Designing around radiators

elz_kitchenApril 25, 2010

My 70-year-old kitchen has two cast-iron radiators, which are causing problems with my kitchen design. I've talked to designers, plumbers and contractors and gotten different advice from each.

The radiators are flush with the wall, they don't stick out at all. One is 20-inches square, the other is 20 by 34. They're two-pipe radiators for an oil-powered, steam heat system.

I've been told that putting anything in front of the radiators or above them will block the heat, and that the trapped heat will warp wood cabinets.

The advice I've heard includes:

to not use base cabinets near the radiators, and to have only counters on legs in the area, with mesh panels in the back of the counters for heat to rise through;

to have custom cabinets built that would be set a few inches off the wall;

to have custom base cabinets on 22-inch legs;

or some combination of all of the above.

I've also been advised to cap off the radiators and use space heaters or electric toe-kick heaters.

There is nothing in front of the radiators now, and I hope to increase my storage and work space by using those areas. My kitchen isn't very big, so giving up new cabinets and/or counters near the two radiators would really be a shame.

Even with the two radiators, the kitchen is always chilly. I'm going to replace the windows, insulate the exterior walls, and insulate the ceiling of the garage, which is directly under the kitchen. But I'm still going to need heat from those radiators.

Anyone have any experience with something like this? Thanks.

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We had one 48" hot water radiator in our kitchen. We took it out 4 years ago when we put our addition on and were able to live without heat in there since. Unfortunately, you can't! I'm sure you will see a huge improvement when you make those upgrades though. The thought of losing cabinet space to the radiator made me crazy! We did put in a toe kick heater 'just in case', though it's not hooked up yet. I advise going that route. They are unobtrusive and I see a number of them here on the site!

Your other option would be a heated floor. Aahhh...

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 4:40PM
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The wall-flush type with grill openings are "convectors" not exactly radiators. The must have airflow though the openings.
I got rid of a huge victorian radiator in my kitchen, replaced with a fan-forced hydronic toekick heat exchanger. It amazes me that a 20 lb unit that takes no floor space gives as much heat as that 400 lb boat anchor.
You may be able to do the same.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hydronic Toe Kick heaters

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 5:35PM
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Because you have steam, you may not be able to use the hydronic heaters, but you can use the electric ones. As far as I know, they are all for hot water heat and not steam. The very cute euro-style radiators that hang on the wall are also only for hot water use.

If the floor is being removed in the remodel, do take a look at radiant systems.Lots of those can be installed under hardwood as well as tile.

You can add a "regular" steam radiator in a different location but figuring out the size of one is beyond my skill set.

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 5:50PM
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