Ralph's Blog

Who says a workout space has to feel like a sweaty gym?

Posted on Sat, Jul 30, 2016 @ 10:07 AM



Who says a workout space has to feel like a sweaty gym? All parts of a home can be beautiful, and where you work to keep yourself healthy and looking good is no exception.

Look at how elegant this exercise room is!

The homeowners went with cork on this floor. Cork hardwood flooring is made from the bark of cork trees, which means the trees don’t have to be cut down—a selling point for environmentally minded customers. Cork was ideal for this room because it is soft under the feet and has a warm look with great acoustical properties.

We proudly install cork flooring from WE Cork. Please visit our showroom to talk about cork or other creative flooring ideas for your home.


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

Hardwood Flooring Trends: The Distinctive Look of Old-World Oak

Posted on Thu, Jul 28, 2016 @ 15:07 PM

European oak hardwood flooring has a different look than American red oak and American white oak.For as long as I can remember, American red oak and American white oak have been among the most popular tree species for hardwood flooring.

They still are, but European oak is closing the gap in popularity. Generally sourced from France, Germany, and England, this type of oak is usually older and slower growing than the oak trees sourced from North America, with more natural tannins.

Compared to American oak, this different growing environment causes European Oak to have:

  • tighter growth rings, which make the grain patterns more pronounced
  • greater hardness and durability than its American counterpart
  • a darker color  (light- to dark-brown) than the relatively light-colored American oak
  • less color variation
  • less susceptibility to expanding and contracting
  • thinner sap wood, which gives longer and wider boards a better appearance in many customers’ eyes.

Another attraction is that European Oak can look wonderful with a natural oil finish, which has a beautifully natural patina that fits the taste of many our customers. The fact that homeowners can easily apply a natural finish when the flooring begins to look worn is just one more selling point.

European oak is often site-finished, but there is no shortage of high-quality prefinished European oak available for those who prefer that option.

American red and white oak aren’t going anywhere because they continue to look great, as they have for years. But it’s not hard to understand why more and more people these days are attracted to European oak. It has a uniquely beautiful look that is just right for many—a look that’s difficult to achieve with American oak.

To see for yourself how stunningly good-looking European Oak can be, please visit our showroom. We can help you decide if it’s the right hardwood flooring option for you.

Tags: hardwood floor trends, types of hardwood used in flooring

All in the name of love...

Posted on Sat, Jul 16, 2016 @ 10:07 AM


eLetter_-_Idea_Book_-_July_16.pngOne of the great pleasures of working at a hardwood flooring company is being able to help customers move on to the next stage of their lives.

We’re able to do this when young couples come to us looking to find just-the-right hardwood flooring for the home they intend to raise their new family in. Whether it’s their first home or they’re moving to a bigger home to accommodate their children, they’re always excited.

For many of them, it’ the first time they’re making their own choices about the type of home they want to live, and the hardwood flooring they select will play a big part in how the home will feel. These folks often remind me of an engaged couple filling out a registry for their wedding gifts. Their eagerness is contagious!

They’re having a great time, but they’re also very serious about making choices that reflect their personal taste as a couple—and as a growing family. I love to help them find the choice that best fits their taste and is also appropriate for an active family with small children.

Of course, life doesn’t stop at that stage, and I get a similar satisfaction in helping couples after the children have left home.

These homeowners fall into two general categories: They’re moving to a new home or they’re staying put and want to remodel. We can help in either case.

For those moving to a new home, it’s a fresh chance to express their personal taste, which likely has evolved since they selected the flooring for their previous home. We offer them our expertise as they explore their hardwood floor options, until they find the flooring that perfectly fits their vision for their dream home.

In many cases, this involves selecting flooring that enhances their surroundings—be it a home by water, in the mountains, on a farm, or any other location they love. For example, if they’re moving by water, they may very likely choose light-colored flooring with a rustic look in order to create a “breezy,” casual feel reminiscent of vacation cottages at the beach.

“Empty nesters” who don’t want to leave their home of many years, for whatever reason, also have a chance for a fresh start by remodeling. Although there might be some technical limitations presented by the home itself (e.g., a high-humidity environments), they typically can choose any look they want for this new time of their lives.

I can tell you from experience, it’s loads of fun to help them choose hardwood flooring that will transform their home into what they’ve been dreaming about for years.

