Ralph's Blog

Raw Wood You Can Walk On

Posted on Mon, Dec 17, 2018 @ 15:12 PM

Invisible Stain Raw Wood Look-1

Sometimes, while in the middle of a project, a client will call and say, “Hey, Rod, you know, I absolutely love the way the floor looks right now. I really like that raw wood look. Is there any way we can keep the floors the way they are unfinished?"

That natural unfinished look and feel of raw wood just resonates with them. Although we empathize and often agree that there is immense beauty in the natural look, we know that unprotected wood flooring can’t stand the test of time.

For the past 50 years, our answer has always been that we just couldn’t do it. Putting down a sealer will make a floor look more amber. Even trying a white stain makes the grain of the wood look different. Thankfully, we no longer have to say "no" to our customers. Over the past few years, the flooring industry has come out with some new innovative coating technology like Loba’s 2K Invisible Protect A.T.

Everything about these products is what homeowners and business owners alike are looking for:

  • Extremely low sheen
  • Natural oil look
  • Anti-slip
  • Applied over any stain.

When working with interior designers, they love the low sheen that this coating provides. According to our design friends, “a low-sheen finish allows the wood to be the central focus. If you want to emphasize the color and warmth of the wood, a low-sheen finish is a great choice.Each type of wood has unique characteristics and grain patterns, and choosing a low-sheen finish allows these characteristics to become more apparent and truly showcase the beauty of the wood.

"If you are looking for modern hardwood floors that offers more character and a natural wood look, you have to use a low sheen finish.”

In addition, the low sheen on wood floors will show far fewer scratches and dings than high-gloss floors, so watching pet paws and soccer cleats scuttle across the room won't make you worry so much—or have to refinish so frequently.

We’ve even gone as far as applying this product to cherry wood to help reduce the amount of red that comes through with stains and sealers.

Every customer we have is unique and so are their needs. There are so many different styles of homes and ways to make your hardwood floors stand out. Our goal has always been and will always be to help bring a floor into your home that shows off the beauty and care you put it to it.

Let us help you create a stunning floor in your home that will be the envy of the neighborhood. Stop by our showroom today or give us a call to book your appointment.

Tags: hardwood floor trends, hardwood floors and interior design, finishes, stains & textures

There better be a piece of Gran-grammy’s pie left!

Posted on Sat, Dec 15, 2018 @ 07:12 AM

One of the many traditions I love about Christmas is the family food.

It’s not regular food. It’s not fancy food. It’s family food—made in a way that’s unique  to your family in a special way.20181120_111941_resized

I’m talking about the favorite cake from your grandma, an aunt’s perfect green bean casserole, cookies that only your mom can make.

In the picture above are three of my mother’s many family recipes. As you can see, they’ve been lovingly used. Food stains mix with her handwritten notes. You can see how she made her own adjustments to fit with the times and her cooking experience.

I’ve come to realize this is common—what earlier generations have done, the cooks of the day faithfully recreate, usually making small changes but never leaving any doubt about what favorite family recipe it is.

Hardwood floors are the same. We find that our customers often want a hardwood floor that reminds them of a grandparent’s house or a floor in the house they grew up in. In other cases, there’s no direct connection, but the customer has a vision in mind that fits a style they’ve seen somewhere—if not in person, then in pictures.

Whatever the reason for wanting a certain look, the process we go through with our customers to fulfill their wishes reminds me of holiday cooking and eating, of how a cook can be devoted to recreating a traditional taste while also making small modifications that make sense based on new techniques or trends

Some things that once were standard are now seen in a different light, like the lard in the chocolate chip cake recipe shown above. The flavor was great then, and we want it now, but we’ve figured out better ways to get that taste.

That’s the same thinking behind our mission to give you the classic hardwood floor look you want—with whatever small refinements are necessary. You can have a classic-style floor, without sacrificing your ability to reflect your taste.

