Ralph's Blog

The Importance of Hardness in Hardwood Floors

Posted on Thu, Dec 27, 2018 @ 14:12 PM

Young, rowdy children are a good reason to pay attention to the hardwood floor hardness on the Janka scale.

Durability is one of the reasons many people choose hardwood flooring for their home. Hardwood floors are known for their ability to resist wear and tear.

But not all hardwood floors are the same. Some species of wood are harder than others, meaning they’re more durable (i.e. less likely to dent).

Hardness is determined by the density of the wood. This is measured using the Janka scale. A species’ Janka rating is determined by how much force is needed to embed a .444-inch steel ball in the wood to half the ball’s diameter. The denser the wood, the more force will be needed.

When choosing a species of wood for your hardwood flooring, hardness might be important, or it may not matter much to you.

Hardness is significant if you expect the floor to experience a lot of activity, such as entertaining or children playing. The more activity in the room, the more likely something will be dropped on it.

Hardness is also a relevant consideration if the floor is in a high-traffic area, such as a kitchen or hallway.

Hardness becomes relatively unimportant in rooms that won’t see a lot of activity or if you don’t mind dents. Some people are very bothered by dents, but some welcome them as a sign of character. Some people actually select “distressed” flooring with dents in it because they want a rustic look.

The hardness of the wood is not the only factor in a hardwood floor’s durability.  The way the wood is cut and the finish used are also factors. But when choosing a species, we suggest paying close attention to hardness if you expect your flooring to be heavily used or you are concerned about dents.

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

Tags: picking the right floor for your lifestyle, caring for your hardwood floors, about hardwood floors

The Importance of Stability in Hardwood Floors

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

 

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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

Floor Protectors for Furniture

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

 

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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

Area Rugs and Hardwood Floor Care

Posted on Wed, Aug 08, 2018 @ 08:08 AM

 

area rugs and hardwood floor care

After installing hardwood floors, taking proper care of them is imperative if you want them to last long. There are different ways to protect hardwood floors from traffic damage and the everyday wear and tear. One of those ways is using area rugs where needed. Let’s take a look at some things you need to pay attention to when shopping for an area rug, as well as why area rugs and hardwood floor care go hand in hand.

Hardwood Floor Protection with Area Rugs

In theory, area rugs protect your hardwood floors by taking the brunt of the daily traffic, furniture shuffling and the like. That’s all true — area rugs prevent sunlight damage, furniture scratches, debris, dust and water from outdoors, etc. You can choose runner rugs for the high-traffic areas such as hallways and entryways, oversized area rugs that would cover a larger area. However, there are a few things to consider other than size and color when shopping for an area rug.

Area Rug Materials for Hardwood Floors

You’ll want to focus on breathable materials such as wool, which is always a good choice. It’s durable and will absorb most of the damage that would otherwise be inflicted on your floors. The surface material is essential, but the backing of the rug will determine whether it’s a good fit or not. Since the backing will be the part that touches the floor, make sure you avoid rugs with a latex backing. The backing can trap moisture and residue can make the floor slippery underneath.

Non-Staining Area Rugs

Another thing to look out for is whether the area rug you chose is non-staining. If it isn’t, the first rainy day and dampness from outside could ruin your floors. By opting for non-staining area rugs, you ensure that the colors and dyes from the carpet won’t seep into your floors when the carpet gets wet or damp. Always read the label, because the manufacturer will usually put a warning if the color may run through the rug.

Area Rug Pads

Rug pads are used to keep area rugs in place and to protect hardwood flooring. Unfortunately, not all rug pads get the job done. A poor choice could cause serious harm to your hardwood floor finishes. Plastic pads can move and cause scratches when dirt gets under the pad Natural rubber and felt are better options, as they can keep your rugs in place without sticking to the floors.

 

With these tips, you’ll be able to keep your hardwood floors in great shape for a long time. If your hardwood floors need refinishing or renovation, come visit our showroom for a closer look at our offer!

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, finishes, stains & textures, natural oils, caring for your hardwood floors

Preventing Damage to Your Hardwood Floors

Posted on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 @ 10:04 AM

 

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Hardwood floors are highly durable and can last for decades, but they do require some simple care beyond routine cleaning. 

It’s not difficult—all you need to do is follow a few basic steps. 

Protect heavy traffic areas. 

Place throw rugs on heavy traffic areas, such as in front of sinks, by doors that lead outside, and in hallways. The rugs will not only be decorative, they will prevent those areas from wearing faster than less-walked-upon areas.  

