Ralph's Blog

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

Thinking about our new showroom and favorite floors.

Posted on Sat, Oct 08, 2016 @ 09:10 AM

Favorite_things_2.pngWe are in the midst of renovating our showroom and I am really looking forward to our grand re-opening. The new showroom is going to feature the latest color and style trends in hardwood floors and will really make it easy for visitors to find the floor of their dreams.

The whole process has got me thinking a lot about the experience of coming to our showroom and in particular about when people ask me about my favorite floors. I love this question and it’s not because I want to share my favorites.

Read this post from our blog where I explain why my answer to the favorite floor question is irrelevant.



Tags: stories, hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring

Who says a workout space has to feel like a sweaty gym?

Posted on Sat, Jul 30, 2016 @ 10:07 AM



Who says a workout space has to feel like a sweaty gym? All parts of a home can be beautiful, and where you work to keep yourself healthy and looking good is no exception.

Look at how elegant this exercise room is!

The homeowners went with cork on this floor. Cork hardwood flooring is made from the bark of cork trees, which means the trees don’t have to be cut down—a selling point for environmentally minded customers. Cork was ideal for this room because it is soft under the feet and has a warm look with great acoustical properties.

We proudly install cork flooring from WE Cork. Please visit our showroom to talk about cork or other creative flooring ideas for your home.


Tags: picking the right floor for your lifestyle, hardwood floors & interior design

All in the name of love...

Posted on Sat, Jul 16, 2016 @ 10:07 AM


eLetter_-_Idea_Book_-_July_16.pngOne of the great pleasures of working at a hardwood flooring company is being able to help customers move on to the next stage of their lives.

We’re able to do this when young couples come to us looking to find just-the-right hardwood flooring for the home they intend to raise their new family in. Whether it’s their first home or they’re moving to a bigger home to accommodate their children, they’re always excited.

For many of them, it’ the first time they’re making their own choices about the type of home they want to live, and the hardwood flooring they select will play a big part in how the home will feel. These folks often remind me of an engaged couple filling out a registry for their wedding gifts. Their eagerness is contagious!

They’re having a great time, but they’re also very serious about making choices that reflect their personal taste as a couple—and as a growing family. I love to help them find the choice that best fits their taste and is also appropriate for an active family with small children.

Of course, life doesn’t stop at that stage, and I get a similar satisfaction in helping couples after the children have left home.

These homeowners fall into two general categories: They’re moving to a new home or they’re staying put and want to remodel. We can help in either case.

For those moving to a new home, it’s a fresh chance to express their personal taste, which likely has evolved since they selected the flooring for their previous home. We offer them our expertise as they explore their hardwood floor options, until they find the flooring that perfectly fits their vision for their dream home.

In many cases, this involves selecting flooring that enhances their surroundings—be it a home by water, in the mountains, on a farm, or any other location they love. For example, if they’re moving by water, they may very likely choose light-colored flooring with a rustic look in order to create a “breezy,” casual feel reminiscent of vacation cottages at the beach.

“Empty nesters” who don’t want to leave their home of many years, for whatever reason, also have a chance for a fresh start by remodeling. Although there might be some technical limitations presented by the home itself (e.g., a high-humidity environments), they typically can choose any look they want for this new time of their lives.

I can tell you from experience, it’s loads of fun to help them choose hardwood flooring that will transform their home into what they’ve been dreaming about for years.

In all these life stages—and for that matter, any time someone is choosing flooring for a new home or a remodel—our customers have high expectations for how flooring can help them create a brand-new look.

And helping them fulfill expections never gets old!


Tags: picking the right floor for your lifestyle, hardwood floors & interior design

A Smooth Flow: Hardwood Floors and Open Floorplans

Posted on Thu, Jun 23, 2016 @ 15:06 PM

Open floorplans and hardwood floors go well together.More and more new homes being built these days feature open floorplans, and homeowners across the world are knocking down walls to create open floorplans as they renovate older homes.

This global trend has clearly taken hold here in Wisconsin. Many of our customers building new homes or renovating want an open floorplan. That means the living room, dining room, and kitchen aren’t separated by walls—in other words, a kitchen that’s open to a “great room.”

