Tag Archives: Pex-Al-Pex tubing

Isolating Heated and Unheated Barndominium Concrete Floors

Isolating Heated and Unheated Barndominium Concrete Floors

Loyal reader MIKE in COUPEVILLE writes:

“I see you recently posted a detailed drawing on insulating the perimeter of a pole barn, very helpful. 

https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2020/03/meeting-barndominium-slab-requirements/

I’m currently looking at purchasing a large pole barn, it will be 84’x42′ with posts 12′ apart.  I plan to make 2 of the 12’x42′ bays on one end a heated living quarters in the near future.  I’m curious how you would propose to insulate/isolate the 4” slab of the heated living quarter’s side from the unheated shop/garage side.  I’m thinking more 2” high density foam laid vertically basically making them two separate slabs one 24’x42′ for the heated living quarters and the other 60’x42′ for the unheated shop.  The issue I see with this method is it is effectively separating the slabs and I’m assuming the engineering of the building, I’m especially concerned about this because the insulation/break would be the whole 42′ width of the slab and right where the 12′ on center posts are.  Will this method compromise the structural integrity of the building?  Will your engineers call it out in the plans if asked to?  Or is there some other way to insulate the slab between heated and unheated portions of a build? 

Thanks for your time and I’ve enjoyed reading many of your blog posts.”

Mike the Pole Barn Guru responds:

Thank you for being a loyal reader and for your kind words, they are appreciated.

One question I have often asked clients is, “Do you mind if I treat your building as if it was going to be my own”? 

 

If your building was going to be mine, I would place vertical wall insulation around the building’s entire perimeter. This shop may be unheated today, but it would not take me very many winters of working in it to decide I want heat in it. I would also put rigid insulation under my entire floor surface as well as pex-al-pex tubes for radiant heat – divided into zones so shop and living quarters could be heated independent of each other.


As to your idea of a thermal break across your building’s width, there would be no structural detriment from it as it would (for practical purposes) function as a very large expansion joint. As your building’s weight does not rest upon its slab on grade, your slab’s structural contribution to your overall structure is in reducing wind shear forces having to be transferred from roof surface, through endwalls to ground, creating a constrained condition. https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2018/11/importance-of-constrained-posts/

If requested we can have our engineers include this detail within your sealed plans.

Barndominium Flooring Over Radiant Heat

Our shouse (shop/house) has radiant in floor heat on its lower level and we love it! (read about it here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2012/08/radiant-floor-heating/) I encourage anyone who is building a barndominium, shouse, post frame home or even a garage or shop to at least have Pex-Al-Pex tubing placed in any slab-on-grade concrete floors (research Pex-Al-Pex here: https://www.hansenpolebuildings.com/2019/05/pex-al-pex-tubing-for-post-frame-concrete-slabs/).

Radiant heat has many benefits. Walking on heated floors in winter is very cozy. And radiant heat can be very economical.

In Floor Heat System Installation

If you are considering the installation of a radiant heat system, some flooring options work better than others. Here are the top four flooring options for use over radiant heat.

Tile Flooring

Porcelain and ceramic tile are great conductors of heat, so your barndominium gets radiant heating system’s full benefit. In addition, tile flooring will not expand as it warms or contract as it cools. Such expansion and contraction can cause cracking. This is not a problem with tile.

Laminate Flooring

Laminate flooring replicates solid hardwood or tile flooring’s  look without requiring a huge investment. It also does a great job over radiant heat. Laminate material is built up with layers of wood running in opposite directions. This creates a more stable material than solid hardwood. Laminate won’t expand and contract, in other words like solid hardwood flooring would. Much of our shouse’s second and third floors have oak flooring – we can vouch for it growing in humid weather and shrinking when humidity is low.

Engineered Wood Flooring

Like laminate, it is produced in layers, so it has a more stable base and will not react to heating and cooling processes. Top, or wear layer, is solid wood and comes in all the same varieties found with other solid hardwood flooring. Engineered flooring even comes in bamboo. It looks great, wears great and warms great.

Natural Stone Flooring

Granite, travertine, sandstone and other natural stone flooring types conduct heat wonderfully. You might think of stone as cold, but not when it has warm water flowing beneath it. If you never thought you would like to walk on stone flooring bare-footed in January, you never considered radiant heat!

What Flooring Should Not Be Used Over Radiant Heat?

Carpet has insulation value, so it will prevent some heat from transferring through into your barndominium. You can use a few area rugs, but avoid large rugs or wall-to-wall carpeting. Vinyl flooring is not a good choice either. Heat may discolor vinyl or cause off-gassing of chemicals. Finally, solid hardwood flooring will swell and shrink when heated or cooled, especially in barndominiums using a humidifier during winter. You don’t want to invest in pricey hardwood flooring only to have it cup, buckle, crown and crack.

Planning to install comfortable, efficient radiant heat, your best choices for use with radiant heating are tile flooring, laminate flooring, engineered flooring and natural stone flooring.