Ralph's Blog

Where is your up north? Hardwood floors, cabins and vacation homes.

Posted on Sat, Oct 07, 2017 @ 09:10 AM

20170714_202124.jpgIn Wisconsin, many people will say they are going “up north” for the weekend. It might be a trip to Shawano Lake. Or “up north” could be Door County. Others might consider a rafting trip down the Wolf River, or 18 holes on a golf course, their “up north.”

When my family and I go up north for some vacation time, we love to visit my sister and brother-in-law, Brian and Jill, who have a cabin in Minocqua. It’s a trip we always look forward to.

Brian and Jill take a lot of pride in their cabin, and they are constantly working on home improvement projects. I think it’s relaxing for them. Even though it’s work, it’s not the work they do for a living. I enjoy watching them go at it (and helping, when I’m not in the way) because of the great pride they have in their cabin.

Considering the care that Brian and Jill give their cabin, I feel honored that they choose Ralph’s when they are making flooring improvements. Even with the family connection, they wouldn’t use us if weren’t up to their high standards.

When they built an addition to the original cabin, we installed some really rustic-looking Ash floors. Ash is a great hardwood for cabins because it’s pretty forgiving of humidity changes. Vacation cabins that aren’t kept at the same temperature and humidity when the homeowners are away need relatively stable woods like Ash, which are less likely to cup or buckle due to humidity changes.

When Brian and Jill decided to remodel the original part of the cabin, they used Ralph’s again. They wanted the project to be simple, so we helped them decide on prefinished engineered hardwood. Not only did this make the installation quicker, quality engineered hardwood flooring typically handles humidity changes better than solid plank hardwood.

The species they chose was European white oak, which has a nice natural look that’s perfect for a getaway cabin and is an excellent complement to the Ash floors in the addition. We were able to complete the project in a day, and Brian and Jill were very satisfied with the result.

To me, the work we’ve done at the cabin is a perfect example of how to choose the right flooring for a particular situation. We accomplished two things: the floors have just the right natural look for the cabin’s relaxed, casual atmosphere, and they also are a great choice for the humidity conditions.

Best of all, my wife, kids, and I also get to enjoy them! I can’t wait until the next time we’re walking on them. It’s always a fun, laid-back time. And it makes me feel good that Ralph’s successfully contributed to the home improvements that my sister and brother-in-law love to make.

Ralph’s is happy to work with you to select the right species and type of flooring for your home, whether it’s a vacation home or your primary residence. In addition to solid-plank, site-finished hardwood floors, we also offer a wide range of quality prefinished and engineered hardwood products, as well as luxury vinyl plank and tile.

Whatever look you’re after, and whatever the humidity conditions, we have the right flooring for you. Stop by our showroom any time to explore the possibilities, or give us a call at 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902to talk about your project.

Tags: custom hardwood flooring, prefinished hardwood flooring, stories

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

How Important Are Long-Term Warranties for Prefinished Hardwood Floors?

Posted on Thu, Jun 30, 2016 @ 15:06 PM

Manufacturers of prefinished hardwood flooring like to tout the decades-long warranties they offer for the finish. But these lengthy warranties usually aren’t as valuable as manufacturers would like you to think.

That’s because…

The warranty periods are longer than they need to be.

Twenty-five years has been somewhat of a standard for long-term warranties on the finish of prefinished flooring, but now you can find warranties for even longer, up to “lifetime.”

The catch is that even the best-quality prefinished products almost always need to be refinished before 25 years because of normal wear and/or loss of sheen (i.e. dullness), but typical finish warranties don’t cover either of those things. To keep your floors looking fresh, you will most likely end up having to pay for the refinishing that will naturally be needed before the warranty on the finish expires.

There’s no point in having a warranty on the finish that’s longer than the finish can reasonably be expected to look good!

Slightly defective floors aren’t covered.

What happens if the finish is defective and prematurely wears off? Most finish warranties include a “wear through” clause that guarantees a new finish for the entire floor if that happens—but only when the finish wears off a certain percentage of the total floor.

In many warranties, that percentage is as high as 10 percent or more of total square footage. If that much of your finish is bad, you have a noticeable, unsightly area (unless you’ve covered it up). Meanwhile, you’re waiting in frustration for more of the finish to wear off and kick in the warranty.

