Under floor heating and sustainable flooring

under floor heatingUnder floor heating (UFH) is a very old idea that goes back to the Romans. There are a number of advantages and disadvantages to under floor heating. This post will look at these pros and cons and discuss whether sustainable flooring can be used with under floor heating.

There are 2 basic types of under floor heating: using electrical cables and using pipes of hot water. Both perform equally well.

The main advantage with under floor heating is that it makes the floor comfortable and inviting. Under floor heating radiates heat and so fills the room with heat evenly from the floor up. Radiators give off convective heat and so a room fills up top down. Also using under floor heating removes all the radiators from a room and hides the ‘equipment’. Removing the radiators from a room makes it easier to keep the space dust free and also provides more space.

Another advantage of under floor heating is that it uses hot water at 50 degrees Celsius instead of the usual 60 degrees Celsius of a hot water system using radiators. This is good for heat pumps and solar heated water which sometimes struggles to get the water hot enough for standard hot water systems.

The disadvantage of under floor heating is that it can take an hour for a room to heat up. The room retains the heat for longer. This partly depends on what flooring is used.  Concrete flooring such as polished screed will retain heat for several hours.

The other disadvantage of under floor heating is that is subjects the flooring to lots of heat; the flooring becomes a medium for the heat. The flooring therefore has to be very stable. With flooring made from natural materials there is always a problem of warping and shrinking as the moisture is removed from the material.

Under floor heating with strand woven bamboo flooring

It is possible to use under floor heating with strand woven bamboo flooring. Cross ply high density strand woven bamboo flooring is recommended. It has to be very dense and hard bamboo.

Under floor heating with reclaimed hardwood flooring

UFH heating is popular with hardwood flooring in the United States. The same rules for installing reclaimed hardwood flooring over UFH apply as for hardwood flooring over UFH. The National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA) provides guidelines that are widely followed. If the wood is prepared correctly real wood planks are better than engineered flooring. The key to using reclaimed hardwood flooring over under floor heating is to thoroughly and slowly kiln dry the reclaimed hardwood and then to cut the flooring using advanced laser technology to guarantee an exact fit.

The fact that reclaimed hardwood flooring is more dimensionally stable than hardwood flooring made from new hardwood makes it better for UFH.

Under floor heating and cork flooring

Cork is a very good heat and sound insulator. The insulating properties of cork flooring mean that it is necessary to use cork flooring less than 10 mm thickness with under floor heating. Cork is composed of millions of air pockets that trap heat. Thus cork flooring is slow to release heat and will delay the effectiveness of UFH to warm a room.

Under floor heating and coconut flooring

Eco Palm Flooring sell coconut flooring that can be laid over under floor heating. As with reclaimed hardwood flooring it is important to use coconut timber that has been carefully kiln dried and that is cut accurately.

It is normal for each room with under floor heating to have its own controller system. This increases the price for UFH compared to other types of heating. Also it is a skilled job to put in under floor heating. It is recommended to use professionals rather than to DIY under floor heating and to insist on a company that is going to use the best specifications and most suitable flooring.

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