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

Each Hardwood Floor Feels Different

Posted on Fri, Jan 25, 2019 @ 15:01 PM

Picking the right floor for your lifestyle and tastes is very important process a top hardwood floor company can help you navigate.

One of the best things about hardwood floors is their versatility. Whatever the look or feel you want to accomplish in your home design, the odds are that there’s a perfect hardwood floor option to complement it. Because many different factors affect the final look of the area, each hardwood floor feels different.

But why is it so important to choose the right flooring, from a design standpoint? As the base of each room, flooring is one of the design essentials that you can’t overlook. In most cases, you’ll fit it into your basic design idea and model everything else around it. To make the right choice for your design, you should be aware of the factors that affect the feel of each hardwood floor.

What Affects the Appearance of Hardwood Floors?

There’s a multitude of wood species, types of finish, and other factors that play a crucial role in determining what the final product looks and feels like.

Grain can be more or less prominent. Texture can be added by hand scraping, wire brushing, or hand distressing floors. The natural color and sheen of the hardwood can be further enhanced or changed by different stains and finishes. It’s possible to create any feel for a hardwood floor and the room it’s in.

How Different Floors Can Complement a Design

You can create a unique feel for each room design with different types of hardwood floors. A traditional, well-lived-in look will incorporate a hardwood floor with prominent grain and other “imperfections” that provide the necessary character and charm. On the other hand, in a modern design, you might want to go with a dark, smooth, and high-gloss hardwood floor instead.

While there are specific design rules to adhere to depending on the look you want to accomplish, the majority of the design will be up to your preferences. Having plenty of options will help you decide what kind of look is right for your home.

Ralph’s Floors

Here at Ralph’s, our extensive experience has taught us how to achieve the desired mood and feel for a room. We recommend visiting our showroom to find the floor that’s perfect for you.

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

The Importance of Hardness in Hardwood Floors

Posted on Thu, Dec 27, 2018 @ 14:12 PM

Young, rowdy children are a good reason to pay attention to the hardwood floor hardness on the Janka scale.

Durability is one of the reasons many people choose hardwood flooring for their home. Hardwood floors are known for their ability to resist wear and tear.

But not all hardwood floors are the same. Some species of wood are harder than others, meaning they’re more durable (i.e. less likely to dent).

Hardness is determined by the density of the wood. This is measured using the Janka scale. A species’ Janka rating is determined by how much force is needed to embed a .444-inch steel ball in the wood to half the ball’s diameter. The denser the wood, the more force will be needed.

When choosing a species of wood for your hardwood flooring, hardness might be important, or it may not matter much to you.

Hardness is significant if you expect the floor to experience a lot of activity, such as entertaining or children playing. The more activity in the room, the more likely something will be dropped on it.

Hardness is also a relevant consideration if the floor is in a high-traffic area, such as a kitchen or hallway.

Hardness becomes relatively unimportant in rooms that won’t see a lot of activity or if you don’t mind dents. Some people are very bothered by dents, but some welcome them as a sign of character. Some people actually select “distressed” flooring with dents in it because they want a rustic look.

The hardness of the wood is not the only factor in a hardwood floor’s durability.  The way the wood is cut and the finish used are also factors. But when choosing a species, we suggest paying close attention to hardness if you expect your flooring to be heavily used or you are concerned about dents.

We’re glad to provide our expert advice on how important wood hardness is in your project. And we can help you select the flooring with the right hardness for you. Stop by our showroom any time during business hours to consult with one of our hardwood flooring professionals.

Tags: picking the right floor for your lifestyle, caring for your hardwood floors, about hardwood floors

Cold ice, hardwood floors and the Mother's Day I will never forget.

Posted on Sun, Apr 30, 2017 @ 10:04 AM

I look forward to Mother’s Day every year. It’s a chance for me to express how much I love my mother, Roberta Lorenz.

With Mother’s Day coming up next week, I’m eager to make her feel as special as she is.

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Rod, Roberta and Ralph.

But I’ve also found myself thinking about my father, Ralph, and his role in a Mother’s Day long ago.
I was a small boy, about 7 or 8, and snow still covered the spring ground. Dad thought it would be fun to take me out for a snowmobile ride. It wasn’t supposed to be a long excursion. He just wanted to give me a quick bit of excitement before we returned to celebrate the day with Mom.

