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Our guide to using underfloor heating with stone flooring

Underfloor heating is becoming an increasingly popular choice; not just because it’s so lovely underfoot, but for lots of practical reasons too.

It frees up wall space by replacing the need for radiators, it can be very energy efficient and it creates an even, ambient heat, removing cold spots. And, in terms of a flooring ‘partner’, stone is considered to be one of the best; it’s a great natural conductor of heat, with high thermal conductivity, as well as great heat retention.

Although underfloor heating is often associated with kitchens, hallways and bathrooms, it can potentially be used in any room in the home. It’s also particularly good in areas where heating loss can be an issue, like in a conservatory or garden room. And, there aren’t any particular rules in terms of which type of stone flooring should be used. The thickness of the tile or flagstone will have minimal impact on the efficiency of the underfloor heating, although very thick stone will take a little longer to heat up.

The Best Types of Tiles for Underfloor Heating

The best types of flooring and tiles to use alongside underfloor heating will depend upon several factors.

For natural floor finishes

Marble flooring – probably offers the best thermal conductivity which makes it the perfect choice for a flooring surface where underfloor heating is being used. High thermal conductivity means the floor surface gets warm faster, which transfers more heat into the room meaning less energy overall is required to make your rooms cosy warm. Marble is also one of the most popular surfaces for bathrooms because of its numerous diverse styles and wall to floor seamless looks.

Limestone tiles – offer a desirable, classic stone floor aesthetic that is rarely matched by other natural stone flooring surfaces. Limestone is durable, transfers heat quickly and is easy to maintain once installed.

Terracotta tiles – are incredibly porous, making them ideal for use with underfloor heating systems as they allow for fast and efficient transfer of heat through to your room. Not only do they function well with underfloor heating, but they look fabulous too. Terracotta floors have been in high demand for many years and their popularity sees no sign of a decline.

Slate tiles – are highly conductive of heat, which is important when choosing a surface to sit over your heating system. The faster the heat transfer of your flooring, the cheaper your energy bills.

For durability, fast heat-up times & diverse looks

Porcelain tiles – can offer the look and feel of natural stone but, due to how they are manufactured offer increased durability and faster heat transfer times than their equivalent natural stone floor counterparts. They can also be patterned to resemble popular classic tile patterns or created to resemble wood flooring, giving a classic wood floor look that can be used in bathrooms or wet rooms without fear of warping.

Engineered oak flooring – can be used alongside underfloor heating, especially if natural wood flooring effects are desired. Due to the treatment process, engineered oak boards are much more forgiving, easier to install and last longer than traditional oak. If you are planning on using engineered oak in bathrooms, then you’ll want to consider engineered oak which is finished with an oil-based finish.

Encaustic patterned tiles – are versatile enough to be used on walls or floors and much of our encaustic range can be placed over underfloor heating systems. If you’re looking for bright, colourful flooring or distinctive bold patterns then encaustic tiles will likely be amongst your favourites.

Types of Underfloor Heating Systems

In terms of the actual heating system, there are two main options: a warm water or ‘wet’ system – sometimes referred to as a capillary system – and an electric system.  Insulation is an important consideration in both cases; it’s worth seeking advice on the best methods of insulating under the system. Also, whilst electric systems can be laid by an experienced DIYer, professional installation is recommended for wet systems, in terms of calculating floor heights, achieving the correct temperature and the actual installation into screed.

Warm water underfloor heating

Warm water systems can be installed in renovations but there will be a fair bit of upheaval. They tend to be most popular in new builds and extensions, where there’s scope to revise floor heights in relation to doorways, etc. The systems basically take warm water from the central heating system and it’s carried around in plastic pipes under the floor. A screed is then poured over the pipes. The installation is more expensive than an electric system but running costs are lower. The system also operates at a lower temperature than a standard system, so it’s more efficient than radiators. We recommend Schluter Systems, you can find more information here.

Electric underfloor heating

With electric systems, cables or a heating element mat are installed underneath the stone flooring. The whole process is a lot cheaper and less disruptive, though running costs tend to be more. There don’t tend to be any floor height issues, so it’s a great option if you’re just updating a room or replacing a floor. We recommend Heat Mat.

So, gone are the days where stone flooring was discounted for being chilly underfoot.  And, using the two ‘products’ together can actually bring lots of other benefits, in terms of cost savings and design scope, as you’ll have more wall space; not to mention comfort as winter approaches!

We’ve got a huge range of beautiful stone flooring that can be used alongside underfloor heating. To find out more about our collections, like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or, contact us here.

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