Marrying Radiant Heat With Wood
It's better under masonry, but it works with wood floors, too
I've lived in homes in Korea with radiant floor heating, which in every case consisted of water pipes running through a concrete slab. (A spongy linoleum made it more comfortable to lie or sit on the floor.) I've seen lots of This Old House projects with radiant heat beneath wood floors, but it doesn't seem to me that wood would transfer heat very efficiently. How does it compare with concrete?
— Ron, Geilenkirchen, Germany
Richard Trethewey replies: As you've discovered, in countries where masonry construction is common, people love radiant heating. There's no question it's a better match with concrete and masonry — which store heat beautifully and give it up slowly. Wood isn't as dense and so doesn't hold or transfer heat as well. Nevertheless, most houses in the U.S. and Canada are made of wood, so the radiant-heat industry has developed products that work within wood-frame houses and under wood floors. Although a heated concrete slab is ideal, these products work nicely.