Use non-slip cushion pads under any rugs, but don’t use foam or carpet pads because they may leave a residue. (Wait two weeks after a floor is finished before putting down any rugs.) 

 Install floor protectors on chairs and couches. 

Chairs and couches will naturally slide across flooring as people sit and rise. To protect against scratching, use felt-tip glides that you tap into the bottom of the legs. If you need these protectors, you can order them here. (If your furniture has casters, we recommend using rugs underneath.) 

Limit direct sunlight. 

Intense sunlight will discolor hardwood floors, so do your best to protect your floors against direct sunlight—using area rugs in places that receive a lot of sunlight or keeping curtains closed as much as possible during heavy sun times 

If you have indoor dogs, keep their nails trimmed. 

Long nails can scratch the finish, so keep them groomed. (Your dog will also thank you!) 

Maintain a stable relative humidity in your home. 

Hardwood floors shrink and expand with changes in relative humidity (more so with solid-plank floors, but even engineered flooring experiences some shrinking and expanding). As humidity increases, the floor takes on moisture and expands, and excessive moisture can lead to cupping. As the humidity decreases, the wood loses moisture and shrinks, which can cause gapping between boards. 

To prevent cupping, an air conditioner and/or dehumidifier should be used in the summer, when the relative humidity outside is high. When it gets cold and the relative humidity outside drops, a humidifier should be used to prevent gapping. The ideal is to keep the relative humidity as close to 40 percent as possible, no higher than 50 percent in the summer and above 30 percent in the winter. 

If you have questions about how to keep your hardwood flooring looking its best for years to come, give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902, or stop by our showroom 

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

Caring For Newly Finished Hardwood Flooring

Posted on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 @ 09:04 AM

 

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Made of strong wood with finishes that are more protective than ever, hardwood floors are extremely durable 

But when the finish is fresh, it’s much more sensitive than it will be after it fully cures.  

During this brief time, we recommend that homeowners follow these guidelines: 

Maintain a warm room temperature 

Once the floor is finished, the room temperature needs to remain between 68-75 degrees for one week. The floor must be warm for the finish to cure properly. 

(For new sand-on-site floors or refinish jobs that involve re-sanding, the room temperature should also be between 68-75 degrees for at least one day prior to the sanding.) 

Help your floors dry 

Ventilation helps finish dry. It also helps get rid of the strong finish smell. So, six hours after the last coat of finish has been applied, go by your home and open any doors or windows you can without entering the homecreating as much cross-ventilation as possible. Let the air flow for 15-30 minutes before closing up again. 

The next day, you can return home and begin walking on the floor Open all the windows and doors for a half-hour to an hour, turning on any fans to help with the ventilation, and then close up again. Heat also helps the finish dry. 

Wait to move in furniture 

Don’t put furniture (or appliances) in the room for at least 24 hours after the final application of finish. And when you move it in, set it in place rather than dragging it across the floor. If it’s too heavy to lift, use plywood over blankets or some other method of protecting the floor while you move the heavy load. 

Wait to cover the floors 

Rugs on hardwood floors are a great way to protect floors and add to their beauty. But for the first two weeks after finishing, the finish is still curing. So, for two weeks, don’t cover the floor(s) with rugs, or anything else (such as cardboard boxes during a move).  

An exception is when construction is still going on. In that case, cover the flooring with soft rugs, sheets, blankets, etc., during the day but take them up at night. 

Don’t mop for a month 

Until the finish is sufficiently cured, which can take up to a month, using any liquid to clean (including hardwood flooring cleaners) can weaken the finish.   

If you spill something on the floor, use a damp cloth on that spot only.  

Get ready to enjoy 

Hardwood floors with modern finishes will look wonderful and resist damage for many yearsoften decades—without any need for refurbishment.  

So, be patient as you follow these guidelines. A month of pampering your new finish is a small price to pay for the lasting enjoyment you’ll gain.  

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

What Is Hardwood Floor Stability and When Is It Important?

Posted on Wed, Mar 28, 2018 @ 10:03 AM

 

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“Stability” is a hardwood-flooring term that all buyers of hardwood flooring should understand. 

It refers to how hardwood flooring reacts to humidity fluctuations. The less a wood shrinks and expands due to fluctuations, the higher its stability. 

Stability is important to homeowners because when hardwood shrinks or expands, the edges of a plank can become higher than the plank’s center (cupping) or gaps can open up between planks (gapping). In a worst-case scenario, the planks can even buckle away from the subfloor. 

Homeowners need to consider the humidity conditions in their home when choosing a species of wood for their flooring—and when deciding whether to use solid-plank or engineered hardwood flooring. 

