There are a number of different ways for you to heat your home, and radiant heat is one of them. Rather than forcing heat out through small vents placed around a room, you can allow heat to radiate through the floors and warm the entire area of the room and your house. While this is more effective and efficient than other types of heating methods, homeowners with wood floors often fear the damage it will cause. They know that excessive heat and drying can result in wood becoming cracked, bowed and even warped. However, radiant heat can successfully be used under wood floors as long as it is properly installed.
Radiant heat cannot be directly placed under the wood floor. Instead, you must install a concrete slab or another subfloor and it must be completely dry before you can install the wood floor. Turning the radiant heat on and leaving it on until it dries can accomplish this. Generally a concrete slab or subfloor that has been in place for several months or years can dry within 3-6 days, while a newly installed one takes 30-60 days.
Failing to allow the slab or subfloor adequate drying time will result in your wood floors being ruined. As the radiant heat comes up through your floor, the wood will absorb the moisture in the slab or subfloor. This excess moisture will cause the wood to crack, bow or even warp, which will only result in your having to install another wood floor.
The type of wood you use for your wood floor is also important, as some woods work much better with radiant heating. For example, Oak, American Cherry, Mesquite and American Walnut are highly recommended, while maple and Brazilian cherry should not be used. In addition the style of flooring you use can also be a factor. Experts generally recommend you use strip flooring rather than plank. The narrow strips of wood found in strip flooring shrink and expand less than wider, plank wood and the strips have more cracks and spaces to expand and contract when they do.
Once you do have your wood floor in place in your home, it is important to allow it to adjust to radiant heating each time you turn it on. Every year in the fall before it grows cold you should turn the heat on just slightly. This will allow your wood floors time to gradually adjust to the heat and drier temperatures, and it will make the contracting of the wood less noticeable.
It is also recommended that you purchase a three-way thermostat for your radiant heat. The first thermostat measures outdoor temperatures, the second measures the water temperature of the radiant heater and the third is available for you to control. By setting your control, the first and second thermostats adjust based on temperatures outdoors and of the heater. This prevents you from cranking the heat higher on a cold day, and exposing your wood floor to even hotter, drier temperatures.
Radiant heat is possible in your home if you have wood floors. However, it is important that is correctly installed and you use it appropriately.