This popularity of open home designs is driven by several factors:

  • Sociability. The lack of walls encourages conversation and interaction, which appeals to today’s busy, active families who like to spend time together when they’re all at home, as well as to homeowners who like to entertain.
  • The decline of formal dinner parties. Formal dinner parties just aren’t as common as they used to be, so there’s no need for a separate dining room.
  • A connection to nature. Open floor plans allow natural light to spread throughout the home, and the lack of walls allows everyone to see particularly beautiful outside views that would otherwise be visible from only one room.
  • Spaciousness. Leaving out the walls obviously creates a larger open space than if the area was divided. In many people’s eyes, this makes an entire home seem more spacious.

When it comes to hardwood floors, homeowners who choose open floorplans usually reinforce the roomy, flowing feel by selecting the same type of hardwood flooring for the entire area. Instead of creating some distinction between the areas by using a different style of flooring or decorative borders, they go for a uniform look that unites the whole space.

In general, that’s what we recommend to our customers who want an open floorplan. That’s not to say there aren’t creative possibilities in mixing things up—for example, by staining the floor in the kitchen a different color. But for most people seeking an open look, uniform hardwood flooring gives them the appearance they want. Furnishings, rugs, and the kitchen counters/bar are enough to define the areas of the open space for them.

A hardwood floor crosspiece is ideal for separating areas in an open floorplan.If you do want some distinction between the flooring in rooms, but want to keep an open, flowing atmosphere, you can use a simple hardwood crosspiece, which creates a subtle transition.

Light-colored flooring (maybe even whitewashed) lends itself well to the natural, airy feel of open floorplans. Wide plank hardwood floors are also a good match.

Any grade of wood can look great, but lower grades that show natural characteristics often appeal to homeowners who like open floorplans because both choices work together to create a causal, inviting feel.

Please visit our showroom to learn more about how hardwood flooring can enhance an open floorplan in your home. Or give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902, and we’ll talk about the possibilities.

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, hardwood flooring trends, remodeling

New Shades of White: The Transformation of Whitewashed Hardwood Flooring

Posted on Thu, Jun 16, 2016 @ 15:06 PM

Preverco Edge whitewashed hardwood flooringTen years ago, if someone asked us about whitewashed hardwood flooring, we would have assumed they were talking about the very, very white floors popular in the 1980s. And we would have pointed out that this look had become pretty dated.

But over the past few years, “whitewashed” has taken on a different meaning when it comes to hardwood floors, and this style has become quite popular.

Today, homeowners are choosing whitewashed flooring that has white tones but isn’t as purely white as was popular 30 years ago. Back then, the goal was to create a “contemporary,” relatively formal look by using high-grade wood with a uniform appearance and then staining it as white as possible. Sometimes this meant staining it more than once, making it look as if was painted. Often, actual white paint was used.

Now more-transparent off-white and greyish-white colors that don’t hide the hardwood’s characteristics have become popular, and many homeowners are using lower grades of wood to achieve a more natural look. (With hardwood floors, “grade” doesn’t refer to quality; it refers to the degree in which the wood used shows the natural characteristics of its species.)

Another stylistic change is that most homeowners are no longer looking for a uniform look in the other interior design elements around their whitewashed flooring. The goal used to be to make walls, cabinets, trim, window treatments, etc. as white, or almost as white, as the flooring. Now we’re seeing customers select colors that contrast with the white tones of the flooring, sometimes going so far as to dramatically pair black with the white.

One technical consideration is that we usually use water-based polyurethane for whitewashed floors rather than our standard Swedish finish. This is to prevent the wood from taking on an amber color, which can occur with oil-based finishes. This “ambering” isn’t an issue with most floor colors, but with light whitewashed floors, it can become noticeable. (With whitewashed hardwood floors on the greyish side, we can usually use our normal oil-based finish.)

Over the years, we have finished many whitewashed hardwood floors on site, and we are experts at achieving that look. But if you’d prefer prefinished hardwood flooring, you can find good-quality prefinished products such as the Preverco Edge flooring we frequently use (pictured above).

Whichever finishing option you choose, if you want flooring that brings lightness to a room and highlights the natural characteristics of the wood, the new style of whitewashed hardwood flooring might by just what you’re looking for!