We love to talk with visitors to our showroom about how we can recreate cherished looks in a personal, modern way. Or call us at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902 to begin the discussion.

P.S. You might want to use the recipes on Mom’s recipe cards. They rock

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

The Importance of Stability in Hardwood Floors

Posted on Thu, Nov 29, 2018 @ 12:11 PM


floor stability graph-1

Because wood is an organic material, hardwood flooring will react to its environment. If the environment in your home is humid, the flooring will absorb moisture and swell. If the environment is dry, the wood will lose moisture and shrink.

A hardwood floor’s stability is the degree to which it can resist this swelling and shrinking. The higher the stability, the greater the resistance

Generally, the higher the stability, the better. That’s because hardwood floors with greater stability are less likely to cup and gap.

Hardwood floors that gain too much moisture can cup, with the centers of the planks becoming lower than the edges of the planks.

Wood flooring that loses too much moisture can have excessive gaps. Small gaps between planks are normal if they appear during cold (drier) months and disappear during warm (more humid) months, but if gaps persist throughout the year or a larger than normal, it’s a problem.

Both cupping and gapping can be minimized by always keeping the temperature between 60- and 80-degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity between 30 percent and 50 percent.

But the type of wood you select will also determine how susceptible your flooring is too cupping and gapping. That’s why stability is an important consideration when choosing the species of wood for your flooring.

Species with relatively high stability include Red Oak, White Oak, and Ash. Species with relatively low stability include Maple, Hickory, and Cumaru. Regardless of the species, engineered hardwood flooring will almost always have higher stability than solid-plank floors.

For some species, low stability isn’t something to worry about if the flooring will be in an area where you know you can control the level of humidity. But in areas where that’s difficult or not feasible, stability should be a consideration when deciding the species of wood for your flooring or when deciding on whether to use solid planks or engineered hardwood.

To learn more about how to determine dimensional stability check out this great post.

We’re glad to provide our expert advice on how important stability is in your project. And we can help you select the flooring with the best stability. Stop by our showroom any time during business hours to consult with one of our hardwood flooring professionals.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, Wisconsin, remodeling, caring for your hardwood floors, types of hardwood used in flooring, about hardwood floors

See a Need, Fill a Need

Posted on Fri, Nov 23, 2018 @ 23:11 PM


see a need

“See a need, fill a need.”

That well-known saying was uttered by Bigweld, one of the robots in the 2005 film, Robots. Since then it has become something of a business mantra.

I will always remember driving to visit my in-laws, with my young daughters watching Robots on the DVD player in the back seat. I couldn’t see it, but I could hear it, and when I heard that phrase, I smiled.  I felt like Ralph’s had aced a test.

Ralph’s has always understood that common-sense advice. It fits with how my father, Ralph Lorenz, operated the company when he started it 53 years ago. A hardwood floor company in the region at the time had left the market, but homeowners and contractors  still needed hardwood floors. Dad saw the need, and he instinctively filled it.

Dad never lost that instinct, even after he “retired” and I took over as president of Ralph’s. For example, in 2008 he decided to begin selling space heaters out of Ralph’s. That’s not the business we’re in, so why did he do that? Because he understood what Bigweld meant, long before Robots.

With the economy in the tank at the time, many people thought they could cut their heating bills by using space heaters instead of central heating. Dad saw a way to help the people in our community get space heaters at a good price. Of course, he also saw a business  opportunity! He was fulfilling a demand.

I learned the lesson well. Over the years, I’ve insisted that we pay attention to all of our customers’ needs and how we can more than satisfy those needs.

For one thing, that means staying on top of hardwood floor trends (e.g., prefinished flooring and luxury vinyl tile and planks) so that we can best serve our customers who want to follow those trends. It’s also means taking the time to understand what our customers want.

We get Bigweld! If you have a flooring need, we’ll fill it.

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

Break Time With Ralph's Storytelling

Posted on Fri, Oct 26, 2018 @ 23:10 PM



My Dad passed away in 2014,  but I’ll always have my memories of him. One of my fondest is how he loved to tell stories.

