protection to your floors by simply recoating them, which is of course the less-expensive option.

If you think you can get by with recoating, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does the floor have deep scratches, gouges, or areas of water damage in it? If so, hardwood floor sanding is called for. Recoating can’t fix or hide those problems.
  2. Have you cleaned your floor properly? Finished hardwood flooring should be cleaned with an approved cleaning product specifically designed for finished hardwood floors. If you’ve used oil soaps or furniture polish on your floor, the new finish can wrinkle or separate, so re-coating will not work and re-sanding is necessary.
  3. Do you want to change the color of your finished hardwood floors? To change the color of the stain, you’ll have to re-sand. That said, you can affect the appearance by recoating only. The finish determines the sheen—gloss, semi-gloss, satin, or matte— and tints in the finish can modify the color.

Saras_Floor_After_USEOf course, there are other considerations in deciding how to reinvigorate your finished hardwood floors. We’ll be glad to schedule an inspection to discuss your situation and determine whether recoating without sanding will do the trick.

Tags: remodeling

To Get the Look You Want, Pay Attention to How Hardwood Flooring Is Cut

Posted on Tue, Oct 16, 2012 @ 16:10 PM

As trees are harvested and milled into hardwood flooring planks, the way in which the wood is cut will greatly affect how the grain will look once the flooring is installed. So to achieve the look you're after, you’ll need to consider the sawing method used, as well as how wide and long the boards were sawn.

The Sawing Method

The technique used will have a considerable impact on the appearance of the wood’s grain. Most wood is “plain-sawn,” with logs being run through the saw lengthwise. This method produces the greatest grain variation between planks because the growth rings from the outside of the tree will be almost parallel to the edge of the board, while the rings from the inside of the tree will be almost at right angles to the edge.

If you prefer "straighter" grain rather than "swirly" grain, you can select a product that has been “quarter-sawn.” With this method, a log is first quartered, forming wedges with right angles to the center of the tree. Each quarter is then sawn from alternating flat sides of the wedge, resulting in planks that have well-aligned growth rings.

In the “rift sawn” method, logs are simply cut at right angles to the growth rings. This method produces the most-aligned grain possible, but it also wastes a significant amount of wood because of the wedges left over due to the geometry of the cutting—making this the most expensive method.


The width and length of planks also affect the grain’s appearance. Boards are usually cut in widths ranging from 1 ½ inches to a foot, and the wider the width, the more noticeable the grain characteristics will be. Wide boards—which have become a trend—also can make a room appear “shorter,” causing large, open spaces to seem cozier.

Length usually ranges from a foot to 84 inches. Longer boards tend to have a more formal feel, while shorter boards create a more “busy” and “everyday” ambiance--although this is most obvious with flooring that has beveled edges because non-beveled flooring is sanded flat, making the short boards less conspicuous as it is more difficult to discern where the planks join together.

With both width and length, you can choose to use randomly sized boards, which can add visual interest and are more informal—as well as less expensive! For these reasons, random-length flooring is very common and random-width flooring is increasing in popularity.

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, about hardwood floors

Reclaiming the Past: Old Barn Beams Make Great Hardwood Floors

Posted on Thu, Oct 11, 2012 @ 09:10 AM

If you travel around rural America, you’ll see plenty of abandoned old barns dotting the landscape. They’re part of the story of our country, but they’ll rot away, if they aren’t destroyed first.

Old Barn

But people like to hold on to the past, and a trend in finished hardwood flooring is helping to preserve the nostalgia of those old barns.  Hardwood flooring manufacturers are rescuing the wood from these dilapidated structures and milling it for use in custom hardwood flooring.

Talk about character! With reclaimed hardwood flooring, the wood is authentically antique and weather-worn—there’s no need for hand-scraping or distressing wood to give the appearance of age. Every nail hole, saw mark, gouge, water stain, sun-bleached spot, or other “defect” adds to the visual interest and uniqueness of hardwood flooring reclaimed from a barn.

High Quality, Wide Selection

When an abandoned or condemned barn is demolished, the beams are preserved and are separated for milling. Material that’s not up to the standards of finished hardwood flooring is never used—so there is no loss in quality between standard flooring and reclaimed flooring in terms of durability or performance.

First, all the metal is removed and the wood is dried in a kiln, which makes the wood more stable and kills any pests. Then the wood is lightly skimmed to clean it up, and tongue and groove is added. 

There’s no shortage of species to choose from. Much reclaimed wood is from old-growth timber, and so the whole variety of the American landscape is represented, including oak, pine, maple, chestnut, and hickory.

One creative design possibility is to use several species in the same floor—creating a veritable tour of America’s woods on your floor!

Reclaimed Barnwood Engineered

Work with Your Installer

If you’re interested in reclaimed hardwood flooring to give your hardwood floors that extra-special distinctive character, it’s a good idea to begin with the company will be doing your wood floor installation.

At Ralph’s Hardwoods, we are familiar with the entire process of using reclaimed hardwood, and we can help you make the right selection for your interior design and for your budget, as well as ensure that the reclaimed flooring is installed with much care and skill.

Floor Customization    houzz interior design ideas

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors, hardwood flooring trends, finishes, stains & textures

Walking on the Past: Hardwood Floors That Look Timeworn

Posted on Mon, Oct 01, 2012 @ 15:10 PM

Finished hardwood floors that have been made to look rustic, old, and worn are increasingly popular. People often use “character” to describe what they’re after with this look.

Of course, elegant, shiny hardwood floors have their own distinctive character and appeal, but the character that many homeowners now want is one of casualness and age. They want floors that look like they’ve seen lots of life and will be around for lots more.

Maybe that’s because we live in a world in which quick obsolescence of products seems to be the norm. Hardwood flooring that looks aged recalls a time when things lasted longer and when craftsmanship was more valued. There’s something comforting about this look, and it lends itself very well to an environment where people feel relaxed and “at home.”

Old World Chateau Resized for Postcard2 resized 600

If you want this type of character in your hardwood flooring, we’d like to share what we’ve learned about achieving it.

  • Grade sets the tone.

Hardwood flooring comes in different grades, from first-grade to rustic. A “lower” grade simply means there are more color variations, mineral streaks, knots, worm holes, and other “defects”—which is exactly what homeowners who are looking for a worn appearance want!

  • Texture can be added.

Floors can be brushed with wires to give them a mildly worn appearance. They can also be hand scraped to replicate the hand-scraping techniques of the 1800s. For lighter imperfections, we can “hand-distress” the floors by making dents and marks.

  • Some woods are better suited for a natural, casual look.

Woods such as oak, ash, and hickory have an open-grain pattern that stands out and creates a more easygoing feel than tighter-grain wood.

  • Less sheen often works best.

With high-gloss finishes, new scratches tend to stand out and look like damage rather than an intended appearance. A low sheen can help scratches and other wear meld together into the well-used look you’re after. 

  • Width matters.

Wider boards generally lead to a more-casual look by emphasizing the grain patterns. They also recall how hardwood floors looked in the 1800s, when wider planks were the standard.

  • Edge cuts can be purposely made to look old.

Tooled edges create a non-uniform surface that can add ruggedness. Scraped or chiseled edges make the planks look as if they were hand-crafted before the age of power tools. With the French Bleed technique, we scrape and treat the boards with a dark color to create darkened edges that make the flooring appear long-used.

houzz interior design ideas

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, hardwood flooring trends, finishes, stains & textures

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