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Radiant Heating for Hardwood Floors


Radiant heating is become more common in homes and businesses across North American. Because of this, it’s important that contractors understand how radiant heat will affect hardwood flooring before, during, and after installation. There are a number of benefits to radiant heating, including:

Comfort - Heat is distributed evenly and noisily. You don’t have to hear a furnace come on every little bit and blow hot air.

Custom Designed - It can be used for a single room or the whole home. Radiant heat may be supplemental heat source or provide all heat for the home. There are no unsightly heating ducts or large control panels.

Safe - A nail, water, or even your hand will cause no damage to the radiant heating elements. Parents can relax knowing that their home is heated by low voltage electricity, instead of gas or wood fires.

Reliable - All radiant heat products are backed by a 25 year warranty. There is no need for yearly maintenance or service calls, either.

Efficient - Radiant heat is the most efficient type of heat source available today. These systems operate at an efficiency rate of 98-100%.

Installing Hardwood Floors over Radiant Heat

Radiant heat is different because it does not heat the air directly. Unlike conventional heating sources, such as forced air, radiant heat is “all-directional.” Warm air rises, but radiant heat travels in all directions. A slightly warm floor can transfer as much heat a hot steam radiator.

Radiant heat, when located beneath hardwood floors, uses tubing encased in concrete or tubing underneath plywood sub floors. Before installing, however, the contractor must ensure that the slab and the sub floor are dry. The only way to do so is to turn on the radiant heat before installation. If this isn’t done, there will be moisture left in the slab. The moisture will creep into the wood flooring as soon as you turn the heat on. The floor will contract, expand, crack, shrink, cup, and bow.

Some experts believe that the heat should be turned on for five to six days before installation begins. Others recommend thirty to sixty days if the slab is new. As the radiant heat is turned on, the wood flooring begins to dry out. Once the heat is turned off, moisture will once again start seeping into the sub floor and slab.

Best Wood Flooring Choices over Radiant Heat

 Not all types of wood are a good choice for a floor installed over radiant heating. Always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. If the wood flooring is not recommended for installation over radiant heat, then do not use it. Here are some other tips for choosing the best hardwood flooring for installation above radiant heat:

1. Choose a species of wood that is known for stability.

2. Rift-sawn or quartersawn flooring is much more stable than plainsawn.

3. Strip flooring is best, as wider boards will contract and expand more than narrow boards.

4. When possible, install a set of thermostat controls. One should be for the room temperature, one for the water supply in the tubing, and one for outside. This moderates the floor temperature and is much easier on hardwood flooring.

5. Floating floors are a good choice, as this type of flooring moves as a unit, rather than as individual pieces.

6. Good wood choices include  Walnut and Cherry, teak, and mesquite. Avoid Brazilian cherry and maple.

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