Those Nice Warm Levittown Floors

October 21, 2012 2:28 am0 commentsViews: 59
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8127.114126.medWhen we were growing up in Levittown, we didn’t understand how unusual it was to go barefoot around the house in winter. Maybe our parents had an appreciation, but we were just kids. I loved the heated floor, even though it became a problem years later. In those days, we were warm and toasty—especially our feet.

As I recall, the floor was so hot in front of the bathroom sink, you couldn’t stand there for long. A rug would have helped, but it also prevented the door from opening or closing, so we would dance around while brushing our teeth and scoot out of there fast.

We all know the heating system eventually failed but I also know we were never again as comfortable as we were with the heat in the floor—and the funny thing was, the dog loved it too. Wherever there was a hot spot, that’s where Sam decided to sleep.

—Alice Deeny

Radiant heating has been around for a long time – long before Levittown. Evidence of it exists in Asia thousands of years ago and the Romans made use of it in the heating of baths and buildings. In more recent times, Frank Lloyd Wright utilized copper piping in concrete slabs in the 1930’s and the Levitts used this heating method on a large scale in Levittown. Many of us who grew up in Levittown loved the gentle warmth of the heated slab. It was simply comfortable, particularly in the dead of winter when as kids we laid around on the floor playing board games or watching TV.

When these systems began to fail due to leaks in the imbedded copper piping and we converted to some other form of heating, our houses were just not as comfortable. Over the years there have been many attempts at explaining why these pipes sprung leaks. Some say it was due to corrosion between the copper and the concrete, while others say there is no way copper corrodes in concrete. Some point to settlement cracks as the culprit while yet others point to the cycles of expansion and contraction that could erode the copper over time. The cause(s) for the failure seems to be an unsettled issue. But not all of these systems have been lost. Just last week I had a conversation with a homeowner who still has an original functioning radiant heat system and loves it.

Radiant heating is making a comeback. The use of PEX (cross-linked-polyethylene) instead of copper piping has eliminated the concerns about leaks and many new homes are being built with radiant heat. Our homes were built before this material was commercially available. In this case, unfortunately, the Levitts were ahead of their time.

—Kevin Deeny