Radiant Hardwood Floors

Are radiant hardwood floors right for you? In the past, radiant heating systems were entirely focused on embedding PEX radiant tubing into a concrete floors, either slab-on-concrete or tile flooring with thinset concrete layers. Very few talk about hardwood floor radiant heating systems, those that employ radiant heat systems for hardwood flooring.

This is because concrete flooring was the best material for radiant heating systems. They radiate heat so nicely and the effect is quite dramatic for someone inured to cold cement floors for sometime.

Now, hardwood floor radiant heating systems hold their own places, and for households with wooden floors, radiant heating can be a godsend in winter. No more cold floors, no more heavy and thick slippers to move around with, no more freezing kitchens and shower rooms.

How hardwood floor radiant heating works

Radiant hardwood floors work on the same concept as a concrete floor. THardwood floor radiant heating works the same way essentially, except that the heating material is hardwood, not concrete, and the heating elements are either within or under the material, not embedded in it. he radiant heat from either electrical wires or PEX radiant water tubing heats up. This heat transfers into the subfloor and hardwood flooring.

Some radiant hardwood floors, whether electric or water-based (hydronic), are stapled underneath the hardwood flooring as an easier method of installation ---especially in floors with some crawl space underneath it--- without any significant loss of efficiency. Other methods consist of placing the radiant heating elements within pre-cut wood boards on the subfloor, then topped by the hardwood floor. Which to apply really depends on the kind of floor construction used in the particular home.

Insulation and heat containment for radiant hardwood floors

In either method, a kind of insulation is placed underneath the system to reflect the heat upwards and make full use of the generated warmth. For homes where the radiant heat is on a subfloor, you simply insulate between the joists under the subfloor. You should use an insulator with an R-Value of R-19 or higher.

If the floor is directly above a concrete slab, or if there is no basement below the subfloor, Insulation designs may be in the form of rigid styrofoam, plastic bubbles laminated in foil, aluminum foil laminated in polyethylene, extruded or expanded polystyrene sandwiched between polyethylene membranes, fiberglass sheeting and so on. Whatever, they serve to retard heat loss through conduction to the cold soil, deflect or contain the heat within the heating material, and prevent the seepage or movement of moisture, gas and chemicals from the soil to the material.

In most instances, the plastic shields are preferred for the simple reasons that they are easier to manipulate to conform to the construction configurations like corners, last longer than other materials, and very cost-effective and efficient in their planned purposes. They present the best value for money for both installers and home owners.

The downside of hardwood floor radiant heating

Naturally, hardwood floor radiant heating has it disadvantages like everything else. For one, it can cause warping of the wood used in the floors, if the wood materials are not seasoned correctly. The warps in the floor slats may create spaces between them or uneven floors. If the hardwood floor radiant heating system is installed under the floor, the heating may likewise be uneven as more heat passes through the gaps than those through the wood. This variance may be insignificant, though, and may be hardly felt, but it would be there.

Probable solutions to this small problem include using only well-seasoned hardwood for the flooring, turning up the heat slowly higher as temperature drops from fall to winter, to acclimatize the wood to the changing ambient temperature, laying the hardwood floor boards perpendicular --not parallel-- to the hardwood floor radiant heating elements, install the hardwood floor only when the concrete base ---if any—had cured completely, use hardwood planks in tongue-in-groove or beveled-edge arrangement, use narrow slats, not wide planks and use a thin concrete layer between the heating elements and the hardwood floor.

Despite the –essentially only-- disadvantage, many people still prefer hardwood floor radiant heating systems over those using concrete. One reason is the less material temperature swings wood has, due to the nature of the material itself. Another is that wood feels easier and more natural than concrete as floor material, so if it gets comfortably heated, it can be the best floor material. The third reason is that wood is easier to replace than concrete, which can be crucial to budget-conscious households.

Whatever the reason may be, in the end it is the homeowner who must decide which to choose: concrete or hardwood floor radiant heating system. In this he can obtain the best advice from professional providers and installers. There are wonderful new materials available with engineered subflooring that makes radiant hardwood floors a great option for any home.

To find out how much it would cost to install a hydronic radiant heating system, request a Radiant Heat Quote Here.

Related Articles

- Radiant Water Heat
- Concrete Floor Radiant Heating
- Warmboard Subflooring for Hydronic Radiant Heat
- PEX Radiant Floor

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