Ralph's Blog

A day in the life of an installer

Posted on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 @ 19:06 PM


Ralphs Hardwood Flooring-4750 Thistle Ln-0022-855220-edited

Travis Shepard couldn’t imagine being glued to a computer all day.

“I’m not one of those guys who can work in an office and sit at a desk,” he says.

Travis, who has been a hardwood floor installer at Ralph’s for 15 years, prefers changes of scenery. That’s one reason he enjoys being an installer—each home is different, and each job has its own challenges.

“You’re doing the same thing, but it’s always a little different,” he says. “Every day, or every week, it’s something new. For a person who likes change, who likes working with tools and with his hands, it’s a great job.”

Travis applied at Ralph’s a month before graduating high school. He liked woodworking, and he figured Ralph’s would be a good fit.

He was right. He learned on the job how to install, sand, and finish floors, and now he’s a valued crew leader.

Crew leaders aren’t required to be at work until 7 a.m., but Travis says he likes to get to work between 6:30 or 6:45—as do most of his colleagues. That gives them plenty of time to review their work order for the day and talk with salespeople about new jobs.  (Fortunately, Travis—like most of the folks who work at Ralph’s—doesn’t have a long commute. It’s only a five-minute drive.)

Travis says the early morning talks with the sales staff is important because he gets necessary details such as the homeowner’s preferences, the layout of the home, the direction the wood should be installed, and the location of electrical outlets.

Then it’s time to load up the truck with the materials and equipment for the day’s work. After gassing up and driving to the job, each Ralph’s crew is usually at the customer’s home between 7:30 and 8. Travis enjoys interacting with the homeowners, going over the job with them and making them feel comfortable. Ralph’s crews treat each home like their own, he assures them.

Whatever the project involves—even the messy job of tearing out old carpet or tile—Travis loves being responsible for doing it right. No one is telling him what to do; he just knows what to do.

“You don’t have anyone breathing down your neck,” he says. “You feel like: ‘it’s my job.’”

The lunch break is 30 minutes, and the crew usually eats in the truck or the home where they’re working. As they’re eating, they listen to the radio and shoot the breeze.

“We’re all friends. Everyone who works here,” Travis says.

Crews usually knock off around 4, unless a job is behind schedule, in which case they’ll keep working as long as necessary.

When a project is complete, Travis leaves with a warm feeling—knowing the homeowners now have beautiful new flooring to brighten their days.

“It’s really cool, at the end of the day or week, knowing that we’ve made a difference in someone’s life,” he says. “I get a lot of satisfaction from that.”

And then he sleeps well at night!

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

Can't make it to our showroom? Here's the next best thing

Posted on Fri, Jun 22, 2018 @ 13:06 PM

Are you thinking about a hardwood floor project? Magazines and websites will only get you so far. What you really need is the full experience--walking on a floor you're considering; touching it; seeing it as it will really look.

You need to come to our <showroom> to do that, but this is the next best thing.

Come out and visit our showroom!

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

Ralph's does dancing...well, at least their floors

Posted on Fri, Jun 15, 2018 @ 23:06 PM



Dance teacher Marcia Fellows loves having a hardwood floor for her students in Appleton to dance on—as long as it looks good.

But Marcia, who opened Marcia’s School of Dance in 1961, says she doesn’t have to worry about the appearance of the hardwood floor in her studio because of Ralph’s.

In 1968, she added onto her house, built in 1952. The addition was a dance room for her school, and she wanted us to put in a narrow-slat maple floor.  That same floor is still there now, without any re-sanding.

“In all those years, we’ve never had to sand it,” she said. “Ralph’s comes back every year and just cleans it. It’s worth it because when Ralph’s comes in, it looks beautiful.”

Marcia first worked with my father, Ralph’s founder Ralph Lorenz. But I remember Marcia’s School of Dance from way back, too, because once I got old enough, I was on the crew doing the cleaning,

We’ve never had to sand the floors, or even refinish them, because Dad originally finished the floor with a DuraSeal penetrating finish. DuraSeal makes a product-- Renovator Cleaner and Reconditioner—that cleans and buffs floors with that finish.

It really works well, as Marcia will tell you. Otherwise, she wouldn’t be happy.

“I have to have a good floor,” she said.

Marcia also does her part to keep the floor looking great for her students, who are of all ages and study a variety of dance styles, including ballet, tap, jazz, modern, and Polynesian.

“Nobody can walk on the floors with outside shoes,” she said. “We’re extremely fussy.”

The quality of the floor isn’t the only reason Marcia’s has continued to work with Ralph’s all these years. She said she also appreciates our service.

Ralph’s installers “are here on time,” she said. “They’re ‘Johnny on the spot.’ They come in, do the job, and clean up after themselves. The guys are friendly. They’re very respectful. I just think they do a good job.

I would recommend them to everybody and anybody. They are the best.”

Thanks, Marcia, for the reassurance that we’re doing things right—and for the 50 years of business. We cherish customers like you, and we get great satisfaction from continuing to meet your high standards.

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

Going for a blue ribbon on every job we do

Posted on Fri, Jun 01, 2018 @ 23:06 PM



When I was in my high school 4-H Club, each member had to do a special project every year.

I decided mine would be to fix up an old Victrola record player my uncle had bought at an auction. It worked, but it had a broken leg, the finish was worn, and it was badly in need of re-staining.

I was only 15, but I had already started sanding hardwood floors for Ralph’s, which my Dad founded the year I was born. I figured with that skill, I could do the job right, and I knew I had the necessary tools and materials right in Dad’s workshop.

I stripped the old finish off the record player, hand-sanded it, re-stained it a different color, and then applied a new coat of finish. I sure was proud when I was done. Dad gave me advice about how to make it look good, but this was my project, and I loved the way it turned out.

I think back on that project as the first time I truly realized how gratifying it can be to take something old and worn and restore it to a beautiful condition. Before then, I sanded floors with Dad because that was what he wanted me to do. But I was a typical teenage kid—I would have preferred to be playing baseball or some other sport.

When I finished restoring that Victrola—the first hands-on project I had ever completed all by myself—I started thinking of my work at Ralph’s in a different light. I began to appreciate how neat it is to bring old hardwood floors back to life.

And I kept remembering that feeling I had when I finished the Victrola. I couldn’t believe how much better it looked, and judging by the compliments I got (and the fact that I won a first-place blue ribbon in our 4-H competition), other people couldn’t either.

I wanted to give that same feeling to our customers, and when we were done restoring floors, I delighted in seeing that “Wow” look in their eyes.

It would be years later, a few years after I finished college, that I returned to Ralph’s full-time, taking over for Dad. But ever since I returned until now, I’ll occasionally think about that Victrola and the impact it had on me.

I want every floor we restore at Ralph’s to give our customers that same “Wow” feeling I had back then. I want them to feel that their floors are now “blue ribbon” floors.

I’m proud to say that all our installers share in that desire. They understand the gratification I felt in making something old new again, and they take pleasure in seeing how happy that makes our customers.

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

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