Tips to Install Hardwood Floors over Radiant Heat

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Hardwood floors are beautiful and control the feel and comfort of your home. Just because you choose a radiant heat system does not mean you need to give up on the beauty, durability, and comfort of a hardwood floor. Follow our guidelines to achieve your most remarkable floor that you will marvel at 10 years from the day it was installed.

Read below for tips on how to perfectly install hardwood floors over radiant heat systems.

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With radiant heat systems it’s not just the responsibility of the hardwood floor professional to be on top of their game. It is also the responsibility of the general contractor, plumber, and HVAC systems professional to put care into the installation of a radiant heat system so that all flooring substrates perform well and look great for years.

Talk to each person that is involved with installing the radiant heat system. Make sure everyone is aware that a hardwood floor will be installed over the radiant heat system. If everyone cooperates then you are on your way to a successful install of your hardwood floor over a radiant heat system. You should be aware of all flooring types being installed over the radiant heat system. Different flooring materials possess different R values and if different materials are used in the same heat zone, check with the HVAC mechanical engineer.

You should communicate with the homeowner and let them know the best conditions for a stable hardwood floor over radiant heat. Let the homeowner know that hardwood floors will work best when they maintain a relative humidity between 30-50% and an inside temperature of 60-80F.

As a hardwood floor installer it is your responsibility to install the hardwood floor perfectly to the radiant heat system. Once you’ve installed it the customer must be aware of all the ins and outs of the radiant heat system. Communicate frequently with your customer about the best ways to maintain humidity and temperature.

One of the most common reasons why radiant heat hardwood floors experience failure is because the system was turned on too high too fast. Users will crank up the heat when it gets cold. This puts the hardwood floor into a form of “shock.”

The best way to combat this form of failure is to talk to your customer. Explain to them that radiant heat systems need to be turned on gradually. It is in the customer’s best interest to have an outside thermometer/thermostat control the initiation of heat request. That way they can slowly turn on the radiant heat system as the temperature gradually falls. Also, talk to your customers about installing a humidifier either to add or remove humidity. Radiant heat is considered a dry heat and if the heating season lasts for several months, a humidification system should be installed to keep the relative humidity above 30%.

During the installation process one of the most important steps to take is to turn on the radiant heat system 1-2 weeks prior to the delivery of the wood. This step will help drive out any moisture present in the subfloor. It will also show if there is any problem with the radiant heat system itself (like a water leak). This step should not be avoided regardless of the time of year.

Another key step during installation is to measure the surface temperature of the sub floor and the hardwood floor. The surface temperature of the sub floor should never exceed 85F. If the surface temperature exceeds 85F, the wood may dry out more than it should and this can cause cracks.

Making sure your subfloor moisture readings are on point is of the utmost importance. Take frequent readings of the subfloor before the installation and delivery of the hardwood floor. You should take readings in all parts of the subfloor. Some radiant heat systems use a combination of gyp-crete and wood sleepers. Know the moisture content of each of these components and be certain they are within spec before the hardwood floor installation begins.

No matter what subfloor is in place it is important that the moisture reading of the subfloor is no more than 3% off from the hardwood floor itself. The range of acceptable wood floor moisture content will vary according to your specific location. A floor in New York has an acceptable moisture content that is different from a hardwood floor in Florida.

Guide the homeowner in selecting a hardwood floor that is appropriate for their scenario. One of the best options over radiant heat is to use an engineered hardwood floor. The inherent dimensional stability of engineered hardwood floors makes it a great choice for radiant heat systems. Certain solid hardwood floors are appropriate as well. North American oak, American cherry, and American walnut are all appropriate. Some manufacturers even make hardwood floors specifically for radiant heat systems.

Solid¬†hardwood floors can be used over radiant heat systems. However, when using anything wider than 4″ consider extra acclimation and use a hardwood floor glue that is recommended by the wood floor manufacturer. Quartersawn or riftsawn are also considered better hardwood floor choices.

If you’d like to learn more about installing hardwood floors over radiant heat systems, please call City Floor Supply¬†at (800) 737-1786 or email us at info@cityfloorsupply.com.

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4 thoughts on “Tips to Install Hardwood Floors over Radiant Heat

  1. emily bennette

    I would be a person who would turn up the temperature of the radiant floors really high if I was cold. I like that you pointed out that will end up damaging the flooring. It does seem like a good thing to be aware of as a homeowner.

    Reply
  2. Luke Smith

    Thanks for pointing out that it is the responsibility of a professional hardwood floor installer to install the floor perfectly to the radiant heat system. I imagine that it would be reassuring for a homeowner to hire a service that had that expectation for all of their installers. It would seem to me that taking some time to look at jobs that have been performed by a given installer in the past would be one of the best ways to see what sort of work-quality they typically have.

    Reply
  3. Steele Honda

    I liked how you pointed out that once the floor is installed, a specialist should tell me about all the ins and outs of the radiant heat system. I am considering getting new flooring for my old house, and before I do so I want to make sure I know how I should maintain humidity and temperature with a new floor. I hope a specialist who will install the floor, will tell me everything I need to know.

    Reply

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