While Dad was running Ralph’s (which he started and named after himself), I worked with him essentially full-time during summers, when I wasn’t in school. So I got to see how he always took a break every morning around 10 a.m.  

Since he was taking a break, all the crew would to take a break. As we sat around drinking coffee, Dad would start to tell his stories. I think his favorite was about the time he went to Alaska to help out a friend with a hardwood floor job.

Alaska isn’t exactly next door to Wisconsin! But his friend was having a difficult time with the job and needed Dad’s expertise and experience. So off he headed to Alaska, bringing Mom along.

What made the story worth telling (and re-telling) was that Dad’s friend threw his back out soon after they got there. Dad had to complete the job himself.

Then he had to drive his friend’s truck full of equipment back to Black Creek, crossing through the Yukon on the Alaskan Highway, which at the time was not anything like a modern highway. There were many potholes, stretches where the road was just dirt, and places were the road was so narrow Dad would have to pull off the road to let oncoming vehicles pass.

Dad could make that story so entertaining, that even those who had heard it many times still enjoyed listening to him tell it.

We still like to hear stories at Ralph’s—the stories of our customers. We’re different from corporate hardwood floor companies and the big-box stores that sell hardwood flooring and services. We’re not just trying to make a sale. We want to get to know you.

That’s because being friendly with our customers and being interested in there is what comes natural to us. When we hire, being a “people person” is one of our most important criteria. We know that taking the time to learn about your life  and who you are is how we can best help you get the hardwood floors of your dreams.

So if you visit our showroom, you’ll never feel rushed. In fact, we’ll probably ask you to sit with us, have a cup of coffee, and just chat, That’s how we can hear your story.

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


Posted on Fri, Oct 12, 2018 @ 23:10 PM



When we interview applicants for a job at Ralph’s, we of course want to know the usual stuff—their work and education history, why they want to work with us, what relevant skills do they have, etc.

But one of our most important criteria isn’t something that can be put on a resume. It’s how they smile.

Some people have friendly natures. Others … not so much.  We want the friendly ones, the ones who smile naturally.

When someone calls us, we want the person who called us to feel like we’re smiling at them through the phone. If you visit our showroom, we want you to know you’re visiting friends.

We realize that we can’t give you the flooring of your dreams if we don’t know what your dream is.

Our team members genuinely want to help you.  They get satisfaction from that. So, while we’re talking to you about your choices, we’ll be getting to know you so we can better advise you about  those choices.

What interior-design style do you like? How much traffic will this flooring get? What is the flooring in the rest of your home? What’s your vision?

We’ll ask these questions with your best interests in mind. We’ve been around a long time (50+ years) because we prioritize customer satisfaction over short-term profit.

We won’t rush you. We’re not going to “sell.” You’ll have the time you need to look for yourself, and all the time you want from us.

If you give us the pleasure of being one of our customers, we will perform the project with your satisfaction top-of-mind. Just ask anyone who knows us. Providing our customers with beautiful, high-quality flooring and a great customer experience is our mission.

We want a smile on your face. That puts a smile on ours.

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

Hardwood Floors For Your Home From Our Home

Posted on Fri, Sep 21, 2018 @ 23:09 PM


Ralphs Hardwood Flooring-Showroom-0022

At Ralph’s Hardwoods, we like to keep things local. 

We’re happy to be located in Black Creek, and we’re very pleased that most of our employees live in or near town. We’re one of the leading employers in Black Creek, and we benefit greatly from the strong work ethic our employees learned growing up here.  

And as a member of the Black Creek Business Association (of which I’m  the current president), we’re actively working with other local businesses to improve the town. For example, the association worked closely with the local American Legion post and the town to build a Veteran’s Memorial in Black Creek. 

We’re all part of the same community, and that’s the way we like it. 

