Ralph's Blog

Ralph's wins Best of Customer Service Award from Houzz

Posted on Sat, Jan 30, 2016 @ 09:01 AM

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At Ralph’s, we pride ourselves on first-rate customer service. Throughout our 50-plus years, delighting customers has been our constant goal.

That’s why it was so gratifying when we learned that we have received a Best of Customer Service award from Houzz, the leading website for home design and remodeling.

 “Anyone building, remodeling, or decorating looks to Houzz for the most talented and service-oriented professionals” said Liza Hausman, vice president of Industry Marketing for Houzz. “We’re so pleased to recognize Ralph’s Hardwood Floor Company, voted one of our ‘Best of Houzz’ professionals by our enormous community of homeowners and design enthusiasts actively remodeling and decorating their homes.”

Houzz has more than 35 million monthly unique users. The Best of Customer Service award is based on several factors, including the number and quality of customer reviews a company received in 2015.

We are honored by this recognition and all the positive reviews we’ve received. It’s confirmation that we’re living up to our mission of always leaving our customers with not only beautiful hardwood floors, but also with memories of a pleasant and satisfying customer experience.

We strive for no hassles and no headaches, and when problems do arise, we take responsibility and make things right. That’s the way we’ve always done it, and that’s the way we’ll always do it.

Thanks to Houzz and its users for letting us know that our effort is appreciated!

Follow Ralph’s Hardwood Floor Co., Inc. on Houzz: http://www.houzz.com/pro/ralphshardwoodfloors/ralphs-hardwood-floors

Tags: stories, custom hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors, hardwood flooring trends

Gathering Around the Fire on Hardwood Floors

Posted on Thu, Jan 28, 2016 @ 15:01 PM

Fireplaces are an ideal complement to hardwood floors.Winter’s here with a blast, and the cold winds and snow are blowing. Time to put your fireplace to work!

It’s difficult to think of anything more cozy and homey than gathering around the fireplace on a frigid night. Whether wood-burning or gas, fireplaces give most people a snug, contented feeling.

Hardwood floors fit perfectly into that picture. They have a natural “warmth” that complements the warmth coming from the fireplace.

So if you’re in the process of designing a new custom home, how do you select a fireplace and hardwood flooring that blend well? Or if you’re refinishing, how do you select a hardwood floor style that harmonizes with your existing fireplace?

There is no definitive answer. Like all hardwood floor choices, it entirely depends on what you want. You can match the style of the fireplace to that of the hardwood flooring, or you can have the fireplace and the flooring “contrast” stylistically to help create an eclectic interior design.

If you’re going for a match, you’ll want the colors of the fireplace to be a similar shade as the flooring. For example, if you have a fireplace in a den that you want to have a dark ambience, it would make sense to have both a dark-colored fireplace and dark-colored flooring.

Similarly, if you’re going for a Rustic Cabin feel in your home, a great choice to create that feel would be to combine a rustic-looking fireplace with flooring that has been made to have an aged appearance. The same is true for formal or contemporary looks—a fireplace can be a key element in creating the room-wide feel you’re after.

But “rules” can be broken, and for people who don’t want a uniform look in a room, fireplaces can be just the design element to mix things up a bit. Of course, it will depend on the specific fireplace and flooring being considered, but many times a fireplace of one style can harmonize with flooring of another style, even though they don’t exactly “match.” The effect can be quite striking, bringing a heightened level of visual interest to a room.

The key point is to not feel as if you’re tied to a certain style of flooring based on the fireplace style. Interior design is not a science—if it looks good, it looks good.

Regardless of the style of flooring and fireplace, you can also add visual interest by installing hardwood floor borders around the fireplace. You may or may not have a hearth (local building codes usually mandate them for wood-burning fireplaces but not for gas-burning ones), but it doesn’t matter. Borders can be a delightful choice in both cases. They not only look beautiful; they highlight the fireplace and can help blend it with the rest of the room.

One thing’s for certain—when picturing the idyllic scene of a family gathered around the hearth, no other type of flooring fits as well as hardwood flooring. It’s almost impossible to go wrong, no matter what your stylistic choices.

Stop by our showroom, or give us a call (920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902) to schedule an appointment, and we’ll be glad to work with you to select the ideal flooring for your home (and your fireplace!). We’re also available for no-cost, no-obligation in-home design consultations.

 

Image courtesy of ACM Design Architects, Creative Commons.

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, picking the right floor for your lifestyle

The Basic Characteristics of Hardwood Flooring: Cut

Posted on Tue, Jan 19, 2016 @ 16:01 PM

As trees are sawn into hardwood flooring planks, the way in which the wood is cut will greatly affect how the resulting floors will look, particularly the grain. The cut also influences the stability of the wood.

That’s why it’s important to pay attention to the milling method used when choosing the wood for your hardwood floors.

