Ralph's Blog

We're all in it together

Posted on Sat, Sep 26, 2015 @ 10:09 AM


We get a lot of compliments about the beauty of the floors we install. Those praises make us feel good and serve as validation that we’re living up to the Ralph’s standard.

But we strive not only for excellence in craftsmanship, but also in customer service. That’s why there’s another compliment we love to hear: “We really appreciate how smoothly the job went.”

We can’t always do it alone, though. For some jobs—such as a floor refinishing—the “smoothness” of the job is all on us. But for any job that involves other contractors, we have to be team players.

In cases of remodeling or additions, homeowners may very clearly see how our coordination with the contractor resulted in a job completed on time, with minimal inconvenience. In cases of new home construction, however, the homeowner may not even be aware of our teamwork with the contractor. In those cases, the compliment may come from the contractor. But that’s fine with us because that tells us we’re being a good team player.

Any hardwood floor company will tell you they strive for excellent customer service, but we don’t believe that’s possible without an ability to work well with contractors. For that reason, over our 50 years of business, we’ve cultivated relationships with the top contractors in northeast Wisconsin.

We’ve worked with more than 400 contractors during our history, and with each, we’ve made our best effort to coordinate our work with theirs so that we can get our job done on schedule with as little hassle as possible.

By and large, these contractors are custom-home builders who are experienced with quality craftsmanship and appreciate our devotion to doing exceptional work. They also value the efficiency of our internal organization, which allows us to work in harmony with the contractor. We always assign a “point person” to each job, so that communication is easy and constant. When contractors work with Ralph’s, the ball doesn’t get dropped, and there are no surprises.

Most homeowners, when thinking about new custom hardwood floors, focus on things like species, color, grade, etc. But don’t forget about the importance of selecting a hardwood floor installer, such as Ralph’s, that is a team player, with a proven history of collaboration with the best custom-home builders in the area.

If you do that, I have a feeling you’ll be offering your own compliments.


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials


Tags: about Ralph's

Popular Tree Species for Hardwood Flooring: Maple

Posted on Thu, Sep 24, 2015 @ 16:09 PM

Maple remains a popular tree species for hardwood flooring.

If you remember a hardwood floor from your childhood, there’s a good chance it was Maple. For much of the 20th century in the U.S., “Maple” was almost synonymous with “hardwood flooring” because of its elegant look, hardness, and reasonable cost.

Maple has a creamy, pale color, sometimes with a slight reddish tint. Depending on the grade, it can have dark mineral streaks or none at all, and its grain can vary from barely noticeable straight lines to curly  patterns. Some cuts have a type of grain known as “birds eye,” a pattern of tiny marks that look a lot like eyes.

Although Maple hardwood flooring is as traditional as it gets, it’s certainly not out of date. With modern finishing techniques, Maple is very versatile, with a range of creative possibilities. Many homeowners, for example, choose dark stains that enhance the wood’s natural warmth and richness, giving it a look similar to Cherry or Mahogany.

However, when stained improperly, maple can have a blotchy appearance, so it’s important to have the staining done by professionals with a history of making Maple look gorgeous.

To see and walk on samples of Maple, please visit our showroom  We'll be happy to talk with you about how you can use this classic species in your home.

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

When Ralph's Began

Posted on Sat, Sep 12, 2015 @ 10:09 AM


All year long, as Ralph’s Hardwoods Floors has been celebrating its 50th year in business, I’ve found myself thinking about what the world was like when my father started Ralph’s in 1965.  I guess it’s the same sort of fascination as looking at a newspaper from the day you were born.

One thing I’ve found interesting about that time is how much it relates to what’s happening today.

In 1965…

The Vietnam War was dividing the nation.

As Lyndon Johnson escalated the “police action” in Vietnam, young Americans started burning draft cards, protestors of all ages began marching on Washington, and a mass anti-war movement began to spread.  

Many others supported the growing military involvement; the burning of draft cards was outlawed with harsh penalties; and troops kept being sent to fight the Viet Cong. The Vietnam War was beginning in earnest.

Obviously, we’re still getting pulled into foreign conflicts, and people are still disagreeing about how and when the U.S. should use force as part of foreign policy.

Racial tensions were high.

Throughout 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. worked to spread his message of brotherly love and equality, including leading the famous marches from Selma to Montgomery. And the violent responses to civil rights protests—many broadcast on national TV—helped to spur a nationwide sentiment that resulted in Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into law in August.

However, the civil rights movement met much resistance. Malcom X was assassinated in February. And less than a week after Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act, the Watts riots occurred—a precursor to Ferguson a half-century later.

We had our eyes on the stars.

The recent photos of Pluto are fantastic, but it seems that our passion for space travel has waned over the past 50 years. In 1965, the U.S. and Soviet Union were in what seemed like a life-and-death struggle to conquer space first—and everyone was paying close attention. In June, Edward Higgins White made the first U.S. space walk, but Soviet Cosmonaut Alexey Leonov beat White and the U.S. to that feat in March.

