Can You Put Electric Radiant Heat Under Hardwood Floors?

If you live in a climate with cold winters, you may have considered placing radiant heat under your floors. Thai is a cost-effective method of warming up your house, and it can make a huge difference on cold days.

You can install radiant heat under hardwood floors. It is important to choose a radiant heat system that is designed to work with wood floors. Some people have heard that heat can damage the wood, but most damage comes from moisture.

That said, you have a choice between installing wood floors traditionally, where they are attached with nails, glue, or staples, or you can use the floating method. The latter works better with radiant heat because it allows the wood to expand and contract. However, you need to make sure that the flooring is actual wood as opposed to engineered wood.

Engineered Wood Versus Solid HardWood with Radiant Heat

Today, you have a choice of engineered wood or solid wood when you install wood flooring. Solid wood is made from solid pieces of wood, and it is in its natural wood form. Engineered wood is made with plywood or fiberwood at the core, and it has a veneer of solid wood on top.

Engineered Wood Versus Solid HardWood with Radiant Heat

Engineered wood is made to expand and contract with moisture and temperature levels, but too much heat can cause it to swell permanently. This will damage the floor permanently. Some engineered wood is made in the floating style, and it can be used with radiant heat.

Solid hardwood, on the other hand, works well with radiant heat. You need to choose a type of wood that has high dimensional stability. Some great options include mahogany, cypress, mesquite, black cherry, teak, and santos. Other more common woods, such as oak, maple, and birch can be used, and narrow boards work best for them.

What to Consider When You Install Electric Heat Under Hardwood Floors

Wood is a natural material that is affected by its environment. As such, it is actually a good conductor of thermal heat. It warms up quickly with radiant heat, and it holds the heat better than other materials. It is energy efficient when you use it with radiant heat.

One consideration is the thickness of the wood boards. The ideal thickness is 18 mm. In addition, you want boards that are more narrow. The wider wood floor planks will move more as they expand and contract with the radiant heat.

Wood manufacturers have studied the properties of wood and the ideal temperatures that prevent too much expansion or contraction. You should never let the radiant heat go higher than 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27 degrees Celsius).

Keep in mind that wood expands and contracts when humidity levels change, so you should make sure that you manage the humidity in your home. Wood is hygroscopic, so it takes moisture in that travels through the boards. When it releases the moisture, it shrinks again. Consider the type of wood you use, and make sure that you control the humidity levels in the home.

How Does Radiant Heat Work?

Your HVAC heating works by warming the air, and then the air warms up the objects and people in the room. Radiant heating works differently. It warms the floor, which warms the objects that have contact with it.

Radiant heat can be set as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit, but with wood floors, it needs to stay around 80 degrees. The difference between a room with radiant heat and one without is similar to the difference between standing in direct sunlight versus standing in the shade. The sun warms your body directly, but the air temperature dictates how warm you are.

How Does Radiant Heat Work

An electric radiant heat system has heating elements that are under the floor. They are run in a serpentine pattern, and they are easy to install. They heat up quickly when you turn them on, so you can turn them on when you need them and then turn them off to conserve energy.

Pros and Cons of Radiant Heat

There are benefits and drawbacks to installing radiant heat. Take a look at the following:


  • They heat the floor uniformly
  • They don’t require maintenance
  • They are quiet
  • They don’t stir up dust particles
  • They are energy efficient
  • They are easy to install
  • They don’t require additional ductwork


  • The floors must be removed to install them
  • They raise the floor height
  • They can be expensive to install

Can You Install Radiant Heat Under Existing Floorboards?

Unfortunately, you need to take up any flooring and replace it after you install the radiant heat. However, you don’t need to change out your subfloor material. You will pull up the existing flooring, install the radiant heat, and then lay the new floor.

It is difficult to use the same floor materials again once you remove them. There are cases where it is possible, but generally, it isn’t a good idea. The best thing to do is wait until you want to replace your floors to install the radiant heating.

Final Words

You can install electric radiant heat under wood floors. Wood is actually a good conductor of heat, so it does a great job of warming the floor. However, you need to keep it at 80 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. It is difficult to install it under existing flooring, so try to coordinate this project with a floor replacement.