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Underfloor Heating - how hard can it be?

The right answer

If the Romans managed to invent underfloor heating 2000 years ago, how hard can it be for us to keep our toes warm all year around?

Choosing to invest in underfloor heating is a serious decision. Get it right, you'll add luxurious levels of warmth to any interior & when designed and installed correctly, underfloor heating can offer very low running costs too.

But there are many who don't get it right and to avoid seeing a multitude of failures, of which there are many, you need to take a considered approach to designing and installing the system correctly.


It's a living thing

You'll know that as many things heat up, expansion occurs and as they cool down, shrinkage follows.

Building materials are no different and as heat is applied, an understanding of how common materials behave will help achieve a heated floor to be proud of.

The greatest failures occur when design is placed above function and when cost is placed above quality.

Whilst ideally, from an aesthetics perspective, a floor would have no joints, it is crucial that the floor will be given the chance to expand when heated. Pinch points (such as where floors narrow at corridors), at door openings & around perimeters all need space to move freely, so floor movement points are a must. In larger areas, the floor also needs splitting into manageable sections and expansion joints need to be cast into the design.

Building materials will absorb heat too, so to make a heated floor thermally efficient, you need to insulate it below to prevent thermal loss. Adding a layer of insulation below prevents you from building a solid floor and requires what is termed, as a 'floating floor'. This ordinarily should be a minimum 75mm thick screed thickness to ensure enough thickness (cover) is above the pipes for strength. Where this is not possible a composite board system should be utilised.

Sitting a screed onto soft insulation means that you need to ensure the floor can take the load. We use a strong fibre reinforced, trowel applied cement based screed, however there are instances where a pump applied screed may be more suitable.

BIF understand how a floor reacts to temperature and loading. Our staff have come across many poorly designed floors over the 4 decades we've been in business. Worryingly there's a growing trend for poorly designed heated floors, which often comes down to cost (the client wants to spend more on the floor finish than on constructing the floor beneath). or where the designer does not accept the need for expansion joints in the floor. The stark truth is if you scimp on the cost or design needs of the base and thermal stress cracks occur, even the most expensive tiles will crack.

With so many disputes arising from poorly constructed floors, we decided to put our know how to good use and offer a complete package for underfloor heating.

We're happy to act on a Consultancy basis, or just complete construction of the base; or provide a full installation service; the choice is entirely yours.

The key points to consider are;

  • Understanding the construction of the floor and what happens to the floor as it heats up and cools down.​

  • Apply as much emphasis on construction as you do on the final floor finish. ​

  • Don't scrimp on the bits you won't see; invest more in them.


BIF will help specify a suitable underfloor heated system to meet the needs of your project. Using either a wet, water fed pipework grid, or an electric heating element, either system will be correctly designed and constructed to perform correctly for many years.

BIF provide full, accurate costs to complete the work and provide a likely Programme for the work. Assuming you accept our proposal, BIF will then complete the installation of the underfloor heating system, test it and either leave you to finish the project yourselves (with ceramic tiles or other floor finishes) or install a seamless resin finish as part of our package.

We hope you found our guide helpful and if you are thinking about investing in underfloor heating, please get in touch for advice, costing & to find out about the choices we can provide. We provide our complete range of services across mainland UK.

Call us on 01777 709500.


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