Brazilian Cherry over radiant heat (or: living life on the razor's edge)
January 8, 2009 9:37 AM   Subscribe

My wife and I would like to install a floating Brazilian Cherry wood floor over radiant heat. Almost all manufacturers do not warrant this (and Brazilian Cherry is often called out as the worst possible wood to use over radiant heat). However, SOME manufacturers do warrant it. For example, I just finished speaking with Mannington, which warrants this flooring over radiant heat (as long as the floor doesn't exceed 90 degrees). The rep couldn't tell my why their floor is different than anyone else's, so I'm skeptical that this is a good idea. Can this be done successfully? I am suspicious of the manufacturers that claim to warrant it. I'm especially interested in hearing from someone who's had a similar floor installed for several years.
posted by jewzilla to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
Are you sure that you're comparing the same products?

The flooring you linked to is an "engineered hardwood", which is much different from a solid hardwood.

Engineered hardwood is essentially plywood with a really nice layer of wood on top.

Engineered hardwood is much more stable than regular hardwood due to the way it is manufactured.
posted by davey_darling at 9:45 AM on January 8, 2009

Davey beat me to it. Flooring that is just sliced up pieces of tree, AKA "solid wood," is very different from 'engineered' products.
posted by jon1270 at 9:48 AM on January 8, 2009

Response by poster: We have only looked at engineered floors. Everything I've read says to stay away from solid wood in my situation. Lots of manufacturers do not warrant engineered Brazilian cherry over radiant heat.
posted by jewzilla at 10:22 AM on January 8, 2009

Best answer: First of all, Brazilian Cherry not as stable as North American cherry. It is more susceptible to heat and humidity variation.

What kind of in floor heating do you have? Do you have a water maker or heat exchanger? What this does is tempers the water coming out of the boiler. It is not necessary by code (at least where I am) so is often not installed. If you don't have one of these, then the water coming out of the boiler can be around 180 degrees and thus damaging to the floor.

My father's business recently ordered engineered Maple and were assured that it would be fine installed over infloor heating and that it was within their product specifications. When he received the product, there was a sheet included with a large "Do not install over in floor heating!" warning. He called the supplier who said they didn't know anything about the warning. He called the manufacturer who said they were changing the specifications because of all the problems they were seeing from people who were installing over infloor heating.

I am PMing you additional details.
posted by ODiV at 10:42 AM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

It's perfectly plausible that there could be differences in how these products are built. The Brazilian cherry could be bonded to different substrates, be assembled with different glues and prefinished with different finishes. Or the companies could simply have different business models, bulking up the retail price with some insurance money. How long do these warantees last, anyhow? Do they cover labor costs if replacement is needed, or only materials?

I would read the fine print to learn how they expect the floor temperature to be measured. If they mean that the heating tubes in contact with the flooring can't exceed 90 degrees, then that could be pretty restrictive.
posted by jon1270 at 10:46 AM on January 8, 2009

You probably already know this, but just in case.. Cherry changes colour over time with exposure to light and air. It might also change colour with exposure to heat, I don't know.
posted by Nelson at 10:52 AM on January 8, 2009

Nelson, FYI Brazillian cherry is actually jatoba, isn't related to American cherry and doesn't behave the same way. It's only called 'cherry' to convey a color and to make it easier to market to Americans.
posted by jon1270 at 11:06 AM on January 8, 2009

I think you could have a problem if the flooring is near the boiler because the floor in those locations will be much warmer than in the middle of a distant room. When I visit my parents, the spare bedrooms are all near the boiler room and the floors are at least 10-12 degrees warmer in them meaning my wife and I roast alive while everyone else is quite comfortable.
posted by mrmojoflying at 3:05 PM on January 8, 2009

A friend of mine did this...I recommend really highly against it. The color changed, the wood warped, it was a complete nightmare for her and a really, really expensive one, as she ended up having to replace the entire floor after two years. The warranty would only cover "replacement", there was no refund option.
posted by dejah420 at 7:34 PM on January 8, 2009

Cynically, the manufacturer might say they will guarantee the wood. Sure, it will warp, but if you send it back to them they will gladly send you another piece. You will eventually get sick of this and give up.

I doubt the wood would have much of a problem with a good radiant heat solution- 180 degrees?? THe floor is not going to be 180 degrees, or you should get your money back from the heat installer. How do you walk on it if it's so hot it's ruining wood in a matter of years?

I would also guess that a GOOD engineered floor will be made from better materials, using a better process, and have specific installation instructions, all with an eye toward making it work well with radiant heat. I'd imagine cheap wood with glues that come undone easily along with a bad heating install would cause trouble.

(By the way, they install wood, engineered and solid, over radiant on This Old House all the time. So wood isn't the problem. Materials and installation surely are. I mean, the subfloor is made of wood, how come it doesn't go all wonky under the carpet or tile?)
posted by gjc at 8:14 PM on January 8, 2009

Sorry, I didn't mean that the water would be 180 degrees by the time it got to the floor. Just that the water coming out of a 180 degree boiler, if it's not tempered in some way, can still be too hot for the floor depending on one's set up.
posted by ODiV at 8:28 AM on January 9, 2009

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