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Designing Radiant Floors

GMcD Member Posts: 477
What you've described, Wayne, is what I do every day. Let me tell you, I have the same concerns every moment. I design a project, and then it gets tendered and the lowest priced bunch of contractors get together to either butcher the job, or on the very rare occasions, (like 1%) we get good "site kharma" and we get a great result. Most of the time it's somewhere in between, and it requires a lot of due diligence. Just be aware of the local engineering acts in terms of your design efforts- are you practicing "engineering" that might be regulated or require a PE seal?


  • Wayco Wayne_2
    Wayco Wayne_2 Member Posts: 2,472
    An Architech

    I've worked with for about 7 years called me the other day. He is really into radiant floors. He gets it. He designs them into his projects and suggests them to customers. Unforunately he has had some problems as of late because some jobs have not been designed and/or installed properly. (Obviously not done by moi.;) Recently I was payed to inspect a job that was not working and to write a report of all of my findings. He asked what I would charge to do the design work on all of his radiant floor projects. This is an atractive offer to me. Design the system and let someone else crawl under the crawlpsaces. However questions abound. Where would my responsibilty lay. What if it doesn't work and the contractor says it aint his fault. I could see time unaccounted for in the initial price being used. I would have to schedule inspections and price them in ahead of time. I would need a contract that specified things like that ahead of time. I guess professional engineers have this all figured out. My strong suit is my years of experience designing and installing radiant floors. How do I control quality and performance without taking on undue responsibility. I have a lawyer friend who said she would help me draw up some terms, but my mind isn't bent that way, and it doesnt come easy to me. Does anyone out there have experience with this? WW

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  • Ken_8
    Ken_8 Member Posts: 1,640
    Like any designer...

    The problems are created by the installer.

    Language in your agreement should clearly divorce the actual end results with your certification the design is correct. Without very specific disclaimer(s) completely separating your designs - from poor installs, you are going to have major nightmares.

    The best way to prevent any problems is to include fees for project oversight and actual inspections before stuff gets covered by finish work.

    So you offer three individually billable parameters:

    1) Heat load calcs., radiant design specifics, and drawings for one fee. Complete drawings and supporting data documentation to be included.

    2) Progress inspection services, clearly defined as to when they must be done, how they will be done and what exactly will be examined/inspected.

    3) Some sort of warranty that if the system you designed and is installed correctly has a problem - that you will provide a written assurance to correct those shortcomings - should any ever occur.

    Specific remedies for the obvious: flooring nail vioaltes tubing, 2" thick carpeting not in original data gathered, window schedule changes made without you being notified - IN WRITING, etc.

    Also, remember any agreement is impacted by the parol evidence rule and it should be included in every agreement ever written - but rarely is.

    That's parol, with no 'e' on the end. It means when a written agreement is made, and certain language is included, everything that is suggested, he said - she said BS is moot - because the parol evidence rule of law says only what's in the 4 corners of the agreement is valid. All the comments and he thought you said blah blah and she wanted this and that is inadmissable in court.

    Sooner or later, courts get involved. Sad but true. The parol evidence rule is absolutely your best friend if the job goes south for any reason.

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  • Mike T., Swampeast MO
    Mike T., Swampeast MO Member Posts: 6,928

    Since the contract is going to be between you and the architect, you should specify who is inspecting what.

    For instance: The architect should specify the panel construction to you, with you specifying the heat transfer mechanism suitable for that construction. Believe you should be responsible for inspecting the transfer mechanism and the architect responsible for inspecting the panel. Any performance problems related to the panel itself should be the responsibility of the architect--NOT you!

    Another for instance: Be VERY careful regarding the "shell" and specifically state that your system is warranted only for the construction originally specified by the architect! Again, the architect should be responsible for inspecting the shell--not you. I'd put in writing that any changes to the shell (e.g. insulation, size, number/size/type of windows, etc.) be brought to your immediate attention with appropriate fees for review and possible re-engineering.

    Architect should also give you a designed space for the heating equipment. Again, he, not you, should be responsible for any additional costs should that space move or change in size/layout.
  • Gordy
    Gordy Member Posts: 9,514


    Now heres the chance where the Radiant designer could have control over the envelope of the dwelling. All good points above. The envelope specifications should be in the hands of the HVAC designer, since they are controling the enviroment of the envelope....period
  • ALH_3
    ALH_3 Member Posts: 151

    I would insist on inspection of every phase of the installation. You might research LeMessurier and the Citicorp tower and the Kansas City Hyatt Regency walkway collapse. Engineers have to be pretty careful about how their designs get interpreted in the field. Obviously in smaller projects this is somewhat less of an issue simply because of scale and the dollars involved. As far as I know, legal agreements cannot necessarily absolve you of responsibility when the contractor misinterprets your design.

    It sounds like a real opportunity, but you should have quite a bit of control to go with the responsibility you'd be taking on. It seems like inspection of the systems would be relatively easy. A close friendly relationship with the heating contractor would be very helpful.

