Warmth. It’s what makes a house a home. But your bathroom floor didn’t get the memo. Stepping on a cold tile in the middle of January will certainly wake you up in the morning… though probably not in the way you’d prefer! Radiant heated floors are a little luxury you can give yourself each and every day. Not only does it increase comfort, but a great system also delivers exceptional efficiency, safety, and even health benefits (those who suffer from allergies can breathe a big sigh of relief).
Let’s talk about the best types of heated floors. What flooring will work best to enhance the comfort, convenience, and efficiency of your radiant system?
With radiant heated floors, the magic happens below the surface. A membrane is laid over your subfloor, and electric heating cables are installed on top. ACo often uses Schluter DITRA-HEAT, which offers a unique uncoupling membrane; this allows the substrate, or subfloor, to move independently of the flooring material. If you have tile, for example, this keeps it from cracking. DITRA-HEAT is also highly customizable so you can have radiant heating just where you want it.
With your membrane and cables in place, the next logical question is: what is the best flooring to maximize the benefits of radiant heat?
Tile is an excellent candidate — and arguably the best option — when it comes to radiant heating. Ceramic, porcelain, and natural stone tiles are highly efficient heat conductors. That is, they allow heat to pass through them, warming not only the floor but the entire room. These materials also retain heat for up to eight to 10 hours without additional energy use.
Tiles will not expand or contract with heat, and they have incredible resistance to cracking and warping. It makes sense: nature subjects stone to all kinds of brutal conditions! When it comes to your home, they ensure you won’t have to worry about damaged floors.
Ceramic, porcelain, and stone tiles are also the ones that are typically the coldest. They’re great thermal conductors, so they transfer cold from the surface to your body just as efficiently as they can transfer warmth. A heated flooring system eliminates this problem and takes these spaces from coldest to coziest.
The quality of the materials plays a starring role in the comfort and efficiency of your radiant heated floors. Top manufacturers, such as DalTile, produce tile and stone flooring solutions that will optimize your results.
Hardwood floors evoke a sense of cozy warmth — but the reality may be different on chilly days. Like tile, they can be cold to the touch; but, also like tile, wood is a good heat conductor and allows heat to circulate throughout the space. Many people assume carpet is the better option here, but it is actually an insulator. Essentially, carpet “traps” the heat; sure your toes will be toasty, but the air in the room will be no warmer.
If you are committed to the look and appeal of hardwood (and we don’t blame you), you can install a radiant heat system. You do, however, have to be cautious. Some options are more compatible with your goals and will help you avoid some common issues associated with changes in temperature, including expanding, contracting, warping, cracking, and gapping.
We recommend high quality hardwoods, such as cherry, ash, maple, hickory, walnut, and oak. But the species is just part of the equation. For example, it is typically advisable to use narrower planks that are on the thinner side (e.g. ⅜”) to facilitate heat transfer and to resist gapping. Quarter-sawn wood (i.e. the grains run vertically) is better suited to this application than plain-sawn (i.e. the grains run horizontally), which is much more vulnerable to expansion and contraction. And, we can’t forget the radiant heating system: hydronic, as opposed to electric, is typically preferred.
There are a variety of factors to consider, from material selection to installation. Again, we cannot emphasize strongly enough that your results start with the flooring you choose. Provenza, one of our preferred vendors, not only delivers exceptional quality and elegance, but they also provide information and education for customers.
When you purchase flooring by this leading manufacturer, they provide clear and detailed instructions for the proper installation of the material over radiant heating. Provenza covers everything from appropriate subfloors to temperature acclimation to humidity control so you can make the best decision – and enjoy beautiful, warm, floors for years to come.
Engineered hardwood is, in many respects, a better choice when it comes to radiant heating. In a high-end product, you have a strong, durable plywood base and a top layer of hardwood veneer. This creates a greater level of dimensional stability, so your flooring will not react to changes in temperature as readily as solid hardwood. Hardwood can also be installed with a “floating” technique (i.e. glued at the seams not glued or nailed to the subfloor); this reduces gapping due to fluctuations in temperature.
As with hardwood, you want to be careful with selection, installation, humidity, and max temperatures. Duchateau, a leader in the manufacturing of engineered hardwood, is another company that is as committed to informing consumers as it is to delivering exceptional products. They provide a thorough guide that explains the intricacies of installation and ongoing care, so you know what to expect. When choosing flooring for radiant heat applications, it is essential that you go with brands with specific expertise.
LVP, or luxury vinyl plank, is an excellent option for utility areas, such as your kitchen, bathrooms, mudroom, basement, and playrooms. It is sought after for its functionality, affordability, and, of course, its appearance. It is also an option when you want radiant heated floors. Though again, we have to issue the caveat: be
careful when selecting and installing!
Whether or not LVP can be used with radiant heated flooring systems depends on the manufacturer and the product. It should be specified so you know it is safe and appropriate. Some LVP products, for example, are more vulnerable to changes in temperature. When exposed to heat (which is the whole goal!), they can become deformed and unstable. You may also end up voiding your warranty.
Shaw is a top choice here: their edge lock LVP features a mineral core, which enhances stability. With floating installation, it can expand and contract appropriately without damaging the floor.
As you can see, choosing the best types of heated floors can be a challenge. There are myriad considerations to keep in mind, but ultimately, you want to be warm and enjoy high quality flooring! ACo has in-depth knowledge and experience with top manufacturers, as well as effective installation. We know what will work for you — and what won’t.
Contact ACo to learn more about your options and to get started on a cozier home.