1950's Radiant Heating

Old 03-23-10, 10:10 PM
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1950's Radiant Heating

I am considering purchasing a small house built on a concrete slab in 1950s with radiant heating, I assume similar to Levittown. Not sure whether the piping was copper or not, but assume so. I have heard that the pipes eventually corrode because of the chemical reaction to the concrete.

What is the life expectancy?

What regular care of the system is required - a new boiler was installed three years ago-and I assume bled (and burped?) then.

Is there a way to examine the system for wear/corrosion?

Any idea of the cost if it goes? Will the entire floor need to be jackhammered?

What questions should I be asking?

If anyone out there owns a house like this, would you ever buy it again? I am headed to the Town Building Department to see if they have any info on the builder or house or other houses like it.

Thanks for any and all info. I live in western New York State, if that makes a difference.
Old 03-23-10, 10:38 PM
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My personal gut feel... If I really really really liked the house, and the price was really really really good, I _might_ think about it... but I would expect, and plan, on abandoning the infloor and installing baseboards... because it's not a question of IF it will leak, it's a question of WHEN...

Forget about fixing it... might as well build a new home.

But that's just my opinion, take it for what it's worth.

(By the way, I did grow up in one of them... built in 1952 or so. When the family sold the home in the late 90's, it hadn't leaked yet... but several of the neighbors had, and they did baseboard retrofits... and I heard from the new owners of Mom's house that it started leaking about 2 years later, but they knew what they were getting into, so it was ok...)

I guess 40-50 years is about average lifespan? [guessing]
Old 03-24-10, 06:28 AM
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As trooper said not if but when. There are still many homes in Levittown and other areas with similar construction that are still operating their radiant heat. Just know that some day you will need to do something with it. Trooper mentioned Baseboard or maybe hydro-air.
Old 03-24-10, 08:30 AM
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My brother had a house similar to the one you post about. Some time along the way baseboard was installed. The pipes were run up into the attic to reach the far ends of the house. Then down through the walls. This way it didn't have pipes all over the place. Although IIRC, one room had a corner boxed in (9" x 9" maybe), that we figure had a pipe or two in it.

The main reason the Levittown homes ended up leaking was because of the slab construction. They placed 2x4's across the gravel to hold up the radiant pipes. Then poured the concrete.

This created locations in the slab that was thinner and prone to cracking. Once cracked the pipe was next.

In place of baseboard, if there is the head room, can put down radiant on top of the slab. Either PEX in a base material, or warm board. Could also use panel radiant on the walls. Lots of possibilities.

Old 03-24-10, 07:50 PM
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Radiant Heating

Thank you so much for the replies. I have requested by FOIL the Building Permits and Permits for any repairs in 6 of the houses on the street built with the same construction. All of the houses were constructed between 1950 and 1955 and all are still functioning so far as far as I know. I will be looking at the type of construction, I hope, to see how it compared with Levittown. I understand that some of the problems there were caused by the chemical reaction between the concrete and the copper pipes. I am told that the pipes used in the house I am looking at was NOT copper, but galvanized.

I absolutely love this website! It is like having a zillion friends willing to share their individual experiences, at my fingertips.

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