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View Full Version : Engineered or Solid Wood Flooring in front of hot fireplace



Mark Patoka
01-07-2016, 11:29 AM
We are beginning to remodel our kitchen this month and in the process will replace the entire first floor, ~1200 sf with OSB subfloor and 16 OC joists, with either an engineered wood or solid wood floor. From our research there are pros/cons to each and it may come down to personal preference but I am concerned with the area directly in front of the wood-burning insert fireplace. We use it to heat the main level during the winter and it blows out some serious heat when fully stoked. The hottest area is about 3'-4' in front of the fireplace where it can get so hot that if I leave the metal poker stick lying there, it's almost too hot to handle. I did put a thermometer on the floor last night and it was measuring in the upper 80s directly under the hot air draft while the rest of the house was around 72.

We are planning on putting in hickory. We will probably put a throw rug over that spot during the winter to help dissipate the direct heat a little bit but not sure if it really makes a difference. The various dealers pretty much make it sound like there will be no problems with any of the options so I'm still skeptical. We currently have carpeting here but our concerns are:

- Solid wood - 5" planks are more susceptible to cupping, 3-1/4" would be better but it appears only 5" is available in the style we want. Besides the seasonal expansion/contraction gaps, will the higher heat in this immediate area cause issues with the solid wood?

- Engineered wood - Will the higher heat concentration here cause delamination that wouldn't normally be experienced throughout the rest of the house? That is my biggest concern.

I appreciate any comments or experiences you may have had.

Mike Wilkins
01-07-2016, 11:55 AM
I can't speak to the solid wood, as I have engineered flooring in front of my gas log fireplace. No problems at all in the 10 plus years the fireplace has been there. And I see this floor everyday, so if there were problems, I would notice.
I had to use the engineered material, as my home has particleboard underlayment all over, except for the wet rooms. I wanted to use a flooring stapler to install this material, but that man-made material does not hold nails/staples very well, so I had to use the glue-down method.

Mark Patoka
01-07-2016, 12:54 PM
Thanks Mike. We previously had a gas fireplace here but it never put out the level of heat that the wood burner is. We are going to select a USA made product as we've read too much about potential problems with Asian-imports. I'm a little concerned about the OSB also, even though it is considered acceptable but I'm sure that's only because it's what's been used for 20+ years so they don't have a choice but to say it's OK.

Jamie Buxton
01-07-2016, 1:05 PM
You're supposed to have a hearth -- a non-flammable surface -- in front of a fireplace. Stone, concrete, or the like. I don't think building code requires it to extend the 3'-4' you cite, but why not extend it out that far?

Mark Patoka
01-07-2016, 1:28 PM
Jamie, We are going to extend a stone hearth out to about 2'-3' as the current brick step/hearth is barely 16" in a half-circle-ish shape. We'll have to play with some options for appearance and where the hot-spot actually is to see what works best but it is a good suggestion. Either way, I know there is still going to be a higher concentration of heat on the end portion of the wood flooring.

Chris Padilla
01-07-2016, 1:33 PM
Generally speaking, I think engineered is more forgiving than solid hardwood for flooring. The engineered is just a lot easier and it basically doesn't move if it gets too hot, too wet, too cold, too whatever. The solid can always have those issues.

FWIW, my folks have had solid oak flooring in front of their wood burning (converted to a gas insert about 10 years ago) fireplace since the early 80s. No problems.

I think you'll be fine either way and I wouldn't worry about any excessive heat causing problems.

Jamie Buxton
01-07-2016, 3:12 PM
Jamie, We are going to extend a stone hearth out to about 2'-3' as the current brick step/hearth is barely 16" in a half-circle-ish shape. We'll have to play with some options for appearance and where the hot-spot actually is to see what works best but it is a good suggestion. Either way, I know there is still going to be a higher concentration of heat on the end portion of the wood flooring.

It sounds like the existing hearth is not flush with the rest of the floor. If it is small, maybe nobody trips on it. But if it goes out three or four feet, into a working kitchen, you might consider recessing it so that it is flush, or close to it. Bricks are thick enough that recessing them is a pain. But you could use something thinner, like a sheet of slate, that would be easier to recess. Tile would be another possibility.

Steve Peterson
01-07-2016, 3:20 PM
We had a pellet stove that required a 12" or 18" hearth in front and 12" to the sides. Wood stoves can burn much hotter, so they might have more stringent requirements.