Good warranties have lower percentages, but even then, you can’t expect to get a new finish just because the finish is defective in a small area. No warranty will guarantee a 100-percent perfect finish.

Exclusions significantly limit what is covered.

Sunlight damage can invalidate a prefinished hardwood floor warranty.Warranties on finishes usually include a long list of exclusions, such as pet damage, sunlight damage, “rough use,” improper installation, and improper maintenance. Those exclusions can be applied broadly to invalidate your warranty benefits.

The manufacturer might not be able to honor the warranty.

A lot can happen to a business during the 25 years or more of a long-term warranty. Not even well-established businesses are immune from going out of business during that time (or from declaring bankruptcy). And of course you never know about relatively new, unproven companies.

If you’re counting on your warranty years from now, you may be distressed to find that no one will honor it—at least not without getting lawyers involved.

Our advice

When choosing prefinished hardwood flooring, don’t place too much value on a long-term warranty for the finish. The quality of the finish and the standards of the manufacturer are much more important.

When Ralph’s chooses vendors or manufacturers of prefinished hardwood floors to associate with, we focus closely on quality. Our experience allows us to identify the good ones from the bad ones. In addition to the quality of the product, our criteria includes on-time delivery and after-sale service. No manufacturer or vendor is perfect, but we don’t want a poor product or service to blemish our hard-earned good reputation. If a manufacturer or vendor we choose doesn’t do right by our customers, we will.

Tags: prefinished hardwood flooring, finishes, stains & textures

Hardwood Floor Trends: Long Boards

Posted on Thu, Feb 25, 2016 @ 15:02 PM

Long plank hardwood flooring is back in style!A recent trend in hardwood flooring is the use of long boards. Homeowners, home builders, and interior designers—inspired by European styles— have been increasingly attracted to the look created by length.

Long boards are actually nothing new. Before shorter boards came into style in the mid-20th century, long planks were common in the U.S.

For the rest of the century, however, most hardwood floor planks were less than 9 inches long. Some were as short as 2 inches.

Now boards from 9 inches to 8 feet are common, and some homeowners even want planks as long as 12 feet or more. As a design element, long boards are striking the right chord with many people.

I think the increased popularity of prefinished hardwood flooring is also a factor.

Unlike hardwood flooring finished on site by professional installers who can sand boards to make them an even height, most prefinished hardwood floors have a beveled edge to compensate for slight irregularities in the subfloor and small differences in milling thicknesses. With short (and narrow) boards, the beveled edges become very apparent and make a floor look too busy in many people’s eyes. Longer and wider boards help “hide” the beveled edges to create a more seamless look.

Whatever the reasons for this trend, there’s no denying that long boards are back in style! Are they right for you?

To see samples of long hardwood floor boards, please visit our showroom. Call 920.984.3383 or 800.354.9902 for an appointment, or just stop by. We’ll be glad to talk with you about the use of long boards or any other aspect of hardwood flooring.

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

The Basic Characteristics of Hardwood Flooring: Sand-on-Site vs. Prefinished

Posted on Thu, Aug 13, 2015 @ 16:08 PM

When you have hardwood flooring installed, you’re faced with an essential question about how it will be finished—will you have it sanded and finished on site or will you buy prefinished hardwood flooring? Each option has its advantages, as you can see in the following chart. Ultimately, the decision will depend on your needs and tastes.

comparison chart of sand-on-site vs. prefinished hardwood flooring

Sand-on-Site: Anything Is Possible

Sand-on-site installation allows for complete customization—a powerful attraction to many homeowners. There are no limits to the imagination.

With sand-on-site, you will need to vacate your home during the sanding/finishing days, but we can schedule installations around your schedule, when you’re already not planning on being there. And we use a state-of-the-art dust containment system that vacuums about 98% of the dust completely out of the home, so it won’t be a mess as you’re enjoying your new hardwood floors.

Prefinished: Quality Matters

The most obvious advantage of prefinished hardwood floors is convenience. Because they’re finished at the factory, they are simply installed with no sanding required. There is no cure time, and you are able to stay in your home and walk on these floors as soon as they are installed. 

