Wooden Flooring and Underfloor Heating – The Basics
Wooden flooring always looks beautiful and really enhances the interior design of a room – it’s easy to maintain, more hygienic than fitted carpets and much warmer underfoot than tiles. But in a cold climate such as ours for much of the year we are using heating to warm our homes and underfloor heating is particularly popular now as you don’t have unsightly radiators taking up wall space and detracting from your home’s value. Part of its rise in popularity is the improvement of the technology which is now more effective than it has been in the past.
But if you want to protect and preserve your wooden floor there are some basic guidelines to follow and limitations to be aware of with respect to temperature, humidity and moisture when installing underfloor heating. Of course, the success of heating under a wooden floor is very dependent on the type of wooden floor.
Wooden flooring is available in many different types of wood and different types of construction. There are solid wooden floors in both softwoods and hardwoods in the form of long, narrow boards or planks, or smaller pieces used in, for example, parquet floors. Solid wooden floors are usually nailed or screwed to the sub-floor. There are also engineered wooden floors that consist of several layers glued together with the top layer only being solid wood. These are most often installed as a floating floor above a series of joists.
Because of the natural properties of wood it can absorb moisture from its surroundings so it will, under different conditions and at different times of the year, expand and contract. Engineered flooring is much less affected by changes in humidity than solid wooden floors but still affected nonetheless
Different woods also react differently to moisture in the air, for example, Beech and Maple expand and contract more than many other types of wood so are not generally suitable for underfloor heating although some beech and maple flooring is manufactured by press drying and is more resistant to changes in humidity.
But most other types of wood are suitable for installation with underfloor heating. However, be aware that large solid wooden floor boards can expand and contract very noticeably (with or without underfloor heating) and large gaps can appear between them. With engineered wooden floors gaps may also occur but are less obvious and with parquet flooring the gaps are less noticeable still.
So if you are considering underfloor heating with a wooden floor then either smaller pieces (such as parquet) or an engineered floor are most suitable. Avoid using beech or maple unless you know it has been specifically manufactured to minimise the effects of moisture absorption.