Our hearth stuck up about 1" above the floor. This provided just enough of a barrier to prevent you from walking too close to the stove. We would usually stand in front of the stove with our toes just on top of the hearth. Wood can tolerate higher temperatures than people can, so anything outside the hearth should be acceptable.

Steve

Sean Troy
01-07-2016, 7:56 PM
I recently installed 500 ft. of Shaw Hickory engineered flooring in our living room with a fireplace we use as suplemental heat and was told there would be no problem. The Shaw engineered is a new type that seems to be excellent handling contraction and expanding. I've had humidity from 30 % to 70% in that room with no noticeable difference. I now keep it just below 50% with our built in humidifier in our heating system. It's not click and lock flooring but you either glue down or float it. We went the float route over sub floor with 1/4 cork as an under layment over the vapor barrier. Love it! You do use joint glue ( Tite Bond II) in the tung and groove. Floor is nice to walk on with the cork and stays warmer in the winter.

Rich Riddle
01-07-2016, 8:11 PM
I have installed too many feet of both products. When discussing the two, most folks are doing so because they are discussing laying down pre-finished floors. The truth is that an engineered floor will offer you as many sanding and refinishing chances (usually 2) as a hardwood floor IF the engineered floor is of good quality. There are countless options in both pre-finished floors as there are in unfinished floors. Personally, I like the "real" hardwood floors that are 3/4" thick and sanded and finished after installation. There are no grooves for dirt/grime. I just can't keep the grooves clean in the other floors. If you decide on engineered flooring, you might consider bamboo. The higher quality bamboo appears just like wood but offers many advantages such as strength, flexibility, resilience, etc.

John K Jordan
01-07-2016, 8:31 PM
I don't use an insert but a wood stove. The builder evidently cut the floor joists down enough to support a layer of bricks so they are even with the floor. Antique heart pine floors here, the brick has a frame around it. This brick pad is 40"x60" which is bigger than you need but the wider the better. Just one kid letting one ember pop can burn a mark on most any floor. The brick also holds heat nicely to add to the comfort near the floor in the winter and feels cool in the summer.

JKJ

Sean Troy
01-07-2016, 11:14 PM
I have installed too many feet of both products. When discussing the two, most folks are doing so because they are discussing laying down pre-finished floors. The truth is that an engineered floor will offer you as many sanding and refinishing chances (usually 2) as a hardwood floor IF the engineered floor is of good quality. There are countless options in both pre-finished floors as there are in unfinished floors. Personally, I like the "real" hardwood floors that are 3/4" thick and sanded and finished after installation. There are no grooves for dirt/grime. I just can't keep the grooves clean in the other floors. If you decide on engineered flooring, you might consider bamboo. The higher quality bamboo appears just like wood but offers many advantages such as strength, flexibility, resilience, etc.

They do make some nice looking Bamboo flooring.

John Goodin
01-08-2016, 1:29 AM
There has been major improvements in the look of bamboo and have seen some that could pass for a dark stained hardwood. I think many of the carbonized bamboos have a pretty high Janka rating.

Mark Patoka
01-08-2016, 3:30 PM
Attached is a pic showing the area. The existing hearth is brick standing on end which we will leave in place. You can see the tape lines where we estimate an additional stone slab or tile will be laid to increase the hearth area, basically flush to the flooring (or close as possible). We are planning on bring it a little more forward that the photo. It will help with the occasional embers and bringing in wood, etc. The hotspot is right about where the wood flooring and the slab hearth would meet.

We did consider bamboo but have pretty much decided it will be hickory, just need to determine solid or engineered. We are not as concerned about the # of times to be refinished as we will probably be in this house 5-10 more years.

Sean Troy
01-08-2016, 3:54 PM
Attached is a pic showing the area. The existing hearth is brick standing on end which we will leave in place. You can see the tape lines where we estimate an additional stone slab or tile will be laid to increase the hearth area, basically flush to the flooring (or close as possible). We are planning on bring it a little more forward that the photo. It will help with the occasional embers and bringing in wood, etc. The hotspot is right about where the wood flooring and the slab hearth would meet.

We did consider bamboo but have pretty much decided it will be hickory, just need to determine solid or engineered. We are not as concerned about the # of times to be refinished as we will probably be in this house 5-10 more years.
Just scribe around the brick leaving a little expansion room.