Manufacturers are now producing a wide variety of quality prefinished products, including distressed and hand-scraped finishes. You can find prefinished flooring in numerous species, colors, textures, sheens, grades, and dimensions. With the multitude of styles now available, many homeowners are discovering that they may achieve the look they want with prefinished flooring.

We invite you to our showroom to check out some of the prefinished products that have more than satisfied our customers. We partner only with the best manufacturers of prefinished products and proudly stand behind their quality. The prefinished product lines we install include:


Preverco is a premier manufacturer of high-end hardwood flooring, offering a wide variety of species, colors, widths, and grades, as well as the highest-quality finishes available. They also have a “cost-conscious” professional series available in six colors on four species.


Designed to reflect the styles found in Europe from centuries ago, DuChateau floors are antique-reproduction hard wax oil floors with natural changing grain patterns and hand-crafted textures.

An important point is that prefinished floors have a beveled edge, which allows for slight irregularities in the subfloor and slight differences in milling thicknesses. Without the bevel, sharp edges would be present. Beveled edges are a desirable look for some, but they are not for everyone.

Tags: prefinished hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors, installation, finishes, stains & textures

Popular Hardwood Floor Characteristics Embodied in DuChateau Flooring

Posted on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 @ 14:02 PM

Hardwood floors have a timeless appeal, and they never go out of style. Nonetheless, trends come and go.

The pre-finished, engineered hardwood floors in The Chateau Collection are high-quality and right in line with several current hardwood flooring trends.

Low-sheen finishes

In keeping with European trends, low-sheen floors have become increasingly popular in Wisconsin and across North America. The natural appearance of low-sheen flooring appeals to many, and lower-sheen floors also don’t show wear and tear as much as higher-sheen floors, making them a practical option for families with active lifestyles, children, and/or pets.

chateau-white-oiled_projectThe Chateau Collection has a matte finish, which is the lowest-gloss sheen available. The finish, a hard-wax oil, penetrates deeply into the wood pores to enhance the natural beauty of the wood’s grain and color, but the wax remains on the surface as a protective layer with minimal gloss.

White floors

White floors have become a popular choice among homeowners seeking a casual, open feel. The Chateau Collection offers a wide range of color choices, but two of the most sought-after are “Antique White,” and “White Oiled.”

Very wide boards

Within the past 20 years, tastes have been shifting to hardwood floor planks wider than the 2” boards that used to be the standard. Planks wider than 5” have become very popular, in large part because wider boards create a more relaxed feel than narrower planks.

Many homeowner are even going for planks wider than 7” for a super-casual feel, and The DuChateau Collection features wide-plank flooring that’s 7  7/16” wide!

Check Out How Great They Look

If the trends we discussed above are in line with your tastes, The Chateau Collection may be just the hardwood flooring for you. We encourage you to visit our showroom to view samples in person. They really look amazing!


Image courtesy of DuChateau Floors.

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

Doing Right When Things Go Wrong

Posted on Sat, May 24, 2014 @ 09:05 AM

Doing Right When Things Go WrongMost hardwood floor installations go very smoothly, but every once in a while, unanticipated problems happen. That’s when, as a company, we have to “put up or shut up” about our commitment to customer satisfaction.

Are we really willing to bend over backwards, and even take a financial loss, to make a customer’s experience one they’ll have a good feeling about?

We were faced with these questions recently, and I’m extremely proud that our team on the job did all the right things to make our customer more than pleased.

We were about a third of the way through installing a pre-finished, engineered hickory floor when our installers noticed that the floors were slightly buckling around nail points. They stopped work and told the homeowner that this was a problem that would only get worse over time. There was no point putting in these floors, because six months later, they’d have to be replaced.

The homeowner told me later that he didn’t think he would have ever noticed the buckling until it became worse. It was almost imperceptible; it was the trained eye of our installers that allowed them to pick it up.

The technicians we hire have to have a passion for pleasing customers, because that’s what we’re all about. Our team on site did exactly what I would have wanted them to do if I was the customer, and what more can you ask?