Our local focus is also reflected in how we source the wood we use for our customers’ hardwood floors. Unlike many of our competitors, we insist on using local companies in Wisconsin to get our wood. And these companiesAacer Flooring, Hardwood Floors of Hillsboro, Kwaterski Bros. Wood Products, and Shawano Wood Productsaren’t just located here; they get their wood locally from Wisconsin or neighboring upper midwestern states 

There are several advantages to this local wood: 

Quality. Upper midwestern hardwood is harder and more stable than domestic wood from other regions.

Uniqueness. Every region's trees have their ow appearance characteristics, and we're proud to provide flooring that clearly came from our region. It looks different (and in our opinion, better) than wood from anywhere else.

Lower cost. Because local wood involves less shipping cost, we can pass those savings to our customers.

Reduction of environmental impacts. Shorter shipping distances also reduces fossil fuel use

Locally sourced wood supports area businesses and provides our customers with beautiful flooring that’s true to our local character. With our love of doing things locally, that’s a win-win for us all.  

To learn more about our local hardwood, and see how great it looks, please visit our showroom in Black Creek. 

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

What Makes Handscraped Hardwood Flooring Unique?

Posted on Wed, Sep 05, 2018 @ 13:09 PM


Ralphs Hardwood Flooring-Showroom-0003

Hand-scraped hardwood floors have a unique look. Although they have gone in and out of style, it doesn’t change the fact that they are a beautifully unique floor. If you’re wondering what makes handscraped hardwood flooring so unique and popular, we’ve got the answers.

When it comes to choosing hardwood floors, people generally want something that will fit into their home well. Style can be significant, as well as the amount of maintenance the floor requires. As you probably know, all these factors influence the final decision. Therefore, it’s only logical that those types of flooring that fit more styles and require less maintenance are more popular. Here are some of the benefits and defining characteristics of handscraped hardwood flooring.

Warm and Classic Appearance

The effect of hand scraping used to be quite common in the old days of making floor planks. When woodworkers used the draw knife (a single blade with a handle at both ends) to scrape and smoothen the planks, it left marks on the wood. Those used to be typical for wooden flooring, and Hand-scraped hardwood floors have a similar look. It adds a certain charm and aesthetic appeal to both modern and older homes. Hand-scraped hardwood flooring perfectly matches antique furniture and provides a unique appearance to every room.

Scraped By Hand Vs. Machine

There’s a noticeable difference between floors that were handscraped and those that were done by machine if you know where to look. In genuinely handscraped floors, every plank will have a unique pattern. Placement is crucial and should have a bit of a flair for the artistic. However, with machine scraping, the designs will be more uniform, repetitive, and less pleasing to the eye.

Handscraped Or Distressed?

Sometimes the terms “handscraped” and “distressed” are used interchangeably, but they’re in fact two very different types of flooring. Distressed flooring is when dings and dents appear in the floor making it looked aged and well used. Unlike handscraping, a distressed look is often done with a machine. Although we have done several distressed looks manually, it's not a very popular look today. Its general aim is to make it look like the floor has gone through a lot more wear and tear, especially with features such as artificial wormholes. As opposed to that, handscraped floors only have subtle markings left by the artisan, which makes them ideal for many homeowners.

Pros and Cons of Handscraped Flooring

One of the more apparent advantages of Hand-scraped hardwood floors is durability. In households with children, prone to floor-damaging accidents, an extra dent or a blemish on a Hand-scraped floor won’t hurt the overall appearance. However, the installation process can be challenging, which is why hiring a professional is a must. Also, since there’s a considerable amount of effort put into producing hand scraped planks, they’re often more expensive. Many homeowners find the price is worth it, once you consider the uniqueness of Hand-scraped flooring, as well as its durability.


These are the main reasons why Hand-scraped hardwood flooring has gotten so popular. If you feel like it might be the right thing for you, we’d love to consult with you about any of your hardwood flooring needs. Visit our showroom to take a look at what we offer!






