Wooden floorboards and underfloor heating - a contradiction?

Wooden floors and plank floors conjure classic value in living rooms, underfloor heating systems provide for enormous living comfort. But are these two options for designing a home together? Or is wood flooring and FBH not compatible at all? Read more here.

Underfloor heating - how they work

Basically there are two very different types of underfloor heating systems: on the one hand, the very widespread hot water heating systems, which release the heat to the room via pipes filled with warm water, and the much less common electric underfloor heating systems, which generate the heat through electrical resistance.

Hot water FBHs usually reach only very low temperatures, usually not higher than around 27° C. Electric heaters can get hotter, especially at single points. For most floor coverings that is not a small problem and quite a risk.

Fortunately, because of their high power consumption and low efficiency, electrical FBHs are nowadays only sparsely used - while hot-water underfloor heating systems are increasingly being found in new buildings.

Heat transfer at the FBH

So that underfloor heating can transfer the heat well to the room, certain conditions must be met.

  • The floor covering must be tightly connected to the ground - ie without air bridges
  • The floor covering must not store any heat
  • The floor covering must have a good heat transfer capacity

The properties of wooden floorboards

Very often, classic wooden floorboards are laid floating, that means without firm contact to the ground. Glued wooden floors are rather rare, here is usually more likely to think of classic parquet.

But without gluing, there are a lot of air bridges during the floating installation, in which the heat given off by the FBH practically "disappears" - and never reaches the room. Only the air layer between the board floor and FBH is heated.

Even wood as a material is problematic - wood feels subjectively, even in the cold season very warm underfoot, but that should not be confused with an effective heat conduction. Here is exactly the opposite.

Tiles, for example, as one of the best heat conductors under the floor coverings, feel very cold under the feet very quickly for this reason at cool temperatures. For underfloor heating, they are therefore the ideal flooring that actually releases most of the heat to the room. Over the tile adhesive they are thus firmly connected to the ground and have no air bridges.

On the other hand, wood floors would store a large part of the heat on the one hand in the air bridges on the other hand in the material itself and then transfer the heat only to a small extent to the room. The FBH would have to be very large in order to still have an effect, in practice, this is often not possible.

On top of that, wood is not really good at tolerating high temperature differences - it can contract quickly, crack and crack, which would be particularly problematic if you tried to glue wood planks without any room for maneuver.

Wooden floorboards and FBH

For the reasons mentioned above, theoretically a combination of wooden planks and FBH would be possible, but only with very little effectiveness and a whole host of disadvantages. In view of the resulting high heating costs, it is questionable whether this combination actually represents the best option in practice.

But when it comes to alternatives, you have to look for both ways: either a different type of heating or another type of flooring. For the elimination of underfloor heating would also say that wood naturally feels warm even in the cold season under the feet, so even without FBH offers a certain warmth comfort.

Another alternative: tiles in wood look

In the field of modern ceramic design, much is possible today, something that was unthinkable twenty years ago. This includes tiles in deceptively real stone or wood look, which can certainly go through as a substitute for the plank floor, if the FBH should remain for technical or structural reasons.

This is therefore clearly the best alternative, which is visually and technically a sensible solution. Today's designs of modern tiles are already very high quality and really good imitations of natural materials such as wood or stone. In addition, such a floor is also much easier to care for and more durable than a traditional wooden floorboard. And tiles are also a natural material - as ceramics they are practically just earth.

With an appropriate installation pattern, you can achieve quite a bit in terms of interior design in order to create the desired look. This preserves the visual comfort and the feel-good character of the wooden floor, while at the same time the many advantages of tiles come into their own.

Tips & Tricks

Especially when you build new ones, you should always plan the respective floor coverings in the planning phase. On the one hand, this is already important in order to plan a corresponding screed construction, on the other hand, you can avoid difficult and potentially unsolvable problems such as wooden floorboards on underfloor heating in advance. In all other cases, you simply have to look for alternatives.

Video Board: How to make a Wooden Katana from hardwood flooring // Woodworking