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Floor Insulation 101: The Ultimate Guide to Making Your Home Warm and Inviting

Keeping a home warm and inviting, especially in winters, comes with a cost. It’s no surprise how heating and cooling costs can put a dent in your financials. After all, air conditioning and heating consume the most energy in an average household – 46 percent to be precise!

If merely thinking about your energy bills is enough to send a chill down your spine, it’s time to consider switching to insulated flooring. This will not just offer a warm surface underfoot but also improve your quality of life.

When it comes to insulating a living space, most home improvement contractors tend to prioritize exterior walls and attics. However, they often miss out on flooring, an important aspect of insulation projects.

An insulated surface works well with other elements used to warm up spaces like central heating and quick-sealed windows. The dead air in combination with an insulating surface like rubber flooring works as a poor conductor of heat, radiating warmth back into the room. Hence, it makes sense to invest in a surface that keeps the living space warm and brings down the heating costs.

Read our detailed guide on flooring insulation to warm up your dwelling and make it inviting for all.

How an Insulated Flooring Aids in Warming Up Spaces

Adding insulated flooring to your home is the smartest choice you can make. It not just keeps the rooms and the floor underfoot warm and comfortable but also reduces the heating and cooling bills.

1. It Prevents Heat Loss

Though most homes install an HVAC system (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) or traditional boilers to warm up spaces, most of it escapes through the roof, walls, open gaps, and the flooring. Statistics shared by Metro Home Insulation reveals that 10 percent of home heating bills stem from uninsulated floors that tend to lose warm air.

Installing insulated surfaces creates a thermal envelope to the external environment, thereby reducing the escape of warm air and helping rooms retain heat. Because insulation holds up to temperature variations, less energy is needed to maintain the required temperature inside the house.

2. It Creates a Vapor Barrier and Keeps Moisture at Bay

Most floors like hardwood, wall-to-wall carpets, and cork are prone to moisture damage. This can further lead to bigger issues like mold and mildew. On the other hand, insulated, moisture-resistant, and anti-microbial surfacing like rubber helps create a vapor barrier, preventing moisture from creeping into the home.

Such barriers are especially beneficial for homes with cold basements that add to the chill inside homes.

3. It Keeps Pipes from Freezing

In freezing winters and frigid zones, pipes are prone to cracking or bursting because the water they carry often freezes. If your home has pipes beneath the flooring, you wouldn’t even notice or inspect the damage caused to pipes due to such frigid conditions.

Opting for an insulated or freeze thaw surface provides a layer of insulation between the pipes and the exterior conditions, thus offering extra protection to them.

4. It Reduces Cold Drafts

This is especially true for homes built above the ground or having a crawl space between the floor and the surface underneath. An insulating surface helps fill the potential air gaps and prevent the outside cold air from entering the home.

5. It Helps in Summer too!

Besides being a boon in the winters, insulated surfaces help control the interior temperature in the summer. The same principle of heat applies! An insulating surface like a cool rubber surface will not let the conditioned air escape, keeping the room at a lower temperature than the exteriors. This significantly reduces the need for constant air conditioning.

Various Flooring Options to Warm Up Spaces

Now that we understand how insulated surfaces keep rooms warm, let’s see the various flooring options that can be installed. There are a whole lot of flooring options available today; hence, it’s critical to know the pros and cons of each, allowing you to make a suitable decision.

Wall-to-Wall Carpeting

Carpets make a warm, soft, and luxurious surface underfoot. The surfacing also helps insulate the house as carpets have a higher R-value, the metric used to measure the level of insulation.

Being a poor conductor of heat, carpets tend to hold heat. Hence, adding a wall to wall carpet can lower the amount of energy it takes to keep a room cooled or heated. However, this type of insulated flooring has its limits.

 Pros

  • Instantly adds warmth and a luxurious appeal to a living space.
  • Besides providing warmth, carpets are a safe surface to move on.  Plus they offer adequate cushioning in case of a slip or fall, thus reducing the risk of serious injuries.
  • Carpets also act as a sound barrier, reducing the transmission of noise through the rooms.

