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Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/4/2011

Ran over to Lumber Liquidators to order the Purpleheart flooring for the apartment today! Should be here in about two weeks.

I'm mildly amazed how difficult it is to find this stuff, by the way... sure seems like it's not terribly popular here in America, presumably because of the color. I think it's very rich and elegant-looking myself.

As to the issue of putting hardwood over radiant heat, I know that many folks don't recommend it. I've done some research on this though, and it seems like the primary issue is uneven heating of the floor that causes the wood to warp. This worried me at first, but then I found that most people (or the subcontractors if you leave it to them) install their radiant heat loops at about 18" on center, meaning that there are colder spots and warmer spots despite the diffusion of heat in the concrete slab. On the other hand I put my loops on 8" centers, which should provide a much more even heat that can be kept a few degrees lower than with other systems, since it won't need to "spread" from the warm spots to the cold spots. So hopefully... we won't have any problems.

That's the theory anyway! We'll see how it pans out.


Steven in Colorado Springs

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Posted by Mark in Provo, UT on 4/21/2011
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4/21/2011
Steve:

What flooring type is recommended with radiant heat? Is there a question of efficient heat transfer as well as durability of the flooring material? Is Purpleheart considered a good species for a hardwood floor over radiant?

Mark
Posted by Steven in Colorado Springs, CO on 4/23/2011

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4/23/2011
Good questions!

Turns out that (generally speaking) engineered or laminate woods are recommended for installation over radiant heat floors rather than hardwoods, because they're both stronger and more uniform in their construction. Laminate floor coverings are usually built with a layer of "printed" wood grain on top of multiple layers of ground-and-glued wood. Engineered floor coverings are a step up from that, built rather like OSB plywood with multiple layers glued and pressed together in a criss-cross pattern for strength and a thicker "veneer" of hardwood on top.

Hardwood is of course your classic "hunk of wood" sawn out of a tree. Sometimes I've seen hardwood flooring of particularly soft wood made with some kind of padding material (cork usually) bonded to the bottom, but usually not.

Laminate and engineered floorings work better with most radiant systems, because they can handle differences in temperatures better, shrinking or expanding more evenly due to their more homogeneous construction. Hardwoods will have pockets and lines of strong and weak wood just like the tree they came from, and these differences can lead to different shrinking and expansion rates over radiant heat that eventually can cause cracking or buckling.

Purpleheart is one of the stronger and more uniform hardwoods, which is a plus here--it could still have problems, but it's less likely to have them.

The other contributor is the way I installed the radiant. Most installers put it into the floor on 18" centers, which can't help but make warm areas (along the tubing) and colder areas (in between each loop). This leads to the type of stresses that laminate and engineered floorings handle decently well and which hardwoods just don't like.

I put in my loops on 8" centers, which should make the whole floor more evenly heated and reduce temperature differentials across the floor. The wood is more likely (fingers crossed!) to shrink and expand evenly, reducing the chances of cracks or buckling.

That's the theory, anyway...


Steven in Colorado Springs

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