How to report this?

I saw this hot water heat in the basement yesterday. You can see in the picture that it is mounted inches away from the floor joists and that each joist has burn/drying out marks.
What would you put in the report?
I stated that it shows handyman work and can dry out floor joists, cause premature cracking/failure. No signs of failure at this time, but discoloration present showing the this heat is adversely affecting the floor joists. This is not the recommended installation.

Fire Hazard.

Since anything that turns wood into toast color can ignite by pyrolysis and the potential for someone to cover it with a drop ceiling or even hang cloths on it could cause a fire.For this reason all fin designed heating must be separated from exposure to floor joist with proper fire proof insulation.This also will prevent heat loss to the void areas between wood floor joist.:mad:

TIm, how hot was the heating system?? I personaly grew up in a home with a baseboard hot water system, and unless they have something set up wrong it should never get that hot. I can see how it could dry out sections of the wood, but it shouldnt hurt anything. Even at 140 deg, its still no hotter then an attic in the summer and that wood seems to do fine right.

My question is why would they mount it that way to begin with. Was it to try and hide the ugly, while still accomplishing heating the home through radiant heat upstairs?

Hot water heater should not be a fire hazard, However it would not work well there. the joist color is from heat and dust

You have been given three opinions.
One of those opinions is from a Certified Master Inspector.
(Wett) wood energy training technician and a teacher of home Inspection.
Since we are to look at the worse case scenario this is still a fire** hazard.:twisted:**

Exactly, it sure as hell isn’t a “Fire Hazard”—:shock:

Radiators are not all that common here but I don’t see the fire hazard issue. Radiators are placed close to wood floors and baseboards all the time. I have even seen wood covers over them. People also use them in a retrofit application by attaching them directly to the underside of the floor. I would agree that the staining is a result of the air movement carrying dust. The flash point of wood is 575 degrees and they don’t get even close to that temperature. But if there is a required clearance I would like to know for future reference.

This may be a bit far fetched, but please bare with me for a second.

This is presumably in Wisconsin where I would believe that unfinished basements could get pretty cold. Now, seeing as how this discoloration is not limited to the joist and is directly above the heat source…I’m wondering if this could be a discoloring caused by condensation created from the mixture of extreme temperatures at those particular points.

Fire hazard ?!!!

Seriously? Come on, haven’t any of you folks heard of radiant floor heating systems? Those systems are attached directly to the underside of the wood floors and the pipes to the sides of the joists when necessary and I guaranty you they run hotter than those convectors are out there in clear air.

There isn’t any fire hazard there. You have to make the call, but I don’t recommend you declare that a fire hazard. If you do and they are forced to bring in an expert, you’re going to end up looking like you don’t know what you’re talking about.


Mike O’Handley, LHI
Wa. Lic. Home Inspector #202
Your Inspector LLC., Kenmore, WA
Editor - The Inspector’s Journal

Pyrolysis is defined as chemical decomposition caused by heat. It is the process by which a combustible material exposed to elevated temperatures for a prolonged period of time will dry out, break down and can eventually burn. The chemical breakdown of combustibles situated too close to a heat source is a common cause of fires. Pyrolysis can occur when high intensity heat sources such as fireplaces, solid fuel stoves or fireplace inserts are installed with inadequate clearances. Pyrolysis does not require the presence of a direct flame to ignite; however, it does require specific conditions to occur.

Specific conditions involved in pyrolysis include:

  • A heat source over 90° C
  • Proximity of a combustible to the hot surface
  • Prolonged exposure (time or cyclic)
  • Limited air flow

Please stop. I’m starting to get embarrassed for you.
Pyrolysis** is a thermochemical decomposition of organic material at elevated temperatures in the absence of oxygen. Pyrolysis typically occurs under pressure and at operating temperatures above 430 °C (800 °F).

No fire hazard from my perspective.

The wood discoloration is more likely to be from convection currents rising and depositing dust.

You can even see that the deposit is lighter where the pipe is buried in the middle of the fins.

I think the installation is amateurish and inefficient but not dangerous.

just looks like someone is trying to warm the floor above to me…was there a ceramic floor above this area?..sure no fire hazard I see…these Hw fin tubes run behind furniture and below draperies all the time…

You doubt a CMI??? This guy is a MASTER INSPECTOR!!!

He’s a master something alright. :shock:

I find this type of installation quite often for basements and garages in Michigan. I do not find this a fire hazard and would not make any comment to this in my report.


I agree, based on the limited information available, this does not appear to be anything more than ‘ghosting’ we all see from time to time.


I don’t see where the original poster claimed it to be a “fire hazard” but felt that the joists might be somehow weakened from “drying out”. I don’t see that either, frankly. Just some kind of shadow stain.