Imagine stepping onto your hardwood floors and having them be pleasantly warm. Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to wear socks inside? Or if you didn’t have to continually adjust the thermostat?
Radiant heating is an attractive option for many reasons. It’s quiet, energy efficient, and can even lower your utility bills. It offers a more uniform air temperature, which means you won’t have to use your traditional heating as much. Your whole home will feel more comfortable, with fewer drafts and cold spots. And when your feet are warmer, the rest of your body will feel warmer as well.
There are many benefits, but unlike some improvements to a home, this is something that needs a bit of thought and planning before installation. Here are some things to ask yourself if you’re considering installing radiant heat under your hardwood floors.
Is radiant heating the right choice for me and my home?
The idea of having warm floors all the time is very appealing. But it’s a major decision. And if you’re installing it in an existing home, it might mean your floor is taken apart for days, if not weeks. Be sure this is something you can live with before you get started.
Radiant heating is an especially good choice for certain home layouts. Homes with high ceilings or large rooms can benefit a lot. Traditional heating methods end up wasting a lot of energy in these houses, inefficiently blasting hot air from just a few vents. Why waste so much energy and money heating the air near your ceiling?
Radiant heating solves this problem by working against how hot air naturally rises. It concentrates warm air consistently in the lower portion of your room—where you live.
Of course, any room can benefit from radiant heat, not just ones with high ceilings or large rooms.
Your personal tastes in flooring are also important when deciding if radiant heat is right for you. Note that you wouldn’t want to install heaters under carpeting, which already acts as an insulator. While possible, it’s a very inefficient combination. But other materials, such as hardwood, stone, and tile, work much better with radiant heat systems. These flooring materials aren’t naturally insulated and can get cold, especially in the winter. Adding radiant heat will make them comfortable to walk on year-round.
What is the cost?
Radiant heat used to be a luxury only found in the top homes, as it was often expensive. Luckily, technology has evolved so that systems are easy to install and within reach financially for many homeowners. Still, installation is an extra cost, so you have to consider if it’s worth it before going ahead with it.
If you’re putting in a new floor, the cost will vary depending on what material you go with. Engineered wood averages $3 to $13 per square foot, while hardwood goes for $5 to $14 per square foot. To add radiant heat under hardwood floors, add another $4 to $6 for every square foot of flooring. And don’t forget to include labor costs from the company installing the floor and system. This will, of course, vary from company to company; at companies like Wall 2 Wall Hardwoods, you can contact them for an estimate.
To be assured of a good finished product, going with a reputable, experienced professional is your best option and worth the cost. They can help you assess your home and give you their advice on everything from materials to the best heating systems.
Will the type of hardwood I love work with radiant heating?
Do you have your heart set on a certain type of hardwood? Do you want to keep your current hardwood floor? Or are you currently looking at flooring samples and need help choosing?
No matter where you are in the process, know that while many hardwoods can work with radiant heat, there are types that you should avoid. So be sure to consider the wood you are using carefully.
Some woods, such as maple and pine, are more sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity levels. They are more likely to expand and contract according to changes in their environment. While these woods can work in some homes, they don’t work well when you add dry heat under the floor. When wood dries out, problems can occur over time, such as gaps between the boards. You chose hardwood floors because they are a beautiful and elegant addition to your home. You want them to last as long as possible.
So what should you choose?
Many woods are stable under fluctuating conditions, especially engineered hardwoods. A professional flooring technician is a great resource if you have questions, and they can recommend types of wood that work well with floor heating systems.
There are also ways that both you and your flooring expert can ensure your floor and your new heating system will work well together well into the future. Your technician can use methods such as installing a floating floor, which puts a little space between the wood and the heat. Your floor can also be held together with interlocking planks (rather than glue or nails) to allow you to more easily fix problems if they occur.
Once your floor is in, you can do your part to maintain it. Don’t let your floor heater exceed certain temperatures and monitor humidity levels to prevent the wood from drying out.
Should I retrofit or invest in updating my whole floor?
You’re in luck if you’re in the process of building your home right now or you’re updating your floor. It is easier to place radiant heat under your hardwood floor while it’s being installed. But don’t think that means you’re out of luck if you want to keep your current wood floors.
There are several different methods used to install floor heaters. They can be embedded into concrete and turned into an additional layer under your flooring. This works well for homes that are just being built.
Heating systems can also be installed dry, without having to pour another layer of concrete, which works if you want to keep the wood floor you already have.
Are you thinking about installing radiant heat under very old flooring? You may run into some issues. Your floors might be a type of wood that doesn’t work well with heating, or they might have warped or developed gaps between the boards over years of use. Definitely talk with a professional if you have your heart set on having both your old wood floors and radiant heating.
Think radiant heating is for you? Take the first step and come talk with a flooring consultant at Wall 2 Wall Hardwoods today.