Cons

  • Carpets are difficult to clean and maintain. It’s not an ideal flooring option for homes with kids and pets.
  • It isn’t moisture and stain-resistant. So, think before you leave your glass of red wine unattended with kids playing around.
  • Carpets often harbor pathogens, dirt, dust mites, hair, and other allergens which increase the risk of respiratory disorders and compromise indoor air quality.

Underlayment

Most homes with hardwood flooring use underlayment to add a layer of insulation between the subfloor and floor. So, materials that act as insulators, namely rigid foam, polyfoam, silicone, fiberglass, or rubber are used to keep the surface from getting cold in winter.

Underlayment is also coupled with radiant heat floors to add warmth to spaces.

Pros

  • It is an energy-efficient way to warm up your space.
  • Works with a variety of flooring materials, namely hardwood, ceramic, and laminate.

Cons

  • The layer tends to compress or warp over time, making it less effective. This is especially true if the underlayment uses fiberglass as the insulating material.
  • Underlayments are usually not moisture-resistant. This is an important consideration if you live in a heavy-rainfall area or have your piping system under the flooring.
  • Whether you use rigid foam or fiberglass underlayment, the process of installation isn’t easy. Foam is difficult to work with while fiberglass needs protective equipment. All this may affect the time and effort taken to install an underlayment.
  • Materials like foam are expensive, significantly increasing the cost of the flooring project.

Radiant Heat Floors

Radiant heat floors have an under-the-floor heating system that luxuriously heats spaces. The system conducts heat through the flooring instead of the air. Hot air rises; so, these floors not only warm the surface under feet but the heat slowly drifts up, evenly distributing the warmth through the room.

There are two common types of radiant floor heating available today –

  • Electric – the source of heat is electric wires spread out under the entire flooring.
  • Hydronic – the source of heat is a network of hot water tubes buried underground.

Radiant heat floors are mostly used for stone, ceramic, concrete, and vinyl surfaces.

Pros

  • The infrared waves rise from the floor and warm up the room, ensuring that heat is distributed through the room and not lost to surrounding surfaces. Since the room occupants heat up from their feet, they feel warm even at a lower temperature.
  • Once installed, it’s quite easy to operate the system.
  • Since the system is hidden, you can design your space freely.

Cons

  • The initial cost of installation is high because they are difficult to install. Hence, they are more suited for smaller areas than large floor areas or the entire house.
  • It is only feasible if you are completely removing your floors or building a house from scratch. It requires a constant flow of electricity or heated water from a boiler or a water heater. That translates into high utility bills.
  • With this kind of flooring, the floor height of the room increases by at least ½ inch, depending on the type of system you install. Hence, the installer needs to adjust the height to account for the space needed to accommodate the heating system.
  • Radiant heat floors are ineffective under carpets. The insulating properties of the carpet interfere with the heat flow and trap the heat in the carpet itself.

Rubber Surfacing

Rubber surfaces are a versatile flooring option that works best for indoor and outdoor spaces. However, one of the most noteworthy qualities of rubber is that it’s an excellent insulator. The tightly-bound electrons in rubber aren’t free to be shared with the neighboring atoms. This causes the electrons to slow down, eventually preventing the conduction of heat.

Besides, there are several other reasons why rubber is a great flooring choice for creating a warm and comfortable environment indoors. Let’s look at the pros and cons of installing this surfacing.

Pros

  • It is an excellent insulator that doesn’t allow heat to escape. This keeps the interiors warm and cozy.
  • It is a versatile flooring option that can be applied to almost any room in your house.
  • It is durable and can withstand routine wear and tear.
  • It is easy to install. Depending on the area, rubber flooring installations take less than 2 days to install.
  • It is moisture and stain-resistant. So, you don’t have to stress about accidental spills.
  • It is a high-traction and anti-fatigue surfacing option. Owing to its slip-resistant properties, rubber is an ideal option for homes with pets, kids, and seniors.
  • It absorbs the impact of falls due to its cushioning effect. This greatly reduces the risk of serious injuries in case of an accident.
  • It possesses noise-absorbing properties. It absorbs echoes and prevents the transmission of sound between rooms.
  • It is inhospitable to pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi. If you are looking for anti-microbial flooring, rubber is a perfect choice.
  • Rubber surfaces are available in a variety of colors and design options. Modern rubber surfacing experts now offer customized surfacing that complements the existing decor.