Tags: custom hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, finishing touches, finishes, stains & textures, remodeling, installation

The Forgotten Meaning Of Labor Day

Posted on Fri, Aug 31, 2018 @ 23:08 PM



Labor Day is one of those holidays whose meaning is often forgotten.

For some it’s the unofficial end of summer—a last chance for fun and sun before the weather chills. For others, it’s just a three-day weekend. Hopefully, for everyone it’s a fun, relaxing day.

But holidays are days of celebration, and we shouldn’t lose track of what we’re celebrating on Labor Day.

Mother’s Day honors mothers; Father’s Day honors fathers, Memorial Day honors veterans. Labor Day honors anyone who gets up every day to go to work.

It’s usually about making money, but not always. It could be volunteer work or taking care of children and a home. Whatever type of labor it is, people who work hard know it. It’s a huge part of your life.

This work deserves more than just a day off, although that is of course nice. On Labor Day, we should give some thought to the value of work. We should take time to appreciate those who get things done, even on days they might not feel like it.

It’s also a day when employers should be thankful for the hard work their employees do. As the owner and president of Ralph’s, I know that I think about how grateful I am to have such a wonderful team working together to make Ralph’s succeed.

If you’re not willing to work hard, then you don’t last at Ralph’s. That means that our long-term employees—of which we have many—are all folks who don’t mind “rolling up their sleeves.” They give their all to their jobs and take satisfaction from it. They have great work ethics.

I hope all of them will enjoy this Labor Day, doing something they enjoy. I also hope they take a moment to congratulate themselves for consistently laboring to fulfill Ralph’s mission to be the best hardwood floor company possible.

And I hope that you too have an excellent time on Labor Day.  Just remember to appreciate those in your life who work hard. And don’t forget to feel good about all the work you do.

You’ve earned it.

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

Floor Protectors for Furniture

Posted on Wed, Aug 22, 2018 @ 12:08 PM


floor protectors

New hardwood flooring is a beautiful investment that can give your home a completely fresh look. Of course, making sure that your new floors are protected is the next logical step. There’s a variety of floor protectors for furniture to choose from, starting with felt pads to mountable rolling casters and entrance mats. Whichever protectors you want, you should be aware that you still have to install them correctly. Let’s have a look at some floor protector options and how to use them.

Felt Pads

Felt pads come in a few varieties and different sizes: self-adhesive, tap-in felt glides, etc. Once installed on your furniture, they enable you to move it across your hardwood floor without damaging it. We recommend tap-in floor glides  They should go on anything that is going to moved frequently such as dining room chairs and tables.    Stick on glides can go under items that may be moved less frequence such as a sofa table or hutch.   If you do not have a wood base, you should use the stick on glides but check them often as there is a tendency for those to come off.  Make sure to check the felt pads often and clean them if they’re dirty. If you notice they’ve gotten damaged, replace them before the damage causes scuffs on the flooring.

Entrance Mats

While entrance mats aren’t usually for furniture, they’re still essential floor protectors. A large percentage of all the dirt and debris gets into your home on the soles of your shoes. An entrance mat works non-stop on preventing dirt from entering your home and scratching your floors. That will minimize tracking of dust and water, so you won’t have to clean your floors so often. They’re the first line of defense of your hardwood floors.

Cup-Shaped Protectors

Cup-shaped protectors are usually plastic or rubber. They’re similar to rubber grippers in the sense that they’re also not used for furniture that’s frequently moved. They’re better for heavy stationary objects. You can install them by placing them on the floor and resting the furniture legs on top. Cup-shaped protectors provide excellent weight distribution which decreases the likelihood that heavy furniture will damage the flooring.

Cloth Gliders

Your hardwood floors are supposed to last for a long time, but they won’t if you don’t take care of them. Furniture protectors can help you with that — and here at Ralph’s Hardwood Floors, we can help you with flooring. Come to visit our showroom for more information.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, caring for your hardwood floors, finishing touches

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