Ralph's Blog

Happy Days Are Here Again

Posted on Sat, Aug 29, 2015 @ 10:08 AM


Other than being popular sitcoms about teenage friends growing up, what do Happy Days and That ’70s Show have in common?

They’re both set in Wisconsin.

Happy Days takes place in Milwaukee, and That ’70s Show is located in a fictional suburb of Kenosha. As someone who was born and raised in Wisconsin and still calls it home, I think it’s neat that our state was the setting for these two coming-of-age shows. Wisconsin was—and is—a great place to grow up, and both shows celebrate that.

But there’s another similarity that I notice that’s probably never crossed the mind of even the biggest fans of those programs: The floors in the homes where the kids live are covered in carpet!

Why would that catch my attention? You guessed it—because I would rather their flooring have been hardwood.

I have to give the creators of those shows credit, though. If they had put hardwood floors in the Cunningham and Foreman homes, the shows would have lost an element of realism.

Now, I realize that sitcoms aren’t generally recognized for being realistic. But both shows did seem to try to accurately portray the social trends of the time in which they were set—the 1950s for Happy Days and of course the 1970s for That ’70s Show. And carpeting was definitely a social trend during both decades.

It started in the 50s, in the boom years after World War II. Previously, carpet was woven on a loom, and its cost was out of reach of most homeowners. But with the introduction of relatively inexpensive, mass-produced tufted carpet (i.e., when manufacturers inject the carpet pile into a backing), the soft feel of carpet was suddenly an option for everyone.

After the austere War years, carpeting was seen as a fulfillment of the American Dream—luxurious plushness for all, wall to wall! From the 50s through the 70s, many new homes weren’t built with hardwood floors, and a lot of existing hardwood floors were covered up.

I know from experience that the 70s were not happy days for hardwood floor companies. I was a kid, just getting started in the business, but I can remember how difficult it was for my parents to keep Ralph’s going through that carpeting fad.

Thankfully, the popularity of carpeting waned in the later years of the 20th century, while people’s eyes were reawakened to the timeless beauty of hardwood, as well as its durability and ease of maintenance. People soon realized, that unlike hardwood floors, carpet looks go out of style quickly (think the avocado carpets and deep shag of the 70s!). They also experienced the difficulty of cleaning carpet, as well as how soon it shows wear and tear.

Don’t get me wrong. Wall-to-wall carpeting isn’t going anywhere. Many hardwood floor lovers, for example, still chose to have carpet in their bedroom so their feet hit something soft when they get out of bed.

But when I happen to catch an episode of Happy Days or That ’70s Show in syndication while flipping through channels, I see those carpeted homes and I cringe. They’re a reminder of a time when the newness of mass-produced carpeting caused people to forget about how great hardwood floors are.

Carpeting will always be around, but the floors in those shows are clearly dated in a way that hardwood will never be. Hardwood, on the other hand, like the Fonz in Happy Days, will always be cool.


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials


Tags: about Ralph's

Popular Tree Species for Hardwood Flooring: American Red Oak

Posted on Thu, Aug 27, 2015 @ 15:08 PM

Red Oak Quarter Sawn Select Stained custom hardwood flooring

American Red Oak is as traditional as it gets. Since the 1800s, it has arguably been the most popular choice for hardwood flooring in the U.S., and it remains very widely used.

However, homeowners these days don’t always go for the traditional look. While American Red Oak will always have a timeless quality, we can create some amazing “non-traditional” looks with it.

American Red Oak has a pronounced, coarsely textured grain and a natural blondish color with reddish-pink undertones. It looks great with a clear finish to show off its natural character, but it is also easily stained.

It resists cupping or gapping better than many species—and it’s hard, which makes it ideal for floors that will see a lot of activity. The prominent grain helps hide any dents that do occur, as well as any scratching of the finish. Ebonized Red Oak Select custom hardwood flooring

With a classic appearance, good durability, and moderate price, American Red Oak hardwood floors are an excellent value.

To see and walk on samples of American Red Oak, please visit our showroom  We'll be happy to talk with you about how you can use this time-honored species in your home.

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

Getting Just the Look You Want: Beach House

Posted on Thu, Aug 20, 2015 @ 15:08 PM

Hardwood floors are a perfect fit for the relaxed beach house look.

In this final blog in our seires on using hardwood floors in popular decorating styles, we're thinking about relaxing at the becach!

If your home is near water, you may want a relaxed, informal beach house look to compliment the natural setting. With its care-free charm, this style puts people at ease while connecting them to the aquatic surroundings.

If you desire a beach house look, for your main residence or a vacation home, here are some quick tips about how you can use hardwood flooring to create it.

Natural, aged, and textured looks fit perfectly into a beach house theme. Flooring that looks worn by the elements (think of the hull of an old wooden boat) not only has a relaxed feel to it, it’ll keep you from being anxious about wear and tear. You can use reclaimed wood or have your flooring wire-brushed, hand-scraped, or distressed to give it an aged appearance.

