Ralph's Blog

Love at First Sight: Hardwood Floors and Kitchen Cabinets

Posted on Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 16:05 PM

Paint is often used on kitchen cabinets to provide a contrast with the hardwood floor colors.Kitchens are a great place for hardwood flooring. They’re also a perfect opportunity to use hardwood floors in conjunction with other interior design elements to create a look that’s more than the “sum of the parts.”

Kitchen cabinets are usually the most important part of achieving this enhanced appearance. The way in which they complement the flooring can establish the entire feel of the kitchen, and a good pairing can elevate the room’s beauty and unite all its features.

The traditional thinking about how to pair kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors has been to make the cabinets a shade lighter, with a similar grain pattern in the cabinet and floor. There were a lot of kitchens with dark cabinets and dark flooring!

Likewise, we saw homeowners going for a casual, “breezy” look stick to light tones in both the flooring and cabinetry.

But tastes have changed, and homeowners are being more creative than ever in using kitchen cabinets with hardwood floors. It’s now stylish to use cabinets in a way that complements the flooring but doesn’t “match” it in the traditional sense.

So we’re seeing a lot of contrasting tones, often created using paint on the cabinets. Dark cabinets and light flooring (or vice versa) have become very popular. Bright, vivid colors are sometimes used on the cabinets. And matching the wood species of the flooring and the cabinets is certainly not a priority for most people.

Sure, we still get people looking to match design elements—such as installing cabinets with an antique look to match reclaimed hardwood flooring. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional idea of matching the cabinetry colors with that of the flooring. It’s all a matter of taste

But whatever that taste is, the cabinets in the kitchen will play a major role in displaying it. They’re a lifelong partner with the flooring in creating the look you’re after.

We’re happy to talk with you about how the hardwood flooring in your kitchen will relate to the cabinetry. Please stop by our showroom or give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902 to schedule an appointment or start a conversation.

Tags: hardwood floor colors, hardwood flooring trends, hardwood floors & interior design

Engineered Flooring Isn't What It Used to Be...It's Better!

Posted on Sat, May 21, 2016 @ 05:05 AM


It wasn’t so many years ago that I used to steer customers away from engineered hardwood flooring. They would visit our showroom and want to know about engineered flooring, and I’d politely explain that it just wasn’t as good a choice as solid plank flooring—except in cases where engineered flooring was the only option because of moisture considerations.

That’s not what I say anymore.

Homeowners can now find engineered flooring that will look great and last long enough for us to recommend it. Solid plank flooring is still the most popular option among our customers, but more and more homeowners are choosing engineered flooring, even when they don’t have to … and even when they are having custom hardwood floors installed.

Unlike solid plank flooring, in which each board is milled from a single piece of timber, engineered hardwood flooring is constructed from layers of plywood, fiberboard, scrap hardwood, or less-expensive hardwood from fast-growing species—and then a top layer of finished hardwood (the lamella) is adhered for appearance and protection.

The advantage of this engineered structure is that it provides more stability than solid plank flooring, which is why engineered flooring is usually the only option in areas with high moisture, such as basements or rooms with radiant heat.

The problem for years was that the majority of the engineered flooring on the market was made with a lamella that was so thin that it couldn’t be re-sanded more than once or twice, if it all—unlike solid plank flooring, which can repeatedly be sanded to refurbish the floor. That meant that engineered flooring wasn’t going to last nearly as long as solid plank flooring before it would have to be torn out and new flooring installed.

Most engineered flooring was essentially being made as cheaply as possible and sold as a less-expensive option than solid plank flooring.

You can still find that type of engineered flooring in stores today. But you won’t find it at Ralph’s!

Engineered flooring manufacturers have realized there’s a demand for the stability of engineered flooring, even among homeowners looking for top-quality floors. And so they’ve started producing engineered flooring that has a thicker lamella. They’ve also started offering a much wider array of species, cuts, colors, etc., making it possible to create beautiful and unique custom designs using engineered wood.

Engineered wood can be finished on site—which we often do—but today there are many beautiful prefinished products available, as well.

Don’t misunderstand me. Solid plank flooring isn’t being replaced by engineered flooring! But with the advances in engineered flooring quality over the years, we can now comfortably tell our customers that engineered flooring is a great option.

To view our selection of high-quality engineered flooring, please visit our showroom. To learn more about the technical details of engineered flooring, read our recent blog.


Tags: engineered hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors

Are Your Hardwood Floors Headed in the Right Direction? You Tell Us.

