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Wood vs Metal for baseboard heater covers

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Matan
Matan Member Posts: 1
I am replacing all my hydronic baseboard heater covers. The sheet metal ones I can find online aren't aesthetically pleasing. I'm considering making my own.

Is there a reason to use sheet metal rather than wood?

From what I understand, the pipe and fin system is a convection based system, not a radiant one. So, the heat conductivity of the material that forms the chimney is only a minor factor in the total heat output of the system. In which case, wooden covers should be basically as efficient as metal covers.

I did find this post from a few years ago, which is making me think about how high I can set these to create maximum draft. Because I would like to put couches in front of a section of these heaters, I'm thinking about making them draft up to the top of couch height, then the top of the cover can act as a shelf behind the couch (and I can stop leaving my plates where the cat will knock them over).

Comments

  • pecmsg
    pecmsg Member Posts: 4,916
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    In my house the in the wall radiators are fine until I get near or below the design temperature. Then I have to pull the couch 6" away from the heaters. For the few days a year it works fine.

    As far as I'm concerned, the metal covers are more for protecting the aluminum fins and copper then air flow. replacing with wood will work but will they be sturdy enough to take the abuse?
  • Jamie Hall
    Jamie Hall Member Posts: 23,567
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    Wood covers should work just fine. Make sure the openings for air circulation have adequate area (but if they are slats, the spacing is close enough to keep the cat out...). I would suggest using either real wood or at worst birch or other good grade plywood, though. Don't cheap out.
    Br. Jamie, osb
    Building superintendent/caretaker, 7200 sq. ft. historic house museum with dependencies in New England
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,850
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    I'd do one room first and make sure that heats adequately with your design before doing the whole house. Remember air needs to get in at the bottom and out at the top.
  • mattmia2
    mattmia2 Member Posts: 9,850
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    You cold make it like wainscoting and bring the whole wall above furniture height on walls that will have furniture against them. Might want to put some foam insulation in the back in the area above the element.
  • Karl Reynolds
    Karl Reynolds Member Posts: 63
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    Look into Slantfin Revita-Line replacement covers. Although Slantfin closed their doors, the baseboard is still available through Mestek. They are heavy gauge aluminum. I rate my home improvement projects in terms of how many beers it takes to complete a project. To replace a 5' cover in my kitchen with the Revita-Line was half a beer project.
  • gyrfalcon
    gyrfalcon Member Posts: 167
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    Hi! Here are some pics of what our wood covers look like.  Make sure the design and install allows for easy cleaning and as others mentioned, air convection from cooler air at the bottom, through fins and to top warm outlet . 
    Slant Fin Galaxy GG100(1986) , 2 zone hot water baseboard, T87 Honeywell thermostats. 
    HomerJSmith
  • hot_rod
    hot_rod Member Posts: 22,394
    edited December 2022
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    I've seen these covers on display at different trade shows over the years.

    I think for fin tube that air gap at the bottom, under the fin is crucial, and the same amount of opening above to allow convection currents thru.

    https://www.smkenterprises.org/home/wood-radiator-covers/
    Bob "hot rod" Rohr
    trainer for Caleffi NA
    Living the hydronic dream
    bburd
  • JUGHNE
    JUGHNE Member Posts: 11,095
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    Our 1950's school has steam fin tube elements mounted directly on the masonry wall.
    4 1/4" square fins mounted about 16" above the floor.
    Book shelves are built directly over the front of them about 32" high with a 3-4" toe kick for air inlet.
    The top grill is on a slant to avoid piling stuff on.
    If the bottom air is blocked, the crayons will melt.
  • 4Johnpipe
    4Johnpipe Member Posts: 483
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    Wood works great, provided you stick with dimensions of typical baseboard heating emitters. It is important to have the correct size enclosure area with correct size air inlets and outlets…The element is designed to heat the air in the space space inside the enclosure, convection begins and airflow is necessary for proper heat distribution.
    LANGAN'S PLUMBING & HEATING LLC
    Considerate People, Considerate Service, Consider It Done!
    732-751-1560
    email: langansph@yahoo.com
    www.langansplumbing.com
  • JAdams
    JAdams Member Posts: 38
    edited January 2023
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    Wood covers will be fine if you make the front cover the same height or shorter as the originally designed cover. You also want to keep the wood cover the same distance from the fin tube. Although the fin tube baseboard cabinet is designed to rest on the floor, I found that keeping it 1 inch off the floor makes the convection airflow much better, allowing the heat emitted from the fin tube to be extracted much better and creating a more even heat throughout the room. The convection airflow is crucial to the fin tube baseboard, so make sure you have the correct size of openings, bottom, and top, for air to flow.

    The Adirondack Hotel has wood covers on the fin tube baseboard in their Cafe'. When the wood covers were originally built, the front cover was too long and too close to the floor, making for poor air flow and resulting in a cold room. I had them take them off and rip the wood covers down, then replace them so that more air was able to flow underneath. The result made all the difference in the world in heating that room.
  • JAdams
    JAdams Member Posts: 38
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    hot_rod said:

    I've seen these covers on display at different trade shows over the years.

    I think for fin tube that air gap at the bottom, under the fin is crucial, and the same amount of opening above to allow convection currents thru.

    https://www.smkenterprises.org/home/wood-radiator-covers/

    I agree the air gap is crucial, both the bottom and top. If the air gap isn't enough, the heat will be poorly extracted, resulting in a cold room. I found that mounting the baseboard cabinet 1 inch above the floor works far better than mounting it directly on the floor. More air is able to convect underneath and extract the heat better from the fin tube. I've tried different heights, 1/2", 3/4", 1", and 1-1/4" off the floor. 1-1/4" is too much and looks like crap. 1" off the floor worked the best, and it doesn't look too bad and is easier to clean underneath.
  • Lance
    Lance Member Posts: 272
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    There is nothing wrong with wood. The emitter is designed more for convection than radiant, so maintain the manufactures air flow design. Do some scroll work, a little gold leaf and emboss your name on it!