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  • Hot Douglas Fir: Installing Flooring Over Radiant Heated Subfloors

    Posted on March 28, 2011 by nell

    We love our Douglas fir floors. So, we hate to admit to wishing for a little more warmth under our feet when winter hits. During those cold months, we wince when our bare feet freeze from bare floors. So what do you do? Well, you might consider radiant floor heating for toasty toes.

    We’ve enlisted the help of Portland’s Andy Burley of Mr. Sandman Hardwood Floors to talk prep for Douglas fir and other woods prior to installation over radiant heated subfloors. Above all else, Mr. Sandman notes, “Timing is key.” And he’s going to help us go over basics, prep, and the general process for installing wood flooring over radiant heated subfloors.

    radiant heated subfloor

    What radiant heat looks like under your Douglas fir floors.

    What is radiant heat?
    Radiant heat is generated from tubing in concrete-like panels or a tubing network under subfloors allowing heat to rise from the floor, circulate the air, and create warmth throughout a space. Think convection, the natural circulation of heat.

    With radiant heat, no energy is lost through forced-air heating ducts. It’s more efficient and can be divided into three types: air-heated radiant floors, electric radiant floors, and hydronic radiant floors, which are the most cost-effective and commonly used systems in residential settings. Installation and covering materials can be further broken down based on project type.

    What wood works best?
    A wood known for its stability works best with a radiant heating system. Also, narrower boards -- less than 4” wide -- adapt more easily to the gradual temp changes from radiant heating. The narrower width boards expand and contract less. And there are more seams in the flooring which allow for additional movement along the boards.

    Another important factor is having vertical grained wood or “quarter sawn” lumber. Wood cut into the grain – called radial grain – offers better stability. The vertical grain allows the wood to expand vertically rather than across the length of the board. That’s why clear vertical grain Douglas fir flooring is a saving grace in this application.

    Hot floors: CVG Douglas fir, Floating engineered flooring, Laminate flooring, White Oak

    Not-so hot floors: Maple, Pine, Brazilian Cherry

    Mr. Sandman says, “With any type of wood species, be sure to follow the rules and go by the book.” So if your heart’s set on that reclaimed Douglas fir taken from the church where your great-grandparents married, do your research before ordering it. Understand how this vintage Doug fir will react to temperature changes from a heated subfloor. Will you have to deal with more squeaking in the winter months or gaps? If so, it might be best to invest in fresh CVG Douglas fir flooring for superior performance over that heated subfloor.

    What preparation is needed?
    Run your radiant heating system between 65F and 70F degrees a couple of weeks before your wood flooring arrives. If your radiant heating system is new, run it for a minimum of thirty days to two months before ordering your wood and having it installed.

    Running the system ensures that the subfloor and the tubing system is dry. Otherwise, leftover moisture from either will seep into the wood and you and your floors will be uh, well…outta luck. Mr. Sandman says timing and moisture-matching is essential for your wood and radiant heating system to work well together.

    Take it from here, Mr. Sandman:
    After running that radiant system, be sure to test its moisture content. Whatever the moisture content of the subfloor, your wood’s moisture content needs to be a dead-on match, percentage wise. Do this before that wood walks through your door. Once you get a steady moisture-content, have that wood delivered. Acclimate the wood – 3 to 7 days – by leaving it stacked in the room where it’ll be installed. After this period, go ahead and lay it across the floor over the heated subfloor and test its moisture content. Keep on testing the wood’s moisture content until you get a match or at the very most, 1% difference. You may get lucky and have a match or you’ll need to wait a few days. Only then, should you install your wood flooring.

    So site-testing your wood for its moisture content is essential for peak performance. And all this has to happen prior to installation. So, don’t go jet-setting to Jamaica when you’ve got wood to watch over. Remember, as Mr. Sandman says, “Timing is key.”

    Other things to think about
    Know your radiant heating system and how it works from top to bottom and side to side. That way, you’ll know how to best install your wood flooring, including that CVG Douglas fir, understanding how this type of heating will affect your wood flooring.

    Invest in a good set of thermostats. The magic number is three: one for room temperature, another for the tubing network, and a third for outside the house. A thermostat trio is best to moderate floor temperature and prevent flooring damage due to excessive heat or rapid temperature changes (common with “set back” thermostats).

    Gradual heat is best. Anything over 85F degrees is too hot for your wood flooring.

    Have a list of questions ready when you call up contractors. Knowledgeable contractors will be honest with you. And don’t forget to ask about moisture-testing.

    Looks like this one’s a project and half worth of work. But for toasty toes, energy-efficiency, money-saved, and beautiful Douglas fir floors, this is one investment that’ll pay off.

    - Nicole Morales

    Andy Burley – Mr. Sandman Hardwood Floors, Portland, OR
    www.mrsandmanpdx.com, 503-238-1034, mrsandmanpdx@gmail.com

    This post was posted in All Entries, Douglas Fir Flooring and was tagged with Douglas fir flooring, douglas fir floors, radiant heated floors, radiant heated flooring

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