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lisab 01-18-2009 08:18 AM

radiant ceiling heat c.1954
I have just bought a ranch home built in 1954 with radiant ceiling heat. The original owner/builder (deceased) also owned the local lumbar yard. It seems rock solid, with cedar wood and beautiful masonry. Lots of attention to detail that tells me things were done right the first time. I have questions about the radiant ceiling heat of that era. I have been told it is wires/coils sandwiched between 2 layers of sheetrock. The ceilings have a textured finish==sort of like flock or popcorn. Do I have to use a special product to repair cracks in this because of the heat coils, or can I use regular plaster repair stuff? Are these systems 110 or 220? How efficient are they and can I do energy efficient upgrades without replacing the whole thing? Any and all info will be appreciated. Thanks!!

glennjanie 01-18-2009 12:55 PM

Welcome LisaB:
Yes you may use regular sheetrock compound or even caulking for crack repairs. You don't have much of a chance to upgrade that type of system (normally 220v). They were touted as efficient at the time because they had a seperate thermostat for each room which allowed turning off (or way down low) any room that is not occupied at the time.
The downside that was talked about so much then was that it was cold under tables and beds where the radiant heat didn't 'shine' on the surface.

jdougn 01-24-2009 11:50 AM

Hey Lisab,

I have actually been remodeling an older home with radiant ceiling heat. This system was 220v. The heating wires were stapled to one layer of drywall then a special "mud" was used to level the ceiling surface.

First, go to great lengths to make sure that you don't damage any wires!!!
If any wire gets broken it is extremely difficult to repair and even more expensive to replace.

Any ceiling cracks can be difficult to permanetly fix. Glenn is right on product use, it's just that the ceiling heat causes a lot of expansion & contraction in the ceiling and the cracks tend to reappear when the season changes. We carefully cleaned the area, applied self-adhesive mesh drywall tape then mudded appropriately.

We found the popcorn texture on the ceiling to be a real problem. In this house, it was very diffcult to blend patched areas, was very flaky, and fell off easily. Any direct contact caused globs of texture to fall off the ceiling. We resorted to re-texturing the ceilings. First we power sanded off all the exisiting texture then used a product from Zinzer called Gardz to seal the remaining loose texture. After that, we used a good quality primer and then textured normally.

This house had very high energy bills. We found inadequate attic insulation to be the cause. Much of the heat was radiating directly into the attic rather than into the house. The duct work for their a/c was also in the attic and was poorly insulated and very leaky. The best solution was actually to insulate the rafters with foam.

"Energy Upgrades" to this type of system are probably limited to programmable thermostats. Your electrician will be able to determine the correct thermostat. If a zone fails the cheapest solution is to install baseboard heat. You can look in your breaker box to determine the voltage of the system.

hth, Doug

lwmjdm 03-03-2009 11:42 PM

We had a lot of roof damage due to the storms last month--my question is: Due to rain leaking into the inside ceiling, our radiant heat has shorted out--would it be better/easier/cheaper to scrap the heat and install a complete different system or try to repair the radiant ceiling heat? We have a 8-9 year old home and have been satisfied with the current heat. Any suggestions? Also we are having trouble finding someone that will even give an estimate on the repair/replacement cost.

jdougn 03-04-2009 12:50 PM

Welcome lwmjdm,

I live in the Louisville KY metro area and could find no one that would work on radiant ceiling heat.

Is your ceiling still wet or did the ceiling collapse? A radiant heating system should continue working unless a wire gets broken. Double check the circuit breaker or perhaps something else happened. Is there any way to find out who originally built your house? They may know the electrician that installed the system.
hth, Doug

KMacDonald 08-01-2012 05:23 AM

I have water damage to a radiant ceiling haet in my basement and am concerned with mold. How should i clean or replace the ceiling dry wall ?

nealtw 08-01-2012 10:56 PM

That's a tuff one. Normally I would suggest cut holes to allow it to dry out, your system is likely pre 1970, so you have a posibility of lead paint, asbostos and unknown location of wires. The other system has the wire right in the drywall.
How much water got into the ceiling? Do you know where the wires are? How old is the house or when was the basement finished?

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