Ralph's Blog

A Ralph's Makeover

Posted on Thu, Apr 23, 2015 @ 07:04 AM



In February, Ralph’s Hardwood Floors announced the winner of our “Ugliest Floor” contest on Facebook.

Now the winner, Sara Dorn-McGuire, and her family are enjoying her prize—a free refinishing of her hardwood floors. More than 1,900 people chose her flooring as the most in need of refinishing among the many entries we received. We recently completed the job—338 square feet in her kitchen, dining room, hallway, and foyer.

Sara was aware of our reputation for quality, but as with most of our customers, she was delightfully surprised at how great her floors now look. After we refinished them with our experienced, craftsman’s touch, they went from being floors that bothered her to floors that give her pleasure every day and that she’s now proud to show off.

Dorn-McGuire_USE“They turned out better than I ever imagined,” she told us. “I’m very happy with them. People who have stopped by say, “Wow, they really look great!”

Sara was also happy to find that dust wasn’t a problem. Using our state-of-the-art Dust Containment System, we were able to extract the dust directly from our sanding machines outside Sara’s home.

“You left everything very clean,” Sara said. “You were great to work with.”

The Ugliest Floor contest was part of our year-long celebration of our 50th year in business. Since 1965, we’ve been providing homeowners across northeast Wisconsin with the same high level of satisfaction that Sara has with her beautiful new floors.

If you’d like to keep up with Ralph’s as we announce other exciting events and specials during our 50th anniversary celebration, please visit our Facebook page and give us a like.

If you’re ready to give your old, beat-up hardwood floors a makeover—or you want to install brand-new hardwood flooring—please get in touch with us. Even if you’re just thinking about it, we can provide you with useful advice.

Tags: restoring hardwood floors, dustless sanding, stories, Ralph's news & events, remodeling

Buying New Floors? 6 Things to Look for in a Hardwood Floor Company

Posted on Wed, Jan 15, 2014 @ 09:01 AM

Having a great-looking hardwood floor installed involves two basic elements:

  • The materials used.
  • The skill of the installers.

Just like it takes a good cook to turn the ingredients in a recipe into a tasty meal, it takes expertise to turn hardwood flooring materials into a beautiful floor.

But how do you find the proficiency you need? Here are six things to look for.

1. Experience and a history of customer satisfaction.

Research the hardwood floor companies you’re considering. How long have they been in business? What’s their background? Do they have strong customer testimonials? Do they complete projects on time? Look at their social media pages. Enter their names into a search engine and see what turns up. You might find praise or disparagement, and you shouldn’t immediately jump to conclusions, but you can learn from the comments you find on the Web.

And don’t forget good-old word-of-mouth. If someone you trust strongly recommends a particular hardwood floor company, what better indication of quality can you get?

2. All your needs in one place.

Getting a new hardwood floor requires the selection of flooring, procuring materials, installation, and finishing. You can buy the flooring from one company and have another put it in, and a quality hardwood flooring company will be able to work with another company to provide you with the floors you want. But it’s smoother and usually more cost-effective to buy your flooring from the same company that will install it. Also, keep in mind that your installer cannot stand behind material he didn't provide. 

3. Adherence to professional standards.

The installation team of the hardwood floor company you choose should be led by a National Wood Flooring Association Certified (NWFA) Installer. Also, make sure the company stringently follows NWFA guidelines.

cp logo   Selected

4. Moisture control.

Insist on a company that understands the impact of temperature and humidity changes on wood. You should expect an inspection of your home to assess temperature and humidity levels so that installation can be adjusted accordingly. And in homes under construction, you want a hardwood flooring company that is able to provide a commercial-grade dehumidifier, if needed, to keep moisture levels from getting too high.

5. Dust containment.

If the installation is being done in a home that’s already being lived in, a state-of-the-art dust containment system is critical to avoid a huge mess.

6. Customer service.

Go visit the hardwood floor companies you’re considering. Are they friendly? Do they appear organized? How helpful are they? Are they just trying to sell, or are they treating you as a consultant would a client? That’s what you’re looking for—a company that won’t be satisfied until you’re satisfied.

Tags: dustless sanding, about hardwood floors

To Refinish or Replace Hardwood Flooring? 3 Key Issues to Consider

Posted on Tue, Dec 10, 2013 @ 16:12 PM

Even the best finished hardwood flooring starts to look worn out over time. When this happens, you have several options to get immaculate flooring again:

  • Recoating (A fresh coat of finish with no sanding).
  • Sanding and refinishing.
  • Replacement.

When you’re deciding between these choices, you should consider three fundamental issues.

1. Cost

By far, the most expensive option is replacing your finished wood flooring, while the least expensive is recoating. Your decision may be limited at the outset by what you can afford, but working with an expert hardwood flooring company, you might be surprised at how inexpensive new or re-sanded floors can be.

You can try to lower cost by doing the sanding, finishing, or installation yourself, but unless you really know what you’re doing, this can easily end up wasting money and time. Even if you get the project done, will it look as good as a professional job? Ask yourself if you can live with the results before deciding on DIY.

