Homeowners building their first home or upgrading an existing home often wish to incorporate green or money-saving innovations in their homes. Opting for radiant floor heating is not only green, it saves money spent on the power bill and the doctor office as well. Those with allergies and/or asthma will understand that statement. The question for many homeowners is what kind of flooring works well with such a heating system? Glad you asked.

How does it Work?

Homeowners need to understand how this heating system works before they decide between hardwood, engineered, laminate or tile. Today’s radiant floor heating works by sending electricity or heated water through tubing looped into a panel beneath the floor. It will feel like standing on a parking lot on a steamy summer day, radiating that heat upward. No forced air through ducts, spewing its dust and allergens. No oil or gas, no baseboard heaters; just clean warm space.

How is it attached to Flooring?

Heating tubes may be sunk into a concrete floor, or placed in a thin concrete layer beneath the finished flooring. Tubing is often sandwiched between layers of plywood in a wooden subfloor. It can lie on the subfloor or be clipped beneath the finished flooring. Carpet with its thick padding provides too much insulation for radiant heating to work well or at all.

Will Hardwood Expand too much?

Hardwood dries out, causing boards to buckle. Certain species such as white oak don’t do this. Any hardwood floor should be floated instead of glued or nailed down, due to the possibility of puncturing the floor heating system. Also look for boards that were quartersawn, or cut on the vertical for strength as opposed to plainsawn, or cut on the horizontal. Quartersawn wood expands from top to bottom, instead of side to side. This reduces the buckling problem.

Engineered and Laminates

These are good woods to use over radiant heating. They are layered for stability. They don’t buckle. High temperatures dry out these flooring options, too. Manufacturer’s warranties should be checked for installation viability. Engineered and laminate flooring can be floated above radiant heating for less chance of buckling.

Tile, Stone and Porcelain

With little to no chance of buckling, these options are an excellent choice with radiant heat. They won’t move or crack. They conduct heat well.

Vinyl and Luxury Vinyl

Vinyl and luxury vinyl tiles conduct heat well. The floor temperature should be 70 degrees 24 hours before and 48 hours after installation for best results. Thereafter, temps can be up to 85 degrees with no problems.