  • Wayco Wayne_2
    Wayco Wayne_2 Member Posts: 2,472
    Thanks for the comments guys

    Where does the line exist for needing an engineering seal? I've done my own design work for years but have always been the one installing it and backing it up. Just wanted to use my brain a little more and my back a little less. I've sometimes considered pulling in my shingle and going to work for someone else as a sales engineer. God knows that has been a part of what I do for the last 20 years since I went into business. I'm usually depressed when I have these thoughts and troubled by ungrateful employees or curmugeonly customers.

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  • jerry scharf_2
    jerry scharf_2 Member Posts: 414
    my $.02


    I love designing. Sometimes there is that great chemistry betheen designers, installers and owners, and those are the best jobs! Other times there are two of the three on one page and the other doesn't join, which is hard. Sometimes everyone is on their own page, and those jobs are miserable. The fact that the architect approached you is a sign of a collaberative bent. That's critical! There's not much say about subs, but there is absolutely no say about owners!

    Here's a subtle thought on how to skirt the "engineering" issue. Put together custom bid specifications for each job. This is not designing per se. You are saying what is needed, you provide the heat loss calc, the radiation system, potentially the boiler system, but are not the one responsible for final performance...

    I would also explain to the architect that sadly you would expect better results from your design input than not, but not anything near what you would do. If they want your quality, they want you doing the install. It's always an option for your work to not be under the GC's bidding umbrella...

  • hr
    hr Member Posts: 6,106
    More and more

    AHJs are requiring licensed PE stamped drawings in my area. Used to be just commercial jobs, but FINALLY, they are requiring stamped drawings on homes, in some areas. Check around the area you work in and see if that is the case. If not, it may be coming!

    We have, as you probably do, various city and county building departments. All tend to have different requirements regarding radiant designs.

    You will find most radiant design software has assumption reports. Explain and have these signed!

    Inspect and photo, or video tape, the jobs before they are covered.

    Are you sure you want to get into a job that you don't have control over the final product?

    Would the contractor(s) be willing to come back make changes based on your inspection? Peacefully :)?

    Better have a good line of communication with the subs installing your jobs. Rare to find a competively priced contractor that will take the same care you do to assure the install goes to plan :)

    hot rod

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  • Weezbo
    Weezbo Member Posts: 6,232
    this is reminicent of .....

    commercial firesprinklers.....i have designed the systems buh not no more ....reason is that once the government gets involved with any aspect of our lives everything goes to sh...oh i Know that this is designed properly with every aspect of the building structure and yes the correct spacing of the heads is observed and indeed it was designed using the most efficent arrangement of materials and yes indeed all of the piping and heads are the correct size and well yes this part of the structure does have this type of head for the right applicaion and ....buh in the end it was have to get a nicet card...well no you cant get a nicet card unless blah blah blah..yes you can get this level in the present momment ..however that wont allow you to install or designe any more systems...ok. it doesnt matter that you are capeable of doing the work it doesnt even matter if you can Prove you have indeed done that type of work,it doesnt even matter that you were called upon because the other guys looked at it and said" well,('this is going to be way to much math to make any money at it')We are currently too buzy, you get someone to designe it for you and we will see if we can get back over here. " well where do they get someone to designe it for them ? well they have to go to someone out of the area out of the state perhaps in some instances out of the country! because of where i am going with this is that doesnt take the current designe into account may someday do so just to ream the homeowner just a little more "for thier own personal safety " or however they word that time if you havent found whatever the current Clique or alphabetical soup organization involved with forcing the acceptance of some pet law to weed out competition,and joined, then you sir will be S.O.L. even if you join , i had a really simple nicet card that i can honestly say had nothing to do with designe,and i thought that these records were good for life when i got it...and may be ....buh i gave up because i knew full well that if you need experience and yet cant claim that experience because it wasnt done under some one who has the proprietary licencing and 50 godzillion employees to futher Fornicate with the chance of you ever getting an even break...and with the Rules being adopted lock stock and barrel then i wouldnt stand a chance to continue on a good work.....yes, i even went to seeing about well how many of these various organizations would i have to join to get a job for one of the large companies that would hire me so that i could get some higher set of dont work like that :) i would basically be a protagonist rather than an advocate of any new set of developemental gudidelines in this field of endeavour as it would be a new formum for advocacy of a variety of rules and regulations heretofore unbeknownst to mankind....once there is a well meaning organization then it turns the tables futher down the line and what occurs is there will be a leading away of people who indeed do good work and turning good people away from the work..i am not the sole propriter of reality or truth however consider what i am saying and let it roll in on your next wave of conciousness.:) maybe i say things wrong and it isnt clear or consice buh what i mean by what i say is i am for properly designed systems,and i dont want to advocate a new government agentcy to tell good people not to continue in a good work without thier particular sanctioned blessing ...bought to us at the low low price of 99.99 and the rearrangement of your entire life to be worthy of their approval. Civil Service did the same thing along time ago now that i think about it...any of you ever have a wage board rating? well they took ours away in the 1960's saying this will no longer be a civil service job and your wage grade status wont apply and you have to sign This paper ..or your fired .
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