Published on January 8th, 2008 | by Stephanie Evans6
Wood Flooring and Radiant Heat Systems
We all know that heat rises, but the heat emitted from a radiant flooring system doesn’t simply travel up—it travels out, in all directions.
While this is a great and efficient way to heat our interior spaces, it’s not so great for the condition of the wood floor that holds the system … unless we take some preventative measures to maintain it . . .
Wood flooring protection-steps begin before the installation of your radiant heat system, and before the installation of your wood floor. Asking some important questions and conducting a bit of research will help you decide which system, and which type of wood, will work best for you and your home.
Radiant heat systems work like this:
- Water is heated beyond 90 degrees by an outside source.
- It is then passed into a control system that distributes the water to a network of tubes placed within concrete or sandwiched between either layers of plywood (wet installation), or a subfloor and your wood floor (dry installation).
- The heat contained within the tubes passes to the flooring, which radiates it out over a large space in an even and regulated fashion.
- The space will continue to emit heat long after the heated water is no longer being supplied.
Since wood flooring is always vulnerable to changes in temperature and humidity, precautions need to be taken to ensure that drying, moisture gain, expansion, and contraction are minimized. You can do this by:
- Selecting a wood species that compliments radiant heat systems
- Regulating the temperature in your space to lessen the impact on your wood
Selecting a Hardy Wood
With a radiant heat system, a wood floor will have to adjust to changes in temperature and withstand consistent heating. This means that you’ll need a stable wood species that is not especially vulnerable to external factors. The radiant system manufacturer should equip you with a list of stable and sustainable wood species—if they don’t, simply ask for some recommendations.
Woods respond unfavorably (by warping and shrinking) to drastic changes in temperature. But you can regulate the degree of change with thermostat controls. Consider installing a thermostat system that allows you to:
- Adjust the water temperature inside of the tube network
- Regulate the temperature of the room space that’s being heated
- Monitor what’s going on outdoors, so you can gradually and proportionally heat the inside
This holistic control system enables you to create an environment for your wood floor that is in synch with the rhythms of the great outdoors.