Posted on Fri, May 20, 2016 @ 13:05 PM

When we install hardwood floors, we occasionally get requests to orient the flooring planks in a certain direction.

Perhaps the most common example of this is homeowners who want the planks to be oriented crosswise rather than lengthwise in a hallway (i.e., the length of the planks running perpendicular to the hallway walls instead of parallel).

Homeowners sometimes want hardwood flooring planks to be installed in the same direction as the floor joists run.Some people want to make a room feel larger, and running the planks perpendicular to the walls that are the farthest apart in a rectangular room can help with that.

Others have even wanted to have us install planks diagonally in a room, to give their floor a really distinctive appearance. That’s creative thinking about hardwood flooring that we applaud!

Whatever the reason for wanting to orient boards in a certain way, we can usually accommodate the request. However, there’s a reason boards are installed in a certain direction, and changing the direction for aesthetic reasons makes the installation significantly more complex.

It’s construction 101, when you think about it. The flooring is installed over floor joists, and to give the flooring support, it is installed in the opposite direction of the joists, forming a crisscross structure. Otherwise, the planks would sink because they would have no joist support underneath them.

That said, we never want to disappoint our customers, and we have expertise in the techniques for installing planks without floor-joist support. If your heart is set on planks running in a particular direction, talk with us. We can help you make that vision a reality!

To discuss your hardwood floor project or to make an appointment with one of our hardwood floor experts, give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902. Or stop by our showroom, which is open from 8 am-5 pm Monday through Friday and 9 am-1 pm on Saturday (8 am-noon on Saturday, starting June 1).


Image courtesy of Mitch Barrie, Creative Commons.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors, installation

The Basic Characteristics of Hardwood Flooring: Engineered Wood

Posted on Fri, May 13, 2016 @ 15:05 PM

Reclaimed engineered hardwoodFor centuries, you had to use solid plank hardwood flooring if you wanted hardwood floors in your home.

Today, you have another option—engineered hardwood flooring, which consists of a top layer of hardwood veneer, adhered to a backing of composite material. Engineered flooring began appearing last century, and recent advances in its quality have made it a viable alternative to solid plank flooring.

A fundamental appeal of  the best engineered flooring today is that the backing material is constructed with layers of wood running in opposing directions, creating a “pull” that reduces the growing and shrinking that can occur in variable moisture conditions.

Good__Engineered_Redone_Resized.jpgAre engineered floors right for you? And if they are, how do you select quality engineered flooring and avoid the many inferior products on the market?

Why Choose Engineered Flooring?

Some people simply prefer the stability of engineered hardwood,

For other homeowners, engineered hardwood is the only realistic option. These are scenarios in which engineered flooring is clearly the best choice.

  1. When the flooring is being installed over a concrete slab, below ground, or in other high-moisture areas. Quality engineered hardwood is more stable than solid plank—and although it is made of wood and will react to excessive moisture conditions—it can better handle higher moisture levels, such as those that occur over a concrete subfloor.
  2. When the flooring is being installed over a radiant heating system. Again, the stability of the best engineered hardwood makes it the ideal choice because these heating systems result in wide humidity variations.
  3. When your floors are being installed over existing floors. Because engineered flooring is usually thinner than solid plank flooring, it can sometimes be installed over existing floors, eliminating the cost of removing the old floor.

What’s the Highest Quality of Engineered Flooring?

We can get almost any engineered product, and we’re glad to talk with anyone about the right products for them.

The key consideration, beyond the manufacturer, is how the engineered flooring is constructed. There are three basic methods:

Rotary-peeled veneer

In this method, a log is placed on a large lathe and then spun around as a blade cuts off a thin slice of veneer. The veneer strips can vary in thickness but generally they are cut very thin (less than 3 mm) because this process is all about efficiency.

Not only is veneer this thin susceptible to cracking and splitting, it doesn’t have the traditional appearance of solid plank flooring. Because the blade peels off the veneer in a circular motion, the resulting grain is often described as “busy,” with unnatural-looking striped patterns and zig-zags.

In many cases, the thin veneer won’t be able to be re-sanded (to repair wear and damage or change color) more than once—if at all. We rarely recommend this option for our customers.

Sliced veneer

The technique involves cutting logs into thin squares that are then soaked in water to soften the wood fibers. Then the square is drawn across an angled blade, which slices off the veneer.

This method isn’t able to produce veneer of greater than 3 mm, but sliced veneer can look like traditional solid plank flooring, and it is a popular choice.

