From tiles to carpeting and wood to vinyl, underfloor heating can be used with almost any floor finish. However, one of the main things to consider when selecting a floor covering for your new heating system is the thermal conductivity of the chosen material – the better the conductivity, the more efficient your heating will be. In this article, we’ll outline everything you need to know about the different flooring options for underfloor heating, including:
- The best flooring to use with a UFH system
- The impact of floor finishes on heat-up times and heat output
- The benefits of stone and tile floor coverings for floor heating
- How different wood floor types enhance radiant heat
- Using underfloor heating with softer floor coverings
Is underfloor heating compatible with my floor finish?
No matter your chosen floor type, we offer a wide range of water and electric floor heating systems that should meet your requirements. Your flooring’s suitability for use with an UFH system will be dependent upon the material’s thermal mass and conductivity, meaning how quickly and efficiently the heat generated by the system transfers to the flooring. The best floor finishes to use are those with good levels of conductivity as this will allow the system to heat up quicker, produce a higher heat output for your home and operate in a more energy-efficient manner. Suitable floor types to use with underfloor heating include:
- Tile, Stone & Polished Screed Flooring
- Wood & Engineered Timber Flooring
- Laminate Flooring
- Vinyl and Rubber Flooring
- Carpet Flooring
How does the flooring material affect my heating system?
Your flooring can have an impact on the maximum heat output of the system as certain floor finishes have a top temperature restriction, limiting the maximum heat output. The heat output of your floor heating system is the amount of power (measured in Watts per Sq/M) it takes to ensure your home will be optimally heated. This output is dependent on the floor finish as well as the overall heated floor area and air and floor temperatures. Typically, the larger the heated floor area, the higher the maximum heat output of the system needs to be but you should also consider the size of the room too, as larger spaces may experience higher levels of heat loss.
It’s important to ensure that the heat output from your heating system is greater than the heat loss figure of your home. So, if your chosen flooring can only be heated to 27°C, and this does not give you the heat output you need, you may benefit from changing to a floor finish that can be heated to 29°C to give more heat output.
To improve the heat output, you could consider adding supplementary heating to ensure your heating system meets your expectations. It’s also worth remembering that the responsiveness of a UFH system can be greatly enhanced when installed alongside good-quality insulation, which will not only help in the transfer of heat to the floor finish but will also minimise heat loss whilst improve your system’s heat-up times. You can learn more about the heat output of underfloor heating in our expert guide.
Is stone or tiled flooring good to use with a UFH system?
Yes, tile and stone floor finishes are the best type of flooring to use with underfloor heating as they have high thermal conductivity, meaning that the warmth produced from the underfloor heating pipe or heating cable transfers to the floor surface quickly. Tile and stone materials also retain heat well, making the system operate at maximum efficiency. Due to these excellent thermal properties, tile and stone floor coverings can be heated to up to 29°C or more, giving a high heat output of up to 200W/m².
The thickness of the tile and stone will have little impact on the heat output, but it does increase the heat-up time a little so sticking to a maximum thickness of 20mm is recommended to enjoy a responsive system. Let’s look through the different stone and tile flooring options to see the benefits of each.
- Ceramic & stone tiles are the best floor material to use with underfloor heating. They have excellent heat transfer properties and a low-profile. They are also very easy to keep clean.
- Polished concrete floors are highly conductive, allowing fast heat up times for your UFH system.
- Slate and flagstone floors are naturally conductive and great to use with underfloor heating/ These hard-wearing floor finishes are ideal for areas with high levels of footfall.
- Marble flooring features good thermal conductivity but will have slower heat-up times.
Will floor heating work well with wooden floors?
Different types of wood flooring have different thermal properties: typically, the denser and the thinner the wooden floor finish is, the better it will conduct heat and will therefore be more suitable for use with underfloor heating.
Engineered timber is the best type of wood flooring to use with a UFH system as it performs well with changes in floor temperature. Other wood flooring may also be used, but with softer and less dense wood, attention must be paid to the thickness of the material so that the floorboards do not act as an insulator blocking the heat. As a rule, for wood flooring the floor surface temperature must not exceed 27°C. Wood is a natural material which is affected by the humidity of the environment and heating the floor can change the moisture content of wood, so you should choose wood flooring that can adapt to the changes in floor temperatures. You can learn more about installing UFH with wooden floor finishes in our informative article.
- Engineered timber is the best wood flooring to use with underfloor heating. It performs well with the changing floor temperature and adapts to the changing moisture content.
- Solid hardwood floors are prone to humidity and temperature changes which could result in gapping, cupping and crowning. Care must be taken when considering use with underfloor heating to ensure compatibility and a high enough heat output.
- Soft woods are suitable for use with underfloor heating, but attention must be paid to the thickness of floorboards to ensure the heat output will be sufficient for your space.
- Parquet floors constructed from either solid wood or engineered timber are suitable for use with underfloor heating.
- Bamboo flooring is similar to engineered wood in construction and as it is a good conductor of heat. It is well suited for use with floor heating.
- Laminate floors simulate real wood and offer a stain and scratch resistant floor finish. These floor types are easy to lay and provide a cost-effective solution and most laminates are suitable for use with underfloor heating.
Can I use floor heating with vinyl flooring and carpets?
Vinyl flooring can be safely used with underfloor heating. Vinyl heats up and cools down quickly and these floor coverings are subject to a top floor temperature restriction, usually 27°C. This will limit the heat output so they are not recommended in high heat loss areas such as very large rooms and older conservatories featuring expansive glazing. You can also use rubber flooring with underfloor heating. Solid rubber flooring is usually very conductive making it heat up fast and provide a high heat output. Always consult the manufacturer to ensure your floor’s suitability for use with underfloor heating.
Carpeting is suitable for use with underfloor heating, provided that the material of the carpet or underlay does not act as an insulator which can prevent the radiant heat from warming your home sufficiently. The total tog of all materials, including any under and overlays, must not exceed 2.5 tog in order for the system to provide sufficient heat output. Looking for a simple electric floor heating solution for softer floor finishes such as vinyl and carpeting? Our Foil Heater has been specifically designed to use with these floor types.
How do I decide on the best underfloor heating system for my flooring?
If you’re looking to purchase water or electric underfloor heating for your home, use our quick quote tool to find the perfect system to use with your chosen floor finish. Our water UFH systems can be purchased directly online and all Warmup products can be purchased in-store at one of our many retailers across the country.