Wood vs Tile For Thermal Conductivity

I have engineered wood floors in my house and normal ceramic tile in the kitchen. I can't tell if it's my head, but it seems like my feet get warm when I stand on the wood floors for awhile. While on tile,they do not.

I read where wood absorbs heat. I also read where tile absorbs heat. Why then would my feet get warm on the wood floor but not the tile?

• Thermal absorption isn’t binary. For the sensations to be identical, the materials would have to have identical thermal conductivities and thermal diffusivities. Commented Nov 13, 2022 at 4:29

Prior to your feet touching them the temperature of both the wood and tile are the same, presumably room temperature, or about 20 C. The surface temperature of healthy human skin is in the range of 33-37 C, higher than the floor. This means, upon contact, heat will flow out of skin and into the floor lowering the temperature of the skin, I.e. “cooling” it.

But since the thermal conductivity of the ceramic tile is higher than the wood the rate of heat transfer to the tile will be much greater than the wood causing the tile to “feel” cooler than the wood, which is the same as saying the wood “feels” warmer than the tile.

Hope this helps.

The reason your feet feel warmer on wood flooring than on tile flooring has more to do with a thermal property called thermal inertia (aka thermal effusivity) than thermal conductivity.

This property is a composite property that depends on the thermal conductivity, heat capacity, and density. It characterizes the ability of a material to resist changing its surface temperature for a given flux of heat. For example, beach sand has a lower thermal inertia than solid rock/concrete which means it heats up faster in sunshine and cools off more quickly after sunset.

Our perception of the temperature of objects we touch depends on how quickly its surface temperature changes and how close it gets to our skin temperature. Both of these effects are governed by the thermal inertia. In fact, the temperature of the interface between two large objects with different temperatures (like our foot and a floor) is equal to a weighted average of the two temperatures - each weighted by the thermal inertia of the corresponding material.

Numerically, the thermal inertia is equal to the square root of the product of thermal conductivity, specific heat capacity, and bulk density. In MKS units, the thermal inertia of human body is 600 W*s^0.5/m^2/K. The thermal inertia values of typical wood and ceramic tile flooring materials are 350 and 1250, respectively, in the same units. That means that the interface temperature between your foot and a wooden floor will be closer to your foot temperature (thus it feels warmer), while the interface temperature between your foot and a ceramic tile will be closer to the floor temperature (thus it feels cooler).