Ralph's Blog

Hardwood Floors: No Lack of Choices

Posted on Tue, Jan 29, 2013 @ 14:01 PM

When building a home with finished wood floors or installing them in an existing home, you have an abundance of choices. You can completely customized your hardwood flooring, by choosing the species, grade, width, color, texture, and sheen. A pre-finished floor may be exactly what you are looking for.

Custom Hardwood Flooring

This choice is for homeowners who want to specify every aspect of the flooring—species, grade, color, finish, and surface. This control may be necessary to get exactly the look you’re after.

Pre-finished Flooring

This type of flooring is finished before it’s installed, but there is nonetheless a wide choice of species, color, width, grade, and finish (e.g., distressed, bevel, wire brush). There are also other pre-finished hardwood-like materials available, such as cork (made from the bark of the cork tree) and laminate. Pre-finished products don’t have to be the poorly made flooring you see in the big-box home-improvement stores; there are plenty of quality manufacturers to select from.

Have Fun and Get the Floor You Want

Whichever option you choose, the process of selecting the floor that best fits your home can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of building or renovating. Finished wood flooring can be used in so many creative and exciting ways to express your taste and help define your home’s “personality.” Visit our showroom and talk to the experts about how you can get the finished hardwood floors of your dreams.

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Tags: about hardwood floors

Comparing Hardwood Floors: Appearance

Posted on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 @ 11:01 AM

In our two previous posts about how to compare hardwood flooring, we discussed the quality of various types of wood and how to have floors installed to reduce the likelihood of cupping, crowing, or gapping.

Knowledge is critical in choosing the right hardwood flooring for your home, but let’s face it—appearance is what drives our selection. Hardwood floors can be used in a myriad of beautiful ways to enhance a home’s interior design and to express the personality of a homeowner. That creative flexibility is what gets homeowners excited.

You may desire an elegant look, or you may be after something rustic. You might like the traditional look of hardwood floors, or you may want to make a bold statement. Hardwood floors can provide whatever appearance you seek.

Hardwood flooring offers such a wide range of options because there are so many variables that go into its appearance. As you decide on the appearance you want, you’ll can enjoy selecting the following:

  • Species—Each species projects a different feel. For example, maple, with its light grain, is a popular choice among homeowners who desire a contemporary look. On the other hand, oak and ash, both of which have heavy, bold grain, are common choices for people who want a more casual appearance. Open grains tend to create a cozier feel, while closed grains are sleeker in appearance.
  • Color—Another difference between species is color. You can choose to leave the color natural or to stain it. With staining, color can be adjusted in innumerable ways to help achieve the look you desire.
  • Sheen—A glossy finish tends to project a more formal atmosphere; whereas the natural look of a satin finish will feel homier and disguises wear and tear better.
  • Grades—Each species of wood is graded, from the clearest grade to the most rustic. The higher the grade, the more uniform the wood will be. The lower the grade, the more color variation you’ll see, as well as more knots, mineral streaks, and wormholes. Some people like the character of lower grades, so higher is not necessarily better—it all depends on your taste.
  • Width—Wider planks, which are becoming increasingly popular, tend to create a more casual appearance, while narrow planks are more formal. Narrow planks also work to “lengthen” a room. Many homeowners choose to use random-width boards to create a less formal look.
  • Length—Longer boards are generally used to create a sense of elegance, while shorter boards are the more casual choice. As with width, a mixture of board sizes is a frequent choice (in part due to lower cost), and unless the floors have beveled edges, will be almost unnoticeable.
  • Sand on Site or Pre-Finished—With sand-on-site custom hardwood flooring, the stain and finish are applied after the sanding, so you can specify exactly the color and sheen you want. The beveled edge that is almost always seen on a pre-finished floor is absent in sand-on-site floors. If you prefer pre-finished flooring, there’s an abundance of quality pre-finished products on the market, including distressed and hand-scraped finishes. So you can most likely chose pre-finished flooring without sacrificing your aesthetic vision.
  • Solid or Engineered—The decision to use engineered flooring is often driven by stability issues (as discussed on our last post), but there is an appearance factor as well. Engineered flooring typically is made with beveled edges to lessen the visibility of small differences in milling thickness and subfloor irregularities, and many people don’t like this look. On the other hand, some people love beveled edges. We’ll repeat our mantra—it’s all about your taste.