Light brown, grey, and white floors contribute to a light, airy feel that many people love. These light-toned floors can often be strikingly contrasted with darker trim, window fixtures, celling planks, etc.Dogs and hardwood floors get along great!

Consider using high-quality engineered hardwood floors. If you like to leave the windows open to feel the breeze and smell the sea air, but you also like to close them up sometimes and cool off with the AC, well-manufactured engineered flooring is a practical choice because it is less suseptible to cupping and gapping due to moisture fluctuations than solid plank flooring is.

Work with a hardwood floor company experienced with beach house flooring. From providing advice about design possibilities and performance considerations to ensuring the wood is correctly acclimated to the home’s environment before installation, the right hardwood flooring company can make all the difference.

Please stop by our showroom or give us a call if you’d like to discuss the beach house look for your home.


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Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, special series: Getting Just the Look You Want, custom hardwood flooring, hardwood flooring trends, remodeling

The woman behind our success

Posted on Sat, Aug 15, 2015 @ 10:08 AM


Throughout 2015 we’ve been celebrating the 50th anniversary of Ralph’s Hardwoods Floors, which my father, Ralph Lorenz, started in a garage behind his house in Black Creek.

To mark this anniversary, we’ve talked a lot about Dad, who unfortunately passed away last year and isn’t with us to enjoy this milestone. As I’ve said before, Ralph’s was his “baby” and we wouldn’t be celebrating anything if it wasn’t for him.

But the same can be said for my mother, Roberta. Without her, Ralph’s would have never grown from Dad’s one-man shop into the leading hardwood floor company in northeast Wisconsin, with a sprawling showroom and more than 35 employees.

Mom was relatively “behind the scenes,” but she and Dad were partners in everything, and they jointly made the decision to start Ralph’s.  So she was essentially a co-founder of the company.

She‘s also been the glue that’s held the company together.

It started at home. I was born in 1965, the same year Dad left his job at a hardwood flooring company in Appleton to start Ralph’s. Mom already had my sister (then 6) to look after while Dad worked, and now she had me. That was no easy job!

But Mom was also needed in the business. As Dad took on more work, she handled the bookkeeping and invoicing. And when Dad needed an assistant for the actual hardwood floor work, Mom was glad to help. As Dad drove them to jobsites, she used to carry her typewriter along so she could work on the invoices in the car.

I can still picture her diligently finishing floors. She was such a good helper that when Dad eventually hired someone else to do what she was doing, he was constantly grumbling that he needed Mom back. She always enjoyed doing the work, and she liked going from house to house and seeing what was being built and how beautiful the floors could be.

However, Mom’s contributions can’t be measured only by the paperwork she’s done or the finishing jobs she’s helped complete.  I’ve heard her described by colleagues at Ralph’s as a “saint,” and I wholeheartedly agree. Her positive demeanor and willingness to help out however she can are contagious, and over the years, her attitude has spread throughout the company.

And when things get difficult, that’s when she’s at her best. During the 1970s, a bleak time for hardwood flooring companies, Mom was a rock. Her persistence helped keep the company on course through those years. Likewise, when I took over in 1992, she was always there for me if I needed advice or encouragement with challenges I faced—and she still is.

I’ve also got to give Mom a lot of credit for “managing” Dad, who had a creative energy that sometimes needed to be focused in the right direction. I think one of the reasons she liked working in the business was so she could keep an eye on him!

Mom and Dad were married for 58 years, and I know she misses him, as we all do. I’m very sorry Dad isn’t here to celebrate this milestone year with us, but I’m so happy that Mom is.

Ralph’s is her “baby”, too, and she has every reason to be proud of its success. It wouldn’t have happened without her.­


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials


Tags: about Ralph's

The Basic Characteristics of Hardwood Flooring: Sand-on-Site vs. Prefinished

Posted on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 @ 16:08 PM

When you have hardwood flooring installed, you’re faced with an essential question about how it will be finished—will you have it sanded and finished on site or will you buy prefinished hardwood flooring? Each option has its advantages, as you can see in the following chart. Ultimately, the decision will depend on your needs and tastes.

comparison chart of sand-on-site vs. prefinished hardwood flooring

Sand-on-Site: Anything Is Possible

Sand-on-site installation allows for complete customization—a powerful attraction to many homeowners. There are no limits to the imagination.

With sand-on-site, you will need to vacate your home during the sanding/finishing days, but we can schedule installations around your schedule, when you’re already not planning on being there. And we use a state-of-the-art dust containment system that vacuums about 98% of the dust completely out of the home, so it won’t be a mess as you’re enjoying your new hardwood floors.

Prefinished: Quality Matters

The most obvious advantage of prefinished hardwood floors is convenience. Because they’re finished at the factory, they are simply installed with no sanding required. There is no cure time, and you are able to stay in your home and walk on these floors as soon as they are installed. 

