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Can I install underfloor heating with my existing floor?

As a concept, underfloor heating has been around for centuries; samples have been found in Asia of trenches used to heat the floors of ancient dwellings, and these are believed to be around 7000 years old.

Closer to the modern era the Roman Empire also became famed for their then advanced underfloor heating systems; the hypocaust. The Romans filtered smoke from a furnace through an underfloor, pillar supported cavity, in order to heat the room above. While novel, systems such as this were labour intensive, and varied wildly in effectiveness. For one, the closer a room was to the hypocaust, the warmer it would be.

Fortunately, current underfloor heating systems have come a long way since those pioneering early days, providing an efficient, effective operation.

Key benefits of underfloor heating

Modern underfloor heating systems offer a number of benefits to home owners. Indeed, there are so many positives that underfloor heating is widely considered to be the optimal heating system for commercial and domestic properties.

For one, underfloor heating is better for both your personal domestic environment, and the environment of the planet as a whole. As underfloor heating utilises radiant heating, rather than the traditional method of convection heating used by radiator heating systems, less dust and pollutants are cycled around your home on convection currents, vastly improving domestic air quality. Underfloor heating also offers superior energy efficiency, as it only requires low temperature water, generally around 40oC, to achieve the same levels of heating performance as traditional radiator based heating systems. Seeing as radiator systems generally need water temperatures of around 75oC to function properly, underfloor heating has a far smaller environmental impact.

Underfloor heating also benefits homeowners by being low maintenance, and hidden under the floor. This means that not only is wall space no longer sacrificed to radiators, but there is also very little to worry about in terms of cost after the initial installation.

As well as better environmental effectiveness, space saving, and lifespan; underfloor heating also delivers a superior level of control than traditionally utilised central heating systems, allowing for a separate thermostat to be used in for every individual room. As well as providing home owners with more options, this increased level of control also makes underfloor heating even more efficient; as energy and heat are no longer wasted on unoccupied rooms.

Is it necessary to replace flooring, or can it be re-used?

This would all depend on the variety of flooring that you currently have installed at home, as well as, to a lesser extent, whether you choose wet or dry underfloor heating to be installed.

Generally speaking, wet underfloor heating is the more difficult of the two systems to install, mainly due to the need to pad out the areas around the pipe work during installation, to ensure a flat floor surface.  Obviously, this poses more a of a potential issue when installed underneath existing flooring, as the floor level may end up higher as a result of installation. Electric underfloor heating requires less planning in this regard, as, being a uniformly flat sheet, it’s extremely easy to layout and install, with minimal risk of bumps or grooves being left in your floor service. Both systems require control boxes to be installed in the room in which they are housed, so space would need to be made or reserved, as appropriate.

Assuming that your underfloor heating system is being installed under an already completed floor, the floor must be removed before installation can take place. Depending on the material and style of existing floor, this can either be a fairly easy process. Flooring material such as carpet and vinyl can be easily rolled up and out of the way during the installation of underfloor heating, presenting little obstacle to the completion of the task. Flagstones, tiles and wooden planking can all be more problematic, as their removal is more complex, and can potentially require their replacement, should they be damaged in the removal process.

Are certain flooring materials better suited to the operation of underfloor heating?

All varieties of flooring material have attributes that make them more, or less compatible with underfloor heating. Generally these attributes fall into two specific categories; whether underfloor heating would actively damage the flooring material by causing expansion and shrinkage of the flooring materials(cracking stone, warping wood), or minimising the effectives of underfloor heating by absorbing the heat, and in doing so not allowing it to radiate into the room.

Thick carpet is particularly bad at absorbing heat that would ideally be heating a room, though certain varieties of underlay are also particularly bad at this; attributes that would normally make them an ideal choice for their role, such as thickness and high tog value, directly impeded the function of underfloor heating.

Fortunately, we stock a range of underfloor heating specialised underlay here at Flooring Megastore. These underlays not only pad the floor; softening footsteps, levelling out bumps, and providing long lasting protection for the top flooring layer; but have low TOG values, ensuring that minimal heat is retained as it passes through the underlay to the room above.