Top 3 Things that Go Wrong with a Radiant Heat Floor

radiant floor heat (via flickr no one can resist the temptation to walk barefoot on a heated floor. Invented by those savvy ancient Romans (who installed slaves to fan wood-burning fires under elevated marble floors) radiant heat flooring is a heating system that is installed under the floors of your home. It conducts heat through the floor surface rather than forcing heated air into your living space.

Some of the benefits of a radiant heat floor include:

  • Very quiet heat – no rushing of air for clanging of radiators

  • Efficient – while expensive to install, but saves up to 30% year over year after

  • Space – because the heating system is installed in the floor, it takes up no extra space

Installing a radiant heat floor does, however, require the homeowner of an existing home to be willing to rip up all the floors. If you’re building a home, you can get it added in during the construction, but even then things can go wrong.

1. Choosing the wrong flooring materials

All floor materials can be used with radiant heated floors, but some work significantly better than others. Materials with thermal conducting properties, such as:

  • Stone

  • Concrete

  • Ceramic tile

Will effectively transfer and hold the heat well. Solid wood floors, however, can shrink and expand with fluctuating seasonal temperatures and start to leave unsightly gaps. If you are in love with your wood floors, an experienced installer will be able to manage shrinkage. Vinyl, plastic laminate, and carpet floors have insulating properties that can reduce the heat flow.

2. Improper insulation

Wet installations of radiant flooring, which are those set in wet concrete, use the thermal mass of the concrete itself to radiate the heat into the home. For this to work properly, however, insulation must be placed down prior to the slab being poured for the heat to rise into the home versus spreading into the soil below the home.

In situations where radiant heat is installed on second floors in addition to the first, first-floor rooms could have radiant heat in both the floor and the ceiling. Proper insulation is required to keep heated areas separate and reflectors are used to direct the warmth into the rooms where heat is needed.

3. Leaks in the radiant floor system

One of the most common concerns for any homeowner with a radiant heat flooring system is leaks. Improperly installed plumbing connections are a common culprit, but flooring installers and drywallers are also known to accidentally puncture radiant tubing with nails and screws. If the radiant heat system is being installed during the construction of the home, leaks may not be discovered until much later when the system can be pressurized and tested. If the flooring has been installed, that leak may never be discovered until significant damage is done.

Before you install a new radiant heat floor be sure to have a pre-renovation infrared inspection prior to and after the installation to ensure that your radiant heat system is working properly. If you are buying a home with a radiant heat floor, an infrared home inspection is your best protection against discovering a leak problem too late.

Andrew MacDonald can help homeowners discover what’s hidden in the floors and ceilings of a new or existing home. He works throughout Algonquin, Elgin, Hoffman Estates, and the surrounding areas. Give him a call today at 888-852-8298 to schedule your home infrared inspection today.

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