And I did have fun, riding in front of Dad and driving  …. until we fell through ice.

We were flying across what appeared to be a snowy field when I saw a spot just ahead that didn’t quite look right. It was a small pond, and before I could react, we hit it and broke the ice.

We were stuck in the ice-cold water. Suddenly our lighthearted romp had become serious.

We eventually got the snowmobile back onto solid ground, but my feet had gone in the water and were freezing. I was pretty miserable, and Dad was worried that I would get frostbite.

That’s when his quick thinking saved the day. He had me strip off my boots and socks, and then he put the socks on the muffler of the running snowmobile to dry them off. Soon enough, my feet were relatively warm again in toasty socks.

Dad’s urgency and resourcefulness in that situation reminds me of the many times I saw him overcome the sudden problems that inevitably arise in hardwood floor work. When something wasn’t right, Dad jumped right on the problem, and he was a master of thinking of creative solutions.

Dad started Ralph’s Hardwood Floors in 1965, the same year I was born, and I learned the business from him. I took over in 1992, and, sadly, Dad passed away in 2014. But his fix-it-now, resourceful spirit still lives on in the work that we do.

Of course, our goal is to have no problems with jobs—a goal we typically achieve. But when we “fall through the ice” and a problem arises with installation or refinishing, we take immediate action to fix what needs fixing. Whether it’s our fault, or a manufacturer’s, or a contractor’s—or even the customer’s—we don’t rest until the problem is resolved to our satisfaction, and most importantly, to our customer’s satisfaction.

When we got home that Mother’s Day after the snowmobile incident—much later than planned—Mom just laughed. She realized that I had been in good hands because Dad was there.

That’s the feeling we continually strive to give our customers. When it comes to hardwood floors, we take all the worry away, always making sure our customers have “warm feet.”

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, hardwood floor trends, picking the right floor for your lifestyle

“No Way That’s Not Real Wood”—Luxury Vinyl Tile Fools the Eye

Posted on Thu, Apr 20, 2017 @ 15:04 PM

Luxury vinyl tile is the new star in the flooring world.

Ralph’s has recently started offering this flooring option, and the interest among customers has been even stronger than we expected. There’s a reason for that—luxury vinyl tile is a great product.

The first reaction most people have when they see it for this first time is: “That’s not wood?! It surely can’t be tile.”

But it is. Vinyl tile has come a long way since the heyday of sheet laminate tile. Sheet vinyl made to look like wood was rare, and when you did see it, it had a distinct inauthenticity because the repetition of the sheets created an unnatural look. There wasn’t enough variation in grain, knotholes, color, and other natural wood characteristics.

Advances in the quality of vinyl printing—with ultra high-definition photography— are enabling manufacturers to now print tile that really looks like wood (or stone). People with untrained eyes have to get down close and touch the tile to distinguish it from the real thing.VGW85T_French-Oak_RS_Res_Living-Room_Image.jpg

Increased variety is also leading to vinyl tile’s surge in popularity. Companies such as Karndean offer luxury vinyl in individual board-plank-size tiles in a range of styles, colors, and sizes. You can choose tiles with fixed widths and lengths, or go with random widths and lengths, like real wood.

You can even get tiles for special design features, such as borders or medallions.

With more variety in vinyl tile than ever, homeowners can choose flooring that reflects their unique style and vision. And because small tiles are used instead of entire sheets, installers can use their experience to enhance the natural wood appearance.

But homeowners can get real hardwood floors for prices comparable to luxury vinyl tile. So why not go with real wood, even considering the greatly improved quality of vinyl tile?

The Benefits

Many homeowners choose to install luxury vinyl tile because, unlike wood, it’s waterproof and not affected by humidity. That means it is ideal for bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, bathhouses, or any other room or area that is likely to see a lot of humidity and moisture on the floor.

Vinyl tile’s humidity insensitivity is particularly appealing for vacation homes, which often experience wide humidity fluctuations related to seasonal changes and whether they’re being used. The owners don’t have to worry about vinyl tile cupping or gapping due to any humidity changes.

Generally speaking, when a customer is interested in installing hardwood floors in a space that will experience a lot of moisture and/or humidity swings, we’re advising against that and recommending luxury vinyl tile instead. That’s how happy and confident we are with the best luxury vinyl tile that’s now available, which is what we sell.

