Ralph's Blog

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

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

Bringing Worn Hardwood Floors Back to Life: Before and After

Posted on Wed, May 02, 2018 @ 11:05 AM



If your hardwood floors are getting old, they don’t have to be replaced. They can look good as new again. 

On this project, the pine floor was very worn and covered with residue. The homeowner was afraid nothing could be done to restore it, but our salesperson, Paul, assured her that Ralph’s had the expertise. 

Our experienced, knowledgeable refinishers were able to repair, re-sand, and refinish that old pine floor to make it beautiful and fresh again.   

A particular challenge was that a large section of the floor wasn’t wood, and the homeowner wanted to install matching pine flooring there. Paul explained that the pine of today might not match the pine from years ago. But when I saw the existing flooring, I remembered some old pine we had stored away. I thought it would match well, and it did! 

The homeowner was so amazed with this project that she’s now having us do a dining room for her.  

Check out the before and after photos below:

Before #1After #1

Before #2After #2

Before #3After #3

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, remodeling, installation, restoring hardwood floors

Make Hay While The Sun Shines

Posted on Mon, Apr 23, 2018 @ 12:04 PM


Local home builders have been telling me lately that business is good. And as the saying goes, while the sun is shining, it’s time to make hay.

But no one wants to sacrifice their quality standards, and a challenge is finding reliable subcontractors to successfully complete the work that’s available.

This isn’t surprising—when a market is active, competition for the best subs naturally increases. Less-than-ideal subs can always be found, but home builders who’ve built reputations for high-quality hesitate to go that route.

Let’s face it. If you have built or remodeled homes for any length of time, you know that nothing is more painful than subcontractors who don’t show up when they are scheduled, do poor work, or don’t stand behind their work. It costs you time and money. Worse yet, it ruins your reputation.

Ralph’s gets it! We also feel like it’s a time to make hay, but we aren’t willing to lower our quality standards.

And we don’t need to. We are well-staffed with skilled floor installers, with crew leaders who average more than 15 years of experience. We can handle any work you have—providing you with the high level of craftsmanship, commitment to customer service, and on-schedule completion we’re known for.

Our goal is to develop long-term, mutually beneficial relationships with home builders. We like to work closely with our contractor partners to coordinate scheduling, resolve any issues that arise, and ensure that the customer has an excellent experience.

One of the ways in which we can help you please customers is by consulting with them as they select the flooring they want for their home. We happily share our expert knowledge with them, helping them choose flooring that’s just right for their lifestyle and personal tastes.

For builders, the wide selection of unique and stylish products we offer helps you separate yourself from the competition. Working with Ralph’s, you’ll be providing your customers with the best flooring around. For customers who aren’t sure what they want, we can help you wow them with the possibilities. For those who already know exactly what they want, we can give them exactly that.

Is it time to make hay? You bet it is. And we’re here to help you do it. A lack of a reliable, high-quality hardwood floor subcontractor doesn’t need to be a problem you have to face.

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

In Search of a Few Good People

Posted on Fri, Mar 10, 2017 @ 11:03 AM

Some people are just “good with their hands.”


We’re looking for these people.

Ralph’s is hiring hardwood floor installers, and we want them to have a natural aptitude for working with tools, fixing things, and putting stuff together. We want them to inherently possess the attitude of a craftsman, with a keen eye for detail and a drive for quality in all the work they do.

Does this describe you? Or does it describe someone you know who is looking for employment, or better employment?

We’re holding two Career Fairs this month: on Tuesday, March 14, from 4-6 pm, or Saturday, March 18, from 8 am-noon.

Join us to learn why Ralph’s Hardwoods Flooring could be a life-changing opportunity.

NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED. We will train our new installers to be expert specialists in the craft.

We are offering the opportunity to do rewarding work with a company that’s been doing business in Black Creek for more than 50 years and is known as a rewarding employer—with competitive salaries, solid benefits, a great work environment, and on-the-job training. The average time of employment for our installers is 10 years, and we have a crew member who is nearing his 30th anniversary.

Folks who join us usually like it here!

The job involves installing, sanding, and finishing new and used hardwood flooring. Installers cut, glue, nail, stain, and finish. They need to be creative when developing a custom idea but also able to follow exact specifications when necessary. They need to be able to do physical work and to be accurate in calculations and measurements.

At the Career Fair, we’ll explain what’s involved in becoming a master hardwood floor installer. We’ll talk about what a typical day is like, what our company is all about, and how the right people can enjoy a long-term career with us. We’ll be conducting interviews during the Fairs, so anyone interested should bring a resume and a completed application.

Surely you know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who would appreciate this opportunity. Do them a favor and share this blog with them!

Learn more about the Career Fairs.

Hear what our installers have to say about working at Ralph’s.


Tags: about Ralph's, installation, Ralph's news & events

Welcome to your hardwood floor New Year’s Resolution

Posted on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 @ 04:01 AM

It's a brand new year and many of you have resolved to update your living space to make it as warm and inviting as possible. The floor is the foundation of every room and making hardwood floors part of your resolutions in 2017 will make you love your home even more.


