Dear Jim: I plan to remove my old carpeting and install electric infloor heating in two rooms. Hardwood flooring is recommended instead of carpeting for this and for my allergies. What type of hardwood will work best? -- Meg F.
Dear Meg: Electrical infloor heating is more effective under hardwood flooring than under carpeting. Some do-it-yourself radiant floor heating panels and films, like Warmly Yours, are ideal for under hardwood flooring. Other cable types are specifically designed for mortar and tile floors.
From strictly an energy efficiency standpoint, most hardwood species have similar characteristics for radiant floor heat transfer. The key to a long-lasting, beautiful floor is following the flooring manufacturer's preparation and installation instructions precisely for use with radiant heating.
There are differences in appearance and durability (hardness and stability) of various hardwoods. Your primary hardwood selection criteria should be the installation method, appearance that you desire and the durability. You may end up choosing different hardwood for different floors of your house.
For example, in rooms with radiant floor heat, it is often wise to choose a floating floor installation method. This requires tongue and groove wood strips or planks that not all manufacturers offer. For a do-it-yourselfer, using beveled-edge hardwood flooring strips can hide some irregularities.
A floating floor consists of hardwood pieces that are nailed or attached to the adjacent pieces, but not to the subflooring. This allows them to grow or shrink with temperature and humidity level changes. For the simplest floating installation, choose a design that uses hidden metal clips.
The major hardwood flooring manufacturers offer a wide selection of hardwoods -- aniroba, ash, American cherry, American walnut, birds eye maple, Brazilian cherry, maple, paduak, pecan, purpleheart, red/white oak, zebrawood, etc. Compare all the colors and grains before selecting one.
All engineered and much solid flooring has a factory-applied UV-cured acrylic finish. Other finishes, applied after installation, are oil- or water-based urethane, oils, waxes, etc., each with its own advantages.
Check the hardwood name carefully to know what you are really getting. For example, Brazilian cherry is several times harder than American cherry. Also, some varieties of maple are harder than oak, but oak is more stable with humidity/temperature changes -- important for radiant floor heating.
The stability of engineered hardwood flooring makes it an excellent option. It looks identical to solid hardwood, but it is made of three to five wood plies that are bonded together. The thick top hardwood veneer can be refinished.
Write for (instantly download -- www.dulley.com) Update Bulletin No. 646 -- buyer's guide to solid/engineered hardwood flooring manufacturers, wood types, sizes, patterns, hardness/stability/finishes selector guides and floating floor details. Please include $3 and a business-size, self-addressed stamped envelope.
James Dulley, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, OH 45244.