Oak Wood Floors In Kitchen With Radiant Heat


Hi Doctor,

We have started construction on our expansion/renovation. As you see below, you advised us to go with oak if we go with a wood floor in our kitchen. We also are considering hickory, if we can get the darker heartwood. What do you think of Hickory?

We also are going with radiant heat. Does that change your recommended preparation/installation? What about plank width? We like the medium width, say 4″ to 5″. Is that OK?

Any recommendations as to where to get the flooring?




Dear Jon

Stay away from the wider sizes of hardwood floor. These will just expand in the summer then shrink back in the winter heating season, creating ever widening gaps. Stick to the narrow 2 1/4 and 3 1/4″ sizes, and make sure you have a good well renailed subfloor. Never use prefinished floor in any case. All the open seams of prefinished floor are just an invitation to water and dirt. There must be plenty of good floor sanders in NYC and one the Hickory or Oak floor is installed, have the floor professionally sanded, and then consider doing the 4 coats of poly yourself. There is a good reason for this.

You may find it difficult and expensive to hire someone to apply the 4 coats of poly you need for a water repellant and durable floor finish. And seeing how you will be recoating the floor every 2-4 years to keep it water repellant, you really should do all of the finishing of the floor yourself. But never the sanding, with those awful rental machines. The finishing of the floor is the fun and rewarding part of the job anyway.

If you want an article that will walk you through the use of Oil Modified Polyurethane, we do have an article on it found in the search box at the top of the web page. It’s very detailed, and will teach you how best to apply the poly without bubbles and pits that most people experience when using this material. Well worth it.

Oh, and because you are going to heat the floor, consider even a thicker subfloor (1″ plywood) and consider using only a clear quarter sawn grade of white oak. And also consider applying one or two coats on the underside of the wood a week before it is installed. If you can get the same grade in Hickory this would be fine also.