Ralph's Blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Come out and visit our showroom!

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

Ralph's is on TV!

Posted on Wed, May 23, 2018 @ 14:05 PM

Have you seen our latest commercial? If not, take a look now. You’ll see how beautiful a hardwood floor from Ralph’s can look.

It all starts with you. You have a vision. We can make it happen. Uniquely yours.

Come out and visit our showroom!

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

Finishing Your Hardwood Floors to Get Just the Look You Want

Posted on Wed, May 16, 2018 @ 11:05 AM


Floor finish

Hardwood floor finishes protect the flooring, but they do much more than that. They play a major role in how hardwood floors look.

Some homeowners want finishes that don’t shine. Some want finishes that do. Some want the colors in the wood to “pop.”

Whatever look you desire, you can get a finish that helps achieve it. The important thing is to be aware of how the finish you choose will affect the appearance.

One of the most significant visual characteristics of a finish is its sheen, which refers to how shiny the finish is. High-gloss has the most sheen, followed in order of shininess by semi-gloss, satin, and matte.

Low-sheen matte floors are popular right now, but trends come and go. What you should focus on is what you like. At Ralph’s, we can create a finish with whatever level of sheen you want, so there’s no need to settle for a finish that doesn’t exactly fit your personal taste.

Color is another major choice for homeowners that affects appearance. Some people prefer clear finishes, which let the natural color of the wood stand out. But for those who want a different color, stains can be used to create virtually any color you want. As with sheen, when you have Ralph’s do the finishing, we can give you the color you want.

Finish types include polyurethane, water-based, moisture-cured urethane, Swedish finishes, and natural oils. Each type has advantages and disadvantages.   

The most popular finish over the years has been the Swedish finish, which brings out a very rich color. The new popular finish is a water-based finish called Invisible. It makes the floor look “raw”—a floor without finish.  

Whichever type of finish you prefer, and no matter what look you’re after, Ralph’s can provide it. If you visit our showroom, we will gladly talk with you about the look you want and give our expert advice on the right finish for your vision. We’ll also explain the pros and cons of each finishing option in terms of durability, ease of maintenance, and cost.

What’s important to you is important to us!

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

The Wheelhouse Restaurant: Delicious Food and Yummy Hardwood Floors

Posted on Fri, Jun 16, 2017 @ 08:06 AM

In 1977, when Jeff Maiman bought the building he turned into The Wheelhouse Restaurant, he knew he had to do something about the hardwood floors. They were worn out and ugly, painted dark chocolate.

Maiman wanted to create a woodsy, nautical look in tune with the restaurant’s location—the Chain O’ Lakes in Waupaca County, Wisconsin, a popular area for boating, canoeing, and other outdoor recreation. And he knew hardwood floors would be a key element in creating that natural atmosphere.

Maiman called a company he had heard did high-quality hardwood floor work—Ralph’s Hardwoods. From the moment Ralph’s founder, Ralph Lorenz, and his wife, Roberta, showed up at his door to look over the job, Maiman has been glad he turned to Ralph’s.

He appreciates Ralph’s attentive customer service. And as avid woodworker himself, he has great respect for the skill of their work.

“We were really, really impressed with the job they did,” Maiman said about the refinishing of the old floors he had bought. “They do quality work, and if it ain’t right, they make it right.”

The relationship between The Wheelhouse and Ralph’s has stood the test of time and is now in its fifth decade.

A Natural Match

The rustic charm of The Wheelhouse fits perfectly with the idyllic Chain O’ Lakes, and the hardwood floors set the dining area’s tone.

“This is really a knotty pine and wood interior,” Maiman said. “It’s kind of an ‘up-northy’ feel, and the hardwood floors really make it pop. I couldn’t see having any other type of floor.”

The Wheelhouse.png

Maiman painstakingly constructed the tables and booths for the restaurant with his own hands, so working with Ralph’s is more than just good business. It’s an assurance that the floors with live up to his personal quality standards.

Whether it’s the tables and booths he sweated over, or the pizza, sandwiches, and other menu items—which are known for being delicious, fresh, and scratch-made—Maiman insists on the best. So it’s only natural that he chooses to work with a hardwood floor company that shares in that insistence.

He fondly remembers how Ralph’s once voluntarily returned to refinish a floor free of charge because Ralph wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the first refinishing. That’s the dedication to quality he’s come to expect from Ralph’s.

As Maiman has expanded The Wheelhouse, Ralph’s has put in the hardwood floors. And Maiman calls on Ralph’s every year to recoat the floors—a frequency of recoating that isn’t needed in a home setting but that Maiman deemed necessary in a high-traffic commercial space like his popular restaurant.

“We wanted to stay on top of it,” Maiman said. “Ralph’s worked very well with me in doing so.”

New Hardwood Delights Customers

Three years ago, during the relatively slow winter season, Maiman had the hardwood floors completely replaced with new Ash flooring, including in areas that previously were carpeted. Now the restaurant, which has about 3,000 square feet of space in its dining area, is virtually all hardwood, coated with a moisture-cured urethane finish designed specifically for commercial spaces.

Maiman loves the new floors, and so do his customers. A compass rose inlay medallion, in particular, draws raves.

“Ralph’s blended it all so well,” he said. “I’ve had nothing but compliments from everyone who has come in. They look at our floors and say, ‘Wow! How can we get floors like that?’ And we send them to Ralph’s.”

