Ralph's Blog

Three Situations Where Engineered Hardwood Is the Best Choice

Posted on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 @ 08:03 AM

We love solid plank hardwood flooring, and the majority of our customers chose to install solid plank finished wood floors, many of them made from the beautiful, durable Wisconsin hardwoodthat's readily available here.

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Nonetheless, there are times when engineered finished hardwood flooring is a better choice than solid plank flooring.

Engineered Hardwood

Unlike solid plank flooring, in which each board is milled from a single piece of timber, engineered hardwood flooring is constructed from plywood—and then a top layer of hardwood is adhered for appearance and protection.

These are three common circumstances in which this engineered-hardwood alternative makes the most sense or is actually the only feasible option.

1. When the flooring is being installed over a concrete slab or in other high-moisture areas.

Because of the high moisture level of concrete subfloors, manufacturers of solid plank hardwood flooring don’t recommend installing solid plank on them. Engineered hardwood, however, can handle the moisture because of how it’s constructed. When it’s manufactured, each layer is turned perpendicular to the previous layer, which results in greater stability that helps to prevent gapping, cupping , or crowning of the flooring—even when moisture levels are a little high.

For the same reason, any wooden floor installation that’s below grade will require engineered flooring. 

2. When the flooring is being installed over a radiant heating system.

Because it’s less stable than engineered flooring, solid plank flooring will not stand up well to the temperature and moisture fluctuations that are inevitable with in-floor heating.

3. When you want the new wooden floors installation to be over existing flooring.

Because engineered flooring is usually thinner than solid plank flooring, it can sometimes be installed over existing floors, eliminating the cost of removing the old floor. Although it is highly recommended existing flooring be removed and new floor be installed directly over your subfloor.



Engineered finished hardwood flooring comes in a variety of qualities and some less expensive types won't last as long as solid plank hardwood, and it often costs more upfront, as well. You will need to pay attention to how a particular engineered wood is manufactured or you could end up with a poor-performing product. But in the right situation, high-quality engineered flooring can be the ideal selection.


Tags: engineered hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors

Get Your Groove On

Posted on Sun, Mar 23, 2014 @ 07:03 AM

phoca thumb l mocha 2011Hardwood floors are getting really groovy these days.

I don’t mean “groovy” as in “cool.” I haven’t forgotten what decade it is!

Besides, hardwood floors have always been “groovy” in that sense, so nothing new there.

I’m talking about the increasing popularity of hardwood floors that highlight grooves in the wood. Whether they’re hand-scraped, wire-brushed, or distressed, groovy floors are catching on.

Imperfections such as grooves are beautiful to many people. They want a craftsman-style look, with its lived-in feel. Grooves give the flooring just the “old,” “worn” character they’re after.

Another reason people like grooves is that they help hide dents, gouges, and scratches that might happen (think pets and children). Any hardwood floor can be kept in good condition with proper care, but hand-scraped, wire-brushed, and distressed floors make it far less noticeable if any wear does happen. It just blends in.

It’s sort of like the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” idea. Homeowners are deciding they would rather embrace imperfections than worry about them.

This is also why we’re seeing dull sheens growing in popularity—like grooves, they help hide any imperfections that occur. People want to get on with their lives after installation without having to feel like they’re walking on eggshells.

Wire-brushed hardwood floors are created using a machine with hard wire brushes that scrapes off the soft top layer of the wood. The wood that’s left shows more natural characteristics (e.g., grain, knots), and we don’t sand it flat, so the slight natural grooves in its texture remain.

 Hand-scraped floors are manually scraped, just as they were many years ago. When you had a crew of eight guys all scraping a floor, there was no way they were going to get it perfectly flat—there were always variations (grooves) in their texture. When we hand-scrape floors, we recreate that look.

Distressed floors are just what they sound like—wires, chains, nails, screws, etc. are used to beat up the floor. The result is a floor that looks like it might have once been the floor of a barn, workshop, factory, etc.  Some people really embrace imperfections!

All of these styles appeal to homeowners who like a worn look and also want to be able to live their live—to “get on with their groove,” if you will— without worrying about dinging their floor in a way that will draw the eye.

You need to see these floors in person to fully appreciate them, so come by our showroom and check out the possibilities. Many people who see samples have an ah-ah moment, realizing this style of floor can enrich their lifestyle and serve as the centerpiece of their interior design.

