Ralph's Blog

Building a partnership – Builders + Hardwood Floor Contractors

Posted on Fri, Dec 14, 2012 @ 11:12 AM

The reputation of each of our builder partners is tied to how well we do our job. Providing reliable top-quality craftsmanship is a must for any hardwood flooring contractor, but it’s responsiveness, positive attitude, and commitment to teamwork that sets Ralph’s apart.

Open Communication

Open communication is key in making any business partnership work, and with builders and flooring contractors it is no different. The most important elements of open communication are trust and mutual respect. One example of this trust is when a builder contacted us because they dented the floor while getting the home ready for a parade . They didn’t attempt to hide the cause of the dent and simply asked what we could do to help. The parade was scheduled for the next day and we knew how important it was for the home to look its best. Our customer service manager went to the home at 9 p.m. and fixed the dent to make sure the home, and the floor, looked as good as new. 

Schedules and Timing

Possibly the single greatest threat to strong builder/hardwood floor contractor relationships is scheduling. With construction projects, time is money and the general contractor is dealing with a lot of moving parts, each of which add pressure to the schedule.

Sometime ago we received a call from a contractor who realized the floor needed to be installed ASAP and had forgotten to schedule. While this wasn’t a perfect situation for us, we understood the need to be flexible and put our team to work right away. The timeline was tight but everything came together and the contractor was very grateful.

Working Together

We don’t consider partnerships with builders a once and done deal. We look for ongoing relationships that are consistently profitable for all parties involved. We actively promote our partners to our customers who visit our showroom. We are also more than willing to go the "extra mile."  We realize that anything we can do to make our contractors look good reflects well on all of us. A project that is sucessful in the eyes of a homeowner will almost always turn into more business for everyone down the road.

On a recent project one of the carpenters dropped a hammer and dented a hardwood floor. The contractor was worried the entire section of floor would have to be replaced. One of our expert installers was sent to fix the dent and the costly replacement was avoided. We won, the contractor won, and the customer won because the floor looked great after the repair!

Always Delivering

We see situations such as the damaged floor or the occasional schedule mishap, not as an inconvenience, but rather a valuable opportunity to build long-term relationships with our contractors.

You don’t have to ask us twice. We’re ready to do whatever’s necessary to keep a job on track because we know this provides value to you. We trust you’ll return to a flooring contractor that:

  • Always produces beautiful work
  • Sticks to the budget
  • Stays on schedule
  • Is devoted to customer satisfaction
  • Does whatever it takes to make the project a success

Tags: about Ralph's

Comparing Hardwood Floors: Quality

Posted on Tue, Dec 11, 2012 @ 16:12 PM

When building or renovating a home, selecting hardwood flooring is great fun—but it’s also a challenge. The diversity of options allows you to pick out exactly what you want, but the multitude of choices can be overwhelming.

To help in the process of deciding on the perfect floors for your home, we’ve found that it’s useful for homeowners to focus on three different aspects of finished hardwood floors—quality, function, and appearance. In this post, we’ll discuss quality, and our next two posts will explore function and appearance.

When referring to quality, we’re talking about all elements that make up quality, not just the finish. Also, choosing the right product for your application is extremely important. You can have the highest quality solid hardwood floor and if you put it in the wrong environment, it will most likely fail. Always consider the following in regards to quality. Is the wood species hard enough to live up to your lifestyle? Is the milling of the flooring such that the product fits together snugly and doesn't move around a lot? If engineered, look at the wear layer. 

Hardness

The harder the wood, the less likely it will dent, and there are significant differences in hardness among species. Even within a species, there can be variation. For example, the Northern oak we use is substantially harder than oak from the South.

The importance of hardness will largely depend on how the floor will be used. If it’s in a heavily traveled area, the ability to withstand wear becomes an especially attractive characteristic. Particularly if you anticipate your floors will be exposed to pets’ nails and children playing, or if the flooring will go in a kitchen, harder woods are usually a smart move. Although, having a wood species with a little texture in the surface can more than make up for a little difference in hardness. In an area that is going to take some abuse, I would recommend a white oak with a little texture on the surface over a smooth-grain species like maple. Although the maple is harder, the dents will show up a lot more due to its smoothness. 

But harder wood isn’t always the right choice. If you are absolutely in love with the way a particular wood looks but it’s not one of the harder woods, don’t automatically write it off. Like all aspects of finished hardwood flooring, your choice will depend on your personal taste and situation.

There’s also cost to consider. Although not always the case, harder woods (especially exotic hardwoods) are typically more expensive. But as you compare price, remember that the harder the wood, the longer you can probably go without re-sanding it.

Milling

Wood that is milled precisely will fit together just right, while wood that has been milled according to less-stringent specifications often ends up showing irregularities. Unfortunately, raw wood from the United States is often shipped overseas (e.g., China) where it is milled with less quality control than if it had been milled here. It’s shipped back to the U.S. and sold at a lesser cost than properly milled wood. But as the adage goes, you get what you pay for.

Wear Layer

Most 3/4" thick solid hardwood flooring material has a wear layer of approximately 1/4". This means you can refinish this floor about five times before sanding through its wear layer. Engineered floors very significantly, from being able to sand and finish them about four times to not at all. Make sure the floor you choose has a thick enough wear layer that it can be resanded and finished in the future if necessary?

In our next post, we will turn our attention to “function”—the ability of hardwood floors to resist cupping, crowning, and gapping.

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Tags: about hardwood floors

5 Factors That Affect Installation of Finished Wood Flooring

Posted on Wed, Dec 05, 2012 @ 14:12 PM

When customers walk into our showroom looking for expert advice on how to get the finished wood flooring 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 wood flooring.

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The average experience of our installation crew is more than 15 years, and our company is led by a National Wood Flooring Association Certified Installer. Our installers will dazzle you with their work because they know 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, so installers must be constantly aware of temperature fluctuations. They must understand how temperature affects wood movement and adjust their installation methods accordingly.
  2. Moisture - Likewise, humidity can cause swelling that installers must take into account. Particularly in new homes, humidity levels can be high, so we have been known to help our contractors by loaning them commercial dehumidifiers to keep the moisture at optimum levels for working with the wood.
  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.
  4. Cut - There’s an art to making a cut “just right,” and installing finished wood flooring requires an artist’s eye for beauty. Through their years of experience, our installers have developed the vision to make the very best cuts.
  5. Coordination with Trades - Installations should be turnkey jobs that you never have to worry about. Our installers 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.

So 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.

Tags: about hardwood floors, installation

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