2. Age & Damage

Solid plank finished hardwood flooring can be sanded more often than engineered wood flooring, but even solid plank gets to the point where it doesn’t have enough thickness to be sanded anymore. If you can see the tongue and groove where the boards join, it’s time for replacement.

However, if you have enough wood for sanding, dustless sanding works great to remove signs of normal wear and tear before refinishing.

In fact, sanding might not even be necessary. If your floors aren’t scratched, stained, or dented, a simple recoating can restore their luster.

Sometimes a particular section may show extreme damage—such as warping due to water damage, pet stains, exposure to sun, or gouging—but the rest of the floor is relatively fine. In that case, you might be able to get by with replacing only that section. Talk to a finished hardwood flooring expert to find out what’s feasible.

3. Appearance

When it’s time to refurbish or replace their hardwood flooring, it’s also an opportunity to change the look and feel of your floors.

Keep in mind that staining after sanding can dramatically alter appearance. Staining can produce countless hardwood colors to create the new mood you want.

But sometimes replacement is the only way to get the look you envision. For example, if you have oak flooring but you want an exotic wood floor, you’re obviously going to need an entirely new floor! Likewise, if you want to change the width or length of boards, or their direction, you’ll have to rip up the old floor and replace it.

For many people, however, this cost is well worth it—it buys them the finished wood flooring that will truly make them happy.

Tags: restoring hardwood floors, dustless sanding, about hardwood floors, remodeling

5 Reasons Why DIY Refinishing Can Be a Big Mistake

Posted on Wed, Oct 09, 2013 @ 09:10 AM

Maybe it's because of the emergence of do-it-yourself websites and countless DIY television shows, but more people than ever seem to be thinking about refinishing their hardwood flooring themselves.

But before you make the decision to try it yourself, consider these six reasons why it’s usually better for professionals to do the job.

1. You might be very skilled at home-improvement projects, but that doesn’t mean you’re as skilled at refinishing as someone who’s been doing that specific job for years.

Ask yourself, even if you get the job done, will it look as good as it could? Remember, you might save some money, but if you’re dissatisfied with the results, did you really spend your money wisely? It takes experience to get it just right.

2. You can damage the hardwood flooring.

If you don’t have experience with refinishing, there’s the real possibility that you’ll make mistakes while sanding, staining, or applying the finish—mistakes that harm the flooring and can’t be simply (or inexpensively) undone. Without experience with hardwood floor refinishing, this is easy to do, even if you’re good with DIY jobs.

3. The savings probably aren't as much as you think.

You may save a little in a upfront cost because you're not paying for labor, but when you compare the cost of a professional job to what you'll spend on equipment and materials to do it yourself—and then add in your valuable time—you may very well find that you're not really saving much, if anything at all.

4. You will probably take longer to do the job than a pro.

The length of the job will depend on whether sanding and staining are involved, as well as other factors, but however long it takes an experienced hardwood flooring company to do the job, it will certainly take you longer doing it on your own.

And if your time for the project is interrupted by your normal daily life (work, children, etc.) then you could easily find yourself with a drawn-out project, while the rooms being refinished are unusable and the furniture and other stuff you’ve moved out are taking up space in the rest of your home.

5. If you need to sand, you won’t have access to the same equipment as a hardwood flooring company does.

The sanders you can rent are smaller machines that operate on 110 electricity.   The professional machines are heavier and operate on 220 electricity.  The smaller, less-efficient rental sanders can get the job done however they are harder to use and and will take much longer to complete the project.

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Traditional sanding produces a lot of dust.  We are not aware of any rental machines that have satisfactory dust containment.   So, if you plan on doing the floor sanding process on your own, you will need to plan a few extra days of cleaning.    Professional companies that have dust containment trailers will control about 98% of the dust.   A simple household dusting will be all that is needed after a professional sanding job.

Tags: restoring hardwood floors, dustless sanding, caring for your hardwood floors, remodeling

No dust, no fuss. Sanding hardwood floors doesn't have to be messy.

Posted on Sun, Sep 23, 2012 @ 16:09 PM

If you’ve decided to install sand-on-site hardwood floors in your home, or if you’re preparing to re-sand existing hardwood floors, you’re undoubtedly excited about how great your new floor is going to look.

But as you select a hardwood flooring expert to sand your floors, be sure not to overlook an aspect of sanding that’s far less exciting, but nonetheless important—the sander’s dust containment system.

Dust Can Be Avoided

A top-quality hardwood flooring sander will sand your hardwood floors and leave very little dust in your home, and that’s what you should demand. Always ask prospective sanders what dust-containment method they use.

The answer you want to hear is that they evacuate the dust out of the home into a trailer. In this system, hoses are attached directly to the sanding machines, and the dust is sucked by an extremely powerful vacuum engine straight into the trailer, eliminating nearly all dust created from sanding  your floors.

Other methods also have hoses attached to the sanding equipment, but the vacuum machine is small enough to be brought inside, which means it has a less-powerful, less-efficient motor. And sanding without any dust control at all...don't even think about it!

Hardwood Sanding Dust

If you’re having floors installed before they’re finished, the installation equipment can also be hooked directly to the dust evacuation system. This technology isn’t perfected yet, but its use can substantially reduce dust caused by old floor removal and installation of new hardwood floors. 