Manufacturers are now producing a wide variety of quality prefinished products, including distressed and hand-scraped finishes. You can find prefinished flooring in numerous species, colors, textures, sheens, grades, and dimensions. With the multitude of styles now available, many homeowners are discovering that they may achieve the look they want with prefinished flooring.

We invite you to our showroom to check out some of the prefinished products that have more than satisfied our customers. We partner only with the best manufacturers of prefinished products and proudly stand behind their quality. The prefinished product lines we install include:


Preverco is a premier manufacturer of high-end hardwood flooring, offering a wide variety of species, colors, widths, and grades, as well as the highest-quality finishes available. They also have a “cost-conscious” professional series available in six colors on four species.


Designed to reflect the styles found in Europe from centuries ago, DuChateau floors are antique-reproduction hard wax oil floors with natural changing grain patterns and hand-crafted textures.

An important point is that prefinished floors have a beveled edge, which allows for slight irregularities in the subfloor and slight differences in milling thicknesses. Without the bevel, sharp edges would be present. Beveled edges are a desirable look for some, but they are not for everyone.

Tags: prefinished hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors, installation, finishes, stains & textures

Getting Just the Look You Want: French Country

Posted on Thu, Aug 06, 2015 @ 16:08 PM

Antique Heart Pine Natural

As we continue our series on using hardwood floors in popular interior design styles, we focus today on the charm of the French Country look.

Rustic, Old World charm and relaxing warmness characterize the “French Country” style that many people desire for their home. It’s a natural look, and the colors and grain patterns of hardwood flooring—courtesy of Mother Nature—are a perfect fit.

Rustic-grade floors (i.e., with knotholes, wormholes, or other imperfections) beautifully enhance the comfortable informality of the French Country look.  A popular choice is to install hardwood floors reclaimed from old homes, barns, schools, etc.  This element of genuine age really adds to the Old World feel.

Hardwood species with open grain (i.e., “a lot of grain”) work well with this style. Because the French Country look is frequently used with open floor plans, relatively light colors (natural or stain) are often chosen because they tend to make rooms feel larger, in line with the open style.

To pull the French Country look together, you can chose hardwood floors that complement other features typical of the style, such as exposed rafter beams and stone fireplaces.

The French Country look puts people at ease because of its casual naturalness, and no type of flooring is more natural than hardwood. To see samples and discuss possibly creating the French Country look in your home, please stop by our showroom or give us a call.


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Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, special series: Getting Just the Look You Want, custom hardwood flooring, hardwood flooring trends, remodeling

What’s underneath your carpet?

Posted on Sat, Aug 01, 2015 @ 10:08 AM


Dianne Smith has wanted to restore the hardwood floors in her home for years.

She finally got her wish, and Ralph’s was fortunate enough to be able to help it come true.

Dianne and her husband have been living in the same house for 42 years, and all of them have been with carpet—until now. Dianne recently convinced her husband, after many years of persuasion, to try to bring the old maple hardwood floors underneath the carpet back to life.

However, the house was built in 1927, and they weren’t even sure hardwood floors that old could be restored.

There were problems when the carpet came up. In the living room, previous owners had apparently painted the edge of the flooring, possibly to match a rug in the center of the room. The hardwood that had been painted was now damaged. There were also several holes in the floor made for wiring.

In the sunroom, Dianne admits she allowed water to soak into the hardwood as she watered plants when she was younger, not realizing how spilled water on the carpet could damage the hardwood underneath. The result was several significant black spots in the hardwood.

“It was a mess,” in Dianne’s words.

The Smiths did the right thing by coming to Ralph’s to sand and refinish those old floors. We’ve been restoring hardwood floors for more than 50 years, and we’re experts at doing it. We assured them we could make their old flooring look new again.

It gives us great satisfaction to astonish customers with the transformation possible with sanding and refinishing, and that’s the reaction we got from Dianne after we were done with her floors.

“We couldn’t believe it,” Dianne told us, after calling our showroom to compliment us. “It is way beyond what we had expected. It is just absolutely gorgeous.”

Even her husband—who had previously believed hardwood floors would be “too cold”—loves the new look, Dianne says.

The restored hardwood is the dining room, living room, and sunroom, and Dianne said it has transformed the feel of her house.

 “It’s warm and comforting,” she says. “Everything just flows from it. It brings out everything.”

Guests at the Smiths’ home immediately notice the change, Dianne said, and they’re often as surprised as she was at how beautiful they look. Dianne said another typical comment she gets is that they clearly add market value to the home.

It makes our day when we hear from customers like Dianne about how much they like the look of their hardwood floors. It’s a reassuring affirmation that we’re continuing to achieve the high level of quality and craftsmanship that Ralph’s has become known for.


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials


Tags: about Ralph's

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