What is the Best Flooring for Radiant Heat Systems?
Last Updated: February 13, 2023, by: Jamie Sandford
Radiant heat has many benefits. Walking on heated floors in winter is very cozy. The dog will love laying on it. And radiant heat can be very economical.
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If you’re considering the installation of a radiant heat system, some flooring options work better than others. Here are the top 4 flooring options for use over radiant heat.
1. TILE FLOORING
Porcelain and ceramic tile are great conductors of heat, so your home will get the full benefit of the radiant heating system. In addition, tile flooring will not expand as it warms or contract as it cools. Such expansion and contraction can cause cracking. That’s not a problem with tile.
2. LAMINATE FLOORING
Laminate flooring replicates the look of solid hardwood flooring or tile flooring without the expense. It also does a great job over radiant heat. The laminate material is built up with layers of wood that run in opposite directions. This creates a more stable material than solid hardwood. The laminate won’t expand and contract, in other words, like solid hardwood flooring wood.
3. ENGINEERED WOOD FLOORING
Like laminate, it is produced in layers, so it has a more stable base that won’t react to the heating and cooling process. The top layer, or wear layer, is solid wood and comes in all the same varieties that you’ll find with other solid hardwood flooring. Engineered flooring even comes in bamboo. It looks great, wears great and warms great.
4. NATURAL STONE FLOORING
Granite, travertine, sandstone and other natural stone flooring types conduct heat wonderfully. You might think of stone as cold, but not when it has got warm water flowing beneath it. If you never thought you’d like to walk on stone flooring bare-footed in January, you never considered radiant heat!
5. VINYL PLANK FLOORING
Luxury vinyl flooring, in particular wood look vinyl plank flooring, is incredibly popular and with the introduction of higher quality rigid core technology most vinyl plank and tile can now be used with underfloor heating.
Be sure to to check the installation requirements for each individual product as the warranty will often state the maximum temperature that the vinyl plank has been certified to work with.
WHAT FLOORING SHOULD NOT BE USED OVER RADIANT FLOORING?
What about the opposite question? What type of flooring should not be installed over radiant heat? Carpet has insulation value, so it will prevent some of the heat from transferring through into your home. You can use a few area rugs over the flooring, but avoid large rugs or wall-to-wall carpeting.
Vinyl flooring is not a good choice either. The heat may discolor the vinyl or cause the off-gassing of chemicals. Finally, solid hardwood flooring will swell and shrink with the heating/cooling process, especially in homes that use a humidifier during winter. You don’t want to invest in pricey hardwood flooring only to have it cup, buckle, crown and crack.
If you’re planning to install comfortable, efficient radiant heat, your best choices for use with radiant heating are tile flooring, laminate flooring, engineered flooring and natural stone flooring.
LEARN MORE ABOUT RADIANT HEAT AND FLOORING OPTIONS
- Energy.gov – Informative website run by the Energy Department that addresses energy and environmental concerns.
- Nuheat – Top manufacturer of radiant floor heating systems that can help you save energy and live a greener lifestyle.
- Warmup – Buyers guide from one of the largest providers of heating solutions
Have you installed radiant floor heating in your home or are you considering it? Share your thoughts below.
About the Author: Jamie Sandford
Jamie Sandford is the Owner and Chief Editor of Home Flooring Pros (find out more). After 12 years’ experience in screen and stage set construction, followed by a further 15 years working in the home renovation/remodeling business, he now writes and curates online home improvement advice.
“Buying and installing home flooring should be a fairly straightforward process, but often it isn’t. After more than 15 years experience in home flooring and remodeling, I started Home Flooring Pros in 2013 to help homeowners navigate the often-over complicated process of choosing, buying and installing a home floor. The aim is to save you time and money by helping you to make better floor buying decisions.”