Insist on Experience

Don’t hesitate to inquire about a company’s history of dust evacuation. Ask to see pictures or videos of jobs they’ve done, and talk with them to gauge their commitment and ability to keep your home as free of dust as possible.

Keeping dust from becoming a problem may seem like a minor consideration in the overall process of adding or re-sanding hardwood floors, but it won’t seem minor if you end up struggling to clean up persistent dust. Selecting the right hardwood flooring company for the job will allow you to enjoy your new floors as soon as they’re completed, without having to worry about the mess left behind.

No Fuss, No Dust.

Tags: restoring hardwood floors, dustless sanding, remodeling

When to refinish your hardwood floor.

Posted on Mon, Jul 23, 2012 @ 10:07 AM

Years ago you installed hardwood floors. They were stunning and added visual appeal to your home. For years you have lived on them and loved them! The ease of cleaning left you with enough extra time to actually put your feet up once in a while and actually enjoy the beauty of the wood.

As a family lives on any flooring surface, that surface will begin to show wear. The beauty of hardwood is that when the time comes to do something about the wear, replacement is not necessary. Your floor may be worn, but it is far from worn out. Some floors may even begin to look dated, and the same is true with wood. Again, the beauty of wood is that through special techniques and stains, we can "update" an existing floor. Homeowners who cherish their finished wood floors should be prepared to restore them when it becomes necessary.

So, how do you know when it is time to refinish?

1.    The floors have begun to look dull and worn and just don't have the "life" they once had.

As you live on your floors they will eventually become worn and scratched. You may not pay much attention to the wear, and as you see your floors every day, the change doesn’t seem dramatic. But then, one day you walk  into a friend’s home with freshly finished wood flooring—or you move a rug or bed and see what your floors looked like when they were new—and the difference between what they were and what they have become becomes painfully obvious.

Refinishing your wood floors allows you to recapture their original brilliance, thereby renewing the appearance and atmosphere of your home. Take a good look at your floors and then visit a hardwood floor showroom—if your floors don’t measure up to the beauty of what you see there, refinishing can remedy that.

 2.    You are ready for a change.

One fact of life is that our tastes contiually change and our home tends to change with them. New furniture or a whole new decorating scheme may have you looking at your floors, wondering if there isn't something you could do to update their look as well. It could be something as simple as changing the color or implementing techniques designed to minimize the grain. Did you know a hickory floor could look like this?  Smoldering Hickory Or an oak floor like this? The Black Creek

If your hardwood flooring professional tells you they can't stain hard-to-stain woods such as maple, cherry, birch, hickory, or pine, you’re dealing with the wrong company. Though these woods are difficult to stain, it can be done with a little scientific know-how and a lot of experience.

3.    Your floor doesn’t just look faded—it’s an eyesore.

Accidents are a part of life and over time, water stains, deep scratches, gouges, and grooves can happen. 

If your flooring has unsightly damage beyond mild scratching, not to worry, it does not have to be replaced. Sanding the floor down to bare wood and applying more finish may be all that is needed. If the damage is severe, or perhaps you have moved a wall or two and some patching needs to be done, the floor can still look great! 

Before Repair and RefinishingAfter Hardwood Repair Refinishing

When considering a sanding project, insist on a company that uses the best dust evacuation system available and make sure the unit operates outside the home.  Otherwise, you’re in for a mess!

Learn more about Refinishing Services from Ralph's 

Request an in-home consultation



Tags: restoring hardwood floors, dustless sanding, remodeling

Understanding the benefits of dustless sanding.

Posted on Mon, May 14, 2012 @ 10:05 AM

The idea of dustless sanding sounds like a fantasy but it is real and has real benefits.

sawdust floor

Don't let fear of dust prevent you from reviving a beautiful floor.

Older hardwood floors can reclaim their past glory with a professional sanding treatment. Many homeowners, however, are reluctant to commit to such a project because of the mess and hassle from all the dust generated in the process. Not looking forward to dust in light fixtures, drapes, or inside every cabinet, the dream of  reviving those beautiful floors easily becomes abandoned due to the daunting after-project clean up. Keep reading...the solution is here. 

Dust can be dangerous.

Even for homeowners who are prepared for the mess, the health risks of breathing in dust should  be minimized. OSHA guidelines for wood dust suggest it is “a potential health problem when wood particles from processes such as sanding and cutting become airborne. Breathing these particles may cause allergic respiratory symptoms, mucoul and non-allergic respiratory symptoms, and cancer.” 

The answer is simple - eliminate the dust before it gets into the air.

Dustless sanding is a highly beneficial option of which many homeowners are not aware. A state-of-the-art Atomic Dust Containment System is a vacuum that continually extracts dust and stores it outside your home in an self-contained unit. Dust is removed as it is created, helping maintain a healthy, breathable environment during and after the sanding process.

Be proactive, save yourself the frustration and preserve your health, and let the Atomic Dust Containment System work hard so you don’t have to. Your lungs and your sanity will thank you for it.

Photo by Jazz Guy. Available under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.

Tags: restoring hardwood floors, dustless sanding, remodeling

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