Hardwood Floor New Year’s Resolutions

Whether you have hardwood and it needs a little love or you want a new floor, here are three resolutions for you:

Clean your hardwood floors the right way: Using the right tools when you are cleaning your hardwood floor keep it clean and protect it. When using your vacuum, turn off the rotating brush and when using a mop, avoid sponge or string mops that put too much moisture on your floors. Choose a microfiber mop designed for hardwood instead.

Hardwood floors are easy to maintain and that means less time with a vacuum cleaner and more time addressing your other New Year’s resolutions or just having fun.

Refinish your hardwoods: Get your hardwoods shining like they used to with a refinishing job. We can sand down and reseal your floors and make it look like you just had them installed. A new stain color is another way great way to update a floor and our selection of colors will amaze.

Install a new hardwood floor: Why not make a statement this year and install a brand new hardwood floor in your home? They come in a wide variety of colors and textures to meet your needs. After your new floor project is done all that you will have left to do is create memories that will last a lifetime! Those hardwood floors will become a magnet for fun and good times.

Keep Your Resolutions

Despite our best efforts, many resolutions turn into well-intentioned dreams (remember last year’s gym membership). So how do we buck that trend?

According to experts, sharing your goals with friends and family is a proven way to turn your resolutions into reality. For hardwood floor resolutions we recommend a visit to our showroom where you can share your dream floor ideas with one of our hardwood flooring experts.

They will help ensure you get the exact floor you want…and keep your resolution.

Tags: installation, remodeling, prefinished hardwood flooring

Does that coffee pot work?

Posted on Sat, Dec 17, 2016 @ 07:12 AM

There are a lot of stories about my Dad. We’ve published a few in this blog and when one of our new sales people mentioned to me that her Mom told a story about my Dad getting himself a cup of coffee at her house, I knew we had another.


We’re going to be on break soon.

Spending a day or two in someone’s home creates a certain amount of familiarity. Our crew is in and out all day and there is really no way to avoid us if you are also in the house. So, back when Dad would work onsite, he would ask “Does that coffee pot work? We are going to be taking a break in 10 minutes and sure could use a cup”.

And when the coffee was ready, Dad would grab himself a cup of coffee, sit down at the table and just talk. He wouldn’t always talk about the floor, he would chat about life, the community and pretty much whatever was on his mind.

It’s part of who we are.

For a while I was embarrassed whenever he did it. Over time though I noticed something – no one ever minded making coffee. It took me a while but eventually I realized this was all part of doing business with Ralph’s. People enjoyed my Dad’s company and his willingness to just sit and chat was all part of why they chose us for their floors. Buyers have a choice and they chose someone they genuinely liked.

Somethings just don’t change.

Today I believe people choose us for the same reasons. We provide amazing service and expert capabilities but people also just like us. Our crews are friendly and while we don’t ask for coffee so much (that was really Dad’s thing) we pride ourselves in being the kind of guys you feel good about having do work in your home.

Are you considering a floor project? Get a no obligation in-home consultation today!

Request an in-home consultation


Tags: stories, installation, hardwood floors and interior design

The benefits of letting professionals install your hardwood floor

Posted on Thu, Nov 03, 2016 @ 11:11 AM


installation-hardwood-floor-resized-162.jpgHere at Ralph's, we believe you should take any opportunity you can to put hardwood flooring in your home. It looks great, adds warmth to your home and when installed correctly, it can exceed the lifetime of many other aspects of your home. All in all hardwood is a win-win.

The key phrase here is "when installed correctly". In order to get the most out of your investment in hardwood flooring you need it to be installed right and unlike some Do-It-Yourself home projects, hardwood flooring can be complicated.

Save time and money by using a professional installer.

Some homeowners think they can save money by installing their own hardwood. It isn’t impossible for this to be true but there are real benefits to letting professional installers handle the job - real benefits that can save you time and money.  It will also save you the frustration of making your way back and forth from the big box store, buying and returning unnecessary tools.  Using a professional installer will help make sure you don’t.

Get the job done on time.

DIY projects can have the unintended consequence of never really getting done. A professional installer not only knows just how long a project will take but how to get it done on schedule.

Sub-floors need love.

Proper preparation of your sub-floor prior to installing hardwood is essential to ensuring your floor looks great. If the subfloor is not properly cleaned, not dry, or not flat, your hardwood floor may end up needing future repairs or even reinstallation.

Saws, hammers…and a few other things.

A professional hardwood floor install requires a wide range of tools and most homeowners don't have these tools readily available. Here is a list of just some of the tools a professional hardwood floor installer uses:

Saws of all types (i.e. Circular, Table, Jig, Miter, etc) for getting the right dimensions of boards and planks

Moisture meter for testing moisture levels in wood – very important

- Level

- Air compressor

- Nail gun

- Stapler

- Sanders

- Buffer

Experience and skill mean a lot.

