In our previous article we presented the numerous benefits of a technology that is becoming increasingly popular in British homes – underfloor heating (UFH). This technology, that goes right back to Roman times, has been ultra-modernised in recent years to reward homes with evenly heated living spaces with zero cold spots, energy efficiency, a healthier and more hygienic living environment, more cubic metres of living space – and of course, the luxury of warm floors.
When it comes to cutting-edge technology, however, one of the greatest challenges facing designers and engineers is finding the appropriate material to complement that technology. The material not only needs to be beautiful and elegant, but also needs to work efficiently and effectively with that technology. In the field of interior design, one of the most successful matches currently available is that between underfloor heating and tiles.
Photo: Laying Tiles above an Underfloor Heating System
Tile – The Optimal Flooring Material for Underfloor Heating
When it comes to determining the best flooring material for UFH, the key criteria is thermal conductivity – specifically, how quickly and efficiently heat generated by the system transfers to the floor surface. Tile has excellent thermal conductivity properties. Moreover, it retains heat exceptionally well which further adds to its efficiency. Tile, along with stone, is the optimal flooring material to use with UFH. Heat-up time depends on the thickness of the tile so a maximum thickness of 3/4″ is recommended if you want the living space to heat up with relative speed. And once tiles are adequately heated, there’s no difference between thicker or thinner tiles in terms of heat output and quality.
Other Materials – Suboptimal with Underfloor Heating
Although other flooring materials can be used for UFH, nothing will work as well or as efficiently as tile or stone.
Wood, for example, contains natural moisture, and heating from below can produce cupping, crowning, and gapping in the floor. Furthermore, wood is a natural insulator and, unless professional attention is paid to the type and thickness of the wood employed, it may effectively block out the heat generated by the system underneath it. UFH technical experts only recommend kiln-dried woods, and in particular engineered timber. So solid and natural woods are out when it comes to UFH.
Carpet is a possibility for UFH, although the combination of carpet and underlay tends to act as an insulator thus blocking heat. In addition, the rubber backing often found on carpets is problematic as it prevents air from travelling through the material and can cause a build-up of condensation.
Vinyl is another possibility, with the advantage that it heats up quickly. However the corollary is that is cools down rapidly, and unlike tile, does not retain heat well thus reducing efficiency. Furthermore vinyl flooring has a maximum temperature threshold of around 27°C, and thus one has to be careful with a vinyl-UFH combination.
Photo: Floor Tiles and Underfloor Heating in Spectacular Home
The perfect compatibility of tiled floors and underfloor heating systems has led to a boom in the sales of both in recent years. As use of the enormous variety of tiled flooring material has become more fashionable, the number of homes adopting UFH has increased enormously. And similarly, as UFH systems have become more cutting-edge and thus more popular, the number of homes installing tiled flooring has increased proportionally. Quite simply, if you’re looking for a warm, cosy, gorgeous home – then marry tiles with UFH. The marriage will last a lifetime.