Cons

  • The initial cost of installation is high; however, the flooring pays for itself in the long term.
  • Rubber flooring tends to emit a peculiar odor when newly installed. However, this smell fades with time and adequate airing.

Installing Rubber Floors Over Different Surfaces to Make the Space Warm

Rubber surfacing can be installed on a variety of surface types to add a cozy and inviting appeal to the room. Read on to know more!

A. Concrete

Flat concrete is the most ideal subfloor for installing rubber flooring as the result is a consistent and long-lasting surface that offers long-term returns. Concrete floors tend to be cold; hence, rubber surfacing is an excellent option if you are looking to warm up your interiors.

Rubber floors on a concrete subfloor also offer a comfortable and springy surface that’s perfect for all types of activities, including intensive activities like workouts at home.

Plus, EPDM rubber surfacing is devoid of seams and moisture-resistant; so, there is no chance for moisture or dirt to accumulate in the ridges. This saves you from mold problems that are quite common in wet areas of the house. Hence, rubber is a great surface for wet/humid areas like the bathroom, jacuzzi, mudroom, indoor pool decks, basements, and attics.

B. Ceramic Tiles

Another surface that works well for rubber flooring installation is ceramic tiles. However, ceramic tiles are fragile and also have grout lines. Hence, care should be taken to add a proper subflooring or padding to protect the tiles from damage and prevent the grout lines from showing on the rubber surface.

Therefore, it’s important to get a skilled rubber surfacing firm on the job. Only an experienced professional will pay attention to such details and offer a solution as per your requirements.

C. Hardwood

Hardwood is an elegant and attractive surface to have. However, it needs constant upkeep because it looks worn out very soon. So, if you want to warm up your room while adding an interesting appeal to it, try covering it with rubber surfacing.

If your hardwood was a high-quality one, consider adding a protective paper or craft paper underlayment before installing the rubber surface. This will prevent the rubber from staining the hardwood. That way, even if you plan to lift the rubber flooring in the future, your underlying hardwood surface will be elegant and attractive.

D. Carpet

Installing rubber surfacing on a carpeted floor can add warmth and coziness to the room. Plus, carpet and rubber flooring put together offers great comfort and cushioning underfoot. Such floors are ideal for living rooms, bedrooms, and dining areas where people tend to spend most of their time socializing or relaxing.

However, avoid combining these in areas where you expect a lot of activity, like your home gym and the kids’ playroom. Intensive workouts demand a firm ground with adequate shock-absorbing potential. Rubber surfacing on a carpet can make the subfloor uneven and unstable, thereby increasing the risk of falls and serious injuries.

Further, with kids jumping around and other intensive activities on, the top rubber flooring installed on the carpet may come apart or ripple over time, compromising the performance of the surface.

If you have a carpeted room where you are planning to do intensive activities, you have two choices –

Get rid of the carpet – This is the easiest and the most inexpensive option. This will offer an even and stable surface for the poured-in-place rubber flooring.

OR

Add a layer of plywood before installing the rubber floor – If ripping the carpet out is not an option, you can add a subfloor on it using plywood. Though this option is time and energy-consuming, it can help you alter the surface as per your needs.

Summing Up

Regardless of the season, stepping out of a bed or couch only to be greeted by a cold flooring isn’t welcoming for anyone. Plus, floorings are responsible for more loss of heat than you can ever imagine, thus adding to your utility costs.

Therefore, it’s crucial to add an insulating surface that will keep your living space warm while cutting energy costs. After comparing all the options shared above, you will surely agree that rubber surfaces are fit for purpose. If you are all set to rip out your existing floor in the name of a warm, cost-effective, energy-efficient, and anti-fatigue surface like rubber surfacing, get in touch with Rubcorp! Our team of experts knows how to deal with moisture, air sealing, and other aspects of making spaces warm and comfortable. Just call us or drop us a line at YourSurface@rubcorp.com. We are here to help!

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Creative Director, Rubcorp Distribution, LLC

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