Can you use wood floors with underfloor heating?
Our essential guide
Underfloor heating also minimises ‘cold spots’ across larger surface areas, plus it’s energy-efficient and therefore cost-effective at this time of soaring bills, since it runs at a lower temperature than radiators. What’s more, it can be used with a wide range of flooring types, and you won’t need any space-hogging radiators to fit it.
Is solid wood flooring suitable for underfloor heating?
The short answer is yes, you can pair both electric and wet underfloor heating solutions with wood flooring, since the material conducts and holds the heat the system produces, and radiates it across the room. What’s more, wood is a material which warms up nice and quickly.
So if you’re wondering can you have wet underfloor heating under a wood floor, the answer is you certainly can; you can also fit an electrically operated version. However, there are a few things you need to consider first:
Expansion and contraction
Wood absorbs moisture so that, over time, it expands. It then contracts as it cools down. Significant temperature fluctuations could therefore eventually cause warping. For that reason, it’s best to have a 10mm (minimum) gap around the perimeter of your floor, allowing for expansion and contraction.
Generally speaking, the denser and thinner your timber boards are, the more easily heat will pass through them. Most manufacturers say your wood’s maximum thickness should not exceed 18mm.
Because wider boards usually show more movement than narrow ones, the ideal ratio of thickness to width lies somewhere between seven and 11. So, for example, a 16mm, 160mm wide product has a good ratio of 10.
Top tips for fitting wooding flooring for underfloor heating
1. Think about the cost
Research how much it will cost to fit and run your underfloor heating.
2. Allow for acclimatisation
Allow your wood to acclimatise in the room where the heating system will go – for a good three days. Then, once the solution is installed, wait another couple of days before switching it on.
3. The devil is in the detail of your spec
Pay good attention to the details of your UFH specification, and ensure heat is spreading evenly from your system, to prevent the surface from overheating.
With all kinds of wood, the temperature in the room should not be allowed to exceed 28°C.
5. Using a screeded system?
If your UFH system is a screeded wet solution, allow additional time for drying. The timber will have extra moisture otherwise.
What wood types work best with UFH systems?
Now you know the answer to the question, can you put wood flooring over underfloor heating, you may be wondering what timber types work best with UFH solutions. Choosing the right type of flooring is critical to avoid potential disruption and costs later on.
Engineered wood flooring
These floor types comprise an upper solid-wood layer plus a number of softwood layers below. This provides stability, allowing the wood to expand and contract naturally without warping or cracking. It’s robustly constructed, and so widely considered to be the ideal solution to use with a UFH system.
Solid wood flooring
Solid timber planks are vulnerable to moving when exposed to temperature fluctuations, although it does depend on the species used. If your heart is set on a UFH system combined with UFH, go for a kiln-dried version with a 6-9% moisture content, while boards should be no thicker than 18mm. Quarter-sawn timber is less likely to warp.
Affordable, low maintenance and easy to clean, this flooring type resists UFH-associated alterations in temperature. So it won’t buckle or warp as your room heats up. Again, slimmer boards are likely to be your best option, and you’re probably best off pairing laminate floors with a water-based UFH system (Some manufacturers recommend you don’t combine their laminate floors with electric systems). Keep maximum temperature in the room to 27°C.