Sawn-cut veneer

Sawn-cut veneer is cut in the same way that solid plank flooring is cut. This means you can get any look you can get with solid plank. It also means that the veneer can be cut much thicker, allowing it be re-sanded numerous times. This is the most expensive of the options.

To find the right type of engineered flooring for your home, and to assess the quality of any engineered flooring you are considering, we recommend talking to a hardwood professional—like you’ll find at Ralph’s! In our showroom, we offer a wide selection of quality enginneered products to inspire you.

Tags: engineered hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors

Walk On The Wild Side - Our Showroom

Posted on Sat, May 07, 2016 @ 07:05 AM


When it’s time for a new vehicle, I love going to the car lot to look at all the options. When I get into each model, that new-car small really reminds me of how cool cars can be.

I get the same sensation walking around the Ralph’s showroom. We’re in the process of upgrading it, and the new things we’re doing are making me even more excited than usual about all the beautiful hardwood flooring options we can offer customers.

I see a similar effect on visitors to the showroom. Being able to see, touch, and walk on the various options gets people pumped up about the possibilities for their home.

It’s one thing to decide that you want to purchase new hardwood floors for your home or refinish the floors that are already there. It’s an entirely different thing to decide the color, species, style, and so much more.  Our showroom helps you figure out exactly what you want—and that’s what gets homeowners excited!

You'll see samples of the high-quality materials we use and the fine craftsmanship done by our hardwood floor technicians. And you’ll have one-on-one time to sit and chat with one of our experienced staff so we can learn what you’re looking for.

We’ll walk you through the decision-making process and provide knowledgeable advice on which hardwood flooring options would be best for your tastes and lifestyle. You’ll leave with the peace of mind that Ralph’s not only has top-quality flooring but that your project will be handled by dedicated professionals.

We pride ourselves in providing the best-quality service and experience possible and are committed to exceeding your expectations! We want your shopping experience at Ralph’s to be as stress-free and educational as possible

Our customers always tell us they were glad they came in to experience all the options in person, no matter what their price range was. They’re just like me after I’ve visited a car lot—ready to get on with replacing the old with the new!

Our showroom is open from 8 am-5 pm Mondays and Fridays and 9 am-1 pm on Saturdays (except holidays). We are located at 404 W. State Street (Hwy 54) in Black Creek. You can simply stop by any time we’re open, or call 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902 for an appointment.

Tags: about Ralph's, why choose hardwood floors?

Taking Hardwood Flooring to the Next Level with Hardwood Staircases

Posted on Fri, May 06, 2016 @ 09:05 AM

Carpet runners help create a flow between hardwood floors and hardwood staircases.A hardwood staircase is a wonderful accompaniment to a beautiful hardwood floor—easing the transition from the flooring to the stairs while also creating visual interest.

The typical approach is to match the style of the hardwood flooring with that of the hardwood used for the stairs. This means using the same (or complementary) species, colors, sawing techniques (e.g. skip sawn), board dimensions, texture, amount of grain, and other hardwood floor characteristics.

You would also orient the wood for the stairs parallel to the wood in the flooring to create a seamless look that helps the room “flow up” into the stairs. Hardwood floor borders that run up the stairwell can help to create this effect, as can carpet runners.

However, some homeowners actually want their hardwood stairwells to contrast with the flooring, and so they vary hardwood floor characteristics and might even orient the wood for the stairs perpendicularly to the direction of the wood in the flooring.

Of course, no one wants stairs and flooring that clash. Any contrast should distinguish the flooring from the stairs, but they should still complement each other.

Within the stairwell itself, you can spice things up by staining the risers darker than the treads, or vice versa. Or you could paint the risers but not the treads. And, of course, the pattern of any border or carpet runner can play off the colors and patterns of the wood in the stairwell, as well as that of the flooring below.

As with flooring, hardwood staircases can be created using solid wood planks or engineered planks, and the wood can be prefinished or sanded on site. Whichever option you choose—and whether it’s new installation or you’re redoing existing stairs that are now worn or were previously carpeted—it’s very important to have an installation team with experience working with hardwood staircases. Much precision is required to because of the many complex angles and cuts involved.

The final result can be exquisite—a stairwell that adds personality, character, and beauty to your home.

Ralph’s has extensive experience installing hardwood staircases. To talk with us about how we can help you with your stairwell, give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902, or stop by a showroom. You can also call for an appointment.

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, finishing touches

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