Virtually any type of floor covering can be used on top of a basement concrete slab with radiant heating. Concrete is actually an excellent conductor of heat. However, the type of floor covering used on top of a basement floor can have detrimental effects on the concrete slab releasing its heat into the basement living area.
In traditional basement floors without radiant heating, ceramic tile and vinyl flooring will feel cold and unpleasant to the touch. Walking on them without socks can be unbearable. With radiant floor heating in the basement floor slab, the tile or vinyl flooring are kept warm and are comfortable to bare feet.
Carpeting over a radiant floor heating system can actually delay the transfer of heat into the basement living area. This is because the carpeting acts like an insulating blanket, trapping the heat in slab. Once the carpeting is heated to the temperature of the slab, it too will radiate heat into the basement.
For wood flooring on the basement slab, special care should be taken. This is because excessively high water temperatures in the flexible tubes can damage the wood or the glue bonding it to the basement slab. Most radiant floor heating system manufactures recommend that a wood laminate be used in place of solid wood. This allows for better control of the expansion and contraction associated with heat cycles. Also, the constant heat form the concrete slab can cause excessive drying of the wood.