It matters how hardwood flooring is cut when it's milled.The four basic types of cuts used for flooring are:

Plain sawn

Plain sawn (i.e., “flat sawn”) is the simplest and most common milling method—parallel cuts are made lengthwise along a log.  This cut allows for the greatest grain variation, and in some cases, can even highlight the grain. Depending on the wood species, what’s referred to as the “cathedral affect” can occur—so named because the open grain forms a prominent wavy pattern that resembles a cathedral. 

In terms of stability, plain sawing leaves the wood more susceptible to cupping, crowning, and gapping than the other methods. However, plain sawn is the least expensive of the options, in large part because it wastes the least wood. 

For many, the affordability of plain sawn is just icing on the cake—they love the distinct, bold grain patterns this method produces.

Quarter sawn

This milling method begins by sawing a log into four quarters, and then cutting each quarter perpendicular to the growth rings of the log.

Quarter sawing produces a relatively straight, even grain that provides more stability than plain sawn planks have, with less tendency to expand and contract with moisture and temperature variations.

In some species of wood, the quarter sawn method also produces subtle, ribbony “ray fleck” patterns across the straight grain. Quarter sawn oak flooring, in particular, has beautiful ray flecks.

Customers pick this cut when they want to highlight the ray fleck but minimize the large grain of plain sawn.

Rift sawn

With the rift sawn method, logs are also quartered. However, rather than being cut perpendicular  to the growth rings, each quarter-log is cut along the radius of the original log.

This method results in the most stable boards of the four methods and produces an undeniably elegant and refined look, with a linear grain pattern with no flecking.

However, it’s also the most expensive option (and the least common) because it results in a lot of wasted triangles of wood between each plank—frequently almost as much waste as usable wood.

Rift and quartered

Because of the expense of pure rift sawn or pure quarter sawn flooring, it has become common to use a combination of quarter sawn and rift sawn methods. “Rift and quartered” is in fact the most popular option these days for customized flooring.

To make rift and quartered planks, the log is still quartered, but the quarter-log is cut along alternating sides, producing a combination of rift sawn and quarter sawn characteristics in the planks.

Homeowners choose this method because it minimizes the grain, has good stability, and is the least expensive specialty cut.

Selecting among the milling options is essentially a matter of personal taste. We suggest you visit our showroom and look at samples of each method. You’ll also be able to talk to one of our hardwood flooring specialists about how the milling method affects specific types of hardwood.

Tags: about hardwood floors

Getting new hardwood floors? Don’t go it alone.

Posted on Sat, Jan 16, 2016 @ 10:01 AM

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Every time I walk through a big-box store and see their selection of “low-cost” hardwood flooring, I get a bad feeling.

I start thinking about the people who buy this flooring. They think they’re getting a deal because they’re buying at a cheap per-square-foot price. But I know from my lifetime of working with hardwood floors that these folks are likely in for an unpleasant surprise.

The same is true of people who buy “budget” hardwood flooring online. It troubles me to think about how this buying decision will taint their experience with hardwood floors. They’re essentially trying to create their own customized hardwood floors, so their expectations are high—and I worry that they won’t be met.

I’m not even talking about the quality of the flooring, although that can be a significant issue with the pre-finished and engineered hardwood flooring on the big-box store shelves and the “bargain” websites. A lot of poor-quality products are being sold.

What really gets me is that—even if homeowners buy the best-quality flooring available in big-box stores or online—they’re missing out on the value of working with a full-service hardwood flooring company.

I know what you might be thinking: As the president of Ralph’s, of course I’d say working with a full-service hardwood flooring company is the way to go. So let me explain exactly what I mean.

The value we offer begins when you walk into our showroom or we visit your home to discuss your project. We’ll ask questions about the look you’re after, your lifestyle, your budget, and any other factors that will determine the best flooring for you. We’ll answer questions and offer advice as you make choices about hardwood floor characteristics such as species, finish, color, and plank dimensions—always listening to your vision for your dream floors.

Then we do the installation or refinishing. When you work with us, you have a one-stop solution: There’s no need to buy flooring one place and then hire an installer.

More importantly, you get the advantage of our highly skilled installation team, whose crew leaders average 15 years of experience. In our more than 50 years of serving northeast Wisconsin, we’ve built up a sizable amount of hardwood floor knowledge that’s shared among the entire team. Our installers are dedicated craftsmen who take tremendous pride in their work—or else they wouldn’t be employed by Ralph’s. They eagerly learn the expert installation techniques we’ve picked up over the years, and they all stay on top of the latest trends and techniques.

This knowledgeable installation is critical because the quality of installation plays a major role in the overall quality of the flooring. Poor installation can not only cause issues with appearance, it can negatively affect the floor’s durability.

Another benefit of working with us is that we have long-standing relationships with top architects, builders, and interior designers in the area. We’re used to working in concert with these professionals to get your floors done on budget and schedule—with a result that puts a huge smile on your face.

We may even be able to help you avoid hiring a specialty contractor to get just the look you’re after. We offer services such as installing base shoes in kitchens to match with cabinetry or installing tile or cork in a foyer or bathroom to blend with hardwood flooring. If you do need a specialty contractor, we can help you find the best.

