Polished concrete floors for Troy’s Eichler house — new radiant heating system, too

Troy has been continuing to deliver the TLC to his 1960s Eichler home in the San Francisco Bay area. Recently, he had all the carpet and vinyl tile removed, then had the concrete underneath sanded and polished. Gold star: He had all layers tested first and indeed, needed to engage licensed professional asbestos abatement. As preparation for the polished concrete floors, he also had a new, radiant-flooring system installed. Concrete is an ideal heat-sink for radiant heating and for passive solar heating, too. Cozy on the toesies. Read on for Troy’s story. As usual, he has been amazingly generous with 12 more photos, too.

Troy writes:

Hi Pam! Good to hear from you. How are things with you these days? Blog keeping you busy? Working on any house projects of your own? [No, Troy, not unless you count moving stuff to get at other stuff as a “house project”.]

Last year was a fairly busy year at Casa Troy. At the start of the summer I decided to tackle my floors – more work than I thought!

I started with demo-ing the raised floor and some interior walls that were built in the garage, opening up the space to its original construction. [Pam says: Snooze, no pics of that, let’s look at glamor shots of the new, finished floor until Troy gets to that part.]

I then had the old forced air furnace and water heater removed and a new radiant heat boiler installed, a dual-purpose unit that heats water for the floor heat as well as for domestic hot water. It’s a nifty piece of engineering. All the original copper pipes in the slab and the manifold controls were intact, although two leaks were discovered that had to be fixed. The guy I hired to do the boiler work and repair the leaks was excellent.

I then had all the tile and carpet removed throughout the entire house. The tile and mastic was asbestos so had to get the abatement people in to do the removal.

I decided to have the concrete cleaned, sanded, and finished so I now have concrete floors throughout the entire house which get nice and toasty warm when the heat is on – love it!

I’m not 100% happy with the concrete finish materials I chose and the job the concrete finish guys did – with hindsight I wish I’d looked into a few other finishes before choosing the materials we used (an acrylic sealant topped with a coat of matte wax.

The sealant brought out more of the brown tone of the concrete than I was expecting, and even with the matte wax the surface is still shinier than I’d wanted. Oh well, live and learn).
It was quite an ordeal, emptying the entire house of all furnishings! The garage was floor-to-ceiling stuffed, and a bunch of furniture, appliances, mattresses, and garbage bags of clothing were outside under plastic, which kinda sucked when it rained a week before the floors were finished.
I’m still working on some new bargello pillows, will share photos when I get them finished.
And I’m currently thinking about making some curtains – lots of them, actually, if I want to cover all the windows. I’ve been waffling about window treatments for over two years now, and decided I need something soft on the windows to contrast the house’s angularity and hard surfaces. I’m looking into how to sew pinch pleats, maybe a single or double “pinch” per pleat, rather than the common triple pinch. I get lots of sunlight throughout the day, so indoor/outdoor fade-resistant fabric seems to make the most sense (they won’t need to be lined – bonus! – and the color/pattern of the fabric will show from the outside as well, since I have so many views back into the house from the courtyards). There are lots of colors/patterns/textures/weights of indoor/outdoor fabric available so I’m sending away for some samples – not sure yet what I’ll choose. Since the windows go all the way to the ceiling I also need to figure out a hanging mechanism that attaches to the ceiling, have yet to find something that I think will work. And I need to buy a sewing machine – do you sew? Any advice would be appreciated. Once I figure out how to make the curtains, I think it will go fairly smoothly – famous last words!
More later. -T
Thank you, Troy. As always, you are a busy bee of get-it-done inspiration and design beauty alike. xoxo

More inspiration from Troy:


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    • Chris says

      I agree with Jon, I think the concrete floors are beautiful just the way they turned out. I am currently building a new home with radiant heat and I’m going to leave the concrete in the basement uncovered. I’m just going to seal it. Wish I could get the vintage look your concrete has!

  1. Lynne says

    If you are thinking of buying a sewing machine, check out the thrift stores and estate sales first. One summer, I got a beautiful Singer in a cabinet for $3.00 at a local Goodwill. They nearly begged me to take it off their hands. I think church based thrift stores are your best bet to find a good one, plus their profits are usually for very good causes.

    I have 4 older machines, probably from the late 60’s or early 70’s, and one new Singer. The old ones out perform the new one seven ways to Sunday. The new one sits, while the others get a work out.

  2. Kersten says

    Wow! That looks like some serious work! Geez- I have NO excuses for not getting our wood floors refinished! Troy, we were able to mount euro rods to our ceilings. They work like a traverse rod (though ours don’t have strings). They attach to the ceiling and the pinch pleats hang just like they would from a wall mount. I can take pics if you are interested. We found them at super discounted prices on the JCPenny bargain area online. This was a couple years ago, however.

  3. Jeanne says

    Initially I was wondering how Troy switched to radiant heat, when the piping needs to be installed in the slab…but then read that copper tubing was already intact! Nice! Sounds like hiring the right people to do the job is the key. Those floors are gorgeous!