In all these life stages—and for that matter, any time someone is choosing flooring for a new home or a remodel—our customers have high expectations for how flooring can help them create a brand-new look.

And helping them fulfill expections never gets old!


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

A Long, Beautiful Life: Hardwood Flooring Sealed With a Swedish Finish

Posted on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 @ 15:07 PM

Swedish finishes (i.e., conversion varnishes) are a beautiful and durable opiton for hardwood floor finishing.Without question, conversion varnishes—also known as a “Swedish finishes”—are our most popular finishing option.

It’s been that way for years, and I don’t expect it to change anytime soon.

Why? Because Swedish finishes look great, while providing superb protection for the hardwood flooring. This combination of durability and beauty occurs because of the chemical reactions that take place during the curing of the finish, “bonding” the finish to the wood.

As a result of this bonding, the finish is harder than finishes that essentially “sit on top” of the wood, such as polyurethane finishes. A Swedish finish will stand up better to normal wear and tear, with less susceptibility to scratches, scuffs, water damage, and stains—meaning it will probably be longer before you have to refinish your flooring.

This durability appeals to everyone but is particularly attractive to families with children and/or pets, or who otherwise expect rough use of the floors.

As for appearance, because the bonding process produces a finish that doesn’t look at all “glossy,” the natural characteristics of the wood—color, grain, texture, etc.—really stand out. This rich, natural look is just what many people are after.

That’s true even for folks who want to adjust the natural color with stain. No stain, little stain, or some stain; it doesn’t matter—Swedish finishes make the desired color really “pop.”

Another advantage, related to both appearance and durability, is that Swedish finishes develop a pleasant, slightly amber tone as they age, rather than yellowing as some finishes do.

There are a few reasons Swedish finishes aren’t right for everyone. Although not necessarily a better value, many finishing options are less expensive upfront. Because of the complexity of the application, Swedish finishes must be applied by expert professionals, and the smell requires the homeowners to leave the home during the application process.

Even after returning, homeowners should be careful with the flooring until it completely cures, which can take a month or two. A general recommendation is to not walk on the floor for six hours after application, keep furniture off of it for 24 hours, and delay putting rugs on it for two weeks.

But in most cases, these reasons don’t deter our customers who want an exceptionally durable and beautiful finish.

We’ve been using the top-of-the-line Glitsa Swedish finish for more than 30 years, and we’d love to talk with you about the product and service we can provide. Give us a call at 920.984.3383 (toll free: 800.354.9902) or stop by our showroom to see samples and talk with us in person.

Tags: finishes, stains & textures, picking the right floor for your lifestyle

Friendly conversations lead to smart hardwood floor choices

Posted on Sat, Jul 02, 2016 @ 09:07 AM

Voster_Asian_Walnut_Stained_3_2_451100.jpgChoosing the right hardwood floors for your home is a very personal thing. That’s why when a young couple came to us with their heart set on an American walnut floor, we started asking them questions about themselves.

We had to get to know them—their tastes, color preferences, lifestyle, etc.—before we could give them meaningful advice based on our hardwood floor experience and knowledge.

Why did we do that? We could have just focused on selling an American walnut floor to them. That’s what they wanted, right? Why complicate things?

Because that’s not the way do things at Ralph’s. We want to have friendly conversations with our customers, so that we can help guide them to the best choice for them. We’re not looking for a quick sale. We’re looking to help our customers get the floors that will give them the most delight possible for many years to come.

In this case, I think that approach really paid off. During our time with the young husband and wife, we found out that they have little children. That immediately raised a red flag for us, because the American walnut they wanted is a relatively soft hardwood. In our experience, we’ve found that it doesn’t stand up as well as harder woods to the roughhousing of rambunctious kids.

When we explained this to them, they understood, but they still has strong desire for the look of American walnut.

That’s when what we do gets really gets fun—when someone needs a solution for their unique needs and we’re able to use our expertise to come up with one.

That’s exactly what we did for this couple. We felt Asian walnut, which is harder, would be a great alternative for them. And because the floor was going to be site-finished, we were able to choose a stain color that made it resemble its American counterpart.

Then we worked with their cabinet company to come up with just the right color combination to complete their vision.  They got just the look they wanted, but we helped them avoid a floor that wasn’t a good fit for their lifestyle.

I don’t think that would have been the outcome if they had simply visited a big-box store

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

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