Ralph's Blog

It’s not just smoke and mirrors – grey is beautiful.

Posted on Sat, Feb 22, 2014 @ 08:02 AM

Smoldering Hickory Rustic 3 resized 600Not long ago, we got a call from a really nice couple who asked us to come look at the hardwood floors in their home. They wanted our advice on how they could refinish their floors in way that would help them get the perfect interior-design look they were after. As always, we were glad to provide a free consultation. 

Natural, Understated Beauty

They obviously cared a lot about interior design, and they already had ideas. They knew they wanted a neutral color that would work well with other colors in their home. They had in mind a natural look, with an understated beauty.

After chatting a little, we suggested they come to the showroom and look at some of our greys. A great thing about grey is that is has so many shades—you can get just the look you’re after—a dark grey, a light grey, a warm grey, a cool grey, “washed” grey, flint grey, “maritime” grey, pewter grey, and the list goes on and on.

You might think grey isn't a color that many people would choose for their home. But we’ve found that grey is not only an excellent complement to other colors, it’s a soothing, cooling presence for a room—and it has become very popular among home owners.

What’s To Like About Grey?

Grey may sometimes by associated with dreariness or formality, but it’s not drab at all on hardwood floors.

People like grey because:

    • It shows off the grain and texture of hardwood, even more so than popular brown or blonde staining options.  
    • It can be achieved using all-natural oils, making it an environmentally friendly choice.
    • It can be adjusted until it’s “just right” for each homeowner’s taste.
    • Its flexibility in shading and tone allows homeowners who want a unique, imaginative look to be very creative.

Like most interior-design trends in the U.S., this one began in New York and Los Angeles and is now moving across the rest of the country. It’s natural, neutral, and gives you lots of flexibility in your interior-design choices—grey is hard to beat.

That couple’s decision to go with grey didn’t’ surprise me at all. Grey has become a very popular color among homeowners with similar tastes. After their showroom visit, they got very excited. They had found just what they were looking for!

If you are fan of natural looks and want something that can be personalized to your taste, I encourage you to drop by our showroom and take a look. Grey might be beautiful for you too.

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, hardwood floor colors, hardwood flooring trends

"I had a horse on my hardwood floors"

Posted on Wed, Feb 19, 2014 @ 10:02 AM

We have been in the hardwood floor business for over 49 years now, and we thought we had heard it all. Until the other day when a dear woman called and wanted to ask a few questions about her hardwood floors. She was very sweet, and she sheepishly told me the story about how she had a baby miniature horse in her home that she was trying to save.


Miniature Horse

Photo Courtesy of Cykocurt

She explained the baby horse weighed only about 11 pounds and the issue wasn't about denting the floor, rather milk had dripped on her floor as she was trying to feed it. Her floor was an older waxed floor and the milk had left spots that just looked dirty.

After much discussion, it was decided she would just live with it for now and refinish the floors in a couple of months.

Being in the business this long, we have become a resource for many homeowners looking for solutions for their hardwood floors. We are happy to help in any way we can.

For this baby horse, it is very blessed to have such a kindhearted person looking out for it and we truly hope everything turns out well.

Thank you for the call....you made us all smile!




Tags: stories

Oak Flooring: Beautiful, Durable, and Timeless

Posted on Thu, Feb 13, 2014 @ 15:02 PM

White Oak Burnished Oil finish

There’s no question that oak flooring is the most popular hardwood floor option in North America, by a wide margin.

One reason for this popularity is that oak flooring is readily available because both red oak and white oak are easily grown here. The ample supply and relatively local transportation (no shipping across sea, as with non-domestic woods) lower the cost of oak flooring to a level that’s attractive to many people.

But the most important reason is that oak flooring looks and performs great. It’s very versatile, fitting with many decors, but it always feels classy and classic. And it stands up well to wear and tear.

Red Oak vs. White Oak

When you’re deciding if oak is for you, keep in mind that while these two common types of oak flooring have similarities, they also have some differences. One may not fit your vision and needs, but the other might.


The color and grain of red oak and white oak vary according to where the trees are grown. Ralph’s Hardwoods gets most of our red and white oak from Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota—states that produce gorgeous oaks.

The red oak has brown heartwood that’s tinged red, creating a visually interesting but not overpowering contrast to the wood’s creamy tones. Red oak has consistent, elegant grain patterns.

The white oak has a combination of grayish-brown heartwood, pale tones, and subtle grains that are not quite as pronounced as red oak. It’s a perfect wood for creating a clean, crisp look.


Both types of oak flooring are good choices for longevity and maintaining their appearance over time. White oak is slightly harder than red oak, but both are harder than most other common flooring choices, such as birch, walnut, cherry, cedar, and pine.


Both types of oak flooring accept stain very well. Depending on the darkness of the stain, the differences in appearance between the two types can become less obvious, but red oak usually maintains a red tint.