This concludes our three-part series on comparing hardwood floors. We hope you’ll visit us in our showroom to learn more about how you can select the floor of your dreams.

Ralph's Essential Guide to Selecting the Perfect Hardwood Floor

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, about hardwood floors

Comparing Hardwood Floors: Function

Posted on Wed, Jan 16, 2013 @ 17:01 PM

If you’re like most people evaluating hardwood flooring options, you naturally tend to focus on how different woods will look as soon as they’re installed. And as our first post in this three-part series on comparing hardwood floors pointed out, wood quality (i.e., hardness, strict milling standards) is important as well.

But you should also think about how each wood you are considering will function over the years—specifically, how well the flooring will resist cupping, crowning, and gapping.

Cupping occurs when the edges of the planks become higher than the centers. Crowning happens when the centers becomes higher than the edges. Gapping is just that—spaces between the planks.

All of these conditions are due to the natural swelling and shrinking of wood because of changes in temperature and humidity. As wood gets warmer and takes on more moisture, it expands; as it cools and dries, it contracts.


Seek Stability

Each species of wood varies in its sensitivity to temperature and humidity changes, and the degree to which a wood reacts to these environmental fluctuations is referred to as stability. The more stable a wood is, the less likely it is to cup, crown, or gap.

Stability is often the key factor that motivates homeowners to choose engineered wood flooring, which is generally more stable than solid wood.

Stability is certainly not the only factor to consider in choosing hardwood flooring, but you should understand its importance and ask about it so you can make a fully informed decision.

Depend on Expertise

Professional installers gauge their installation techniques based on seasonal conditions. Wood is installed a little different in the winter than it would be in the summer. Rely on a professional with a proven track record and many, many years of experience. 

A veteran installer will also address any problems related to the moisture level of the subfloor. If that level is greater than the moisture level in the wood, the wood will expand over time, so the installer will have to correct the problem if possible.

In cases where radiant floor heat is used or the installation is below ground, engineered wood is almost always the better choice, and hardwood flooring specialists can help you make that determination.

In our next post, we will conclude our three-part series on comparing hardwood floors by focusing on appearance. 

Considering a winter project? Don't forget to check out our Comfort Suites getaway. Click here for details. 

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Tags: about hardwood floors

Our Thank You to Our Customers: A Free Hotel Stay

Posted on Thu, Jan 03, 2013 @ 10:01 AM

Thank you for your interest. This promotion is now closed.

With our experience—and a state-of-the-art dust containment system—we are able to minimize the disturbance for homeowners when we refinish or install hardwood floors in an existing home.  But even with the great care we take, there’s no getting around the fact that installation or refinishing can disrupt the normal routine of people living there.

So why be home at all?

Wouldn’t it be better to pack an overnight bag and kick back worry-free in a hotel while the work is done? Put up the “do not disturb” sign if you want. Sleep in. Lounge in the spa. Leisurely take in the local sites. Get away from the everyday. Then return home to be greeted by your reinvigorated home!

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it?

Relax While the Work Is Done

Well, that’s what we’re offering at Ralph’s Hardwoods.  For eligible hardwood floor refinishings or installations in existing homes, we’ll treat you to a two-night stay at the Appleton Comfort Suites or the Green Bay Comfort Suites.

To be eligible, the project must be a minimum of $2,500.00. It must be scheduled for completion before Feb. 28, 2013, but that gives you plenty of time to get scheduled and enjoy your free stay. (The stay also must be before that date.) All you have to do is fill out this form and we’ll email you a redemption certificate that you can present to your Ralph’s salesperson. We’ll then mail you a gift certificate good at either Comfort Suites location mentioned above.

The Best Part of the Deal Will Be Waiting for You at Home

In the grand scheme of things, a stay in a hotel shouldn’t have any impact on your decision to refinish or install hardwood floors. The decision to invest in hardwood floors should be driven by an appreciation of how much long-term value and beauty hardwood flooring can add to your home.

We have a long history of superior customer service, and a soothing hotel stay while work is being done is simply our way of showing how much we value our customers. We hope you’ll contact us to discuss your hardwood flooring options, so you can experience for yourself the quality or our products, the skill of our work, and our dedication to customer satisfaction.

The hotel stay is the icing on the cake!

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