All you need to do is stop by our showroom to get a feel for how we can help you get your dream floors, within your budget. That’s how you can get the best deal on hardwood floors. After all, there’s no sense in buying hardwood flooring that you’re not going to be satisfied with. What’s the savings in that?

Image courtesy of Tim Beverley

Tags: stories, custom hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors, hardwood flooring trends

The Value in Hardwood Floors

Posted on Thu, Jan 07, 2016 @ 15:01 PM

Hardwood floors help homes sell easier and faster, and often for more.Do you like the way hardwood floors look and want them in your home, but you worry about the cost?

Maybe you’ve done some research and found carpeting that’s cheaper—and even vinyl made to look like hardwood, at a lower cost than the real thing.

Your dream for your home is genuine hardwood, but you know that you can’t always get what you want. You sometimes have to make the frugal choice.

This sort of hand-wringing over the cost of hardwood flooring is fairly common. Because of its timeless classiness, people often assume that hardwood flooring is a luxury, and this perception is backed up when they find cheaper flooring options based on square-foot costs for materials and installation.

But this perception is wrong. Any additional upfront cost of hardwood floors is offset by the future value they provide.

Greater longevity

Compared to “cheaper” options, hardwood flooring has much greater durability. With proper care, it can last decades without the need for further investment. Even then, relatively inexpensive refinishing (and possibly re-sanding) can restore a hardwood floor to good-as-new condition. When you buy a hardwood floor for your home, that’s the last floor you’ll have to buy.

Carpeting, as everyone knows, begins to look worn within a few years and must soon be replaced. Inexpensive vinyl, laminate, and tile options also wear quickly and will need to be replaced far sooner than hardwood floors. An accurate comparison of costs should take into account these replacement costs for the “less expensive” options.

Greater Resale Value

In a recent survey by the National Wood Floor Association (NWFA), 90 percent of real estate agents surveyed said that hardwood floors increase the resale value of a home. Of those agents, 12 percent said hardwood flooring increases the value of a home by more than 10 percent!

Many factors go into resale value—general economic conditions, the sale price of nearby homes, etc.—but it’s common sense that a home with hardwood floors will demand a higher price than one with carpeting or cheap “hardwood look-a-like” options.

Greater Marketability 

In the same survey by the NWFA, there was almost universal (99 percent) agreement that hardwood floors make a home easier to sell, while 82 percent said hardwood floors make a home sell faster.

Think about how you would act: If two similar homes were priced the same, but one had hardwood floors and the other carpet, which one would you want to buy? If you’re like most people, you’d go with the home with the hardwood floors, and the home with carpeting would remain on the market.

Of course, not all questions of value can be reduced to dollars and cents. Isn’t there value in waking up every day to hardwood floors that you love compared to flooring that always leaves you wishing for something else? The satisfaction you get from beautiful hardwood floors is intangible, but it’s real.

When you factor in that intangible value with the tangible values of greater longevity, resale values, and home marketability, it becomes clear that the perception of hardwood floors as expensive is based entirely on how you view it. If you look at the full picture, you’ll see that hardwood flooring is actually the best value you’ll find.

Time sums it up nicely in an online article on its Money page: “To get the most bang for your buck, stick with hardwood. Potential buyers will find it more desirable—and you get to enjoy its natural beauty for as long as you own your home.”

Tags: the value of hardwood floors, why choose hardwood floors?

What’s wrong with being eclectic?

Posted on Sat, Jan 02, 2016 @ 10:01 AM

Eclectic

I stopped by a friend’s condo the other day, and as always when I visit her, I left impressed by her flair with interior design.

It’s not just that the condo is gorgeously decorated; it’s how she achieves that beauty.

She isn’t afraid to be eclectic. With great success, she gladly blurs the boundaries between styles that many people would consider incompatible.

Working as I do with hardwood floors, I of course pay attention to how her hardwood flooring interacts with the rest of the home’s décor. The condo is by a river, and the rustic Hickory flooring ties into that natural beauty. However, the furnishings are on the contemporary side.

According to conventional wisdom, that’s not supposed to work. Yet my friend’s home is proof that it can work wonderfully.

There are no hard and fast rules about how to be eclectic. Some combinations of differing styles will look good; others won’t. However, that’s no reason not to try.

You can mix contemporary and rustic, casual and formal, modern and antique. You don’t have to restrict yourself. The eye test is what matters, not sticking to a predetermined notion of a certain style. If it looks good, it looks good.

That’s a point we stress when customers are considering which style of hardwood floor they want. If they love a certain style, but they’re worried that it doesn’t exactly match the style of their existing furnishings and accessories, we tell them that there’s nothing wrong with being eclectic.

Often, contrasts in style—if they’re subtle and not clashing—are just what make a room come alive.

 

 Image courtesy of kotomi

Tags: stories, custom hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors, hardwood flooring trends

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