Ralph's Blog

5 Reasons to Consider Natural Oil for Your Hardwood Floor

Posted on Sat, Oct 31, 2015 @ 08:10 AM

Natural oil finishes are staging a comeback as more homeowners seek natural and vintage looks for their hardwood floors. I say comeback because natural oils have been used for centuries to stain, protect and moisture-proof wood. Here are five reasons why you might want to consider natural oil for your next hardwood floor:


1. They look great

One of my favorite things about natural oil is that as it penetrates the wood it enhances grain patterns and deepens the woods colors. In an interesting collision of science and art, natural oils soak into wood and bond with it at a molecular level, changing the woods composition but enhancing its texture and color. Over time natural oil also creates a patina which ages with the wood, so it never gets that worn-out look you can see with some surface finishes.

2. Great for high traffic zones

Natural oil finished floors show almost no scratches or wear marks because there is no glossy layer on top to be marked up. Dents and dings are more apparent in a floor with a high gloss finish.  

3. Easy to maintain

Natural oil floors are very forgiving and can be easily refreshed as needed. You can think of it kind of like waxing your car, as you simply need to re-apply the natural oils and let it dry. Spots can be easily touched up and worn spots gone over at any point without impacting uniformity. A high traffic area (kitchen) can be oiled more often than a low traffic area (bedroom).  This is something that a home owner can do without hiring a professional.

4. Environmentally and Family Safe

Oil finishes generally release fewer volatile organic compounds (V.O.C.s) than other finishes which is better for the environment and for your family. V.O.C. free options also exist. I have also seen it put that if sustainability is the new environmentally friendly then oil finished are about as friendly as you can get.

5. Cost

As with most things, you can spend more or less it suits your needs but in most cases finishing your floor with natural oils will not cost any more than any other finish. The more impactful savings is the lifetime value as you will need to “refinish” more frequently, but refinishing an oil finished floor is significantly less expensive than refinishing a floor with a polyurethane surface.

Natural Oil Finishes 101

  • 2 basic varieties: natural oil and hard wax oil

  • Typically use linseed and/or tung oil as a base

  • Can include soy, sunflower, china wood, safflower, hemp and other oils

  • Wax formulas can include carnuba, candellila resins or bee wax to enhance durability

  • Natural oils work by fortifying and sealing the wood fibers

  • Like a skin an oiled floor that is well cared for may last a lifetime and never need re-sanding


Tags: finishes, stains & textures, natural oils

When life throws a curve ball...we hit the home run!

Posted on Sat, Oct 10, 2015 @ 12:10 PM


At Ralph’s Hardwood Floors, we want all our jobs to go smoothly. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.

Just recently, for example, we were getting ready to finish a job installing hickory hardwood floors in a home under construction. We had already installed the flooring; now we just needed to apply the finish. We figured it would be a one-day job.

But we were wrong.

When our finishers arrived at the home, they realized something had happened since we laid down the flooring—it had become saturated with water. It quickly became obvious that a plumbing leak in a bathroom upstairs was the cause.

We had a real mess on our hands. A section of the floor was damaged, and there was no other choice but to tear it out and reinstall new planks. And we knew that the contractor—and the homeowner buying the house—were both counting on us to have this floor finished when we had expected to have it finished.

If I’m making this sound like a real nightmare, let me assure you that—as much of a challenge as it was—it was nothing unusual. As I said, not all jobs go smoothly, and in 50 years of business, we’ve had to deal with more un-smooth jobs than we can possibly count. The problems vary, but the constant is that we always do anything in our power to make things right.

We’ve talked before about Ralph’s commitment to exceptional customer service. I’ve told the story of my father traveling to Alaska to save a job. I’ve praised our installers for pointing out a flaw in a batch of engineered flooring that meant more work and cost for us but kept a customer from being dissatisfied. But this message of please-the-customer-at-all-costs is one I never tire of repeating because it’s a “mantra” of Ralph’s.

That’s why when we discovered the water damage on that recent job, we never hesitated to commit to keeping the job on schedule—even after the damage spread to another section, which we had to tear out as well.

Many people at Ralph’s had to step up to the plate and work long hours, over the weekend, to keep the home completion date on schedule—a date that was very important to the homeowner’s plans.

It’s no surprise to me that our team members gladly and voluntarily did this. When we hire, we specifically looks for a passion for pleasing customers. And I like to think our culture of customer service is so well-embedded after 50 years that it’s just who are, and who we will continue to be.


Ralph's 50th Anniversary Flooring Specials


Tags: about Ralph's

Popular Tree Species for Hardwood Flooring: Hickory

Posted on Thu, Oct 08, 2015 @ 15:10 PM

Beautiful, durable Hickory hardwood flooring

Hickory is one of the hardest trees found in North America, making it one of the most durable choices for flooring. It can stand up to lots of foot traffic (and kids and pets!) without looking worn—a major reason that we get more requests for Hickory floors than for any other species.

Hickory’s appearance also is a big attraction. It usually has a wide natural color variation within the planks—typically ranging from almost-white to light brown and red tones. Hickory also has a distinctive grain that many people fall in love with.

If desired, Hickory can be stained to give it a darker appearance. For those seeking a rustic, country look, Hickory looks great in grades that have knots and mineral streaks. It also can be hand-scraped, wire-brushed, or distressed to add to its rustic feel. Many homeowners chose wide planks to showcase the unique features of Hickory without making the floor seem too “busy.”

To see and walk on samples of Hickory, please visit our showroom. We’d love to talk with you about how you can use this beautiful species in your home.

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

Popular Tree Species for Hardwood Flooring: Birch

Posted on Thu, Oct 01, 2015 @ 04:10 AM

Birch hardwood flooring looks beautiful when stained dark.

Birch is a popular alternative to the two most popular domestic species, Maple and Oak, because it provides similar refinement, hardness, and durability.

There are several varieties of Birch, but the most commonly used for flooring is Yellow Birch, which has a red- and brown-toned heartwood surrounded by a light, creamy sapwood—a color contrast that can be quite pleasing, depending on how the wood is cut. Red Birch, which is just the heartwood, is also often used for flooring.

Birch has a slightly wavy grain that’s closed (i.e., “not much grain”). Birch can be tricky to stain, but we can achieve most colors.

To see and walk on samples of Birch, please visit our showroom  We’d love to talk with you about how you can use this stylish species in your home.

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

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