Ralph's Blog

Acclimating Hardwood Floors Isn't As Easy as You May Think

Posted on Tue, Nov 27, 2012 @ 13:11 PM

Many customers who come into our hardwood floors showroom ask about acclimating hardwood flooring to their home. They’ve done some research and have read that it’s important to put wood into a home a few days before installation, so it can acclimate (contract or expand) to the temperature and humidity level of the home.

The theory is that, once acclimated to the home’s conditions, the wood should have most of the expanding or contracting “out of its system,” making for a more-stable floor less likely to cup, crown, buckle, or gap.

We agree that acclimation to a home’s environment can be important, but it’s not the only factor related to wood stability that must be considered during wood floor installation.

Acclimating to the Real Conditions

Oftentimes hardwood floor installation in new construction can be tricky. There tends to be a good deal of moisture due to foundation curing, moisture picked up before the home was fully enclosed, plastering, painting, etc. This requires careful monitoring of conditions, and advising our contractors on acceptable moisture levels and sometimes assisting them to reach approppriate levels to keep the project on schedule. Getting the HVAC running as soon as possible and sometimes even bringing in commercial-grade dehumidifiers is necessary. It stands to reason that acclimating wood in such wet conditions would be a very bad idea.

Installation techniques can be altered to offset humidity levels to some extent. Subfloor and material moisture is checked prior to each installation and if necessary the installation method is adjusted.

Once a home is occupied, temperature and humidity still vary according to the season. Most people keep it a little warmer inside during the summer and a little cooler in the winter to save on their energy bills. That means that in the summer it’s a little more humid also, because the hotter the air is, the more moisture it can hold. Therefore, more moisture is transferred to the wood, causing it to expand. The opposite happens in winter.

When we install hardwood floors, we always take into account the season. Winter installs are adjusted to leave room for some expansion as the weather warms—or vice versa in the summer. The real conditions in the home—and how those conditions will affect the wood—can’t be determined without factoring in seasonal changes.

Making the Right Adjustments

In his free e-book, Dispelling the Myths of Hardwood Flooring, our owner Rod Lorenz tells the story of learning this lesson about seasonal considerations from his father, Ralph, who founded Ralph’s Hardwood Floors. Ralph was installing a wood floor for a gym, and he determined that the wood was too dry and that gaps needed to be left. Several people came to look at the floor right after installation, many of whom were employed by a local hardwood flooring mill so they were very familiar with wood. They were upset about how ugly the floor looked after installation. 

But they didn’t know wood as well as Ralph did. A month later, as the wood warmed and picked up moisture, the floor was beautifully perfect. All the gaps had disappeared.

It takes such an understanding of the stability of each type of hardwood—combined with knowledge of how seasonal changes will affect the wood—to properly install wood floors. Rod learned this skill from his father and has passed it on to each of our installers.

And because most of our customers are in Wisconsin (and we live here, too!) we are intimately familiar with the weather patterns that affect our clients. We know just how much of an allowance for the seasons to make.

We take great pride in satisfying our customers with beautiful, correctly installed hardwood floors. But that wouldn’t be possible without the hardwood-stability expertise we’ve picked up through the years.

 Ralph's Essential Guide to Selecting the Perfect Hardwood Floor

Tags: installation, Wisconsin

3 Facts You Should Know About Exotic Hardwoods

Posted on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 @ 15:11 PM

One of the major custom hardwood flooring trends we’re seeing is the growing popularity of exotic hardwoods. Trees from all over the world can be used for hardwood floors, and many homeowners love the uncommonness and natural beauty of exotic species.

Because of their rarity, exotic woods are an excellent way to achieve the distinction and uniqueness that homeowners are looking for in custom hardwood flooring. Trees from other countries can vary dramatically from those we’re used to in the U.S. Brazilian or Asian walnut will look quite different than American walnut grown here. 

And because of the rich variety of woods available—with their wide selection of colors and grain patterns—exotic woods can greatly expand your interior design options, such as allowing you to "tie in" your flooring with furniture, bookshelves, walls, or windows.

At Ralph’s, the most-popular exotic hardwoods among our customers include Asian Walnut, Brazilian Walnut, Spotted Gum, Cumaru, Santos Mahogany, Brazilian Cherry, and Amendoim.

Amendoim Natural 1 resized 600

If you’re intrigued by the possibilities opened up by using exotic wood, you probably have some questions about it. Here are three facts about exotic hardwoods that we hope will answer a few of them.

1. Many exotic woods are extremely hard. 

The hardness of hardwood is measured on the Janka scale, and exotic hardwoods dominate the top of the Janka ratings. For example, Brazilian Cherry—perhaps the most popular exotic wood—has a rating of 2350, compared to only 1450 for Hard Maple and 995 for regular Cherry. And many exotic woods rank higher than Brazilian Cherry.

