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What you need to know about underfloor heating

Underfloor heating is pure luxury and a viable alternative to traditional central heating that is gaining popularity in British homes. It can often be a more cost efficient solution for heating your home too, effectively reducing heating bills whilst eliminating unsightly or awkwardly positioned radiators.

What type of flooring you choose for your home can affect the type of underfloor heating you are able to install, and vice versa, so here’s the Flooring Megastore ultimate guide to underfloor heating.

What is underfloor heating?

Set on a screed subfloor beneath your flooring of choice, underfloor heating systems can either be electric or water systems.

The electric option is ideal for smaller rooms and can often be done without the help of professionals, if you’re handy at DIY. While electric heating mats are easier and cheaper to install, water systems are often more cost effective to run.

Water-based underfloor heating works by way of a system of pipes that circulate warm water around the home. More efficient than radiators; the system distributes the heat more evenly, meaning you don’t need to get the water temperature quite so high. This type needs to be installed by a professional, and the fitting of pipes makes it fairly expensive to put in.

Choosing compatible flooring

While most floorings can be used with underfloor heating, there are still considerations to bear in mind when making your decision. It’s important to choose something that’s compatible, and to think carefully about the underlay.

Laminate flooring

A laminate such as Quick-Step is ideal for use with electric heat mats, but should be installed as a floating floor over the system that’s embedded in the screed. When installed in this manner, the strong Uniclic connection between the planks will prevent any of the potential condensation problems traditionally associated with underfloor heating and laminate. You should of course always refer to technical instructions and the manufacturer of the specific system before installing, to make sure it can be used with laminate.

Engineered wood

Despite common misconceptions, engineered wood also works remarkably well with electric underfloor heating, as the structural stability makes it better able than solid wood to withstand the fluctuating temperatures. Engineered timber and bamboo are the best choices as the moisture is less ‘critical’, but other hardwoods will also work well with underfloor heating. It is important that engineered wood flooring planks are installed correctly; whether floating or ‘secret nailed’, boards of less than 20mm thickness should be supported if a screed slab is not being used. It’s best to avoid soft woods such as pine because, just as with all engineered wood floors, it shouldn’t be heated above 27 degrees Celsius.

Vinyl flooring

Vinyl flooring is an inexpensive and durable flooring that allows heat to transmit easily through its thin layer. Generally it should not be heated above 26 degrees, and because of this it’s best used in smaller rooms, though not conservatories, which struggle to retain heat.

Carpet and underfloor heating

Water systems typically work best with stone or tile. However a lovely low-tog carpet is also an ideal choice; giving you snuggly floors guaranteed. You’ll need to pick a lower tog for both your carpet and underlay to ensure the heat doesn’t get stuck below the floor and can instead transmit upwards to warm your room. A maximum combined tog of 2.5 is recommended.

Underlay is everything

When choosing your flooring, remember to combine the tog rating of both the floor and underlay, and don’t exceed the guidelines given by the heating manufacturer. You need to be careful when choosing your underlay; make sure it is recommended for use with underfloor heating or else you may end up with a crumbly underlay or even a heating system which doesn’t work effectively. Polyurethane (pu) underlays have a high tog rating and should therefore be avoided with underfloor heating.

There is a whole range of excellent underlay designed to work beautifully with underfloor heating, whilst still offering comfort and insulation. These, such as Heatflow Wood & Laminate and Duralay King are cleverly engineered to maximise the efficiency of the heating and transmit warmth up through the floor. The underlay you buy will also depend on whether you have wood, laminate or carpet flooring.

Whether you decide on electric underfloor heating, the traditional Roman inspired water system, or just decide to stick with a good old radiator, you’re sure to find a huge selection of flooring that’s perfect for the job at Flooring Megastore.