Ralph's Blog

Ralph's is on TV!

Posted on Wed, May 23, 2018 @ 14:05 PM

Have you seen our latest commercial? If not, take a look now. You’ll see how beautiful a hardwood floor from Ralph’s can look.

It all starts with you. You have a vision. We can make it happen. Uniquely yours.

Come out and visit our showroom!

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, finishing touches, finishes, stains & textures, remodeling, hardwood floors & interior design

Taking care of business to take care of our customers

Posted on Fri, May 18, 2018 @ 23:05 PM

 

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Probably everyone has had an experience when “the lightbulb” goes off and you suddenly come to an important realization. When I was a teenager working for my Dad at Ralph’s, I had just such an experience.

My Dad had founded the company the year I was born, and I had been helping out for almost as long as I can remember. I well understood that Ralph’s was how Dad put food on the table for our family.

But even as I progressed from a kid hanging around the shop to a legitimate installer as a teen, I never questioned how he ran the business. I knew he knew hardwood floors, and I thought that was all there was to it.

Then, when I was 17, Dad took a job repairing water damage to a local high school gym floor—damage caused by a leak in the gym’s roof.

Leaking had caused damage the year before, as well. And we also did the repairing then. But that year we weren’t the ones who contracted with the school. Ralph’s still wasn’t big enough for the school to award a bid to Dad, so he got a hardwood floor company that could get bonding to bid for him.

We did all the work, but only got part of the pay.

The next year, when the roof leaked again and the floor needed repairing once more, the school determined, “Ralph’s did all the work last year, why not just contract directly with them?”

But Dad only charged about half of what the contractor charged a year before!

That’s when the lightbulb went off. I thought to myself, “They were willing to pay twice as much the year before; surely they’d be willing to pay at least close to that this year.” I would have understood if we cut the price by a bit, but by half? With the difference, I could have bought a car!

We could have charged more, and it still would have been a very fair price.

Make no mistake about it. Without Dad, Ralph’s wouldn’t exist. Everything we’ve become is built on his foundation of hard work, craftsmanship, and ability to build relationships with customers. But it was at this moment that it dawned on me that Ralph’s was a business and it needed to be run like a business to keep us going. Otherwise, how could we continue to provide the services that Dad provided so well?

Maybe, to some extent, I was just a kid rebelling against my “old man,” but this experience planted a seed in my mind. A few years later, when Dad retired and I took over the business, this seed bore fruit. I had studied business in college, and I took over with a determination to apply fundamental business principles to expand Ralph’s services to even more people—without sacrificing Dad’s commitment to quality, customer service, and fair prices.

With the help of many dedicated employees over the years, I can say with confidence that we’ve succeeded in that effort.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

Finishing Your Hardwood Floors to Get Just the Look You Want

Posted on Wed, May 16, 2018 @ 11:05 AM

 

Floor finish

Hardwood floor finishes protect the flooring, but they do much more than that. They play a major role in how hardwood floors look.

Some homeowners want finishes that don’t shine. Some want finishes that do. Some want the colors in the wood to “pop.”

Whatever look you desire, you can get a finish that helps achieve it. The important thing is to be aware of how the finish you choose will affect the appearance.

One of the most significant visual characteristics of a finish is its sheen, which refers to how shiny the finish is. High-gloss has the most sheen, followed in order of shininess by semi-gloss, satin, and matte.

Low-sheen matte floors are popular right now, but trends come and go. What you should focus on is what you like. At Ralph’s, we can create a finish with whatever level of sheen you want, so there’s no need to settle for a finish that doesn’t exactly fit your personal taste.

Color is another major choice for homeowners that affects appearance. Some people prefer clear finishes, which let the natural color of the wood stand out. But for those who want a different color, stains can be used to create virtually any color you want. As with sheen, when you have Ralph’s do the finishing, we can give you the color you want.

Finish types include polyurethane, water-based, moisture-cured urethane, Swedish finishes, and natural oils. Each type has advantages and disadvantages.   

The most popular finish over the years has been the Swedish finish, which brings out a very rich color. The new popular finish is a water-based finish called Invisible. It makes the floor look “raw”—a floor without finish.  