Hardness is particularly important if you expect your floors to see rough use. Pets, children, or having the floors in a heavy traffic area are all good reasons to consider hardness an important factor.

2. Exotic hardwood is available in solid, engineered, prefinished, and finished on site products.

Most options available with traditional hardwood flooring are also available with exotic woods. It comes in different sheens, widths, and lengths.


3. Responsible harvesters replenish what they cut.

Some may be concerned about the environmental harm that could come from harvesting exotic species for use as flooring. But, by and large, the industry is diligent about replanting. At Ralph’s, we work only with suppliers that practice sustainable forest management.

We’d be glad to talk with you more about how you can stylishly use exotic wood in your home. There’s a whole world of possibilities.

get inspired with ralph's hardwood floor idea book

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, types of hardwood used in flooring, hardwood flooring trends

Hardwood Floors and Resale Value: Four Factors To Consider

Posted on Mon, Nov 12, 2012 @ 16:11 PM

Is the cost of installing or restoring hardwood floors matched by a corresponding increase in a home’s resale value?

That’s obviously a vital question for homeowners who are considering new hardwood floors, especially in anticipation of putting their home on the market. If the existing flooring isn’t hardwood, then wooden floors installation to replace the old flooring stands a great chance of elevating resale value.

Hardwood Increase Resale












Unfortunately, there’s no definitive answer. A multitude of variables can influence how hardwood flooring affects resale value, including these four common factors:

1.    The type and condition of the existing floor (in cases of restoration).

If the floor is hardwood and in pretty good shape, but you re-sand and change the color to achieve a new look, the resale value gained will depend on the buyer.

If an existing hardwood floor is looks dull and worn, and you recoat or resand and finish it, then you’re adding some real value beyond aesthetic taste. An appraiser may recognize this value by rating the overall condition of the home as very good versus fair. A potential buyer, on the other hand, almost certainly will see the value of a new-looking floor versus one that will take significant resources (time and money) to rennovate. 

2.    The location of the home.

If you live or are building in an area where hardwood floors are common and expected, to not have them—or to have them in poor condition—could lower resale value. Therefore, installing, re-sanding, or simply refinishing can have a significant positive effect on a home's sales price.

On the other hand, wood floor installation or restoration in a neighborhood or region in which hardwood floors aren’t common isn't likely to result in a higher resale price because of the low demand for them.

3.    The type of home.

If you install or restore hardwood floors in a low-price home, buyers probably aren’t going to pay extra for them because they can’t afford to.

Likewise, if you install expensive custom hardwood flooring in a mid-priced home, potential buyers may want hardwood floors but won’t be willing to pay extra for high-end or exotic hardwood.

In general, the most-positive effects on resale value occur when the level of extravagance is matched to that of the home.

4.    Where the floors are in the home.

Because so many people suffer from allergies, hardwood floors in bedrooms can be a huge selling feature. Hardwood floors in the kitchen, because they are so easy to clean, are also highly desireable. 

Value Beyond Resale

Keep in mind that resale value is by no means the only potential benefit of wood floor installation or restoration. There’s the likelihood that you’ll sell your home faster, even if it’s not for more. And of course—if you’re not selling right away—there’s the value of the sheer enjoyment you’ll get from having the hardwood floors you've always wanted. 


Tags: the value of hardwood floors

To vote…Or not to vote…There really is no question

Posted on Fri, Nov 02, 2012 @ 14:11 PM

By: Jackie Archambeau

"The United States of America" is music to my ears. At this point in our history, I am struck with exactly what that means to me. Born in America, I am blessed. Raised my entire life in America, I am doubly blessed.

I sometimes wonder why God determined that I would be worthy to be born into a good family, in a country such as this. Raised by loving parents, surrounded by many siblings to share my youth with and to treasure as an adult, an amazing husband by my side and healthy children whom I adore. What did I do to deserve this? Absolutely nothing!

Since I don’t know why these blessings have been bestowed upon me, all I can do is look to the history of my country and take note of all of the sacrifices that were made by others so that I could enjoy such a life. The founders of our country had a vision of the greatness we could achieve, and fought with everything they had in them to make their vision a reality. Since then, countless young men and women have fought to gain and protect the freedom I so often take for granted, some of them giving up their lives as a testament to their love for their country. Not to mention the families left behind in their absence, enduring years alone, and sometimes worse.



(Special thanks to Alexandre Vincent for the use of this photo)

I regard exercising my right to vote as the one way that I, as a citizen of the United States, can honor those who sacrificed so much for my freedom. For me to sit idly by and not vote would be like turning my back on those who gave so much.

Whether Democrat, Republican, or somewhere in between…I encourage you to vote on Tuesday, November 6th.  And as you stand in line, some of which will be very long, take a moment to remember why you are there and whom you honor.

Tags: Ralph's news & events

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