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Radiant heat caused floor gaps (C) Daniel Friedman Radiant Heated Floor Covering Choices

  • RADIANT SLAB FLOORING CHOICES - CONTENTS: Radiant heat below wood flooring: what is the suitability of wood flooring compared with ceramic tile for use over radiant-heated concrete slabs. Choices of finish floor materials for concrete floor slabs. Damage to wood floors placed over radiant slab heat systems. Insulating effects of wood vs. ceramic tile over a radiant heat floor slab
  • Solar Age Magazine Articles on Renewable Energy, Energy Savings, Construction Practices
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about radiant heat beneath different types of finished floor surfaces: concrete, wood, ceramic tile
  • REFERENCES
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Choices of flooring types to use over radiant heat:

This article discusses the suitability of various tubing materials for radiant heated concrete floor slabs, and choices of heat conducting fluids for radiant floors. Our page top photo shows part of our investigation of wood flooring gaps over a radiant-heat tubing system installed during new construction of a New York home.

When the owners complained about odors traced to the radiant heat tubing the installer tried to "cook" out the volatiles in the tubing by pushing the radiant heat system temperatures higher than normal. Ensuing flooring dryout and gapping became an issue for the new owner. In the photo, each of our pencils marks a gap in the oak strip flooring.



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Radiant Slab Flooring Alternatives

Radiant heat garage floor (C) D FriedmanAccompanying text is reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

Our photo at left shows a concrete floor radiant heat system installed in Minneapolis MN in 2009.

The question-and-answer article about wood flooring over a radiant heated slab, quotes-from, updates, and comments an original article, from Solar Age Magazine and written by Steven Bliss.

What are the Effects, Problems, and Benefits of Choosing Finish Wood Flooring Compared with Ceramic Tile Over a Radiant Heated Floor Slab?

Question:

I am considering both ceramic tile and wood as finish floorings over a radiant slab similar to those featured in Solar Age (5/82).

The tile flooring would cost three times as much as the wood flooring. Would the heat from the radiant slab dry out, warp, [or cause ugly gaps between the boards of] the wood floor?

Also, how would the insulating effect of the wood affect the radiant slab's performance?

-- Thomas B. McCormick, III, Berkeley, CA.

Answer:

Dan Lewis of KLR Engineering, Keene NH ran a computer simulation on a 1500 square foot house with 200 square feet of solar collectors supplying a radiant slab floor.

Adding an R-2 carpet and padding to the floor raised the home's auxiliary heating load by 9 percent or about one million BTUs.

A thin wood floor installed with mastic directly to the concrete slab should have even less of a performance penalty.

The 90 degF to 100 degF temperatures of a radiant heated concrete slab won't harm the wood flooring, but you should check on the temperature range of the adhesive.

[Added comments by DJF]

Be careful about wood floor installation moisture and radiant heat slab operating temperatures

At RADIANT HEAT we describe wood floor damage complaints that we have investigated when wood floors were installed over a radiant floor heating system - in each case it appears that the problem was due either to improper floor installation, such as installing a wood floor at a too-high moisture level, or due to operating the heated floor slab at a higher temperature than recommended by the heating system manufacturer. (See our wood floor photo at page top for an example.)

Be careful about about installing a raised wood floor over a radiant heated slab

To avoid possible wood floor damage over a heated slab, some installers prefer to install a floating wood floor that is not secured directly to the slab, often over a "leveling board" that itself has some insulating value, probably increasing the home's heating load as in the model above.

Worse, installing a wood floor nailed to 1x or thicker sleepers (often 2x4's are used) floating over a radiant slab is likely to significantly increase the floor's insulation properties and reduce the effectiveness of the radiant heated floor slab, regardless of whether the heat is from a solar source or from another heating source such as a boiler.

Our OPINION is that ceramic tile will perform trouble-free over a radiant slab floor and in some installations such as our Green Cabin project discussed at RADIANT HEAT FLOOR MISTAKES, solar gain was also possible - of course that wasn't for a basement slab.

Our OPINION is that a wood floor over a radiant heat floor system can also be trouble free provided that the system and the flooring are properly installed. But there are more opportunities for foul-ups.

Here we include solar energy, solar heating, solar hot water, and related building energy efficiency improvement articles reprinted/adapted/excerpted with permission from Solar Age Magazine - editor Steven Bliss.

The link to the original Q&A article in PDF form immediately below was preceded by an expanded/updated online version of this article.

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Continue reading at RADIANT SLAB TUBING & FLUID CHOICES or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see WOOD FLOOR RADIANT HEAT DAMAGE

Also see Thin Film Radiant Heating Systems for Ceilings & Floors for examples of how electric radiant heat may be installed beneath several types of finish flooring.

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RADIANT SLAB FLOORING CHOICES at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES: ARTICLE INDEX to ARTICLE INDEX to RADIANT HEAT

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