On the other hand, considering the insane amounts of money people are plunking down for the possibility of private space travel, maybe our space obsession is still very much alive.

The Green Bay Packers were the gold (and green) standard of football.  

The 33rd NFL Championship Game was won by the Packers and legendary coach Vince Lombardi (with a lot of help from guys like Bart Starr and Paul Hornung) on the second day of 1966. Of course, the bulk of the effort came in the 1965 regular season leading up to that game.

For the next two years, the Packers continued their championship ways, winning the first two Super Bowls after this last NFL championship game, following the merger of the NFL and AFL.

These days the Packers are still the Packers, but are we going to win the Super Bowl this year? Sure, why not?

Things that now seem classic were brand new.

Debuting in 1965 were Tom & Jerry, the Pillsbury Doughboy, the Days of our Life soap opera, A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Beatle’s movie Help! and album Rubber Soul, Sonny & Cher’s “I Got You Babe,” and Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Two landmarks were completed in 65: The St. Louis Gateway Arch and the Astrodome in Houston. The Astrodome is gone, but the Arch is still there and hopefully will be for 50 more years and beyond.

Ralph’s Hardwoods Floors opened in Black Creek.

A lot has changed about hardwood flooring since Dad started the company in 1965, and we diligently stay on top of the latest techniques, materials, etc.—always looking to do things better. Ralph’s has changed too, growing from my father’s one-man-shop in his garage to an employer of 35 people with a 19,000-square-foot facility and a 4,000-square-foot showroom.

But Dad’s initial commitment to quality craftsmanship and first-rate customer service has remained a constant.

That’s something that will never change.


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials


Tags: about Ralph's

The Basic Characteristics of Hardwood Flooring: Finish

Posted on Thu, Sep 10, 2015 @ 15:09 PM

The finish is an essential aspect of a beautiful hardwood floor. Not only does a quality finish help your hardwood flooring keep its beauty longer, the right finish can accentuate the look you’ve chosen.

Characteristics of a finish include its sheen (high-gloss, semi-gloss, satin, or matte) and its color, which is not only determined by the natural color of the wood but also by the stain used in the finishing.

Comparison of Hardwood Floor Finishes


Many hardwood floor companies push this choice, but we don’t use it much because it’s slow-drying, smelly, and not great in terms of durability. It can have a satin, gloss, or semi-gloss sheen.


Unlike polyurethane finishes—which form a layer on top of the wood—Swedish finishes bond to the floor. This creates a natural look with great color and makes the finish extremely durable. Swedish finish is a very popular choice, but because of the difficult application, a Swedish finish absolutely needs to be applied by professionals with skill and experience. And we recommend that you not be in the house as it’s being applied because of its smell.


This type of finish is good for showing off the natural color of a wood. It also has the advantage of drying faster than most other finishes. High-quality water-based finishes, like we use at Ralph’s, can be very scratch-resistant, with low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and very little odor.

Natural Oils

This type of finish—a mixture of oils, waxes, and stain—appeals to people concerned about carbon emissions, because it has no volatile organic compounds. Another appeal is that once a hardwood floor is finished with natural oil the first time, it’s not dangerous for anyone to apply more of the oil to refresh the floor. And it doesn’t take a trained hardwood floor professional to make it look good—it just blends in. Plus, you don’t have to refresh the entire floor at once; you can do just one section at a time as needed.

Moisture-Cure Urethane

This is the hardest common finish and is highly water-resistant. It is ideal for high-traffic businesses, such as restaurants or bars. It is available only in gloss and does not work over stain.

When selecting the finish that’s right for your floors, it helps to decide on the relative importance of appearance, durability, ease of maintenance, and cost. For example, many of the less-durable finishes are nonetheless popular because of their distinctive looks, which are just what some people are searching for. For others, a hard finish is a must. 

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

Popular Tree Species for Hardwood Flooring: American Walnut

Posted on Thu, Sep 03, 2015 @ 15:09 PM

American Walnut hardwood flooring naturally creates a coziness that many homeowners love.

American Walnut, also known as Black Walnut, is loved for the warmth its dark tones bring to rooms.

The heartwood of American Walnut is chocolate-brown to blackish in color, while its sapwood is a lighter, creamy color. This alteration results in a fair amount of color variation between planks—a look that’s not for everyone but is prized by many for its visual interest and casual genuineness.

Because of its rich natural coloring, American Walnut is a popular choice among homeowners who want a natural look. However, many people choose to stain the wood even darker, adding to its warmth. Stain can also be used to darken the sapwood, if desired, reducing the amount of color variation for those who prefer a more-even look.

To see and walk on samples of American Walnut, 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

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