Of course, this problem wasn’t solved just by identifying it. We contacted the manufacturer to ensure we were installing their floor correctly, which we were. So we had no choice if we were going to make this customer happy. We had to rip up the floors and worry about dealing with the manufacturer later about the cost.

However, there was another issue. The homeowner had chosen pre-finished, engineered hardwood floors precisely because he wanted a quick installation. And now his old floor was ripped up and we didn’t yet have a suitable engineered, pre-finished replacement.

Our solution was to offer him a solid wood, site-finished floor on a superfast track to completion. We brought in extra crews to get the job done as quickly as humanly possible without sacrificing any quality.

If this homeowner was working with the wrong type of company, he would have ended up with a defective floor, and now he has a beautiful hickory solid wood floor site-finished with our craftsman’s skill. We did our job—he got great value for his money and he has a good feeling in his heart about Ralph’s Hardwoods.

I’m not saying Ralph’s Hardwoods is doing anything special. I know right off the top of my head the companies that I deal that have that level of commitment—that’s why I keep dealing with them, whether it’s for business or as a consumer. I know that I’m never at risk of being unsatisfied.

To me, putting customers first is just good business, and everyone should be doing it.

And you know what? It’s also a lot of fun to make customers happy. Their smiles at the end of a tough job are a wonderful reward.

Watch Jim Weiland's video testimonial here!

Tags: prefinished hardwood flooring, stories, about Ralph's, installation, remodeling

A Wide World of Hardwood Flooring

Posted on Wed, May 01, 2013 @ 11:05 AM

If you’re in the market for finished hardwood flooring, you have so many choices, it can be overwhelming. Solid planks or engineered wood flooring? Prefinished or sand on site? Domestic or exotic species?

It hasn’t always been this way. In fact, just a generation ago, solid plank flooring sanded and finished on site was essentially the only option for homeowners. Then in the 1990s, engineered and pre-finished alternatives entered the picture.

This variety makes it easier to find finished hardwood flooring that fits your taste, needs, and budget, but to navigate the multitude of options, you need to understand the fundamental differences between the choices. Here’s a brief primer.

Solid plank vs. Engineered

Despite the availability of alternatives, solid plank finished hardwood flooring is still the choice of many—and with good reason. It lasts longer than engineered hardwood because it can be re-sanded more times. It’s generally less expensive than good quality engineered wood flooring And with solid plank flooring, you know exactly what you’re getting, whereas with engineered wood flooring, you also have to consider the quality of the manufacturing process and the composite material that’s used below the top layer of genuine hardwood.

Hardwood floors in apartment

The quality of engineered flooring has come a long way, though. It’s not at all a matter of “solid plank is always better.” In fact, in many cases—such as in basements or high-moisture areas—engineered wood flooring is clearly the better choice because it is more stable. This stability also might appeal to you, even in areas where solid plank could just as easily be used.

You can find outstanding engineered wood floor products, particularly by consulting with a hardwood flooring company you trust, to help you evaluate the quality of the products you’re considering and recommend the best-performing engineered flooring.

Sand on Site vs. Prefinished

With both solid plank and engineered flooring, you can choose to have the flooring sanded on site, or you can buy flooring that’s been finished in the factory.

When done by an experienced, skilled hardwood floor installer, sanding on site—and then staining (if you want) and finishing—will provide a floor with more richness, depth, and character. And by sanding on site, you’re not limited to the finishes chosen by the manufacturer.

If you decide on prefinished hardwood flooring, it’s once again important to consult with a hardwood floor expert to find the best products on the market.

Domestic vs. Exotic

Today, there’s more availability of exotic wood flooring from other parts of the world than ever before, even as engineered hardwood. Exotic species provide a unique, luxurious look that appeals to many people. Some are also harder than any domestic species you’ll find. But the supply is still relatively limited compared to domestic hardwoods, and transportation also drives up the cost.

Tags: prefinished hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, custom hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors

A Closer Look at Prefinished Hardwood Floor Warranties

Posted on Sat, Sep 01, 2012 @ 09:09 AM

Intuitively, it would seem that a 25-year-warranty for prefinished wood flooring means that the manufacturer is VERY confident in the durability of its finish.

