Radiant Floor Covering Options

Tile Radiant Floor Covering

It is important to know that there are many different radiant floor covering options. You need to consider what finish floor type is your favorite, and that will help you to understand what type of radiant floor heat will work best in your situation. Any floor covering is possible, but some types of flooring work better for certain applications.

Radiant Floor Heat with Concrete

Typically, a home with radiant heat embedded in the concrete uses tile, carpeting or laminate. For small applications of radiant heat, such as an electric radiant heat system in the bathroom floor, tile is placed above the radiant heat mat.

Concrete is a great starting point for radiant heat. If you have a ranch home with no basement, meaning there is only one floor situated at ground level, the cost of radiant heat is lower.

The significantly lower price than most applications is becuase you are using concrete already. Embedding a hydronic or electric radiant system won't add too much to the cost of the home.

Concrete - In some situations, the concrete is used as the finished floor. Concrete can be tinted many different colors and can add a clean, almost industrial look and feel to a home. The floor may look cold to the casual observer, but a radiant heat concrete floor is warm to the touch. People with concrete radiant floors often spend all their time walking around the house barefoot.

Gypcrete - Sometimes people actually lay down a thin layer of gypsum mixed with concrete, hence the term ‘Gypcrete’ on top of a subfloor and embed the radiant water heat in this. You do need to make sure the joists are closer together to handle this extra amount of weight. This strategy allows you to have radiant heat embedded into ‘Gypcrete’ on every floor level, instead of just the ground or basement floor. You can choose a variety of different radiant floor covering options with this strategy, just like concrete.

Tile - The most common choice for a concrete floor with radiant heat is to put tile above the concrete. This is because you just have to put thinset and then the tile down to create a magnificent looking warm tile floor. There are so many different choices for tile, so you can make your home look any which way you please.

Laminate - Do you want a wood floor, but are worried about placing this floor type on concrete? Go with laminate instead. A laminate floor can be glued down right on the concrete or can be floating above the concrete floor. There are countless different laminate floor choices now. The high quality laminates are tougher than hardwood, and look just as nice.

Carpet - It is possible to pick carpeting as a radiant floor covering. There are some things that you have to consider before you pick any type of carpet. First of all, you should stick with short pile carpet above radiant floor heat. Also, the padding below the carpeting should be dense. Radiant floor heat isn't meant to travel through a lot of insulation. With thicker carpeting or a puffy carpet pad, the radiant heat won't be able to transfer its warmth upward as effectively.

Radiant Floor Covering Options with a Subfloor

Radiant heat can be applied to an entire subfloor, and in this case, you can choose wood flooring. Wood floor can't be nailed down to concrete, but hydronic radiant heat tubing can be built into a subfloor, or strapped below the subfloor. The tubes are attached to the subfloor with aluminum flashing.

Wood Floor -Wood floors can be used as a radiant floor covering with specialty products like Warmboard subflooring. Warmboard has the hydronic PEX radiant tubing built into the subfloor so the hardwood floor is placed directly above it. With a product like this, basically any type of hardwood will work just fine.

For other radiant subfloors, the two most popular hardwood options are bamboo and aged hardwoods. Bamboo is a wise choice because it doesn't expand or contract nearly as much when it heats up and cools off. This is very important in a radiant heated floor since in the winter, the floor will actually be about 80 to 85 degrees.

Reclaimed or older hardwoods are less likely to expand and contract also. They have been chopped down a long time ago, so all the moisture has dissipated and they are set in their ways, so to speak.

If you are going to go with hardwood, it actually is possible to glue them down to concrete. We don’t recommend it because there can be problems with moisture levels. That really is the biggest enemy to wood floors: humidity, not heat.

Engineered wood flooring also does better than solid hardwood. This is because the different layers of wood underneath the top finished hardwood won’t expand or contract as much.

Two of the best options for solid wood floors are American Cherry or Oak. Make sure to pick the narrowest planks possible (usually 2 ¼ inch wide).

Is there one radiant floor covering that is better than others?

At Radiant Heat Reviewer, we don’t really think one form of radiant heat is better than another, but certain situations call for the right choice of radiant heat.

First of all, for small applications, we recommend using electric radiant heat. If you want to remodel your bathroom, we suggest a radiant heat mat covered with tile.

For larger applications, where the ground floor will already be concrete, we suggest embedding a hydronic radiant heat system and then pick the floor covering that you enjoy the most. Wood is a possibility in this situation, but we generally steer people away from this choice.

For a home where the radiant heat is going to be added to the subfloor, we really like tile and wood. The feeling of heated tile on your barefoot is second to none. The reason we like wood is because it is so versatile and elegant. It also feels remarkably comfortable to the touch.

The remarkable thing about radiant heat now is that any floor choice is possible. Whatever your preconcieved notions of radiant heat were, you need to adjust them. The future of heating is right under your feet.

Related Articles

- Radiant Heat Flooring
- Warm Tile Floors
- Radiant Heat Under Wood Floors
- Concrete Floor Radiant Heating
- Laminate Radiant Floor Heating
- Carpet For Radiant Floor Heat

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