Photo courtesy of Chelsea Plank Flooring®
Ralph's Essential Guide to Selecting the Perfect Hardwood Floor

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, hardwood flooring trends, picking the right floor for your lifestyle, finishes, stains & textures

Exotic Wood Floors...The "Wow" Factor!

Posted on Tue, Mar 11, 2014 @ 11:03 AM

North America is blessed with wonderful trees for hardwood floors. But there’s also a wide world of exotic woods to choose from when selecting the species for your finished hardwood flooring.

Exotic wood floors, however, are typically more expensive than domestic species—in large part because of transportation cost, but also because of the relatively low supply of exotic woods.

So why would anyone pay more for an exotic wood when there are so many great species for custom hardwood floors here?

A Look All Your Own

Honda Accords and Toyota Camrys give great performance for their cost, which is why they’re all over the road. But if you’re the type of person who wouldn’t want to drive one of those cars just because so many people have them, you might also be the type of person who’s attracted to exotic wood floors.

Things that are out of the ordinary command attention, and there’s a definite “wow factor” to exotic wood floors. And because of their uniqueness, they are a strong expression of your personal aesthetic.

Distinctive Beauty

Exotic wood floors also expand the “palette” of looks you can choose from. Perhaps you have a particular piece of furniture, window, or wall you’re trying to match with your finished wood flooring. An exotic species might be complementary in a way that no domestic species is.

Brazilian Walnut

Photo by C & C Custom Builders

In a broader sense, your entire interior design can be built around the distinctive appearance of an exotic wood floor. This distinction comes not just from the rarity of exotic woods, but also from their distinguishing visual characteristics. If the characteristics of an exotic wood are just what you’re looking for in your interior design, then you might very well decide its worth any extra cost.


From a functional perspective, if you expect your floors to have a lot of traffic or otherwise take a lot of abuse, you may be attracted to exotic wood floors because of their hardness. Not all exotic woods are harder than domestic species, but most of the top exotic woods are harder than any domestic species.

To illustrate, just look at the Janka wood hardness scale. Brazilian Walnut (3684 on the scale), Cumaru (3540), Brazilian Cherry (2350), and Santos Mahogany (2200) all rank as harder than the hardest of common domestic species, Hickory (1820). White Oak (1360) and Red Oak (1290)—the most popular domestic hardwoods—are considerably softer than most exotic wood floors, even though they’re fairly hard by domestic standards.


Exotic wood floors aren’t for everyone, but for some people, they are just the right choice for their custom hardwood floors. Talk to a well-respected hardwood flooring company to fully explore the costs, benefits, and options involved.

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

Wants, Needs, The Rolling Stones, and Hardwood Floors

Posted on Sun, Mar 09, 2014 @ 08:03 AM

Reclaimed Barn WoodI was riding down the road the other day when The Rolling Stones’ classic, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” came on the radio.

I love the chorus: “You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you just might find, you get what you need.” That’s a pretty good way to look at things, if you ask me.

As the song played, it got me thinking about a couple we recently helped at Ralph’s Hardwoods. They had fallen in love with the look of hardwood floors made with wood reclaimed from old barns, and they wanted to see what we offered.

It turned out that reclaimed barn was too expensive for their budget. Even so— just as Mick Jagger wisely pointed out—they could still get what they needed.

The look was their real need, and once they understood that, they stopped worrying about using wood actually reclaimed from barns.

One of the reasons many people are drawn to reclaimed barn wood is that it’s skip-sawn, meaning that it still shows the saw blade cuts. That’s how wood was cut back when those old barns were built, and there’s a beautiful natural character to it.

It’s no problem to offer customers that style now, even if the wood isn’t coming from a barn. These skip-sawn floors aren’t authentic, but they have a genuine look.

You can find skip-sawn wood that’s pre-finished, but you’ll have a very limited selection of finishes to choose from. I recommend letting experienced hardwood professionals stain and finish the wood on site. When you’re working with talented experts like we have at Ralph’s Hardwoods, you can get an appearance that’s just as full of character as real reclaimed barn wood.

My point is: Don’t give up on your dream floors because you think they might be out of your price range. Achieving  a barn-wood look is just one example of being able to find less-costly ways to get the look you’re after. It’s that way with most hardwood floor styles.

You can’t always get the floors you think you want, but when you visit our showroom, we can show you how to get what you need. 

Photo courtesy of gb_packards Thank you for the 1 million views!. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Tags: stories, finishes, stains & textures

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