Design Considerations for Radiant Flooring

Now that you’ve chosen to have radiant heating, let’s talk about floor coverings. It’s important to have this conversation during the design phase to achieve the best results possible from your radiant heating system. For example, electric cable radiant heating installed directly under tile will have different considerations versus a hydronic radiant heating system installed in gypcrete under hardwood flooring. There will be different methods and components used in each of these projects.

While all flooring materials can be used with heated floors, there are special considerations for each kind of floor covering that need to be addressed during the design phase, before installation begins. Floor coverings have a range of R-Values, which will affect the design and efficiency of your radiant heating system, and your personal experience with it. Here are some general rules of thumb to follow.

Floor coverings have a pronounced effect on the performance of radiant heating systems due to their insulating qualities. A floor covering with high insulating properties, such as carpet and padding, needs a hotter supply water temperature to achieve the required floor output, or desired results. The table below lists the R-values of various floor coverings and carpet pad underlayments.


Materials with thermal-conducting properties, such as stone, marble, concrete, and ceramic tile, conduct, transfer, and hold heat more effectively making them a preferred floor covering for electric and hydronic radiant heating systems. Ceramic tile is the most popular choice for bathrooms, and one of the most desired applications for radiant heating because it conducts and stores heat well. Radiant heating installed underneath turns these cold floors into warm, inviting floors you’ll prefer to walk barefoot on.


Stone and ceramic tile works well with radiant floor heating because of the material’s thermal conducting properties.

Engineered wood or floating floors are a preferred floor covering for radiant floor heating because it doesn’t expand or contract with seasonal temperature changes, making it a stable covering. The installation process is simple with no need to nail or glue the engineered wood to the surface below. It is often used in living rooms, kitchens, and basements, but can be added to any room where you want efficient, invisible, comfortable heat under durable flooring.


Solid hardwood floors can shrink and expand with fluctuating temperatures leaving unsightly gaps, therefore requires special considerations when used with radiant heating systems. But if you’re in love with wood floors an experienced installer can manage this by including dual-sensing thermostats to maintain the desired range of floor temperatures. These nifty sensors prohibit the thermal mass of the floor from exceeding 85 degrees, which is the maximum recommended surface temperature for hardwood floors.


Vinyl and plastic laminate floors also come with temperature limitations, but are viable floor coverings for radiant heating systems. Laminate flooring provides strength and durability, combined with ease of maintenance and installation, plus affordable pricing, makes this an attractive choice when remodeling. We recommend designing the radiant heating system specifically for use with laminate flooring, and should also include dual-sensing thermostats.

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Radiant heating works well under almost any flooring covering. It’s an affordable luxury that brings comfort and a sense of well-being to your life. Proper planning and preparation in the beginning will ensure you get the results you want, while maintaining the life of your floors. Learn more and get started at