As a company that aspires to be the leading authority on all things related to polished concrete flooring, we find ourselves fielding many questions every day.
In this article we tackle one of our biggest and increasingly frequently asked questions:
Does a polished concrete floor work with underfloor heating?
The good news, if you’re considering combining underfloor heating (UFH) with a polished concrete floor, is the short answer to the question is yes, although for the best results there is plenty to consider before going ahead with any decisions.
Polished concrete works very well with underfloor heating, but there are important steps to protecting the integrity of your floor, from before your project begins, choosing the right options, then through the various installation stages, right through to the commissioning and daily management of your heating system. This may sound a lot, but if we break it down, each element is easy to follow.
Concrete has a high thermal mass meaning it will store and distribute heat extremely well. One of the risks to understand and manage is that concrete can suffer shock damage if subjected to swift temperature changes from warm to cold and back again. If the temperature of your water heating system is turned up too quickly this could cause shock, leading to cracking. Concrete certainly isn’t the only type of flooring that reacts this way, so we would always recommend taking professional advice when considering any type of underfloor heating installation, but especially so when working with concrete.
One of the big reasons it’s important to manage temperatures carefully is that once cracking occurs, it is virtually impossible to complete satisfactory patch-up jobs on polished concrete floors. This is due to the difficulty replicating an original concrete mix. To gain a deeper understanding of the underlying reasons for this we highly recommend our 50 Shades of Grey blog post.
So how should you manage the risk? After the heating and concrete installation is complete and the concrete has been fully cured, we advise our clients to turn the water temperature up by one degree Celsius each day to prevent shock to the concrete. We also recommend not to exceed 30 degrees Celsius (water temperature). As long as you follow this simple advice then you can enjoy all the benefits of regular underfloor heating with a stunning polished concrete finish giving you comfort and style all at the same time.
What else should I consider when combining underfloor heating with polished concrete?
It is vital that your underfloor heating is not switched on while your concrete is curing. This will cause it to dry out too quickly and produce a poor quality concrete slab. It is important to use an expert concrete installer, someone who would provide this sort of advice both before and after installation, to ensure that you are 100% confident with how to protect the longevity of your floor when using underfloor heating. If your installer fails to offer this kind of advice at the consultation stage we would advise you to think twice about whether they are the right contractor for the job. Concrete installations are the biggest risk factor when planning any kind of polished concrete floor so it’s important to avoid cutting corners on this part of your project.
Here at Refined Polished Concrete Specialists Ltd we provide expert guidance on all aspects of polished concrete underfloor heating and provide full guidance to our customers before and after installation. We do not actually lay concrete, as it’s our view that for the best results this is a specialist job in its own right.
What are the Benefits to Underfloor Heating?
Underfloor heating paves the way for minimalist design, by eliminating the need for radiators, which can be unsightly and render your layout and design space smaller.
It can keep your bare feet warm all year.
Economy (Central Heating)
Provided you have a large enough underfloor heating system and manage it correctly you can potentially save on heating bills thanks to a more even heat distribution than is possible using traditional radiators.
By removing the need for unsightly radiators you also eliminate places for dust to gather, so that’s less dusting and cleaning. Who could complain about that?
Improved Heat Distribution
Provided your underfloor heating system is of the correct specification and quality you will achieve a more effective and even heat distribution than in spaces heated by the more traditional fireplace and radiator systems. When your underfloor heating system is combined with a concrete floor, the thermal mass of your concrete will retain heat and ensure your room stays warm for longer after your heating is switched off than would be the case with a traditional radiator system.
Enjoy the Silence
Underfloor heating systems are generally quieter than radiator systems, which can have a tendency to grunt and groan as they do their work.
Health and Safety
This is not immediately obvious but if you have little ones who love splashing water around, you now have a system that can evaporate dangerous spills, sometimes before you know about them. You also get to eliminate the potential for exposed hot pipes upon which little ones could pick up nasty burns. Underfloor heating also offers improved thermal circulation, which creates a healthier environment than you get with radiator systems.
What are the Drawbacks with Underfloor Heating?
Whilst prices can vary depending on many factors, there’s no escaping the fact that good quality underfloor heating requires considerable capital investment. It’s a big decision and investment and you are also looking at a number of contractors working in your home.
Risks to Furniture
It is important when designing your underfloor heating system not to run it beneath spaces intended for permanent furniture, such as cupboards and wardrobes, as this can cause unwanted and potentially damaging sweating.
Some types of furniture may also need to be insulated in some way against the effects of underfloor heating. Musical instruments such as pianos may need to be placed on insulating stands.