Refinishing each year makes them look like they’re brand new, Maiman said, and he values the durability and easy maintenance of the moisture-cured urethane finish.

“It’s hard as rock, “he said. “It holds up so well, and it’s so easy to take care of. “

Let Ralph’s Do It

Maiman also owns an ice cream shop, Scoopers, across the street from The Wheelhouse. For years, Maiman refinished Scoopers’ pine plank floor himself, coating it with a polyurethane finish. But he was so pleased with the finish, and Ralph’s craftmanship in The Wheelhouse, that he eventually brought in Ralph’s to take care of the floors in Scoopers as well.

“Why not?” he figured.

“Hands-down, they are better than I am,” he said, laughing. “And they have proven themselves.”

Tags: about Ralph's, finishes, stains & textures, restoring hardwood floors

Sand on Site vs. Prefinished Hardwood – Myth Buster Edition

Posted on Sat, Aug 13, 2016 @ 09:08 AM


Myth.pngHere at Ralph's Hardwood, we love wood and we think all wood floors are beautiful. This fact seems obvious but it doesn't stop people in our showroom from asking us all the time, "which is better: sand on site or prefinished?".

Our answer is always the same - it depends.

Dispelling Some Myths

If you do some research you will find different reasons why you should choose site finished instead of pre-finished and vice versa. While most of these ideas held some truth at one point, they aren't really as relevant today. We don't think the question is so much about which is better as much as it is about which is better for your project.

Let's start by dispelling (or at least clarify) a few myths about sand on site versus prefinished hardwood floors:

Style - often you will hear that prefinished flooring styles are limited but this isn’t necessarily the case. While prefinished doesn't give the complete flexibility you get with site finished floors, today's manufacturers have created more style  and color options that ever before. The style limitations come into play when you want a specific color and a specific texture and a specific width. This kind of customization is only available with sand on site. 

Installation Mess - there are many articles that will tell you sand on site floors are messy and that your house will be filled with sanding dust. Not with Ralph’s. We use a superior dust removal system that includes a containment system that has been modified to work with our removal and installation equipment. 

Cure Time - Traditionally site finished flooring needed anywhere from a few days to a week for the floor to dry and cure. This isn't necessarily the case anymore with portable UV finish systems that when coupled with water-based UV finishes enable much shorter cure times.

Odors and Fumes – ok, so this may not exactly be a myth. Hardwood floor finishes often have an odor however many products for sand on site floors now utilize special formulations to reduce odors and fumes and wax has experienced a real come back and has no odor at all. So while site finished floors may have fumes or odors, they can minimized depending on how you have them finished.

So What Should You Do?

Instead of worrying too much about prefinished versus site finished, we suggest you look at many different hardwood samples and go with the one you like best. Once you have a sense of floor you like, one of our hardwood expert can help you find the best option for your project, timeline and budget.

That way you can focus on getting your dream floor and not be overly focused on sand on site versus prefinished.

 Photo courtesy of CLEAN_UP

Tags: about hardwood floors, hardwood floor optio, finishes, stains & textures

A Long, Beautiful Life: Hardwood Flooring Sealed With a Swedish Finish

Posted on Thu, Jul 14, 2016 @ 15:07 PM

Swedish finishes (i.e., conversion varnishes) are a beautiful and durable opiton for hardwood floor finishing.Without question, conversion varnishes—also known as a “Swedish finishes”—are our most popular finishing option.

It’s been that way for years, and I don’t expect it to change anytime soon.

Why? Because Swedish finishes look great, while providing superb protection for the hardwood flooring. This combination of durability and beauty occurs because of the chemical reactions that take place during the curing of the finish, “bonding” the finish to the wood.

As a result of this bonding, the finish is harder than finishes that essentially “sit on top” of the wood, such as polyurethane finishes. A Swedish finish will stand up better to normal wear and tear, with less susceptibility to scratches, scuffs, water damage, and stains—meaning it will probably be longer before you have to refinish your flooring.

This durability appeals to everyone but is particularly attractive to families with children and/or pets, or who otherwise expect rough use of the floors.

As for appearance, because the bonding process produces a finish that doesn’t look at all “glossy,” the natural characteristics of the wood—color, grain, texture, etc.—really stand out. This rich, natural look is just what many people are after.

That’s true even for folks who want to adjust the natural color with stain. No stain, little stain, or some stain; it doesn’t matter—Swedish finishes make the desired color really “pop.”

Another advantage, related to both appearance and durability, is that Swedish finishes develop a pleasant, slightly amber tone as they age, rather than yellowing as some finishes do.

There are a few reasons Swedish finishes aren’t right for everyone. Although not necessarily a better value, many finishing options are less expensive upfront. Because of the complexity of the application, Swedish finishes must be applied by expert professionals, and the smell requires the homeowners to leave the home during the application process.

Even after returning, homeowners should be careful with the flooring until it completely cures, which can take a month or two. A general recommendation is to not walk on the floor for six hours after application, keep furniture off of it for 24 hours, and delay putting rugs on it for two weeks.

But in most cases, these reasons don’t deter our customers who want an exceptionally durable and beautiful finish.

We’ve been using the top-of-the-line Glitsa Swedish finish for more than 30 years, and we’d love to talk with you about the product and service we can provide. Give us a call at 920.984.3383 (toll free: 800.354.9902) or stop by our showroom to see samples and talk with us in person.

Tags: finishes, stains & textures, picking the right floor for your lifestyle

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