But a closer look reveals that what appears to be a manufacturer's trust in its product and a guarantee of your purchase for the warranty period is often heavily weighted in the favor of the manufacturer.

describe the image

Pay Attention to the Details

There are plenty of quality prefinished hardwood flooring manufacturers, and prefinished wood floors are an excellent choice for many homeowners, so we certainly would not discourage the purchase of them.

But before placing value on a lengthy warranty, carefully read it. You’ll often discover they fall short on coverage, but a wise consumer won't be fooled.

The Finer Details

Most warranties include a “wear through” provision that guarantees the finish won’t wear off more than a certain percentage of the floor. But that percentage is often as much as 10 percent of total square footage—and that’s a lot of messed-up floor to live with until the problem gets so bad that the warranty kicks in!

And finish “wearing through” is not the same as finish becoming dull. Loss of sheen is almost never covered, but what are you going to do? Live with dull floors?

You will want the floors refinished, but this will have to be paid for by you—not the manufacturer. And once the floors are refinished, the warranty is void.

Exclusions Limit Value

Situations that will void a typical prefinished flooring warranty are normal wear and tear your average family will inflict on a floor:

  • Improper maintenance-Your teenage daughter cleaned with an unapproved cleaner. 
  • Improper installation-Installing your own floors or hiring an inexperienced installer can be a costly mistake. 
  • Fading caused by sunlight-Any hardwood floor will change color in sunlight, this is nearly unavoidable. 
  • Damage caused by pets-Pet nails will cause surface scratches in the finish and heavier pets can actually dent some hardwood floors. 
  • Damage caused by rough use-Tonka trucks, dropping soup cans, did we mention pets?

You Might Move

The average length of homeownership is roughly seven years. A warranty is only valuable to you as long as you own the home. Most warranties are not transferrable to new owners, therefore, the warranty adds no value to your home in the long run. 


Don’t be misled by long warranties—A company's reputation will say far more about the quality of their floors than an overinflated warranty ever will. 

Ralph's Essential Guide to Selecting the Perfect Hardwood Floor

Tags: prefinished hardwood flooring

3 Fundamental Options for Hardwood Flooring

Posted on Tue, Aug 28, 2012 @ 16:08 PM

As you shop for hardwood floors to install in your new or existing home, you’ll discover quite a wide range of choices. You’ll certainly have no problem finding flooring that fits your taste.

As you consider these many choices, you’ll of course need to begin narrowing down toward your final selection. And one of the first decisions most people make is which of three basic types of hardwood flooring they will buy—the flooring structure (solid or engineered), customized finished onsite hardwood floors, or pre-finished flooring.

Custom Hardwood Flooring

This choice is for homeowners who want to specify every aspect of the flooring—species, grade, color, width, length, and finish. This control may be necessary to get exactly the look you’re after.

An important characteristic of customized hardwood floors is that they are finished onsite, a process that allows for the ultimate in customization. You choose the wood species, grade, width of planks, color, bevel or no bevel, and finish sheen.

Pre-finished Flooring

This type of flooring is finished before it’s shipped to your installer, so in a sense, you’re limited by a selection of pre-manufactured products. But there is nonetheless an extensive choice of all characteristics, including texture (e.g., distressed, bevel, wire brush). Although there are some low-quality pre-finished products on the market, “pre-finished” does not equate to “less classy.” It’s all a matter of taste, and homeowners have plenty of quality manufacturers of pre-finished products to select from.

Solid or Engineered

The structure of the flooring you choose is sometimes simply a personal choice, and other times the environment dictates which type is most appropriate for your home. If there are height issues with meeting up to existing flooring, an engineered floor is thinner, and an experienced installer can help you choose a quality product. In-floor heat or an environment where it is extremely difficult to control the humidity may also call for engineered flooring. In most situations, a solid flooring works very well. Both solid and engineered are available in customized site-finished and prefinished options.

Asian Walnut Hardwood Floor

Have Fun and Get the Floor You Want

Whichever option you choose, the process of selecting the floor that best fits your home can be one of the most enjoyable aspects of building or renovating, because hardwood floors can be used in so many creative and exciting ways to express your taste and help define your home’s “personality.” Visit a showroom today and get started!

Tags: prefinished hardwood flooring, engineered hardwood flooring, about hardwood floors

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