Knock on Wood

December 30, 2012

From Janelle:

We’ve been looking at wood floors for months.  The designer was pushing hard for dark floors and while I agree they’re beautiful they’re just not my style and who wants to worry about every speck of dust? I fell in love with beautiful 100 year old wood culled from a Kentucky barn at Vintage Wood Floors in Costa Mesa.  We were tempted but the price tag was just too steep.

The search was on for something light but warm and not too yellow or red.  We found a beautiful wood from Lazio, Italy (Rome is the capital of the area) with wide planks, a bit of a rustic look and a warm oat color.  It was perfect.  We placed an order and….the manufacturer won’t provide a warranty over radiant heat.    How disappointing!

Italian wood flooring; beautiful!

Italian wood flooring; beautiful!

During the agonizing decision phase of whether to install radiant heat or a traditional furnace no one mentioned anything about the type of wood flooring being dictated by that decision.  I feel like I went to the doctor and elected a procedure upon the doctor’s advice but halfway through discovered that most of the uncomfortable elements weren’t mentioned and I may have chosen differently if I had been properly informed!

Tidbits garnished from and

  • Radiant heat systems use a three-stage process to convey heated water to its destination.

1)    A water heating system that can be either a standard boiler, water heater, a geothermal heat pump or even solar panels.   (In our case the heating system is our water heater.  It seems to me that we need more hot water than that but the “heater guy” insists that it is sufficient.)

2)    The heated water is pumped through a tubing network installed in the subfloor.

3)    As the warm water moves through the tubing network, it releases its energy and returns to the boiler system to be reheated.

There are several ways radiant heat systems can be installed.

By installing the radiant heat tubing directly under the wood subfloor from below. This is the most common installation in home renovation.

By installing the radiant heat tubing within a plywood underlayment system, directly over the existing concrete slab or existing wood subfloor.

By installing the radiant heat tubing within the concrete slab during the pouring of the concrete.

  • Consider using quarter-sawn wood for planks wider than 3 inches, regardless of species, for enhanced dimensional stability.
  • For best results, use narrow boards, preferably not wider than 3 inches.  Narrow boards will better accommodate wood’s expansion and contraction across a floor.
  • Quarter-sawn planks up to 7 inches across (when properly installed) can work well with radiant heat systems.
  • It isn’t recommended to use radiant floor heating under plank flooring wider than 3″. Despite all your precautions, there is a high probability the user will not be satisfied.
  • So are 5” planks good or not?  The floor I’d chosen consists of
    9 1/2” wide planks and they’re beautiful
    I don’t think I like quarter- sawn but I do like the wider planks!
  •  Hardwood flooring that is three-eighths of an inch thick conducts heat better than thicker floors and resists gapping.
  • Not all woods are recommended for radiant heat.  I do not recommend using Maple, Pine or Brazilian Cherry because they are noted to be unstable wood species.
  • Extensive laboratory testing….found that American hardwoods – including cherry, oak, ash, maple, hickory and walnut – are good choices for radiant-heat flooring.
  • Ok, seriously so which is it.  Maple IS or ISN’T recommended??

Who knew that flooring would be so technical?  Lucky for us Lewis is good at that.  We will keep looking.  I like the color of Toasted Honey….

From Lewis:

You learn something new every day. It seems the main issue is the expansion and contraction of the floor system which we already knew but I guess the fluctuations that a heated floor could cause is more noticeable in wider planks because of less joints to absorb the movement.  Well, at least we found the color we want.

What do you do when you receive bad advice?

What is the best wood flooring to use over radiant heat?


