What material works best over radiant floor heat

daviddjNovember 12, 2013

We are building a new home with hydronic radiant heat in the basement and first floor. In the basement it will be embedded into the concrete slab. We're not sure about what to do on the main level. We would like hardwood, but what really are the best most cost effective options?

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Annie Deighnaugh

We ended up not going with that except in the bath where we have ceramic tile over top...mainly because of the damage the radiant floor heat can do to flooring. It can be used with carpet on top, but it lowers the efficiency significantly. I know they say you can do hardwood, but I've seen engineered wood that was damaged by the radiant heat. Problem is a lot of the stuff they call hardwood today really isn't and it may not also be dried correctly, so in your house with heat underneath, gaps will open up and the edges may no longer be even. We put in vinyl flooring and the concern was that the radiant heat would dry up the glue and the vinyl would come loose. So AFAIK ceramic tile or stone is the best.

This is speaking only from what I observed when we were building a few years ago and making materials decisions. Maybe others have real life experience and can speak to it.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 9:05AM
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mrspete

Carpet is a possibility? I would've thought that a fire hazard! I think I would only use this with tile.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 6:38PM
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lazy_gardens

Tile, cement or a well-acclimated hardwood with low thermal expansion.

A lot depends on the usual temperature of the floor.

If we build "dream house" it will be tile or (if the finances hold) mesquite.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 9:00PM
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ontariomom

We are doing in-floor heat (hydronic) throughout the house. Our flooring will be engineered hardwood for most of one level, carpet for the upper level, carpet over concrete in basement and ceramics in the baths. All is acceptable if the hydronic in-floor is done properly (or so we have been told). Once our flooring and in-floor is complete I will report back if we have any problems. We will be using a thinner carpet under pad that is recommended for in-floor.

We have used Uponor products. They are quality products, but Uponor does like to encourage their contractors to oversell to their clients in terms of fancy and abundant controls, pumps, thermostats, etc. The controls, our original contractor installed, are utter over kill (think space ship controls) for a residential application (apparently Uponor trainers sold him on them). We were not consulted unfortunately as to whether we wanted Toyota controls or Cadillac controls and hind sight is 20 20.

Best of luck,
Carol

    Bookmark   November 13, 2013 at 9:04PM
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Annie Deighnaugh

Mrs Pete, the in floor heating typically doesn't get that hot...it stays warm. It runs about 80-85 degrees which should not be a fire hazard.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2013 at 8:03PM
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cpacker

I have this dilemma also. Neither my architect nor my
builder have had much experience with in-floor heating.
Architect, who likes engineered wood, checked with
heating contractor who said engineered wood will work
fine. Builder thinks engineered wood is inferior product,
period. With a fixed-price building contract signed,
this decision is still TBD.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 7:44AM
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dabunch

I cannot help you with an answer re the type of flooring, but I can attest to the fact that IMO most engineered flooring is JUNK. Maybe an engineered floor that would run $12/sqft may work, but the typical 2 mm wood top is worse than some of the laminate.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 8:41AM
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mrspete

AnnieDeighnaugh, It's not that I disbelieve you, but I don't think I could "feel safe" with my carpet being heated up to any temperature! You know what I mean . . . knowing vs. feeling.

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 9:53AM
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ontariomom

The engineered flooring we chose is very high quality. It is 3/4 inch (2 layers not multi-layered). The top layer is very thick and can be sanded down more than once. In other words, you can get high quality engineered flooring too.

Carol

    Bookmark   November 15, 2013 at 8:31PM
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cpacker

More thoughts on this: My radiant system will be Warmboard,
which includes the subflooring. I'm concerned with getting
maximum heat transfer, so it figures that I would want the
thinnest flooring on top. I went to Home Depot to get an
idea of what my options are. In a given finish style,
products are 3/8", 1/2" and 3/4" thick, the latter being
solid wood, favored by my builder. But they all carry
the same 30 or 50 or 55 year warranty. Is there any
reason why I wouldn't be happy with a 3/8" product?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 9:33PM
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cpacker

More thoughts on this: My radiant system will be Warmboard,
which includes the subflooring. I'm concerned with getting
maximum heat transfer, so it figures that I would want the
thinnest flooring on top. I went to Home Depot to get an
idea of what my options are. In a given finish style,
products are 3/8", 1/2" and 3/4" thick, the latter being
solid wood, favored by my builder. But they all carry
the same 30 or 50 or 55 year warranty. Is there any
reason why I wouldn't be happy with a 3/8" product?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 9:44PM
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robo (z6a)

There is no way hot water heat could be a fire hazard. It is much less than the temperature of boiling water! Even the most flammable of gasoline soaked carpets would have to be around 500f to ignite.

We have hydronic heat under regular maple hardwood (15 year old system) and it is zero problem. Your mileage may vary depending on your system, but think of it this way -- the water under our floor is like max 100f (the floor only gets up to 80f), and our house gets close to 100f on the hottest of sunny days (no AC up here in Canada although I came close to the breaking point this summer). So I can't really see how the heating is more harmful to the floors than everyday life.

Slightly related: my uncle was chiding me for the 'safety hazard' of letting my curtains drape over my hot water radiators. I was like 'What are they going to do, slightly warm my curtains to death like a gentle beam of sunlight?' Well, I was more polite in person. But seriously.

This post was edited by robotropolis on Mon, Nov 25, 13 at 22:41

    Bookmark   November 25, 2013 at 10:08PM
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