Is it possible to replace hot water baseboards? With what?

Discussion in 'HVAC Heating & Cooling' started by yosistah, May 9, 2007.

  1. yosistah

    yosistah New Member

    May 9, 2007
    Hi - my husband and I are first-time homebuyers and our new house is a 60-yr-old colonial with hot water baseboard heaters. Apparently these were installed in the mid-80s and are, well, ... really ugly.

    Part of the reason we purchased the house was the traditional trimwork throughout (except where there are heaters) and we're wondering if these heaters could be replaced with something else (or is that just crazy?).

    If we had old-style radiators, we could camouflage them within built-in cabinetry but we have no idea what to do with these things - which is why I'm asking about replacing them. I'm guessing that installing something like a forced-air heating system would be crazy-expensive, right?

    One last thing: if replacing them is foolish (or too expensive or beyond impractical) do you have any suggestions about what we could do to make them work with the style of the house??

    Your thoughts? Anyone?

    Thanks - (sorry about the rookie questions),
    Yosistah :confused:
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona

    There is no way to make them look "colonial". The piping would normally be installed in such a way as to make it impractical to go to free standing radiators without a complete system repiping. Even changing the covers, if that is what is ugly, can be expensive.
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  4. geniescience

    geniescience Homeowner

    Nov 27, 2005
    humid summers hot, humid winters cold
    well believe it or not i cannot picture what they look like since there are none in my area and it has been so many years since i may have seen them that i suppose i've blocked that bad memory out. :)

    so, based on pure ignorance of their look and shape, i'll comment on two alternative strategies that work for architects and designers. Both strategies depend on one single factor regarding cost: you must spend a lot of money and time on the solution. The more you spend, to make something that requires skill to build and (maybe even skill to appreciate), the more you get looks coming at the thing you built, and the more people say it looks good.

    Strategy one is to build a whole lot of trim around them to get something modern that matches a lot of the old trim. The other approach is to go the opposite route, and use a lot of the best materials that are not in keeping with the building, so that you have two styles in the building, one old and "warm" the other new and "goodlooking in a new way". Example: maybe a lot of stainless steel, welded on site by a competent person who has a good eye for what will be both eyecatching and balanced all things considered. He knows when to underplay it and when to build it out for effect. This work makes a screen, and radiates heat too just like an official "store-bought" radiator screen, but it is so much bigger and takes up eyespace, so it is almost artistic; it's an architectural element that nobody can ignore.

  5. edsdad

    edsdad New Member

    May 22, 2007
    I have HW baseboard-hate the look. Years ago, I had a friend who was remodeling and had baseboard heat. He hated the appearence and the way baseboard interfered with furniture placement. House had a basement, which made piping easy. He added a zone for the 2 new rooms and I built him 4 enclosures out of cherry plywood and matte, brass-plated, expanded metal screen (fairly inexpensive stuff). We ran the copper in the basement, up into the rooms, made a stack of 4 horizontal loops of finned tubing about 40" , and back down into the basement. We figured two units to a room (about 200 s.f. each) would provide plenty of heat. I thought the look was great but I can't really comment as to the performance. He passed away shortly after he finished the house and his wife relocated to the Mid-West to be near her family. We didn't use radiators because we wanted to control size of enclosures, height, depth, width, etc. If you have some woodworking skills I think you could make handsome pieces for $100 each. More knowledgable members can advise as to the plumbing aspect is a bad idea. It worked when we fired it up (summer) but I can't swear as to long term.
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Sep 2, 2004
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    New England
    If you have access to the floor below the room, you could potentially convert to a radiant floor heating system. This would involve adding pex tubing loops under the subflooring with difuser plates (usually aluminum) and then (ideally) some insulation under it. This makes the entire floor a low temp radiator...very comfortable and efficient. cats, dogs, and your feet will love it. The water temp used in this is lower than in radiators or baseboards, but that is easily taken care of with a mixing valve.
  7. sarahw97

    sarahw97 New Member

    Jun 29, 2008

    I had a house with similarly hideous baseboards everywhere.. some were badly beaten up and I replaced the covers with new ones (PIA but doable), and the rest I just painted the same color as the walls, which improved the appearance considerably. Still ugly though.

    Also you could look at these; not cheap, but maybe you could DIY something similar..
  8. marge

    marge New Member

    Aug 23, 2008
    say no to forced air

    Baseboards, though ugly, are much better as a heat source forced air, less allergenic, less dust, not as drying. Arguably more sanitary. I have no idea why I have this conviction but don't think I'm making it up. Maybe radiant floor heat in the room or rooms where getting rid of the cheesy baseboards matters most? And/or where it's possible to install without major expense. I've seen alternative radiators in $$$ home magazines but can't remember a brand name. For bathrooms I know there are radiators/towel warmers that go on the wall that can replace baseboards. Good luck.
  9. nhmaster

    nhmaster Master Plumber

    Jul 30, 2008
    Tech. Instructor
    S. Maine
    When I moved into our house (250 year old colonial) it had baseboard everywhere. I tore it all out and installed cast iron radiators, but I could because I have a collection of over a hundred of them from jobs where we pulled them out. If you can't find old radiators you can still buy new ones (weil McLain) or you can install european steel, hanging radiators.
  10. seaneys

    seaneys New Member

    May 8, 2007
    Chicago Suburbs
    You may be able to retrofit hydronic underfloor heat.

    Where do you live?

    Do you have access to the basement?

    What types of flooring do you have and are you thinking of changing it?

  11. pmonger

    pmonger New Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Ugly baseboard heaters

    How about just renovating the ones you have?
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 4, 2009
  12. btrvalik

    btrvalik New Member

    Dec 12, 2008
    Radiant floor heat is the best rout but you are likely looking at 5-10k+ Another option to look at would be something like runtal. While they are still a baseboard, they are much better looking and much lower profile than slant fin.
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