What Can Go Wrong with a Radiant Flooring Installation?
As with all construction projects, issues occur during the different installation processes. Most radiant flooring installation problems can be avoided by making sure that each trade understands their role during the install, and by working with quality hydronic heating suppliers and installers who have a proven track record and strong warranty to back up their services and materials. After the systems completion, you will also want to notify anyone who works on your home about the hydronic system that runs throughout the house, so they can ensure that their work will not affect the proper functioning of your radiant flooring.
Many of the biggest problems that arise when installing a radiant floor occur due to poor coordination with the other trades working on the home. There are many different steps that go into building a home and each of the house’s systems need to work together to provide a safe, comfortable environment for your family. Foundation crews, insulation installers, and flooring installers all have some connection to how well your radiant heat works. Here are a few of the items that can go wrong:
- No Foundation Insulation – Wet installations of radiant flooring, which means the radiant tubing is set into wet concrete, uses the thermal mass of the concrete itself to radiate heat into the home. For this to work properly, insulation must be placed below the slab to prevent heat from going down into the soil, instead of up into the home.
- No Heat Reflectors and Improper Insulation – As new radiant flooring technology has been developed, the ability to add hydronic heating above floor joists has improved. This allows for radiant installation on second floors, as well as above basements and crawlspaces. This can create a situation where a room has radiant heat in the floors and ceiling. Proper insulation is required to keep the heated areas separated, while heat reflectors are needed to direct the warmth to the necessary rooms.
- Improper Flooring – As mentioned in our introduction, all types of flooring can be used above radiant floors, but certain types can lessen the hydronic heating effect in the room. This can be a particular problem with carpet and carpet padding. For this reason you need to let the flooring company know about the radiant flooring, and in turn, get recommendations from the hydronic equipment manufacturers and installers.
Radiant floor installers can also make mistakes during the installation. This is why it is important to work with installers who are insured, certified in the installation of hydronic radiant heat floors, and back their work with a solid warranty. A few of the problems that can occur due to poor installation are:
- Leaks – Water leaks are the biggest concern for any hydronic radiant system. Poorly done plumbing connections are the usual culprit, but can’t be found until the system is pressurized and tested. In addition, the other trades, such as flooring installers or drywallers, might accidentally put a nail through a radiant tube. This highlights again the need to keep all of the trades informed about the radiant flooring and plumbing work.
- Freezing – When the home is under construction, your radiant floor might be installed but not put into use yet. If water has been left in the lines after initial testing, then freezing can occur in the tubes. For this reason and the possibility of water leaks mentioned above, the radiant flooring installer should test the system at several different stages before the home is complete. Antifreeze can be added to the system if needed to help prevent a freezing possibility.
- Air in the System – One of the greatest benefits of radiant heat is that it works silently in the background. If air is in the tubes, it can become noisy. Aside from that annoyance, oxygen can work to corrode plumbing connections and damage pumps, seals, and other components. It will also produce scale in the water, which builds up and creates blockages in the tubes over time.
To avoid these problems with radiant floor installation, it is important to communicate well with the trades, work with certified installers, and make sure that the system is tested and balanced several times before the home is complete. Once your system is correctly installed, it will require very little maintenance from you to keep running at optimal performance.
After you have moved into your home and the family has had the chance to enjoy their warm radiant flooring, it is important to notify anyone who works on the house in the future that you have a hydronic system within the floors and walls of your home.
The final problem that can occur after hydronic radiant floors have been installed is damage done to the system by an unknowing tradesman. Whether someone is installing new bamboo floors in the dining room or installing lighting in the kitchen, all people who complete work on your home in the future must have an understanding of what internal systems are functioning within the home, so they can prevent their work from damaging the radiant tubing, insulation, or heat reflectors that are necessary for the proper functioning of your radiant heat flooring.