Ralph's Blog

What Matters Most When Selecting Customized Hardwood Flooring?

Posted on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 @ 07:02 AM

Visiting a high-quality hardwood floor company's showroom is the way to find what you want.

New hardwood flooring is a thing of beauty, and even more so when it fits with the look and feel of your interior design and existing decor. For homeowners who understand the importance of matching hardwood floors to a particular style that fulfills their vision, customized hardwood flooring is often the best choice.

Appearance vs. Your Needs

Many homeowners stop looking when they find hardwood flooring that has the appearance they like. That decision is perfectly valid if the flooring also happens to be the right fit for their lifestyle.

However, there are cases when it isn’t the right fit. For example, even though you’ve fallen in love with the look of a certain wood species, if it’s a relatively soft wood, it might be a better option to try a harder, more durable type of wood that can be customized to create the look you want.

If you have children or pets (or both), there will likely be plenty of foot traffic that a softer hardwood floor might not be able to withstand very well.  A flooring professional will know what to recommend to you, based on the expected amount of activity the flooring will experience.

One option to conceal any future dents or scratches is a hand-scraped or wire-brushed floor. If you are not entrenched to a smooth finish, these rustically textured floors can be an excellent selection.

Customizing to Your Needs

Fortunately, you have many options when it comes to the appearance of your floor. Staining and finishing methods allow for a high level of customization. You can seamlessly match your floors to your interior design—getting both the look you want and a floor suitable to your lifestyle.

You can have a floor that you’ll be happy with for many years to come!

It’s our mission to provide only the best quality flooring for our customers, and we take great care in helping you pick what is right for you. We’re knowledgeable, experienced specialists who can walk you through the process of choosing customized flooring. Visit our showroom to see what we can offer.

Tags: hardwood floor options, hardwood floors and interior design, picking the right floor for your lifestyle, custom hardwood flooring

The Advantages of Site-Finished Hardwood Floors

Posted on Fri, Feb 08, 2019 @ 08:02 AM

Site-finished hardwood flooring is ideal for homeowners with homeowners looking for a specific look.

Choosing to install hardwood floors is only the beginning of the decision-making process when it comes to flooring. There’s a multitude of other decisions you have to make, regarding the type of hardwood, species, grain, color, and finish—all of which impact the final look of your new flooring.

One of the most important decisions is the one between site-finished and prefinished hardwood floors. Both have their advantages. Like any other decision, what you choose will depend on your budget and the factors that are most important to you. Let’s take a look at the advantages of site-finished hardwood floors.

More Options

If customization is significant to you, site-finished hardwood floor might be the better option. One of the main benefits of site-finished floors is that they can be made precisely to your preferences. When it comes to creating the right stain and sheen, a skilled artisan can do it on site. Site-finished flooring appeals to homeowners who have a specific design idea and feel that prefinished options would be too limiting.

Easier to Match With Existing Floors

If you’re looking to match your new flooring with existing floors or weave it into a room, you may have to invest in site-finished flooring, which can be matched with your existing floors on the spot.

With prefinished floors, you may not be able to find the exact type of stain and finish you want. Even with the same product that you purchased before, there could be slight variations in the color between different batches of prefinished flooring.

Ultimately, what you choose will depend on your preferences. Prefinished floors have improved in quality and can be the perfect choice for many homeowners. However, with site-finished floors coming from a high-quality installer like Ralph’s, you’ll be getting the benefits that prefinished floors don’t possess. Visit our showroom to see what we can do for you.

Tags: hardwood floor options, hardwood floors and interior design, finishes, stains & textures, custom hardwood flooring

“If ... Then ... Else” Until the Hardwood Floors of Your Dreams

Posted on Sat, Jan 26, 2019 @ 08:01 AM

What does computer logic have to do with hardwood floors? More than you might think.

When I went to college, I decided to major in computer science. I had been working with my father at Ralph’s since I was a young boy, but I didn’t think hardwood flooring was the career for me. And I was pretty interested in computers.

It didn’t take me long to switch my major to business. But with an emphasis in management of information systems (MIS), I kept learning about computers.

Once I graduated, I was able to combine my business and computer knowledge to find computer-related jobs in business settings for a few years. But I soon felt the call of hardwood floors and went back to work with Ralph’s, full-time, taking it over from my Dad.

I’ve never stopped liking computers, though, and sometimes I think of providing customers with their ideal hardwood floors as similar to programming a computer.

I don’t mean it’s impersonal in the way a computer is. What I’m talking about is “conditional” programming, also known as “if, then, else” programming. It’s basic logic that says that if one thing is true (the “if’), then there are two options: to select the first possibility presented (“then”) or to look for other possibilities (“else.”)

If “then” happens, no other choices need to be made (the “end.”) But If it’s “else,” then the process of “if, then, else” starts over again and continues until all the necessary choices have been made.

That’s the way we work with our customers when they visit our showroom looking to find the hardwood floors of their dreams.

The “if” is your vision—the true look, feel, and performance that will make you happy.  The “then” happens when we’re able to give you a first choice that matches what’s in your heart. If it’s “else” then we move past the first option and keep giving you choices until you’ve chosen, the hardwood floor characteristics that are just right for you.

There are many hardwood floor options—site-finished or prefinished, solid plank or engineered, type of species, color, texture, and more—and we’ll gladly and patiently repeat the “if, then, else” process for you until you’re more-than-satisfied with the selections you’ve made.

Of course, choosing among hardwood floor options is a much different proposition than choosing between 1’s and 0’s when writing computer code.  But the principle is the same—keep drilling down and making choices until the desired result is found.

To see what I mean, I invite you to give us a visit. We’ll learn your “if,” listen to your “then,” and continue with your “else” for as long as you need until your hardwood floor decision-making is at an end you’re thrilled about.

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

The Artist’s Eye of a Hardwood Floor Installer

Posted on Sat, Jan 05, 2019 @ 08:01 AM

artist's eye2

It was the end of the day for our crew, and it could have been the end of the entire hardwood floor installation. The floor seemed done.

But our installer in charge of the job looked at that floor like an artist combing over a painting before declaring it completed. When he discovered an imperfection, he told the homeowner that he and his crew would be back the very next day to fix it.

It wasn’t an obvious flaw, except to a trained eye. The homeowners might never have noticed it until we were long gone and paid—or never.

But our installer couldn’t live with it.

He was probably thinking about how it’s good business to give customers the best floor possible. But I know there was more to it than that. He also was unwilling to declare a job done until it totally fulfilled his vision of how a beautiful floor should look.

All our installers are like that. When a Ralph’s  installer works a job, the result is their responsibility. We give them the authority to run the job as they see fit. It’s their “baby,” and they look at it with an artist’s eye.

Good hardwood floor installers must be able to envision—and deeply care about—how a hardwood floor should look (always taking into account the customer’s tastes.) A good installer uses listening, judgment, skill, and an artist’s instinct to give customers what they want.

Our installers  meet with your salesperson before and during your project to understand everything that’s important to you in terms of appearance, and scheduling.

And while you don’t need to be in your home if you don’t want to be, our installers will gladly speak with you about anything on your mind if you are. They’ll ask the right questions to help them understand what you desire, and they’ll use their experience and knowledge to answer your questions.

They welcome the opportunity to make you happy. And it makes them happy to install a gorgeous floor that meets their high standards.

They’re ready to put their talents to work for you.

To begin a discussion with us about your hardwood floor project and how our team will go the extra mile for you, visit our showroom or give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902.

Image courtesy of Neil Tackaberry, Creative Commons.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, about Ralph's, installation, Ralph's Hardwood

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

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