Radiant Heat Hardwood Floors?

Hi all, Real question: is it every really a good idea to retrofit existing hardwood floors with radiant heating elements? The only time I've ever seen this done, there was major popping and expansion of the floor boards, and the client was clearly overheating the houses attempting to maintain something similar to the feeling of heated air that comes from a forced air furnace. So now, I've got a client with house built in 1947, with existing Oak hardwood floors. Rubes in my client's life keep telling them to have radiant floors installed, but I keep saying it's a fundamentally bad idea, unless they want to rip out the hardwood and completely replace the floors. But IS THERE a way to add radiant heating to existing hardwood that is efficient and cost effective?

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  • In 1990 we installed electric radiant systems in the ceilings throughout a three story row house in Baltimore. Each room is independently controlled. Upper floors have carpeting and the main floor is bare oak flooring. No warping issues. Furniture can be rearranged without blocking the radiant heating system. Top of everyone’s head is exposed to a warm surface for even comfort. A separate AC systems handles the cooling load. House is super insulated.

  • I installed radiant heat under about 950 sq ft of hardwood floors in 2010.   This includes about 450 sq ft of oak flooring that was installed in an addition in 2000 and about 400 sq ft of oak floors installed in the house when it was constructed in 1954.  The installation has two runs of pex between each joist and has foil insulation underneath to limit radiation into the basement area.  I keep the floor temperature at 72 degrees F.  There has been no problem of any type.  The floors have continued to be smooth and the comfort level has been outstanding. 

  • https://thehtrc.com/2012/common-sense-radiant-heat-faq 

    You know the answer is - it depends. With that & quick shot assuming you have access under the flooring is a retrofit solution using either metal tracks (which pex snaps into) or special insulated panels that hold the pipes up to the floor & help block the heat flow going down. You need to cover the entire floor area / keep heat even - probably 2 pipes per bay going from one edge of the flooring to the other (within 4 to 6" of edge). With that WrightSoft & others have a sizing & layout option in their software for an additional fee. 

    Other quick points - hardwood flooring does not like drastic temp changes & I would probably never go above 80(ish) & rather run at a longer time at say 75 - 78. You also need to control humidity. Clients need to understand the diffrence between the systems to not only make a well informed choice but know the limitations. 

    Common Sense Building: Making Sense of Radiant Heat (FAQ)
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