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Do Hardwood Floors Make Your Home Colder? 

March 9, 2022

Hardwood floors increase the value of your home and are beautiful to look at, but do they make your home cold? It’s a quandary often pondered by homeowners: Hardwood flooring vs. plush carpeting. Which is warmer underfoot? More energy efficient?  

The answer might surprise you. 

Do Hardwood Floors Make Your Home Cold?

Quality hardwood floors do not make your home colder. Hardwood flooring may feel colder than carpet on bare feet, even at the same temperature, but it’s actually warmer.  

Are Hardwood Floors Colder Than Carpet? 

Hardwood floors make your home warmer but may feel cold to the touch. 

Solid surfaces, like hardwood floors and tile, will feel colder on your skin than carpet does. Why?  Carpet is an insulator that stops heat from moving. Whereas wood is a conductor, it absorbs heat and allows it to circulate throughout your home, giving you a perception that the floor is cold to the touch. 

Hardwood is also a more energy-efficient choice than carpet. Because carpet inhibits the circulation of heat in your home, your furnace works harder to push heat through your carpets to warm the house. Since wood allows the heat to pass through, it improves your home’s heat circulation. 

hardwood flooring

Types of Hardwood Flooring 

There are two types of hardwood flooring products. The first is solid hardwood, traditionally ¾” tongue-and-groove wood plank that’s nailed down on a wood subfloor.

solid wood flooring in kitchen

The second is engineered hardwood comprised of multiple ply layers underneath a wood veneer surface. The layers in the engineered product make these wood planks more stable, so they can be installed on either a concrete slab foundation or wood subfloor. Installation options for engineered hardwood include gluing, nailing, stapling or floating the planks. 

transition between tile and hardwood flooring

The Foundation Beneath Your Hardwood Floor Matters 

What’s under your hardwood floor matters considerably in comfort and temperature control throughout your home. For example, if your home is built on a concrete slab, it may be naturally colder than a home built over a basement. 

When a ceramic tile floor is installed over a concrete pad, the tile telegraphs cold through to its surface. On the other hand, hardwood is often installed over a plywood base, allowing more heat to come through to warm the surface.  

hardwood flooring in foyer

How To “Soften” Hard-Surface Flooring 

Based on its composition, the hardwood floor maintains heat longer, yet it can still feel cold underfoot. That’s where an area rug or carpet can be most effective: Quality carpeting and padding provide a cushion that creates an insulating effect that can make your home feel warmer, especially during the winter months.

If you’re debating between a hardwood flooring product versus a luxury vinyl plank or ceramic tile with a faux-wood look, consider that natural hardwood is softer underfoot. But, again, while these products might have similar mass (so they both retain heat), natural wood has more give, making it more comfortable. 

dark hardwood floor in luxury kitchen

Do Hardwood Floors Expand/Contract?

Expansion and contraction in hardwood flooring are more functions of humidity than temperature. There is significant fluctuation in humidity levels in Northeast Ohio and other climates that experience seasonal weather changes. From hot, humid summer weather to cool in the fall to the freeze-thaw cycle of winter and spring—and then back again—we see it all in Greater Cleveland. And our homes feel those dramatic changes, too.  

Both solid hardwood and engineered hardwood products expand and contract when humidity levels in the home rise and fall. The drier (less humid) the air in the home, the drier the wood becomes. That dry air causes hardwood to contract, creating gaps between planks. To maintain balance in your home and create an optimal environment for hardwood flooring performance, use a humidifier or a humidistat on your furnace—this helps keep humidity levels consistent year-round. 

white kitchen with dark hardwood floors

In addition, you should acclimate the wood to your home before installation to avoid product performance issues. Place the hardwood flooring product as close as possible to the space in your home where it will be installed. Acclimating the hardwood where it will exist for the floor’s life is particularly important in climates with extreme weather changes. For example, if the hardwood sits in a cold warehouse space and then moves into a warm home environment, the product needs time to adjust to its new home before installation.   

PRO TIP: Because every hardwood flooring product is different, consult the manufacturer’s recommendations for acclimation to be sure you get the timing right.

warm hardwood flooring in kitchen

Consider Radiant Heating 

Solid surfaces, like hardwood flooring, provide opportunities to heat your home via radiant heat beneath the floors. Where fluctuating temperatures (and humidity levels) can negatively affect the performance of hardwood flooring, a radiant heat system creates consistency. In the past, radiant heat systems used hot water running through pipes to warm floors. Today’s radiant heat systems use high-efficiency electric grids installed in the subfloor to provide a clean, consistent heat source. Radiant heat not only feels great to walk on; it also saves on heating costs. We use the Schluter®-DITRA-HEAT electric floor heating system to provide that added level of comfort and savings for our customers that choose radiant heat.  

From solid hardwood to engineered flooring products and radiant heat to traditional installation, there are so many choices to bring the natural texture and warmth of wood into your home. 

Ready to explore your options? Visit our showroom. 

See our flooring showroom—Dover Floor & Tile Center in North Olmsted—to see what hardwood could do in your home. 

 

The best is yet to come, 

James Giar