The best type of wood flooring style to use would be a “Floating Engineered Floor.” One of the benefits of using a floating floor is that the floor boards are locked together at the joints of each board and not nailed or adhered to the subfloor. This allows the whole floor to move as a single unit if a dimensional change within the wood floor takes place. Another reason is that an engineered floor with a stable plywood backing makes for a more suitable floor with less chance of dimensional movement than a solid wood floor. Floating engineered wood flooring can be installed over most all subfloors and surfaces (except carpet) as long as they are flat and secured well. Using a floating floor will drastically reduce any possible seam contraction (opening of joints) between the floorboards. There has been some argument that a floating floor will be more noisy when walked on compared to a nail down or glued down style of flooring. Personally I do not believe that to be always the case, but using a style that is 1/2 inch or thicker will be more sound deadening. There are also underlayment pads available that dramatically reduce sound transfer when walked on. Installing a floating floor is a very quick and easy installation for a “Do it Yourselfer.” The boards are simply glued or (depending on style purchased) clicked together, thus eliminating the need of using nails or staples to secure the flooring to the wood subfloor – that may puncture the radiant heat tubing. There are many different styles and colors of floating wood floors to choose from.

DO MANUFACTURERS WARRANTY THEIR “FLOATING FLOORS” OVER RADIANT HEAT? Most floating floor manufacturers provide a warranty for installations over radiant systems (with the possible exceptions of their maple and brazilian cherry species), but the installation of their flooring has to be done according to their specifications (instructions are in every carton of flooring). The surface temperature of the subfloor should not exceed 85 degrees. A floor that is too hot can become dried out and distorted.


(Non-Floating) Engineered Flooring can also be used. Again, because of the stable plywood backing an engineered floor makes for a more suitable floor with less chance of dimensional movement than a solid wood floor. Most engineered flooring can be direct glued, stapled or nailed down, but care has to be taken to avoid stapling or nailing the flooring down and puncturing any radiant heat tubing. I DO NOT RECOMMEND GLUING DOWN ANY FLOORING DIRECTLY TO THE EXPOSED RADIANT HEAT PIPING. Doing so may cause damage to the radiant heat tubes and be a big expense if the heating system has to be repaired. I ALSO DO NOT RECOMMEND DIRECT GLUING DOWN ANY WOOD FLOORING OVER A BRITTLE LIGHT WEIGHT CONCRETE. If direct gluing down an engineered wood floor is desired and the wood sub-floor has a radiant heat panel system (shown above) with exposed tubing, I would recommend installing a 3/8 inch underlayment plywood over the piping first. Always follow the manufacturers recommendations as to the installation of their flooring.

DO MANUFACTURERS WARRANTY (NON-FLOATING) ENGINEERED FLOORS OVER RADIANT HEAT? Some manufacturers do, (with the possible exceptions of their maple and brazilian cherry species) some do not. The ones that do state the installation of their flooring has to be done according to their specifications (contained in every carton of flooring) and the surface temperature should not exceed a particular temperature. The surface temperature of the subfloor should not exceed 85 degrees. A floor that is too hot can become dried out and distorted.

Hold on for Dear Life

December 23, 2012

From Janelle:

The door selection, modification and installation saga continues as we carry on opening and closing the door by pulling on the deadbolt, sans handle.  Everyone who crosses our threshold exclaims “The door is GORGEOUS!” so I know it will be worth it but honestly, are we done yet?  We purchased a handle a few months ago and there has been much discussion on who would perform the precision mounting, Tom the artist metalworker or Alberto, the contractor’s  “Right Hand Man”.  “We only get one chance” I said several times and the hole placement must be measured perfectly.  

I wanted to be present for the precision drilling and met Alberto before work.  The knob was held in position, the hole placement was marked, an actual hole was drilled and off I went to work.  Returning home that evening I freaked when I saw the installed door pull; the careful measurements had not been made while the door was closed but open and it was centered sure enough but set way too far right when the door is closed.  Ugh!  Another meeting ensued, a Bondo repair or a small cover plate to cover the hole was discussed.  A cover plate was manufactured and another meeting held.  We determined that the cover plate would detract from the awesome handle and Bondo would be next to impossible to match to the finish and would eventually shrivel and drop out.  The drilled hole position would remain.

Let’s hope no one (namely me!) will slam their fingers in the extremely heavy entry due to the close proximity of the handle to the door jam.  A neighbor kid slammed my finger in a gate resulting in my first trip to the hospital and one squished finger is enough!