The price of hardwood is constantly fluctuating. Because most red and white oak hardwood flooring is locally sourced, it is usually a great deal.

Flooring That Never Goes Out of Style

Whether you choose red or white, a great advantage of oak flooring is that it’s timeless. Because its look is subtle and understated yet so clearly beautiful, it stays in fashion.

That means that if you buy oak flooring, you don’t have to worry about it ever looking dated. And if you sell your home, you won’t have to worry about having a floor that turns off potential buyers. People are always going to love oak. 

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

Back in Black

Posted on Sat, Feb 08, 2014 @ 08:02 AM

ebonized floorAn enthusiastic middle-aged couple came into our showroom recently, trying to decide on the right hardwood floors for their new custom home.

 The last type of hardwood they had in mind was oak. They had heard that oak “had a lot of grain,” and that popular, traditional look wasn’t what they were after.

But then I showed them a sample of oak flooring that had been finished using our unique ebonizing process. “That’s it!” they both cried out in unison.

This black finish doesn’t highlight the grain in oak the way lighter finishes do. And they loved the richness of the black color—they wanted something bold and unique, and black fit the bill.

They were suddenly imagining all kinds of interior design possibilities based around black floors.

They didn’t make a decision that day. They considered other popular options for black floors, such as birch and maple. They also second-guessed themselves a little bit. “Is black really the way we want to go?” they kept asking themselves.

Eventually, they decided it was. And they choose the ebonized oak floor we had first shown them.

Black Makes a Comeback

This couple is by no means the only customers we’ve had to fall in love with black floors. One of the trends I see with hardwood floors is that black floors—and dark floors in general—are becoming popular again.

In the 1970s, black flooring was fashionable. So was dark cabinetry. This combination created a very dark atmosphere—but that was the cozy feel many people wanted. But then that look started to seem dreary to many people, and there was a general shift toward lighter, more “open” looks—a style that’s been popular now for decades. 

In the past few years, however, I’ve seen a lot of homeowners moving back to black. They want something a little different—maybe even a little daring—and the rich, vivid appearance of black appeals to them. The difference is that they’re using black floors in conjunction with light (often white) cabinetry and furniture.  This dark/light contrast is very distinctive and eye-catching, combining warm coziness with visual excitement.

Ebonized Oak

The ebonizing process we use produces oak flooring that looks like wenge, a very expensive exotic species known for its gorgeous, lush black color. Despite its reputation for pronounced grain, oak can be the perfect choice if dark floors appeal to your taste—as those new homeowners who visited our showroom discovered.

I invite you to stop by and see a sample for yourself.


Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, hardwood floor colors, hardwood flooring trends

Character That Comes With Age: How to Get It in Your Hardwood Floors

Posted on Mon, Feb 03, 2014 @ 16:02 PM

Usually when you buy something, the newer it looks the better. But that’s not always the case with finished hardwood flooring. Many people want their finished hardwood flooring to look old.

It’s the same personal taste that causes some people to love antiques. They’re different than what most people have, they’re visually interesting because of their uniqueness, and they’re comforting because of their ties to the past.

This doesn’t mean that people want hardwood floors that look neglected and worn out. But with the right finishing techniques, finished hardwood floors can look old and fresh at the same time. They’re like a pristinely restored car—it’s obviously old, but the care gone into preserving its beauty is obvious.

To get hardwood floors that look aged, you have three basic choices.

1. Reclaimed Wood

If you want your hardwood flooring to look old, what better way than to use old wood! Many manufacturers mill wood reclaimed from old barns, factories, and other sources. Even after milling, this wood still shows nail holes, gouges, saw marks, stains, and other signs of its history.

describe the image

2. Distressed on Site

Wood that’s been recently harvested and milled can still be made to look old by “distressing” it once it’s installed (before it’s finished). Techniques such as wire brushing, hand scraping (to mimic the hand-scraping methods of the 19th century) and hand distressing (making marks and dents) can provide the texture and character of reclaimed wood. An advantage of this option is that you have more control over the “defects” than with reclaimed wood, so you can get just what you want.

Unless you really know what you’re doing, it’s not a good idea to do this distressing yourself, otherwise you might end up with a seriously damaged floor rather than one that just looks pleasingly old. Let pros handle this job.

3. Pre-finished Distressed

Manufacturers also produce pre-finished hardwood flooring that has been distressed in the factory. As with any pre-finished hardwood flooring, make sure you select a product that’s been manufactured to high standards. You can work with your hardwood flooring company to find the best products to give you the character you’re seeking without sacrificing durability and performance.


Particularly for people aiming for a rustic interior design, having a floor with “character marks” is preferable over a floor that’s completely unblemished. This texture makes each floor unique, creates a homey feel, and can be more stimulating to the eye.

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

Latest Posts