To learn more about whitewashed hardwood flooring, please visit our showroom and check out our displays. You can see for yourself how “in-style” whitewashed floors can look.

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

Love at First Sight: Hardwood Floors and Kitchen Cabinets

Posted on Thu, May 26, 2016 @ 16:05 PM

Paint is often used on kitchen cabinets to provide a contrast with the hardwood floor colors.Kitchens are a great place for hardwood flooring. They’re also a perfect opportunity to use hardwood floors in conjunction with other interior design elements to create a look that’s more than the “sum of the parts.”

Kitchen cabinets are usually the most important part of achieving this enhanced appearance. The way in which they complement the flooring can establish the entire feel of the kitchen, and a good pairing can elevate the room’s beauty and unite all its features.

The traditional thinking about how to pair kitchen cabinets and hardwood floors has been to make the cabinets a shade lighter, with a similar grain pattern in the cabinet and floor. There were a lot of kitchens with dark cabinets and dark flooring!

Likewise, we saw homeowners going for a casual, “breezy” look stick to light tones in both the flooring and cabinetry.

But tastes have changed, and homeowners are being more creative than ever in using kitchen cabinets with hardwood floors. It’s now stylish to use cabinets in a way that complements the flooring but doesn’t “match” it in the traditional sense.

So we’re seeing a lot of contrasting tones, often created using paint on the cabinets. Dark cabinets and light flooring (or vice versa) have become very popular. Bright, vivid colors are sometimes used on the cabinets. And matching the wood species of the flooring and the cabinets is certainly not a priority for most people.

Sure, we still get people looking to match design elements—such as installing cabinets with an antique look to match reclaimed hardwood flooring. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with the traditional idea of matching the cabinetry colors with that of the flooring. It’s all a matter of taste

But whatever that taste is, the cabinets in the kitchen will play a major role in displaying it. They’re a lifelong partner with the flooring in creating the look you’re after.

We’re happy to talk with you about how the hardwood flooring in your kitchen will relate to the cabinetry. Please stop by our showroom or give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902 to schedule an appointment or start a conversation.

Tags: hardwood floor colors, hardwood flooring trends, hardwood floors & interior design

Taking Hardwood Flooring to the Next Level with Hardwood Staircases

Posted on Fri, May 06, 2016 @ 09:05 AM

Carpet runners help create a flow between hardwood floors and hardwood staircases.A hardwood staircase is a wonderful accompaniment to a beautiful hardwood floor—easing the transition from the flooring to the stairs while also creating visual interest.

The typical approach is to match the style of the hardwood flooring with that of the hardwood used for the stairs. This means using the same (or complementary) species, colors, sawing techniques (e.g. skip sawn), board dimensions, texture, amount of grain, and other hardwood floor characteristics.

You would also orient the wood for the stairs parallel to the wood in the flooring to create a seamless look that helps the room “flow up” into the stairs. Hardwood floor borders that run up the stairwell can help to create this effect, as can carpet runners.

However, some homeowners actually want their hardwood stairwells to contrast with the flooring, and so they vary hardwood floor characteristics and might even orient the wood for the stairs perpendicularly to the direction of the wood in the flooring.

Of course, no one wants stairs and flooring that clash. Any contrast should distinguish the flooring from the stairs, but they should still complement each other.

Within the stairwell itself, you can spice things up by staining the risers darker than the treads, or vice versa. Or you could paint the risers but not the treads. And, of course, the pattern of any border or carpet runner can play off the colors and patterns of the wood in the stairwell, as well as that of the flooring below.

As with flooring, hardwood staircases can be created using solid wood planks or engineered planks, and the wood can be prefinished or sanded on site. Whichever option you choose—and whether it’s new installation or you’re redoing existing stairs that are now worn or were previously carpeted—it’s very important to have an installation team with experience working with hardwood staircases. Much precision is required to because of the many complex angles and cuts involved.

The final result can be exquisite—a stairwell that adds personality, character, and beauty to your home.

Ralph’s has extensive experience installing hardwood staircases. To talk with us about how we can help you with your stairwell, give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902, or stop by a showroom. You can also call for an appointment.

Tags: hardwood floors & interior design, custom hardwood flooring, finishing touches

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