Whichever type of finish you prefer, and no matter what look you’re after, Ralph’s can provide it. If you visit our showroom, we will gladly talk with you about the look you want and give our expert advice on the right finish for your vision. We’ll also explain the pros and cons of each finishing option in terms of durability, ease of maintenance, and cost.

What’s important to you is important to us!

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, finishing touches, finishes, stains & textures, remodeling, hardwood floors & interior design

The Road Back to Ralph’s

Posted on Fri, May 04, 2018 @ 23:05 PM

 

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I wasn’t planning on a career as a hardwood floor guy.

Hardwood floors had been a part of my life since as far back as I can remember. But when it came time for college, I was thinking computers, not hardwood floors, and I went to the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh as a computer science major.

My Dad, Ralph Lorenz, started Ralph’s Hardwood Floors in 1965, the year I was born. By the time I was 7, I was already helping out by answering the business phone, which at the time was still our house phone. Dad was always talking about hardwood floors, so I knew enough about how he did things to answer simple questions, and it made feel great to be able to provide real help. I got a fulfilling satisfaction from serving our customers—and that good feeling continues to inspire me to this day. I’ve never stopped wanting to please customers. It’s a gratification and impulse that never goes away.

Then Dad started taking me along on jobs as a helper. At first, I was just doing things like carrying equipment or applying finish—nothing that involved machinery. But before long, I was running the sander. However, if you asked me then whether I wanted to go into hardwood floors, my answer would have been a definitive, “no.”

Not that I knew what I wanted to do. I was just a teenager and not really sure. Computers were moving into the PC era, though, and I found them interesting, so I decided on the computer science major.

Within a couple of weeks, I realized it wasn't for me. And as I got into it, I found that learning the FORTRAN programming language wasn’t all that interesting. I discovered that I was more interested in how computers could be applied as business solutions than in the technicalities of programming. So I switched to a business administration major.

Business just seemed more relevant to me. Learning about marketing, selling, contract law, and other business topics was engaging because I could directly relate them to my experience growing up with Ralph’s. I was learning about solutions for real-world problems I had seen with my own eyes.

Nonetheless, I still wasn’t sold on career in hardwood floors. During my fourth year, I had returned to computers somewhat—earning a business degree, but with an emphasis in the management of information systems. I saw myself as someone who could work with computers to improve how businesses are run.

After college, I did have a couple of computer-related jobs, but something wasn’t right. I found that I didn’t enjoy the work as much as I thought I would. It wasn’t people-oriented enough.

And then Dad decided to step down. He met with his employees, and they voted that they wanted me to return to run the company.

I wasn’t 100 percent sure I should. It was a big risk, and I would have to take a substantial pay cut from the job I was doing at the time. But when I learned what Dad’s plan was if I didn’t come back, I made my decision. I had learned a lot in college, and I wanted to put that knowledge to work for my family’s company and our customers. I had developed a burning desire to take Ralph’s into the next century, as the best hardwood floor company anyone could work with.

It’s a decision I’ve never regretted. The chance to grow a business, provide a great place to work, and please homeowners and contractors with our service and quality—those are the things that excite me. I’m extremely fortunate to be able to do them every day. Ralph’s is home, and I’m very glad I came home.

 

 

 

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, about Ralph's, stories

Bringing Worn Hardwood Floors Back to Life: Before and After

Posted on Wed, May 02, 2018 @ 11:05 AM

 

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If your hardwood floors are getting old, they don’t have to be replaced. They can look good as new again. 

On this project, the pine floor was very worn and covered with residue. The homeowner was afraid nothing could be done to restore it, but our salesperson, Paul, assured her that Ralph’s had the expertise. 

Our experienced, knowledgeable refinishers were able to repair, re-sand, and refinish that old pine floor to make it beautiful and fresh again.   

A particular challenge was that a large section of the floor wasn’t wood, and the homeowner wanted to install matching pine flooring there. Paul explained that the pine of today might not match the pine from years ago. But when I saw the existing flooring, I remembered some old pine we had stored away. I thought it would match well, and it did! 

The homeowner was so amazed with this project that she’s now having us do a dining room for her.  

Check out the before and after photos below:

Before #1After #1

Before #2After #2

Before #3After #3

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, remodeling, installation, restoring hardwood floors

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