So you’ve decided that underfloor heating is right for you. The idea of a nice evenly warmed home and lower bills sounds great doesn’t it. However, now you need to choose the best flooring for underfloor heating. Why?
Well some floor coverings will reduce the efficiency and performance of your UFH. If you are going to spend the money installing underfloor heating you will want to get the most from it.
One thing I should say is that choosing the best flooring for underfloor heating is easiest during a new build, as you don’t have to spend time and money removing your current flooring.
Naturally your own preferences will be a deciding factor. You may prefer the warming tones of a hardwood floor or the natural look of slate. What I want to do, is present you with the facts and give you my thoughts on what is the best flooring for underfloor heating.
The best flooring for underfloor heating allows an easy transfer from the pipes to the floor surface.
Carpet is a good insulator. That means it will hamper this heat transfer. The thickness of your carpet can really reduce the efficiency of underfloor heating. It is recommended that your underlay and carpet should not have a tog rating of more than 1.5.
So, carpet is not the best flooring for underfloor heating. Lets move on.
Wood flooring is good (but not great) for UFH. The moisture content must be around 8-9%.
The reason for this is if the wood is too damp it is at risk of shrinking. This will open up gaps in your floorboards. If it is too dry then it will absorb moisture. This will cause the boards to swell and warp.
Wood can also be a poor conductor of heat, which could reduce the performance of your underfloor heating.
On the other hand, choosing timber is a good idea. It is the best wood flooring you could go for.
It is much more thermally stable than hardwoods. It won’t react to heat and humidity like hardwoods do. You will still need an expansion gap around the edges of your room.
If you are going to choose wooden flooring you should really aim to get the wood sourced sustainably. After all, if you’re going through the effort of installing UFH to be greener (and save money on your bills) you should use sustainable wood.
A lot of people like wood flooring because it does look great, the warming tones can really add aesthetics to your home. But unfortunately, wood is not the best flooring for underfloor heating. Next…
Linoleum/ Vinyl flooring
Actually, these are a great choice. They are not thermally resistive and allow a good heat output. Also, they can be installed very quickly and directly onto the screed floor and won’t degrade over time.
Note. If you are setting on a floor other than screed then tiles less than 20mm thick should be applied to a layer of plywood. This will slightly lower the performance of your UFH.
Something else you should consider is that Lino and Vinyl should not be used in ‘high heat’ rooms like conservatories or above 26 Celsius as they can begin to warp.
Lino is also a green choice of flooring. It is made from natural materials such as wood flour and linseed oils. They are also 100% biodegradable.
Other benefits are that lino is cheap and very easy to install. It is also water resistant and easy to clean. Linoleum is the best flooring for underfloor heating we have seen so far. But it is still not the best the choice overall.
Stone/ Ceramic and Slate tiles
Now we are getting somewhere. These are some of the best flooring for underfloor heating.
The reason being is that they have a high thermal mass and good conductivity. Heat from the pipes can easily and quickly transfer to the surface. Interestingly increasing the thickness won’t affect the power output of your system, it’ll just increase the heat up time.
You must properly dry the screed out first however. Running the UFH at a low temperature till all moisture is gone is essential.
I believe ceramic tiles are the best flooring for underfloor heating out there. They have a high thermal conductivity and a low thickness (like limestone and slate).
But it is the ecological benefits that really make this a winner. Ceramic tiles are made from naturally occurring clays and minerals. If you can find 2nd hand or recycled tiles then this is one of the greenest flooring you can get. They are also pretty cheap.
Is also a natural product like ceramic. However, it is not sustainable (unless you find 2nd hand or recycled tiles). When too much limestone is removed from quarries then erosion becomes a real problem. On the other hand stone is the most thermally conductive of all floor coverings
Slate is very, very conductive. It is very durable and long lasting. It is also a natural product but try to make sure you get it from a local quarry.
Flagstones are thicker than the other floor coverings we have seen in this article, but they are still very good thermal conductors. They are hand-made using natural materials. Each stone is different and can add a unique character to your floor.
So which is the best flooring for underfloor heating?
As I said right at the very beginning, this will be a personal choice based on your own preferences. But in terms of both performance and ecological benefits I have to say ceramic tiles.
Yes, limestone and slate may perform a little better but they are not as eco friendly materials as ceramic. To truly live in a green home one must consider the environmental impact of all their materials.
If I had to choose a second option it would be linoleum because of its price, ease of installation and eco benefits.
Image: ajd, mhd, njd, med & gsdtagsceramic tilesflagstonefloor coveringlinoleumslateUFHunderfloor heatingunderfloor heating systemvinyl