When properly manufactured, engineered hardwood has higher stability than solid planks. Engineered floors consist of a top layer of hardwood veneer, adhered to a backing of composite material constructed with layers of wood running in opposing directions. This “lattice” design of the backing creates a “pull” that reduces the growing and shrinking that can occur with humidity fluctuations.  

As for natural wood, popular species with high stability include Red Oak, White Oak, and Ash, while Maple, Hickory, and Cumaru are examples of popular species with relatively low stability.  

When Stability Really Matters 

In many cases, stability isn’t important because humidity levels in the rooms with the hardwood flooring are going to stay relatively constant. But in other situations, stability is a very relevant consideration. 

For example, bathrooms will of course experience frequent, wide humidity swings as people bath and groom every day—cold water, hot water, steam, no water at all, over and over. We recommend the stability of engineered hardwood, even if the home has solid-plank in other rooms. (Luxury vinyl tile is another option.) 

In below-ground rooms or rooms with concrete subfloors, such as finished basements, humidity and hardwood floors don’t mix well at all. In this situation, humidity fluctuations aren’t the problem—below-ground rooms are just so naturally humid (i.e., damp) that engineered flooring, with its higher stability, is the only viable hardwood option. Fluctuations are bad, but constant high humidity is even worse, and as a certified installer, we won’t install solid-plank floors below grade.  

Stability is also an important consideration if a home’s windows (or doors with screen doors) will be frequently opened, such as in a vacation home at the shore. The humidity will fluctuate based on whether air is being let in and how humid that air is, and hardwood with higher stability might be advisable. Vacation homes also require either hardwood flooring that’s  forgiving of humidity changes or a way to control excess humidity while the owner is away from the home. 

If you’re unsure about how important stability is for your project, or you want guidance on how to pick the most stable options, we’re glad to provide our expert advice. Stop by our showroom any time during business hours to consult with one of our hardwood flooring professionals. And while you’re here, you can see for yourself the many stunningly beautiful hardwood floors that are available! 

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

4 Tips For Cleaning Hardwood Floors

Posted on Wed, Mar 14, 2018 @ 09:03 AM

 

floor cleaning

One of the many cool things about hardwood floors is that they’re extremely easy to clean.  

If they’re surface-sealed (finished with urethane or polyurethane), as most modern hardwood floors are, then you can keep your floors tidy, well-maintained, and beautiful with these four simple tips: 

1.  Sweep or vacuum regularly 

Dirt or debris can scratch your finish, but it’s easy to remove. Simply sweep it up with a broom or use a vacuum. If you vacuum, be sure to use a vacuum cleaner with a soft-bristled brush that doesn’t rotate. 

Another option for removing dirt and debris is a dust mop with a microfiber pad. 

2. Mop floors using an approved hardwood floor cleaner. 

When your floors need mopping, it’s very important that the hardwood floor cleaner you use is approved by the manufacturer of your finish or pre-finished flooring. We recommend Glitsa Clean. 

Prepare the cleaning solution according to the directions or use a pre-prepared solution, and simply spray the cleaner on the floor and wipe it with a microfiber mop. 

3. Don’t let liquids stand. 

Surface-sealed finishes protect against liquid spills, but if the spill remains too long, it could cause the finish to whiten. This whitening can be cleaned off, but you can avoid the problem altogether by wiping up spills as soon as you’re aware of them, using anything that’s non-abrasive (e.g., cloth rag, paper towel, or hardwood floor mop). 

4. Never use a steam cleaner on hardwood floors. 

Manufacturers of certain steam cleaners (e.g., steam mops) claim that their products can sanitize, deodorize, and clean surface-sealed hardwood floors. But flooring and finish manufacturers continue to recommend that their customers don’t use steam cleaners. 

These steam products may appear to work wonderfully at first, but over time they cause finish to wear down faster. 

Who These Tips Aren’t For 

These tips aren’t meant for hardwood floors finished with natural oils or other penetrating seals. And everyone should remember to wait a month after a floor has been finished to use any cleaning products on the new finish. They’ll be fine until you can start cleaning them! 

To learn more about how to care for your hardwood floors, click here. To order cleaning products, click here. Or stop by our showroom. We’re glad to advise you on how to best care for your hardwood floors.

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

A Wisconsin winter and hardwood floors? No problem.

Posted on Wed, Jan 31, 2018 @ 08:01 AM

 

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Even after an installation or refinishing job is complete, Ralph’s relationship with our customers continues. Our goal is to make our customers more-than-satisfied during the job and for the many years they’ll be living on their new hardwood flooring. That’s why we eagerly give our customers advice on how to take care of their hardwood floors.