From Lewis:

If anyone would slam the door on their finger it would be Janelle.  I’m just glad I was not involved in the placement of the handle.  I was there but Janelle was the one analyzing the perfect spot for the handle. I could not imagine how many times for the next twenty years that I would have heard, “Why did you put the handle there without asking me first?” “Why did you put the handle there without asking me first?”  “Why did you put the handle there without asking me first?” “Why did you put the handle there without asking me first?”……..

From Janelle:

That’s why I was there for the measurement; I have no one to blame but myself!


It could have been a peep hole if it was centered...

It could have been a peep hole if it was centered…




Things are Getting Dreary

December 16, 2012

From Janelle:

The weather turned dark and dreary a couple weeks ago and living in a bombed out shell of a house had started to become depressing.  Scaffolding has been firmly planted in the front entry way for months so it is no surprise that construction is in progress but we usually hear something along the lines of “OMG, you guys are REALLY remodeling!” when a visitor crosses the threshold.  Yes, and since July!

The Holidays restored my festive mood; I love Christmas season. Work is busy but the Holidays are sparkly and fun and we spend many nights with friends and family.  January is fast approaching and there won’t be much time for fun and parties then.

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were party nights and I ran home to change for a dinner commitment Monday evening only to discover a big, bloody, disgusting steak marinating on the kitchen (BATHROOM!) counter.  Lewis came up the stairs, his cute face puckered up in disappointment.  Apparently the plumbers had disconnected the gas line to the BBQ, again.  His steak would not be grilled after all.  I don’t eat meat but I can’t imagine that a toaster oven cooked steak is anything close to a BBQd one!

From Lewis:

Well it wasn’t a grilled steak, but I was able to masterfully broil a boneless rib eye in the toaster oven and even had leftovers for a steak sandwich the next day.  Had a good laugh about it with the plumber. He forgot to reconnect the BBQ after pressure testing the system.

What do you do if your oven/BBQ is broken?  Pizza?  Chinese?

Things are Heating Up

December 2, 2012

From Janelle:

Weather has been, to say the least, “unusual” this year.  Hurricane Sandy erupted into the “perfect storm” devastating the east coast.  Here on the west coast November began with 85 degree days and 50 degree nights dropping to a high of 50 within a couple days.  We decided to splurge on radiant heat downstairs but things have been progressing slowly due to major electrical corrections of the overzealous do-it-yourselfer previous owner.  Temperatures plummeted and the contractor was able to install the new upstairs forced air heater just in time for the weekend.

We hadn’t planned to change any heating during this project but our ducts were old and dilapidated and we discovered that our furnace had been recalled about twenty years ago.  The home inspector we used when we purchased the house obviously didn’t do a very good job inspecting; I wonder what else he missed. 

Now on to the outside patio heaters….  radiant heat

From Lewis:

I think we have made all the last minute changes and will now be able to move forward.  It is amazing how expensive it can be to keep Janelle warm and cozy.  Now if I can get Janelle to stop watching the home decorating shows for new Ideas and pick the faucets we will be good to go.

What is your thermometer setting?

Our ceiling is full of lights and wires and the radiant heat eliminates ugly heater vents.

Our ceiling is full of lights and wires and the radiant heat eliminates ugly heater vents.


camino times two

walking together on the way of saint james

What Were We Thinking?

One Couple's Foray into Remodeling Purgatory.


Fashion. Food. Lifestyle. Inspiration.


healthy tasty food that I love to make and eat and share

On the Luce travel blog

Travel adventures with a touch of affordable luxury


Residential Architecture and Interior Design Partnership. We find sanctuary in a place that mirrors our soul. The best house is the house that looks like how we feel inside.

Adventures in Remodeling

Misdirected remodeling

Miss Four Eyes

Seeing twice as much absolutely counts as a super power.

Kristen Lamb

Author, Blogger, Social Media Jedi

Attempts in Domesticity

trying to emulate Martha Stewart in a town full of hipsters...

Live to Write - Write to Live

We live to write and write to live ... professional writers talk about the craft and business of writing

Comfortable, classic + timeless spaces


Life's journey to discover tales of history, culture, and faith from New York to India and places along the way.

Model Husband

This is not a relationship blog

No White Food

Add Life::Eat Color

%d bloggers like this: