Ralph's Blog

Elegant Parquet Flooring Coming Back in Style

Posted on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 @ 08:03 AM

The history of parquet hardwood floors can be traced back to 17th Century France, from where they spread to become the flooring of choice of the European aristocratic class. Parquet’s elegant, artistic look was something only the wealthiest could afford.

In modern times, however, the once-esteemed parquet style has for years been somewhat out of favor, as tastes have generally shifted toward more informal and minimalistic looks.

But there’s no need to write a eulogy for parquet just yet! Over the past couple of years, we’ve seen an increasing interest in this beautiful, refined flooring style among homeowners who visit our showroom.

We couldn’t be happier about this resurgence (perhaps inspired by the aristocratic “Downton Abbey” look?). Not all homeowners share the tastes that are inspiring casual, minimalistic styles, and parquet flooring is an excellent choice for those who want a high degree of visual stimulation with a sense of courtly stylishness.Herringbone parquet

What distinguishes parquet from other hardwood flooring is that it is patterned, consisting of a mosaic of geometric designs. It is created using solid wood slats that are installed in a parquet pattern, or with manufactured parquet panels, which consist of individual slats held together in a pattern by tape, which is removed after installation.

One of the most popular parquet patterns is herringbone, a classic European style that consists of right angles—a look often compared to a woven basket. When installed as solid wood, the floor is made by orienting short rows of slanted parallel wood slats in opposition to each other (i.e., at right angles).

The “v” shapes formed by the right angles can be oriented lengthwise along a room or diagonally. The look can be enhanced further by using alternating species, stains, textures, etc. to make the pattern stand out.

Two popular variations of herringbone are double herringbone, in which double rows of wood are used, and chevron, in which the ends of slats are cut off at an angle.

Not crazy about herringbone? No problem. One of the great attractions of parquet is that skilled artisans can create innumerable distinctive patterns. Virtually anything is possible. You can have a floor that’s completely unique.

And also keep in mind that parquet can be used very beautifully and strikingly in borders and medallions in main rooms, foyers, and hallways. As an accent, parquet can be just the thing to add some visual interest without dominating a look.

One important consideration in choosing parquet is that it usually requires expert installation by professionals who have done it before, like you’ll find at Ralph’s Hardwood Floors. DIY installation may be possible with manufactured parquet panels (although we don’t recommend it), but installation of solid-plank parquet isn’t something for amateurs to tackle. It takes a seasoned touch to get the alignment right—and without that alignment, the parquet pattern loses its magic.

To read about the parquet in Downton Abbey, read our blog, “Downton Abbey, Hardwood Floors, and Old World Style.” To view samples of parquet floors, please visit our showroom.

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, hardwood flooring trends

Oops, I didn’t see that dunk…I was looking at the floors!

Posted on Sat, Mar 21, 2015 @ 10:03 AM


March madness is here, the Badgers are a number-one seed, and I’m ready for some exciting basketball. But I have to confess to something many people might find strange—when I’m watching basketball, sometimes my mind drifts off the game and I start looking at the court.

As a hardwood flooring professional, I’m amazed at many of the basketball courts today. Hardwood planks (typically maple) have been the standard for indoor gymnasiums for a long time, but the newest floors are showing a higher degree of creativity and stylishness than I’ve seen before. It’s common now to see hardwood arranged in intricate geometrical patterns, as well as the use of different finishes to mark off sections of the court, such as the three-point area.

As someone with personal experience installing gym floors, I appreciate the work that goes into those floors. It requires skill and care to make a gym floor look beautiful while also ensuring it functions perfectly.

That can’t be forgotten—the durability of hardwood flooring is after all what makes it so ideal for basketball. It’s able to stand up to the bouncing ball, pounding footsteps, and crashing bodies with relatively little maintenance. That’s why “hardwood” has almost become synonymous with basketball, and you’ll hear announcers say, “On the hardwood tonight…” It’s really the only practical choice for the game.

I’ll be honest, I’d much rather be installing customized flooring in a home or business. We don't install many basketball courts however, we’ve learned a lot from working on basketball courts, and we apply that knowledge on all jobs.

