Installing hardwood flooring over a radiant heating system.
Installing hardwood flooring over a radiant heating system.

Under floor radiant heating systems work by running hot water through pipes, or electricity through resistance wires, which are installed under the finished floor. This gently warms the floor under your feet. Hot water based (hydronic) radiant systems are much more energy efficient than those that use electricity.

Radiant heating systems can be installed under most types of floors, though it’s not recommended under vinyl flooring. Also, it’s important to check the manufacturer’s flooring warranty to make sure installing radiant heating under it doesn’t void the warranty.

Tile and hardwood flooring work best when installed over a radiant heating system, since these types of flooring feel cold in winter. Installing radiant heating under carpeting, on the other hand, is not as effective.

Watch this video to find out more.

Further Information

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT
Danny Lipford: Greg wants to know, “ Can I install radiant heat under any type of flooring?”

Yes, you can install just about any type of flooring over a radiant heat system, but I would not recommend any type of vinyl flooring. And also, you want to check with the manufacturer, because installing some floor over a radiant heat system will void the warranty.

But think about it with good common sense. What kind of flooring is the coldest on those bare feet? Well, generally it would be a ceramic or a porcelain type floor, so this is perfect to install over a radiant heat system. Now carpeting pad, not so much, just won’t be as effective.

Hardwood floor is also a great one to have over a radiant heat system. But another thing you have to decide is what type of system—whether you go with electric or hydronic. Hydronic has proved to be a lot more energy efficient.

27 COMMENTS

  1. We have radiant floor heat with cement slab and want to replace the wall to wall carpet in the bedroom with laminate flooring. Is this a good idea? The rest of the house has ceramic tile. Thank you so much………

  2. We have gutted and are rebuilding an existing structure and plan to install hydronic radiant heat using the subfloor model. What is the sequence we should use in completing this phase of the project? Should we foam insulation and sheetrock before installing the radiant flooring and hardwood floor or should the radiant flooring be installed first, then the insulation and sheetrock? A big thank you for your help!

  3. I think there are a few options for flooring over a radiant heating system: laminate, porcelain, stone, ceramic tile, vinyl, LVT, or carpet. I am confused as to which one will suit my home best.

  4. We have a main floor concrete surface. We have always had carpet over this surface. Can we have engineered wood flooring installed over this surface. There is no moisture problem with this surface. Can we use a “clickable flooring” as opposed to an adhesive flooring? There is perimeter duct work for heat from an electric furnace.

  5. Never install bamboo flooring over radiant heat – I t dries out the glue (since nothing can be nailed or screwed to the flooring) and shrinks once the heat is turned up thus causing the seams to pull apart. This product was recommended to me by Lumber Liquidators at point of sale, then once I delivered it to my new home via Uhaul, was told that they could not warranty it.

    • My bamboo floors (from LL) over radiant heat floors are horrible. Wish I would have known! Did you change yours out? If so to what? Thanks!

  6. I have hydronic radiant heated floors. My kitchen and Livingroom are together [open concet]. What would be the number one flooring to put on top?

  7. Ive installed radiant floor heat in my new remodeled home
    I managed to save a lot of pine plank flooring that was in the home originally
    Used it for my flooring
    As I use the heat Im noticing that it separates quiet a bit
    Still wondering its ok to seal the floors or leave them alone
    I was thinking to go thru & use putty to fill in the spaces or use a lot of sealer to maybe fill the joints or leave well enough alone & use a light sealer
    Since the boards are old planks they arent always level anyhow even after a lot of sanding
    Hope to hear from you soon
    Thanks much

  8. We are moving into our new home soon. The previous owners installed tile over radiant heat (electric) and while we love the heat, we’re not fans of the tile. What’s the easiest way to go about replacing the tile without harming the heating system? Or is it even possible?

  9. Hello,

    I have purchased a home that has in floor radiant heating roughed in, in the basement. Its not yet hooked up to the water tank. I am wanting to install a wet bar and was hoping to do the work myself however I haven’t worked with in floor radiant heat before and was wondering if I can install my wet bar cabinets over the heated floors? I am not sure about this but I don’t think its possible to remove a section of the in floor hear, especially since its not electric. Would I still be okay to install a few cabinets over the heated floors?

    • Hi, Trish,

      Danny says, “It’s done all the time and you shouldn’t have any problems; it won’t affect the usefulness of it. Best of luck on your project.”

      Good luck!

  10. Most of the flooring stores we have visited recommend vinyl flooring for radiant heating. Why don’t you recommend it?
    We are building a slab on grade home for someone in a wheelchair. It will have radiant heating throughout. Some places say it should be a floating floor, and others say to glue the flooring. Which is correct?

    • Hi, Janis,

      Danny says, “It depends to a degree on the type of radiant floor heating — whether it’s electric or hydronic. The more mass to the floor, the better the retention of heat. Vinyl is not the best for the retention of heat for that reason.
      I would suggest the floating floor to give room for expansion and contraction when the heat is on and not on.”

      Good luck!

  11. Is it all right to use an area rug over engineered wood flooring on a radiant heat system? If so, how big can the rug be compared to the floor space? I have read that area rugs may cause the floor to overheat, thus damaging the engineered wood floor.

    • Hi, Miriam,

      Danny says, “I think you would be safe to put down a rug up to 60 percent coverage of the floor. You won’t have any problem with the overheating.”

      Good luck!

  12. Considering replacing flooring on 1st floor which has radiant heat it is mostly covered in ugly tile now but there is carpeting in bedroom and living room which I’ve have learned is not a good idea for radiant heat.
    Wood is a no no since the heat will cause the wood to dry out warp and splinter which makes perfect sense. Vinyl and linoluem is made with chemicals and glues so once heated releases gases. I’ve research and found engineered wood or laminate is a good choice but tile is the best
    since it allows the heat to permeate the room. I have tile now and yes
    it is nice on your feet.
    The new wood looking non slip planks are a good choice I did use that in the bathroom and love it so may just continue with it throughout.
    The problem the cost of ripping out the flooring and laying the tiles.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the TodaysHomeowner.com community, Judie!

      Everyone definitely has their favorite kind of floor and heating method.

      Take care. 🙂

  13. I have geothermal heating and I want to replace the tile in my kithcen. Do I need to tear up the old tile or would it be possible to lay some type of flooring over the tile? I’m just wondering if the heating would still come through

  14. Why do I need a floating floor over top of my Radiant electric heat. The wire is between the carpet and padding taped down. And what good wood, would I need to put on top of the wires!

    • Hi, Tunde!
      This is usually possible, but first, check the flooring manufacturer’s instructions to verify that their product will work on heated floors.
      Good luck!

  15. We installed hot water radiant throughout our whole house ourselves. We tiled the main living areas and kitchen, but put cork floating floors in the bedrooms. Love radiant. In addition, we have lots of southern windows which also heats up the tile floors. Very efficient. Love cork in the bedrooms as it makes the rooms very quiet.

  16. Hi, We live in a mid century modern home (Eichler) with original radiant heating system (1960). It’s not very efficient but does the job. We currently have porcelain tile throughout the house. Will radiant heat still work if we installed laminate over the tile? Thank you..

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