Under floor heating and wooden floors

A lively debate exists as to the merits of installing underfloor heating under a wooden floor. Here’s a summary of the pros and cons

A lively debate exists as to the merits of installing an underfloor heating system underneath a wooden floor. Some people vehemently defend the use of wooden floors with underfloor heating; others seem to threaten violence at the very idea.

The problem for most people choosing a floor covering to use with their underfloor heating system is that both camps make such plausible arguments. And wood – with its natural, individual finish and its natural warmth, its low-maintenance properties and its current position at the height of fashion – is such an attractive choice for most of us.

Here, then, is a look at the pros and cons of using wood as a floor covering above underfloor heating. Remember that just about any floor covering will work with underfloor heating, and a wider look at the different types of flooring can be found elsewhere on this site.

The case for combining wood and underfloor heating

Some people maintain that underfloor heating is actually very good for wooden floors because the heating system keeps an even temperature over the surface of the floor – reducing the effects of the “hot spots” that can develop near radiators.

Stopping the wood from warping is critical. The trick is to make sure the timber is has the correct moisture content before installation. Even then, some experts recommend laying the flooring out loose to let it acclimatise to the room in which it will be laid.

Those wanting to take extra care to avoid warping can choose reclaimed wood, which can have had up to a century or more to settle down – and is seen as more environmentally friendly.

Everything else being equal, for many people, wood will always be a favourite choice of floor covering. It looks good – and looks warm, which can count for a lot, is comfortable and easy to clean.

The case for not using wood with underfloor heating

The anti-wood camp most commonly quote the warping problem as the main reason not to combine a wooden floor with underfloor heating.

However, a more plausible argument against a wooden floor is that of efficiency. Wood is an excellent insulator – and as a result, will insulate your room from the heating system below it. This means the system has to work harder to heat your room, reducing its efficiency and making it a lot more expensive and less eco-friendly to run.

This, in turn, would increase the chances of damage to the wood – especially if the temperature of the underfloor heating system changed rapidly.

Ultimately, the choice is one only you can make – but consulting a professional in underfloor heating will always help.