Installers at Ralph's have, on average, 10 years of experience. They understand hardwood floor installation is a craft and spent the time to make sure they know what they are doing. It is a career and they are committed to being the very best at theirs.

This isn't to say you shouldn't read blogs like this, spend time on YouTube and watch home improvement TV shows because it is always good to be knowledgeable but that isn't the same as actually undertaking a hardwood floor install project.

Our installers have seen just about every situation imaginable and know just how to manage them. Let their experience be your benefit and ensure your floor lasts a lifetime.

Tags: about hardwood floors, installation

Are Your Hardwood Floors Headed in the Right Direction? You Tell Us.

Posted on Fri, May 20, 2016 @ 13:05 PM

When we install hardwood floors, we occasionally get requests to orient the flooring planks in a certain direction.

Perhaps the most common example of this is homeowners who want the planks to be oriented crosswise rather than lengthwise in a hallway (i.e., the length of the planks running perpendicular to the hallway walls instead of parallel).

Homeowners sometimes want hardwood flooring planks to be installed in the same direction as the floor joists run.Some people want to make a room feel larger, and running the planks perpendicular to the walls that are the farthest apart in a rectangular room can help with that.

Others have even wanted to have us install planks diagonally in a room, to give their floor a really distinctive appearance. That’s creative thinking about hardwood flooring that we applaud!

Whatever the reason for wanting to orient boards in a certain way, we can usually accommodate the request. However, there’s a reason boards are installed in a certain direction, and changing the direction for aesthetic reasons makes the installation significantly more complex.

It’s construction 101, when you think about it. The flooring is installed over floor joists, and to give the flooring support, it is installed in the opposite direction of the joists, forming a crisscross structure. Otherwise, the planks would sink because they would have no joist support underneath them.

That said, we never want to disappoint our customers, and we have expertise in the techniques for installing planks without floor-joist support. If your heart is set on planks running in a particular direction, talk with us. We can help you make that vision a reality!

To discuss your hardwood floor project or to make an appointment with one of our hardwood floor experts, give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902. Or stop by our showroom, which is open from 8 am-5 pm Monday through Friday and 9 am-1 pm on Saturday (8 am-noon on Saturday, starting June 1).


Image courtesy of Mitch Barrie, Creative Commons.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors, installation

Why It’s Important Who Installs Your Hardwood Floors

Posted on Thu, Mar 17, 2016 @ 15:03 PM

Quality hardwood floor installation requires knowledge, craftsmanship, and dedication.If you’re looking to install high-quality hardwood flooring in your home, the quality of the wood and the finish aren’t the only factors. It also matters who installs your new flooring. 

A high-quality installation is necessary for a high-quality project.

Expert Hardwood Floor Installation

Hardwood flooring installation requires skilled craftsmanship. It’s definitely not a DIY job, even for a good general handyman. Based on some of the hardwood flooring I’ve seen, it’s not even a job for a lot of so-called “professional installers.”

Many factors affect quality during installation. The wood must be properly acclimated to average temperature and humidity conditions. Subfloor variations must be accounted for. The planks must be properly installed to minimize gapping between the boards. The finish must be meticulously applied to avoid streaks, blisters, contamination, and other problems.  And the list goes on.

The reality is that in every stage of installation, an installer who doesn’t do it just right will lower the overall quality of the project.

You need installers with the expertise, and the motivation, to bring an artisan’s touch to your hardwood floor installation. You don’t want an inexperienced installation crew that’s taking shortcuts and working with a “counting the clock” attitude.  You want installers who take pride in their work and have the knowledge and experience to create hardwood floors that are as close to perfect as possible.

A Partner in Achieving Your Dream Floors

“High-quality” is of course a subjective term. It doesn’t matter if an installer thinks your floor is high-quality; if you don’t, then you haven’t gotten the “quality” you were looking for.

For that reason, quality is enhanced by choosing a hardwood floor installation company that can also provide coordination and expert guidance in all stages of your project.

For example, if you work with Ralph’s Hardwood Floors, we’ll help you discover what your dream hardwood floors are, and those floors will become our goal. With that dream in mind, we’ll give you our advice about durability, hardwood floor styles, and other considerations. 

Once you’ve chosen your flooring, we’ll handle the material purchasing, working with suppliers whose quality we trust. And our longtime relationships with builders and contractors will allow us avoid any installation problems related to coordination.

Even after the installation, we’ll still be committed to the quality of your flooring. If it’s anything less than high-quality in your eyes (or our eyes), we’ll fix it.

To get the highest possible quality in hardwood flooring, many levels of customer support are needed. 

Do you need a partner to help you with your hardwood floor installation project? If so, Ralph’s is the company for you. We’ve been helping homeowners in northeast Wisconsin with their hardwood floor needs since 1965! Please visit our showroom or call 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902. We’d love to talk with you!

Tags: installation

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