An important lesson I picked up on one gym flooring job sticks with me to this day. I learned that explaining things to customers is an important part of what we do. I had gone with my father, who started Ralph’s, to install a gym in a small town. When we arrived, we discovered that we had a sizable audience of people interested in seeing the floor installed in the town’s only gym.

Dad made the determination—correctly—that the wood was overly dry and would pick up moisture once it was installed, causing it to expand. Therefore, he installed it allowing for room for expansion. Many of the onlookers thought he didn’t know what he was doing and complained about the gaps between the planks.

Dad wasn’t about to do the installation wrong, but he could never stand for customers to be upset. So he patiently explained why we were doing what we were doing. There were still some doubters, but Dad won over the crowd, and we were able to finish the job the right way. And just as Dad knew it would, the floor looked perfect once the wood expanded.

That’s an example we still follow at Ralph’s. If a customer has questions, we don’t get irritated, roll our eyes, and give a short-as-possible  answer. We take the time to explain what we’re doing and why it’s the best way.

We understand that people don’t just become financially invested in hardwood floors—they become personally invested in the vision they have for the flooring in their home. We love it when our customers have that personal attachment, and we’re glad to explain the installation process to them, including involving them in any choice that will have an impact on appearance or functionality.

Of course, the community-gym floor Dad and I were installing is a far cry from what you’ll find at the NBA (and even college) arenas of today. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling a connection to those floors. I know enough about hardwood flooring, to know what it took to make them look as great as they do. And they make me recall those days long ago installing gym floors with Dad and his commitment to keeping customers happy.

So while everyone else is applauding the dunks, steals, and three-pointers this March, I’ll be giving a silent hand to the people who designed and installed the floors. Way to go, hardwood floor pros!


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials



Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/scoobs/


Tags: stories, about Ralph's, Wisconsin

Getting the job done on a snowmobile

Posted on Tue, Mar 10, 2015 @ 10:03 AM


Are you tired of the cold, ice, and snow? I know I am. It’s that time of year when spring is beckoning, but winter is still hanging on—and still threatening.

When I think of long, stormy winters, it calls to mind a winter years ago, in the early days of Ralph’s Hardwoods Floors. It was a particularly rough winter, and the storm the night before had dropped so much snow that we couldn’t get out on the roads.

I was out playing in the fluffy stuff when I noticed Dad loading finishing equipment on the snowmobile. I was surprised. It was a snow day off from school for me, and I hadn’t expected Dad to go to work, either. And I had never seen him use a snowmobile like a cargo van!

But I was just a kid then; I didn’t understand Dad’s commitment to the business he started—and to his customers. Dad had promised a customer a floor would be done by a certain day, and he was going to keep that promise, come hell or high water, or in this case, snow.

That’s just one example I saw as a child of Dad’s dedication to customer service. He understood that if you’re not pleasing customers, you’re not going to stay in business.

Seeing Dad speed off on his snowmobile to get a job done is the type of thing that makes an impression on a child—and it made one on me. As I grew up and eventually took over Ralph’s, that image still inspires me to go above and beyond in making customers’ experience with Ralph’s a pleasant, rewarding, as-promised experience.

And you know what, as I grew up, I figured out something else about that day. At the time, I assumed Dad didn’t want to go; he may even have reassuringly said he wished he could stay and hang out with us at home.

Part of him probably did want that—he certainly loved his family—but another part of him was eagerly looking forward to getting the job done as promised. He had made a commitment, and he wanted to honor that commitment. There was a determined look in his eye that day, and I came to understand why—Dad was going to do what he said he was going to do.

I also enjoy pleasing customers; it really is fun. And when we hire, that’s one of our key criteria—do they truly get personal satisfaction from putting a big smile on the face of a customer? If that’s not something that gets them excited enough that they’ll do everything possible to make it happen, they aren’t right for our team.

Customer service was a focus of Dad’s when he started Ralph’s in 1965, and 50 years later it remains so, inspired by the example he set.  A snowstorm—or any difficulty for that matter—isn’t going to keep us from living up to that example.


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials


Photo courtesy of https://www.flickr.com/photos/explorethebruce/

Tags: stories, about Ralph's

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