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How Do Different Flooring Materials Work with Radiant Heat?

Compare In-Floor Heating's effects and effectiveness when used with different flooring surfaces

By Julia Nass

Radiant floor systems are increasing in popularity and for good reason. There are a number of different radiant heating systems, the most popular of which are electric and hydronic (use of liquids). Radiant heating systems can provide an excellent alternative to ductwork heating systems for a number of reasons.

Benefits of Radiant Heating Systems

First of all, radiant heating systems disperse heat in a more uniform way. Air duct heating releases heat through the air in localized points, and then the hot air automatically rises. Often times, the floor will remain cold while head-height air is hot. In-floor heating, on the other hand, transfers heat at a slower, more uniform rate. Therefore, rooms will not have a disparity in temperature depending on location.

Second, radiant heating systems create better indoor air quality. Forced-air heating picks up common household allergens like dust and dander and circulates them throughout the house. Radiant heat, on the other hand, does not facilitate allergens to stay airborne.

Energy efficiency is another major benefit of floor systems. In general, solid flooring surfaces transfer heat more efficiently than air and steam, and there is no heat lost through ducts. Further, solid surfaces maintain heat for longer than air, so floor heating systems can operate at a lower temperature.

Installing a Radiant Heating Safe Floor

So you have or are planning on installing a radiant heat system. Where do you go from there? If the system is embedded in a subfloor like concrete, you will absolutely want alternative flooring on top of that to provide increased comfort and beauty to your home. Perhaps you are just ready for a change in flooring. Either way, it's important to educate yourself on the way different flooring materials react to heat-exposure, and the way heat reacts in relation to different materials. Once you understand this, you can make an informed choice that will provide you with the most economical, comfortable and even stylish floor possible. Read on to learn more about the effects and safety of in-floor heating on different popular flooring materials.

Hard Tiles

Porcelain, ceramic and stone tiles are the most highly recommended radiant heating safe floor. These materials conduct and hold heat more effectively than most other materials. Further, they will not expand and contract with changes in heat. The down side? These are some of the most expensive materials on the market.

Wood

Wood is a popular flooring choice for many reasons. It's both homey and classy, and provides a great deal of comfort and style. However, wood is highly-susceptible to cracking and drying out when exposed to high temperatures. Wood can both expand and contract based on temperature.

If you choose to use wood over an in-floor heating system, it's important to use laminated or engineered wood to avoid shrinkage and drying out. Further, leaving wood unattached to the subfloor will allow for expansion in the floor as an entire unit.

Foam

Foam floor tiles are a popular option for play rooms, basements and kids rooms. This type of flooring provides a fun, colorful and cushioned environment. Foam tiles are completely safe to use over in-floor heating systems. However, foam does provide a layer of insulation between the floor and the room, so it may block a small amount of heat from escaping the floor. Further, foam tiles can expand with changes in heat and humidity. Specialty flooring leaders at Greatmats.com suggest it's best to allow foam tiles to acclimate to a room before installing. It's also smart to allow for a small gap between tiles and wall when executing wall-to-wall installations.

Carpet

Carpet is another common household choice with insulation value. As with foam tiles, insulation can block heat transfer between the floor and the air in the room. That being said, carpet is a radiant heating safe floor. If you choose to install larger sections of carpet over radiant heating system, be sure to choose a dense, thin ply.

Vinyl

Vinyl is also safe to install over radiant heat. Again, if the vinyl has added insulation, this will lessen the efficiency of the heating system. Apart from that, vinyl is awesome for its design variety and cost. Greatmats offers vinyl tiles in the styles of stone and wood as well as a multitude of colors. With vinyl, it's possible to inexpensively achieve all the great, classic looks of more expensive materials.

Do Your Homework

The above outline is a general run-down of different materials. Make sure to read the specific of product details before purchasing in order to ensure safety over radiant-heating systems or reach out to customer service representatives for answers.


In-Floor Safe Heating + Greatmats.com

Greatmats offers easy to install, DIY flooring products. With most of Greatmats' products, floors are just as easy to uninstall as well. Easy installation means you can save time and money putting in a floor. Apart from these obvious benefits that come with installation one can do by themselves, DIY flooring is particularly awesome for radiant heat systems. Why? If there happens to be a problem in the heating systems, you won't have to worry about ripping up the entire floor. With Greatmats' floor tiles, you can uninstall small sections of the floor - hassle free -in order to access the subfloor. Greatmats' mats and flooring rolls are just as easy to lift up and move aside.