Choosing the Right Floor for Underfloor Heating

Underfloor heating (UFH) is growing in popularity. Designers and architects love the way that the system leaves walls free from the clutter or radiators; and homeowners rave about the gentle, even heat it emits. Whether you go for a ‘dry’ system (where electrical wires are set into thin mats) or a ‘wet’ one (where centrally heated warm water runs through pipes), there is a science to choosing the right flooring to match. Here, Chris Ingram from Ask for Underfloor, a campaign by BEAMA (the British Electrotechnical and Allied Manufacturers Association) explains how to optimise your system, and have a trouble-free installation.

Why choose underfloor heating?

There are many advantages to selecting underfloor heating. It mainly produces ‘radiant’ heat – which is evenly distributed, helping to keep the room consistently warm and comfortable, with no unwanted cold spots.

Water-based underfloor heating is recognised as being one of the most energy efficient ways to heat your home and can help reduce energy bills, operating at a flow temperature of as little as 35ᴼC while still delivering an incredibly high level of comfort. The boiler simply doesn’t need to work as hard, which means energy savings.

What’s more, underfloor heating also offers a touch of affordable luxury, along with design freedom. By freeing up wall space, it can even be connected to desirable features such as heated towel rails in bathrooms.

Each system also comes with individual room controls as standard, allowing homeowners to tailor the temperature of each room to their individual needs.

Underfloor heating

Underfloor heating helps to keep a room consistently warm and comfortable, with no unwanted cold spots

What’s the basic thinking around choosing compatible flooring? Is it just about using a material that conducts heat well, or is it more complex?

Almost any floor covering – whether carpet, vinyl, laminate, wood, stone or tiles – will work effectively with underfloor heating, as long as there is sufficient insulation underneath. It’s worth bearing in mind, though, that harder surfaces tend to offer better conductivity, and therefore better heat output rates.

Underfloor heating

Harder surfaces tend to give better conductivity, so are more compatible with UFH. Apartment by Alysson Feit Interiors.

Are solid timber floors a good option? Do they need to be acclimatised before installation?

Solid timber is a great option to pair with underfloor heating, working particularly well with systems that are suspended between the floor’s joists and installed either from above or below. Many of these systems can be installed around an existing floor, so there’s no need to replace a beloved set of hardwood floorboards. To ensure maximum compatibility with a system, consult a manufacturer who should be able to advise you if any steps are needed to acclimatise a system with the flooring above it.

Underfloor heating

A UFH system can be retrofitted around a beloved existing floor, even one of solid wood

What about engineered wood? Is it less of a headache to install than solid timber?

Engineered wood is easier to install than solid timber and is often a less expensive choice, which may make it particularly appeal to those renovating an existing property. BEAMA members will be able to advise on appropriate materials and installation methods.

If you already have a beloved floor, does it always need to be taken up to install underfloor heating?

Innovations in underfloor heating mean many systems can now be installed without removing or excavating an existing floor at all; rather, the system is retrofitted from below, or the flooring is lifted and then replaced following installation. Such retrofit options offer hassle-free fitting and mean there’s little difference in the amount of disruption a flooring choice can offer.

What about carpets? Aren’t they too insulating to work with UFH?

Underfloor heating works effectively with carpet, so long as homeowners remember to be mindful of the tog value of the carpet they select. Choosing a carpet with a tog value which is too high is almost like putting a duvet over a radiator. A good choice of underlay is also needed.

For optimal system performance, choose an underlay with a maximum tog value of approximately 0.5 and a carpet with a tog value between 1.0 and 1.5.

What about poured floors like concrete and resin – are they poured on top of the UFH screed layer? Do they work well?

Liquid screeds and resin can be used to incorporate underfloor heating, creating a thin surface with low depth build up. This is a specialist area though, and therefore appropriate companies should be chosen. BEAMA members will comply with European standards and have the expertise to advise on such areas.

minimal interior architecture

This house features a polished concrete floor – a good match for UFH


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