  4. retrojunkie58 says

    It looks beautiful! But we have concrete under our floors and boy is it hard on the feet and legs in the kitchen if you are there too long!!!

  5. Steve says

    The post about Troy’s collections also shows-off his old vinyl floors, which looked great, too. Recently I’ve taken a ‘shine’ to vinyl flooring, and newer products like Marmoleum in ‘concrete’, Armstrong’s faux terrazzo, or Fritztile. Were Troy’s tiles badly damaged, or was the change an aesthetic choice?

    • TroySF says

      Hi Steve, it was a little of both. The original tiles had been covered with another lay of tile in some rooms, and carpet in others. Neither was highly objectionable (except for a spot between the kitchen and living room where I removed an add-on desk and opened up an original doorway which exposed the original tile), but having consistent flooring throughout the entire house really works well with the architecture. And excavating down to the concrete slab helps increase the efficiency of the revitalized radiant floor heating system. I also like the look of vinyl tile and figure I can always lay new tile in the future.

  6. says

    CONGRATULATIONS! I totally know first hand what kind of MAJOR prep & MAJOR clean up you had to go through for this process. Plus rain on top of that! You’re a saint. The best part = your floors look terrific! I love the fact that your floors now reveal a bit of your homes history. I did a “matte” finish over a micro-top on a clients floor, it was on the shinier side too. You can see it here http://torbitstudio.com/slides/marin-eichler/ Regarding your needed window treatment hardware Ikea has a system that is a clean (non-bulky) design & a perfect fit for and Eichler ceiling, it’s called the “Kvartal System”. It’s Ikea so the runners aren’t the smoothest but if you want to spend a bit more you could check out The Shade Store and look at their “Panel System” either of these you can add draperies to, so you don’t have to go with a panel if you don’t like that look.

    • TroySF says

      Wow, that’s a gorgeous floor! Thanks for the link, the house is beautiful, especially the kitchen, is it original to the house? My kitchen was redone four years after the house was built and I dream of re-Eichler-izing the space.

  7. says

    Hmmm – Troy – I have an “old” Singer sewing machine in a wooden cabinet here I likely will never use again and I am sure you remember using it way back when (the tension would need adjusting). If I would ever chose to “sew” again I could always use your niece’s. Don’t know if it will fit in your suitcase, however!

  8. midmodms says

    I had heated floors in an apartment I lived in years ago, and if I had the choice that would be the only type of heating I’d ever have. Are you saying someone put in forced hot air when they had heated floors already?

    As far as curtain rods that attach to ceilings, IKEA has an inexpensive system that might work for you. You can go around corners with it, too.

    • TroySF says

      Yes, the previous owner removed the radiant boiler and installed a forced air system 20 years ago, placing large ductwork on the roof and cutting vent holes in the ceiling throughout the house. When I tackle a new roof in a year or two I’ll have all the ductwork removed, but repairing the holes in the ceiling will require a complete roof tear-off and most likely having ceiling boards custom milled. And the ceiling has never been painted so matching the color may be problematic since the original stain is no longer commercially available. The fun never ends! 😉

  9. Ann-Marie Meyers says

    I followed the back link to the “Just say no to vessel sinks, etc.” and I can absolutely endorse this one. I am so sick of my granite countertop in my nice, regular updated kitchen, I would rip it out myself if I was strong enough. I am tired of keeping people from setting bottles of oil down on it, or cut tomatoes and other no-no’s. I am tired of how it doesn’t go with anything I want to bring into the kitchen to add retro flair.
    I was nearly in tears at how awful it looks with my $75 Italian 8 light tole chandelier bargain auction find.
    Oh, and they are not as heatproof as claimed. I have heard of several cases of ruined counters because people pulled something out of the oven and placed it on the one spot on the granite with an invisible flaw, which cracked.

    My husband and I were never ones to follow fads, but we thought granite was here to stay. I have talked to several friends who have said they would put in old fashioned laminate countertops, but they are afraid it would affect the resale value. We have to become more vocal.
    Are people really putting in an expensive home feature they don’t want just because they are SUPPOSED to like?

  10. Lena says


    It’s really too bad about the previous owners cutting into the ceiling for that forced air system. Could you use some of the t&g boards from the garage and swap those out for the damaged areas? You’d still need to buy new boards for the garage, but you would have original wood that’s the ‘right’ age and grain in the occupied areas of your house. I think you’d have better luck matching the stain on some original wood than new. Just a thought…

    Best of luck!

  11. A. Bernstein says

    We live in an Eichler on the Peninsula and appreciate your info. We are having some problems with our radiant heat system and would like to have the name of the contractor who revived your radiant heating.

    Also need to replace floor in one bathroom. Will definitely consider concrete after seeing your photos. Thanks.

  12. AVO says


    AVO from Marin here. We just closed on an Eichler knock off (Allen Steinau) in Marin. Peeling back the old cork flooring has revealed large cracks and water damage from leaks in the radiant heat flooring. Can you tell us who you used for your boiler work and leak repairs? Thinking if you are SF, s/he may agree to head to Marin.

    Your home is gorgeous!

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