Tile floors are easy to clean and will last almost forever. They are a great, stylish choice for a home or business as flooring. For some rooms such as the bathroom, they are almost a necessity. But why do tile floors feel so much colder than carpet?
The properties of tiles are that they allow more heat transfer. This makes your feet seem to get colder every time you touch the tiles. However, this sensation is a bit misleading and what is actually happening is that your feet are losing warmth.
Losing heat is not quite the same as being cooled to a lower temperature. The tiles themselves are just acting as conductors rather than cooling elements. I’ll explain what’s going on with a bit of scientific detail and also highlight what’s actually happening when you step on tiles and carpets.
Do Floor Tiles Make A Room Colder?
It is important to understand what is going on with tile floors and the environment. When your feet touch the floor there is a transfer of the warmth of your body to the object it touches. Tiles just happen to be very good conductors of heat compared to other common floor materials, like carpet which tends to act as an insulator.
Insulators tend to retain heat, whereas conductors tend to transfer heat.
Touching a conductor that is cooler than your body will give you a feeling of coolness to that part of your body. A room with floor tiles will most certainly feel colder. But the sensations you feel might not be telling the whole story.
If you look at it from a physics standpoint, floor tiles do not actually make the room any colder. If you actually measure the temperature of the tile, you’ll find it to be the same temperature as the rest of the house, but it does feel cooler to your feet. The reason for this is heat transfer.
Heat transfer is the movement of heat from one object to another. As the heat transfers between a colder and warmer object, the sensation will be that your feet feel colder. As tiles are a better conductor of heat, they tend to allow more heat transfer from your warm feet into the tile.
That means that the feeling of coolness that you feel in your feet when it touches tiles isn’t actually the tile being cold and therefore making our feet cold. More accurately, it is a result of the heat being pulled away from our feet due to the good conductive properties of tile.
Interestingly, the conductive properties of tiles mean it can be used to your advantage. When you use a below-ground heating system with tiles, the tile will easily warm up and also efficiently transfer the heat from the heating source straight to your feet.
This type of heating is only really necessary in quite cold areas, but having a warm tile floor is favorable over even carpet flooring in terms of comfort, although it will be more expensive to run with the added heating costs.
Why Does A Carpeted Floor Feel Warmer To Bare Feet Than Tile Or Wood?
Flooring materials such as carpet, cork, and engineered hardwood definitely feel much warmer when compared to tile. As you may expect, they do not conduct heat well and act as an insulator, meaning that heat does not transfer very well to that material.
If there is little to no heat transfer from our feet to those types of flooring materials, this means you will feel like it is a warmer substance.
When considering carpet, it is important to realize that most of the carpet is in fact air. Air is a terrible conductor of heat which means it does not allow as much heat transfer to occur. The pile or fabric of the carpet is also unlikely to be a good conductor.
Wood is also a poor conductor of heat which means there will not be a lot of heat transfer, particularly in comparison to tile.
It is also important to be aware of the phenomenon of specific heat as opposed to heat transfer or conductivity. Specific heat just refers to the amount of energy needed to change an object’s temperature whereas conductivity is only concerned with the rate of change. The specific heat rating of flooring does not matter.
Why Does Carpet Feel Good To Your Feet?
Carpets can feel great in comparison to tiles. The heat transfer pulling warmth out of your body through your feet is not altogether comfortable. In colder climates, unheated tiles will feel cold as ice and make the already cold weather even more apparent.
While carpet has always had a good reputation as being warm, it does have issues with wear and staining. Recent innovations to carpet technology and production mean that it holds up a lot better to stain than it used to. Specialty carpet cleaning products also go a long way to keeping your carpet looking great.
Carpet is made up of a much softer material that has more give than tiles or wood. This means walking on it in bare feet is going to be a lot more comfortable. Carpet also has other benefits due to it being made out of this material, including sound blocking and more design options as well as not being as slippery.
Carpets will generally be a lot more forgiving on your body. Carpet will have several components which can act as a shock absorber. Hard surfaces do not have flexibility underfoot. Each step across a hard surface floor, there will be shocks going through your foot up into your body. Carpet, as well as the underpad, will help absorb the force of the impact.