porcelain or ceramic tiles for underfloor heating

Porcelain or Ceramic Tiles for Underfloor Heating?

So, you’ve decided on wet underfloor heating because you want an eco-friendly, cost-effective heating solution. You’re using liquid screed for your flooring foundation because of its enhanced thermal conductivity. Now you need to choose your flooring tiles. They need to look good, provide a durable flooring finish and conduct heat effectively. Should you go for ceramic, or porcelain tiles?

What’s The difference Between Ceramic and Porcelain Tiles?

The most obvious difference that our clients notice is the price! Ceramic tiles are cheaper than their porcelain counterparts. There’s a reason for the difference and it might affect your choice. Both are made of clay, but porcelain clay is more refined and pure, and the temperature it’s fired at is higher. The result is a material that is more dense and hard wearing than ceramics.

Using Porcelain as Your Flooring Finish

Advantages – Porcelain floor tiles are normally cut quite thin, between 8mm and 12mm, which makes them ideal heat conductors for underfloor heating. Thanks to the density of porcelain tiles they are natural insulators, which means they hold the heat well. The major advantage of porcelain tiles is the fact that they don’t crack as a result of temperature changes – making them an ideal choice for underfloor heating.

Installation – underfloor heating will cause some movement in the flooring foundation so, for areas of over 25m2 or more, an uncoupling membrane will be needed. Porcelain floors need to be laid using flexible adhesives and grout, and the heating should be off during tiling. The adhesives and grouting need to be fully cured before the underfloor heating is turned on. This normally takes around two weeks.

Using Ceramics as Your Flooring Finish

Advantages – Ceramic tiles are made from clay, sand and water and are baked in a kiln to remove the moisture. The material is an excellent thermal conductor, making it an ideal choice for underfloor heating. The colour palette of ceramic tiles tends to be earthier than porcelain, featuring terra-cotta reds. Installation is easier than with porcelain due to the softer consistency of the tiles, making them easier to cut and shape.

Installation – Ceramic is known for its propensity to crack or chip and it’s a less durable material than porcelain. When used as a flooring finish for underfloor heating an uncoupling membrane is essential to avoid cracking. Non-flexible adhesives can be used in the installation process. As with porcelain, ceramics should be laid with the heating off, and it shouldn’t be turned on for at least two weeks.

Environmental Factors When Choosing Ceramic or Porcelain?

Both ceramic and porcelain tiles will work well with underfloor heating, so it may be environmental factors that determine your choice. Ceramic tiles are porous, so you would probably want to avoid using them in a kitchen where they’re likely to stain. Porcelain’s colour palette tends to be whites or greys which is great for cool elegance. If you want a homely or mediterranean feel, however, you would most likely choose ceramic tiles.


If you’re undecided about your flooring finish, why not call Liquid Screed Direct’s flooring experts on 0800 0599959 / 07926 235618 for specialist advice and tips today? 


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