You may think it’s odd for a hardwood floor company to advocate the use of a type of flooring other than wood. Many visitors to our showroom don’t even realize we carry luxury vinyl tile. They come looking for wood, because after all, we are Ralph’s Hardwood Floors.

But we’re not just a hardwood company. “Floors” is also in our name. Besides, we think of ourselves above all as a customer-satisfaction company, and for many of our customers, luxury vinyl tile is the choice that will give them the greatest satisfaction. We’re pleased to offer that option.

 

Image courtesy of Karndean.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, hardwood floor trends, picking the right floor for your lifestyle

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

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

 

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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 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

Getting Just the Look You Want

Posted on Sat, Mar 26, 2016 @ 08:03 AM

The “look” of hardwood flooring is something that’s hard to put a finger on. That’s because it depends on who’s doing the looking.

If you’re deciding on hardwood floors for your home, trust your personal taste. If you want a casual look, for example, rely on your judgment about what looks casual and relaxing to you—not on what a magazine or website calls “casual.”

Nonetheless, despite the personal nature of how a floor looks, there are certain “looks” that can be defined. While the exact color, grain, sheen, etc. can vary somewhat, these looks are created using a combination of characteristics known to produce a specific style.

In a recent blog series, we focused on some of the most popular of these looks.

English Pub. You can enjoy the cozy warmth of an English Pub without having to leave home. Many homeowners are choosing this look for their basements.

Urban. Aging industrial properties are being converted into homes, and the right hardwood floors help maintain the character of these urban spaces.

Victorian. If you want to recreate the refinement of the Victorian era in your own home, you need elegant hardwood floors. Parquet borders are often used to enhance this look.

Rustic Cabin. Because hardwood flooring is a natural product made from trees, it harmonizes beautifully with the natural surroundings around a home in the woods—particularly if the flooring looks like it belongs in an old cabin.

French Country. Light, naturally colored hardwood floors help create the open, airy look of a home in the French countryside.

Beach House. Many people with homes near water want flooring with an informal, care-free look that puts people at ease.

Ralph’s can help you create these styles, and many others—always keeping in mind that what really matters is how it looks to you.

I invite you to visit our showroom. We’ll help you get just the look you want!

Tags: about hardwood floors, hardwood flooring trends, picking the right floor for your lifestyle

When Less Sheen Is More

Posted on Thu, Mar 10, 2016 @ 15:03 PM

Low-sheen hardwood flooring looks casual and hides wear and tear.Most people like things that are shiny.

Shiny new cars. Shiny jewelry. Shiny smiles.

But what about shiny hardwood floors?

Well, many people do like shiny, glossy hardwood floors, or what we call “floors with high sheen.” But shiny isn’t for everyone, and there’s undeniably a trend toward low-sheen matte finishes.

The increasing popularity of floors finished with natural oils has something to do with that. A natural oil finish has a very warm, natural appearance, with no “shine.” 

But the use of natural oils isn’t the only reason that low-sheen finishes have become so stylish. The low-sheen appearance is in tune with the broad trend toward natural-looking flooring, and even people selecting traditional finishes are going low-sheen.

It’s all a matter of personal taste, but some people want hardwood floors that are more casual than formal, and the formality created by a glossy sheen just isn’t for them.

Practical concerns also play a role. High-gloss and even semi-gloss floors will show wear and tear more than low-sheen floors. That’s because high-sheen floors look so elegant and “shiny” that any little scrape, ding, or dent will draw the eye, similar to the first scratch on a new car.

That’s no problem for hardwood floors that see little traffic. But a high-sheen floor in a heavily trafficked area will begin to look worn in the areas that see the heavy traffic. You’ll be able to see where people walk the most, such as by the front or back door (or the path to the kitchen!).

For people with children and/or indoor pets, a low-sheen finish is particularly appealing because the wear and tear they cause blends in so much better than it does with high-sheen floors. That means they can enjoy their flooring longer without having to refinish it!

To compare the “shininess” of various finishes, stop by our showroom. We’re not going to push low-sheen over high-sheen—they both have their place, and high-sheen floors can be absolutely gorgeous. But you will be able to compare and see the possibilities.

Whether for stylistic or practical reasons, low-sheen hardwood floors might be exactly the look you’re after.

Tags: hardwood flooring trends, picking the right floor for your lifestyle, finishes, stains & textures, natural oils

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