How to Choose Underfloor Heating

Looking for an efficient way to heat up your home? Well, if you know the horror of stepping onto a cold bathroom floor in the winter in bare feet, then you’ve probably at least considered underfloor heating for your home. But how do you know if it’s the right choice for you? My guide today will help you decide.

Swoon Worthy kitchen with underfloor heating under slate

The Pros and Cons of Underfloor Heating

First, let’s consider some of the benefits of underfloor heating. Not having to use radiators means freeing up valuable wall space for furniture placement and the heat radiates from all over the floor. As heat rises, the entire room gets warm rather than just the area in front of a standing heating system. And of course, there’s no worry of cold feet on bare floors!

It creates a pleasant heat with no cold spots, distributes that heat evenly and gently warms a room without waste. It’s 40% more efficient than radiators so better for the environment too and will save you on your heating bills in the long run.

Once installed, there’s very little maintenance and virtually no chance of flooding. However, if you do run into a problem with it, you will need to rip up flooring to fix it which can be costly and inconvenient.

It can also be costly to install, especially if you want to install it under existing flooring. If you are creating new floors from scratch in a new build, an extension or if you are going to be replacing the flooring in a space, then underfloor heating may be a great choice. Having to rip up existing flooring, however, may be more work than you are willing to do so you need to weigh this up when making your decision.

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The Two Types of Underfloor Heating

There are basically two types of underfloor heating to consider – wet or electric.

Hot Water or Wet Systems

These systems work along with your central heating system and warm water is pushed through a system of small pipes on a subfloor to heat up a room. The pipes are continuous which means there is less chance of leakage through the joins and your surface flooring is laid above them. Because the central heating system doesn’t have to heat the water to as high a temperature as a radiator would, you’ll have lower water heating costs.

They can run off any central heating system provided it’s big enough although generally, combination boilers are the most efficient. Each room can be controlled individually or via a hub that would be located in a single location like a cupboard.

You will need more subfloor space to install these as they sit higher than electric systems which means your flooring will sit higher. This may mean if you were to install this in, perhaps, the kitchen, you may have to take into consideration that the floors may not be even into adjoining rooms.

Electric Underfloor Heating

Comes as a system of cables on an open weave mat or a continuous roll much like an electric blanket and is very easy to install. It also sits flatter than wet systems allowing you to use it if you do not want to install it everywhere because your flooring does not need as much room as it would for a wet system. Electric systems are simply rolled out and connected to your electricity and the new flooring installed above it. They are, however, less energy efficient than the wet systems and may cost more to run than water-based systems.

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Where to Use It

Because of the requirement for sufficient floor height, wet systems are normally best used on ground floors or where there is new construction taking place but really, you can use underfloor heating virtually anywhere. There are even electric mats that can be used over existing flooring and underneath carpets so even bedrooms can benefit from underfloor heating.

Installing Underfloor Heating

For any system to work well, you need to ensure your home is well insulated and that there is room for the system to be installed. Once installed, the systems are virtually maintenance free.

Installation of an electric system is a relatively easy DIY job and you can buy kits nationwide.

Wet systems need to be installed by a qualified tradesmen and will cost considerably more but they will take into consideration things like your ceiling height, the temperature at which the water will need to be heated and your boiler capacity as well as the type of flooring you wish to install on top of the system.

You can install UFH with virtually any kind of flooring, provided there is sufficient room in your subfloor. Even carpets, provided the carpet and underlay have a heat-resistance of less than 2.5 tog.

If you wish to use it under tiles, then the time taken to heat up your room will depend upon the thickness of your tiles. Thicker tiles will naturally take longer to heat up but once at temperature, there is virtually no difference to the heat output to thinner tiles.

If you wish to use it with timber flooring, then it’s best to seek the advice of your flooring installer and heating installer. Many recommend using wood flooring that is specifically made for underfloor heating as you’ll want to take into consideration the top temperature restrictions on the types of wood you plan to use. So make sure you do your research before purchasing.

You can use it under vinyl flooring as well but bear in mind not all vinyl or laminate flooring are compatible with UFH so again, it’s important to do your research before purchasing and seek advice to see if the vinyl or laminate you choose is recommended for use.

Image sources: Swoon Worthy / Tile Mountain

A Social Media and Content Marketing Editor, Kimberly Duran is an Interior Design-obsessed American ex-pat, who chronicles her decorating journey in her personal blog, Swoon Worthy. When she’s not helplessly drooling over blogs, design sites and adding things to the imaginary ‘shopping basket’ in her head, she likes to get messy tackling DIY projects with her partner in crime, Wayne, stalking eBay for bargains, taking Instagram pictures of her cats, and continuing her love affair with gold spray paint.