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What Flooring Types Can Underfloor Heating Be Laid On?

Electric underfloor heating is fast becoming a staple requirement in homes around the world. As the requirement for better insulation and thermal efficiency increases in popularity with savvy property owners, at the same time the need for underfloor heating installations within existing homes is on the rise. But can underfloor heating systems be a main heat source in the home? The short answer is yes, but knowing how to properly install it can make all the difference.

As running costs are cheaper, it's inexpensive to operate, and the heat distribution is much more effective than traditional radiators too. In fact, it’s more than capable of functioning as the main source of heating for properties of all shapes and sizes. With so many different flooring options available, how can you be sure that your floor space it suitable to support underfloor heating? Let’s get to know a little more about the installation process, and the factors involved.

Installing Electric Underfloor Heating in Your Home

When it comes to installing underfloor heating, there’s always the concern of the heat reacting with particular materials that it comes in to contact with. You may be wondering what types of flooring it can be laid on. Well, this all depends on the material that forms the floor itself, and whether or not it is capable of safely housing a heat source.

Avoid applying underfloor heating in direct contact with a bitumen or asphalt floor. To overcome this, the most practical approach is to install a thermal barrier over the asphalt floor such as floor insulation and the type will depend on the application and involve either XPS, cement finished tile backer board or LAMFOAM. In some under tile applications, when it is not a priority to insulate the floor, a practical solution is to apply a 4mm layer of flexible levelling compound as a barrier over the asphalt floor.

In general, underfloor heating can be installed on most solid floors. The general rule is to ensure the floor is level and rigid. Heat will typically rise upwards, so it’s just as important to consider what will go on top of the heating, as well as underneath it.

In new build houses, developers can fit electric underfloor systems within screed floors as the build progresses. In older homes, this could be an option if you need to (or are willing to!) take up your existing flooring. Understanding the right types of flooring that are suitable for underfloor heating is a priority, and here’s a list of the most common types.

  • Concrete Sub Floors
  • Wooden Sub Floors
  • Screeded Sub Floors
  • Existing Ceramic Tile Sub Floors

Installing over Concrete, Wooden Floors and Tiled Sub Floors

Once you’ve chosen the right type of underfloor heating for your flooring, the method of installation is quite straightforward. While mats, loose wire and foil systems are tailored to be installed over all types of concrete floors and wooden floors with little fuss - insulating each of these floors before installation can involve different methods.

Wooden floors in particular can experience a small amount of flexing or warping, so it may be necessary to brace the flooring to create a more stable base for the heating system. A layer of waterproof plywood or cement finished tilebacker board is normally used for this purpose.

Avoid exceeding in excess of 150W/m2 of heat when the heat is in direct contact with wooden sub-floors. Once again, the most practical approach to overcome this is to install a thermal barrier over the wooden sub floor such as XPS or cement finished tile backer board floor insulation. In some under tile applications, when it is not a priority to insulate the floor, a 4mm layer of flexible levelling compound can be installed as a barrier over the wooden floor.

Concrete and tiled sub floors are not subject to a heat limit, and can withstand the higher wattage of 200w/m² if required.

A primary heat source will always depend on the insulating properties of your building and the maximum watts density (w/m²) that is possible for your particular application.

Heating under Tiled Flooring – Concrete or Wooden Sub Floors

If you have a sub-floor with no height issues, 6mm thick Floorheatpro XPS insulation is the most economical solution for a low profile thermal barrier which can be applied to the sub-floor prior to installing the under tile heating system. To achieve the performance needed, the technical benefits of installing thicker layers of insulation are minimal.

On concrete sub-floors a 6mm layer of XPS is used as a thermal barrier, unless the client insists on using cement finished tilebacker board at the higher cost.

XPS sheets are not a mandatory requirement but they will provide a thermal barrier to improve system efficiency and prevent heat from being absorbed downwards into the concrete. Due to the extra 6mm thickness of insulation it is not always possible to accommodate because of height restrictions so this will need to be considered.

XPS insulation enhances the performance of the underfloor heating by maximising temperature response when heat is needed. This is exactly what your underfloor heating requires for the most economical operation. Due to its positioning in the floor it provides a thermal barrier and benefit which is not dependent on the amount of insulation installed under the sub-floor screed.

Floorheatpro still supply cement finished tilebacker boards but these are at a higher cost than XPS.

Cement finish tilebacker board is normally used to strengthen a floor as well as insulate. However, when you are tiling on a concrete sub-floor it is already rigid and firm so the most practical and economical thermal barrier is always with XPS.

Heating under Laminate or Engineered Wooden Flooring

For this application you will install the foil heating mat system.

This will provide the heat gradient required to ensure the system is safe and does not damage your top floor.

Always install the foil heating system over a 6mm layer of LAMFOAM floor insulation or alternatively a 6mm layer of XPS floor insulation. Both LAMFOAM and XPS are fit for purpose but FLOORHEATPRO will always recommend LAMFOAM first due to its additional benefits.

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