Bench over Baseboard Heater

Thoughts about the advisability of building an enclosed bench over an existing baseboard heater. June 15, 2009

I have a client that wants to build a closed bench over a 12 1/2" original built-in baseboard heater (house from the 50's), and I'm not sure if that's entirely possible... Any suggestions?

Forum Responses
(Cabinetmaking Forum)
From contributor L:
Of course it's possible. It's just not warranty-able.

From contributor B:
I would recommend they have the heater unhooked. Your bench will cook from the inside out. Explain this to them in simple terms. Many people don't think it matters. Educate them, and they will trust your judgment. If they still insist, make very clear in writing that you will not warranty it.

From contributor P:
Can you just redirect the vent and have it come out the toe kick on the bench?

From the original questioner:
I thought of having it a closed bench with some sort of grill for the front, but I'm not sure if that is even a good idea. Even to redirect the vent... I can't think of a good way to do that. I think it would then be too hot for your feet, or if you touch the grills.

From contributor P:
I had the same issue on an 8' dining room bench I built. The homeowner disconnected the section of hot water baseboard heat, and ran it under the floor between the joists beneath the bench. I guess it preserved some amount of warmth in that area. That said, I'm glad it was their idea, not mine...

From contributor S:
Could you build the bench so the cabinet sits out from the wall, and allows the heat to rise at the back of the cabinet? Putting a grill in the kick only works if it is forced air heat. Your counter can go right to the wall, and you just put the grills at the back on top. Your cabinet won't be as deep, but it stands a better chance of working.

From contributor R:
Had a similar issue in my own home in NH. Previous owners had built the sink base and connecting cabinets. Forced hot water heat. When I remodeled, I simply bypassed the section and removed it. The heat made a mess of the old cabinet. It was a cheap one, but the ply was delaminating in several areas.

From contributor D:
You may also be violating the electrical code by enclosing a baseboard heater.

From contributor I:
Had the exact same situation. I widened the back of the bench and out with a grill on the upper back side and another one on the bottom to look like a toe kick, with lots of air coming in at the bottom and out the top. Never had a problem. Five years later, went back to redo the library, and the bench was fine.