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What flooring types does underfloor heating work with?

High temperatures have the potential to ruin many flooring types, but in most installation cases, it’s just not necessary to put out that much heat. Think about it: Why is it necessary to install a high temperature cable system that can reach 120 degrees or higher when all that is needed is 75-80 degrees to heat the floor? Cable electric under floor heating systems have limitations due to their high temperature output. These systems should only be installed under tiled floor. The concern with these systems is a high temperature output from a very thin heating conductor. Cable systems have a simple thermostat, and some will incorporate a temperature-limited probe that is installed under the finished flooring. The probe monitors the temperature in the area it’s installed and will shut off the element when it reaches high temperatures. However, if the temperature is too high in areas other than where the probe is installed, the system won’t automatically shut off, which could cause it to fail. Installing floor coverings such as carpet or wood on top of these electric cable types increases the risk of the system overheating and could cause it to fail. Contrary to what you may hear or read about cable systems working under carpet or wood floors, do yourself a favor: Stay clear of this advice. I believe you are only inviting trouble, due to the risk of overheating and failure. Stick to using cable systems under tiled floors, and make sure to choose a cable system that will provide trouble-free operation with a warranty to match. When a hydronic (water based) underfloor radiant heating system is installed in a slab, there is a plethora of choices homeowners can make with floor coverings. Tile and carpet are the most common choices for flooring. Wood floors are also becoming more popular for these applications. However, the fact that you cannot control the output temperature of the slab can have a negative impact on your finished floors.If you are installing carpet, “think thin” to allow radiant heat transfer. The carpet and pad need to have a low R-value (resistance to heat flow value) – below R-2.5 collectively. Not all carpet pads are equal. Work with a flooring retailer that provides carpet with the comfort level you like that is also suitable for under floor heating systems. Also, be aware that some carpets and pads are manufactured with chemicals that can be released into the indoor environment when heat is applied underneath them. Avoid this by sticking with low VOC types, such as those manufactured by Healthier Choice or Sponge Cushion Incorporation.The only radiant floor heat system that will work under any floor covering, including carpet and wood, is STEP Warmfloor. The ability of the thin 12” wide mat to self-regulate the output temperature is the key ingredient that will work under any floor covering without risking failure. In fact, it has never failed! Now that is comfort that I can walk on!Consumers or trade professionals often bring up that there seems to be a informational disconnect between giving people a better understanding of floor coverings and how those floor coverings integrate with underfloor heating systems. The Radiant Panel Association (RPA) is an excellent source of information that will educate architects, flooring professionals, builders and the homeowners on this issue. The RPA publishes a magazine called the “Radiant Flooring Guide” that contains choices of floor coverings with their R-values, so you can have a dialogue with flooring retailers and make educated decisions that will enhance the comfort of – and not impede the heat from transferring through – the finished flooring. With a well designed underfloor heating system and flooring choice, you can expect to enjoy the comfort of under floor heating for many years.