This time of year, when Wisconsin is deep in the season of cold and snow, one question we often get is: “Is there anything I need to do to protect my hardwood floors during our harsh winters?”

Our answer is that a Wisconsin winter and hardwood floors will get along just fine … if you keep in mind two things:

1.Changes in humidity will cause the floor to change

When it gets cold outside, we turn on the heat to keep our homes warm, and the heat will cause the humidity to drop inside the house. Wood is a natural product, and the boards in your hardwood floors will shrink as they start to lose moisture. On all situations, with solid floors, the shrinking will cause hairline gaps between planks. (During the summer months, humidity levels will rise, and the floor will pick up that moisture and expand, dissipating the hairline gaps).

Engineered flooring (a wood surface with a plywood backing) is also impacted by moisture, even though most engineered floors are designed to not shrink and expand as much as solid floors.  However, if the moisture levels drop too low, the wood surface can split or delaminate from the plywood below.

Solid wood floors perform best when the humidity level in your home is between 30-50%, and engineered floors are best between 35-55%.  

To keep moisture in your home, Ralph’s recommends a humidifier be installed on your furnace to maintain a higher humidity during the winter. (Taking showers and boiling water also help with humidity. However, if you have a large home, this will not be enough moisture to maintain a good level.)

2.Salt, snow and mud can harm your hardwood floors.

The salt used to combat snow can scratch your hardwood floors, and so can the dirt in snow and mud. The water in snow and mud also isn’t good for floors if it isn’t removed. So, it’s important to clean any trace of the winter elements if they get inside.

Consider using rugs on your floors at all entranceways into your home (even if they don’t enter into a room with hardwood floors), as well as mats outside each entranceway. And encourage everyone to wipe their feet!

If you find it difficult to remove the salt from your floors, a mixture of vinegar and water, or of a mild detergent and water, will help remove the salt. But check with us first because not all floors are suitable to clean with these solutions.

It’s really that simple. Don’t let the humidity levels in your home drop too low and keep the winter muck off your floors, and your hardwood floors will have no trouble making it through a Wisconsin winter with no damage.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, caring for your hardwood floors

Real Christmas Trees, Your Hardwood Floor…and some bad song puns.

Posted on Mon, Dec 05, 2016 @ 18:12 PM

I love the smells of Christmas. Gingerbread, eggnog and even the smell of snow, but one of my favorite smells is a real live Christmas tree. This may seem strange for a hardwood floor guy like me since real trees have been known to wreak havoc with scratches, sap stains and water damage.

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It doesn’t have to be that way though, as long as you take some precautions to protect your hardwood floors from Yuletide damage. Here are some ideas:

Fa-la-la-ling Needles

You have to consider your hardwood floors not only when your tree is sitting in your living room, looking pretty but also when bringing it inside. Thoroughly sweep or vacuum the area of the floor where the tree will go. This will make sure there isn’t any debris trapped under the tree stand will scratch the floor.

As well before bringing the tree into your home, shake it and bang the trunk on the ground outside to knock off any loose needles. You can also put the tree in a large garbage bag, covering as many of the branches as possible to keep some needles from falling off and getting tracked across your floor while you carry the tree through your house.

Falling needles will not damage your floors, but if you or someone else steps on them and begins to drag them around, then there’s always a possibility of scratches.

O Christmas Tree Stand

No one wants their tree to fall over but the heavier and more sturdy the tree stand, the more likely it is to scratch up your floor. A tree stand mat, one purchased from a store or a folded towel or blanket, creates a soft base for the stand.

Just remember - if you use a towel or a bed sheet for this job, remember to check it frequently for dampness as these will hold any spilled water and damage your floor’s finish.

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree Skirt

A tree skirt is your hardwood floor’s best friend at Christmas. Just like with your tree stand you can buy, make one or even use a tablecloth or plastic sheet. No matter what it is, a tree skirt under your tree will help catch falling needles and prevent water or tree sap from seeping onto your floor.

Holly Jolly Tidy

Once your tree is up, remember to frequently sweep or vacuum the area around the tree to get rid of any loose needles. Also keeping the tree watered to prevent excessive needle loss but take care not to overfill and cause water damage.

If you follow these few precautions, the chances of your hardwood floor surviving the holiday season with your real tree are high. We personally wish all of our readers and subscribers a wonderful Holiday season! Happy Holidays from the team at Ralphs!

Photo courtesy of Vasile Cotovanu

Tags: stories, caring for your hardwood floors

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