How to Install Radiant Floor Heating

Fire.

It was the creation of fire by those filthy footed cavemen that changed the course of humankind. It’s critical to how we live, even now, 300,000 years later.

Fire creates the opportunity to cook food, heat your surroundings and burn evidence.

I can now say I’m able to do all three of those things in my kitchen. For 15 years  I’ve only been able to make a meal and torch the odd incriminating exterminator bill.  (Nobody needs to know the extent of my centipede problem.)

NOW … I have heat.

My house, as you may know, may in fact have housed a caveman. It was built … I don’t know … 180 years ago or so. Which by North American standards is quite old but more of a contemporary dwelling to the rest of the world.

The house has been built onto over the years, and the part that was built close to 200 years ago is easily the most solid, well constructed part of the house. The newer the part of the house the worse it gets.

The kitchen and mudroom were the last additions to be put on the house. I’m not sure when they were done, but judging by the kitchen cabinets I’d have to say around 1940. Again. Total guess.

Which is odd.  By 1940 you wouldn’t think there’d  be any more cavemen around, but clearly they were, because this addition was obviously built by someone with the construction know-how of someone who had hair on the bottom of their feet.

Because of that, the kitchen is at least 10 degrees colder than the rest of the house in the winter. Sometimes even 15. That’s A LOT colder. As a result, I myself have grown hair on the bottom of my feet.

And now … I have the solution to the hairy footed cold kitchen.

Radiant Floor Heating. H O L Y C R A P.

I didn’t think I’d be able to get radiant floor heating because I was putting down commercial VCT tiles, which are glue down vinyl tiles. But one night, just prior to starting my floor I accidentally stumbled upon something on the Internet that said you COULD use radiant heating with VCT tiles. And apparently … it was fairly easy to do.

So being the bold blogger I am, with quite a loyal following I emailed the company whose product seemed to fit my needs the best. Warmly Yours is based in both the U.S. and Canada, and they sell radiant floor heated mats, as opposed to just a bunch of wires you need to run yourself. So it was DIY friendly and available to order over the Internet.

The company agreed to provide me with all of my radiant floor heating needs for free, if I’d be kind enough to take pictures and do a post about it. Since I would have done a post on it anyway, I had no problem agreeing to their terms.

In this post I’m going to describe exactly how to lay Radiant Floor Heating and some of the problems you might encounter that aren’t addressed elsewhere on the web.

 

title

If you’re buying your radiant heating through the Internet, which I STRONGLY suggest you do, you will get a customer service representative who will have you send them a detailed drawing of the room you want to heat including all cabinets, obstructions, etc. etc. You need to provide all the exact measurements of the room.

In return, they will send you a map of how much radiant heating you need and exactly how to lay it out.

This is why I strongly suggest you buy your heated floor through the Internet as opposed to going to a big box store and trying to buy the coils and figuring it out yourself. Ordering on-line takes out ALL of the guesswork and stress. It’s also incredibly fast. You’ll have your plans and quote emailed to you within a few hours.

Like this.

Plan

The cost for my 15′ x 9′ kitchen was $1,200 including the mats, circuit testers and thermostat.

The cost for my small bathroom was only $300.

The first few steps, prior to actually laying your floor are as follows.

Receive your box of flooring in the mail and check to make sure everything is in it.

 

collage

 

Yup! It’s all there.

Now, before installing them, you have to check that all your mats are working when you receive them and that nothing has gone wrong. You need to do an Ohm reading and a circuit test. The circuit checker comes with your kit. You must provide your own Ohm reader.

The instructions on how to check everything come in the manual.

For your Ohm reading, you check the sticker on your mat. It will tell you what the Ohm reading was on it when it left the factory. Your Ohm reading should be about the same. To check the Ohm reading, just turn the dial of your Ohm meter to “Ohm” which is the area that’s marked with an upside down horseshoe. Set it to “200”. Then touch the black wire of your Ohm meter to the black wire of the mat. Touch the red wire of the Ohm meter to the yellow wire of the mat. Leave it and let the Ohm reading register. Done.

Write down the reading. You will also check the Ohm readings during your installation and when you’ve completed the installation. All of these readings need to be written down.

Once you’ve attached your circuit checker leave it on the mat. It’s set up in such a way that if any of the wires are cut, or damaged an alarm will sound. That way you’ll know you’ve done some horrible, horrible thing and need to fix it or replace your mat. NOT using the circuit checker throughout the installation could very well result in your installing your heated floor, covering it with concrete, then covering it with flooring only to find out … it doesn’t work.

collage2

 

 

 

 

Once you’ve made sure all your mats are in working order it’s time to lay the mats.

They wires are encased in a plastic-like mesh so all you have to do is roll it out according to the measurements Warmly Yours (or whatever company you go with) sent you.

Get your roll, (in my case there were two rolls needed for the kitchen) and follow their directions for cutting through the mesh (NOT THE WIRE) and flipping the mats.

Warmlyyours 2

 

 

Like this. You can see here I’m cutting the mesh, but not going through the wire.

Warmlyyours 3

 

 

 

Warmlyyours 4

 

 

Once you get done cutting to the end of the mesh, just pull the remainder of the mat over and lay it down.

Warmlyyours 5

 

Like this.
Warmlyyours 6

 

 

You can see that after you cut and flip the mat a small portion of the wire will be loose. That’s fine. That’s how it’s supposed to be.

Warmlyyours 7

 

 

Continue cutting and flipping your way through the mat.

Warmlyyours 8

 

 

Eventually you may get to a portion of the map that is confusing. Like the squiggly lines. What the hell does that mean? Well if you read your manual you know that it means you need to cut away the mesh

Squiggles

 

 

The map shows you that you need to cut away 12″ of mesh from the wire.

Warmlyyours 10

 

 

Then just pull the mesh away, leaving the wires bare.
Warmlyyours 11

 

 

Then continue to lay the wires and mat the way they show you in the instructions. You normally need to do this when there isn’t room for the whole mat to lay.

Warmlyyours 12

 

 

Flip your mat and continue working.

Warmlyyours 13

 

 

In no time at all your entire floor will be done. Only it isn’t done. It just looks done.

Warmlyyours 14

 

 

Now you have to insert the temperature probe. It will eventually run to the thermostat. I wove mine through the mesh.

Thermostat Probe

 

 

Something that isn’t mentioned in the manual is the fact that you’ll need to dig a little tunnel for the fat ends of the wires. At the end of each mat there’s a big bulky wire connection. I knew I wanted to pour as little concrete over my mats as possible to keep my floor level the same as it was before. Trying to pour enough concrete to hide these bulky wires was going to be a problem.

Warmly Yours Wires

 

 

So you may have to chisel out some of your subfloor to shove the wire into.

Warmly Yours Wire 2

 

 

It doesn’t have to be neat or pretty, it just needs to accommodate the wire.

Warmly Yours Wire 3

 

 

Finally you have to go over your entire mats with a staple gun or hot glue gun to secure it to the subfloor.

I CANNOT STRESS ENOUGH HOW IMPORTANT IT IS TO MAKE SURE EVERY BUMP, AND SEAM IS SECURED TO THE FLOOR AND FLAT. YOU CANNOT USE ENOUGH GLUE OR STAPLES. Just be reallyyyy careful not to staple through the actual wires.

What may seem like a small bump will end up looking like and being a huge bump, once you get to the concrete pouring part of this job.

And yes. There is a concrete pouring part. The floor needs to be encased in something and it will either be self levelling concrete if you’re doing a commercial vinyl tile like I am, or tile cement if you’re having a ceramic floor put down on top.

I’ll be doing a post on how to pour self levelling concrete next.

The final step is the electrical work. I had every intention of doing this myself, but realized that I just didn’t have enough power in my kitchen. I hired an electrician who came and ran new lines to new breakers in my panel.

Since he was here doing electrical type stuff, he installed the thermostats for me as well, but really it’s just a matter of hooking up the wires.

Another thing the manual doesn’t talk about is what to do if you have 2 mats and 1 thermostat. It confused me. I was confused. I emailed their customer support and was told right away that all you have to do is twist the wires of the two mats together, treating them as one wire. So black to black and yellow to yellow. Problem solved.

Warmlyyours 17

If you’re hiring an electrician one thing that will make your life a little easier is if you have him come first to take a look at how he’ll wire the mats. With my house, as with many older homes, the wiring isn’t as easy as it seems. There were a variety of routes he looked into but we finally decided on the one and only option, which required I changed how I laid my mats a little bit. Because of this, you’re better to have the electrician come first to avoid any surprises later on.

The thermostat itself is FUN. It glows. Which I like. I like anything that glows. Car dashboards, night lights, my face after drinking my mom’s 17 year old “holidays only” Creme de Menthe. Even the Creme de Menthe itself glows come to think of it.

THERMOSTAT

I realize this is a long post with a lot of pictures but I laid my flooring in less than one day. In fact it took me longer to write this post than to lay the radiant heating. It then took another 2 days to pour the concrete on top (which I’ll post about later).

 

quick-reference2

I’ve had warm floors for a week or so now and just like magic, the temperature in Southern Ontario has dipped to the point that there’s been snow. Kind of unheard of for May.  So … I’ve been able to turn my heated floors out of necessity, not just curiosity.  I look at it as the weather Gods aligning in favour of my feet.

My warm, warm, freshly shaved feet.


52 Comments

  1. missnicoleo says:

    I’m a bit concerned about how thin you are in those first 3 pics….

    • Tigersmom says:

      Haha. This totally got me. I had to scroll back up and see if, I too, should be concerned for you, Karen.
      Glad you have happy and newly hairless feet. Radiant heat is a bit of an unnecessary investment here in Texas where the dog lays on the marble hearth to cool her belly and we love slipping into cool sheets at bedtime.

  2. Kim says:

    I have radiant flooring in the bathrooms of my current rented house and I LOVE it! Absolutely ADORE it. I may not be a chicken kinda gal but I am definitely a toasty warm tootsies kinda gal. I am THRILLED to find out that it is not that hard and not that expensive to install radiant flooring. A definite must do when we buy our next home! My tootsies are tingling in anticipation!

  3. RosieW says:

    Happy for you having this now. The product name is brilliant.

    What sort of warranty does the Warmly Yours system have. Does it last, like forever?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Rosie – I just spoke with Warmly Yours and they said to tell you they have a 25 year, no-nonsense guarantee including the cost of labour and the floor itself. 🙂 ~karen

      • RosieW says:

        Can’t beat a guarantee like that. Excellent. Will remember the company name and hopefully can gift my daughter when they change their tile floor in a nearly 100 year old home. Wish she could do the entire first floor, but it’s heart pine that I doubt could be removed and reinstalled. BUT maybe I’m wrong.

        So agree with your response below “You can do anything.” Just have to believe it.

  4. Su says:

    Awesome, just awesome. 🙂

  5. Amie says:

    Clever clogs! Can’t wait for part two!

  6. gogothrift@etsy.com says:

    You are awesome, lady. You make me feel like I can do anything. Holy Crap…you’re gonna pour concrete next?????

  7. karol says:

    Seems like it would have been easier to just move.

  8. Jill says:

    What a wonderful idea! We’re looking into redoing a bathroom, and this might have to go onto the list of what we want! Thanks, Karen!

  9. Mary Kay says:

    I learn so much from your blog – I can’t wait to see part 2.

  10. Fabulous how-to post! I’ve always wanted something like this is my bathrooms.

  11. Amy in StL says:

    The best part about my old house is that I have a boiler and hot water radiators… which run in pipes under my floors. I thought about insulating them so that I wouldn’t lose heat in the pipe run. But I realized they are heating my floors, which is awesome! After living in a newer place that sat on a concrete slab with ice cold floors; I love the toasty warm floors I have. Enjoy your new hairless feet!

  12. Raymonde says:

    I wish I had known about them 8 years ago when I renovated my main bathroom… I would love having warm feet when I get up in the middle of the night… Sigh…

  13. Shauna says:

    I don’t even need radiant floor heating and yet I read this entire post. Great job as usual. We are kinda sorta, maybe someday, re-building our garage to include an apartment – maybe we’ll do radiant floor heating now that you’ve provided such a great tutorial;)

  14. Laura says:

    Warm floors are a dream!! Thanks for such great directions.

  15. Amy Schmucker says:

    So glad you got the floors for free.

  16. Sara says:

    Out of curiosity, what kind of flooring do you have under your radiant heating? Brick? Does it matter what is on your base layer? Great job!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sara – From what I understand it doesn’t matter what you have under there. Mine was an old sheet flooring from lord knows when. You just have to make sure it’s clean and free of nails and such. ~ karen!

  17. joanna says:

    congratulations! job well done!!!!!!

  18. Danny says:

    $1200 bones to heat 135 sq. feet is deep value in the floor heating game. I paid $250 for a postage stamp sized mat for a bathroom this year. You also have the high quality thermostat that came with my gear. Is this product suited to ceramics?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Danny – Yup. It’s perfect for under ceramic. That’s what most people lay over it actually. ~ karen!

    • Shauna says:

      Danny, did you go with Nu-heat mats too? I could only afford to do the master bath, and not the kids bath because they were so pricey. But I do have to say that when I watched them being installed, it seemed a lot easier than your process, Karen. They’re so thin that they required no concrete on top, they just used the mortar for the tile directly over the mats. We also installed a towel warmer in the master, which is THE BEST and surprisingly inexpensive. No more mildewy damp cold towels after a shower. The only problem is that the kids want to use our bathroom instead of theirs!

      • Karen says:

        Shauna – The radiant heating used would be the shame thinness as yours. And if you’re laying mortar and tile, it would be done the exact same way with my heating system as yours. The difference is, I am not laying ceramic tiles. I am laying glue down, commercial vinyl tiles. Therefore, I need some sort of a base to put them on … hence the cement over top of the mats. It’s the same thing as your mortar, only it goes poured down all at once, instead of bit by bit like you would with a ceramic tile. ~ karen!

        • Shauna says:

          Karen – Sorry if I didn’t read carefully enough to figure that out for myself, thanks for explaining. My mats did look a little thinner, but it’s probably due to seeing them in person instead of in a photo. I wish I had seen your post before we did our bathrooms, because at that price, my kids could have had toasty feet too. I should have shopped around, but I was overwhelmed with decisions and just went with my contractor’s recommendation. They do work fabulously and I love not needing slippers, or hairy soles!

        • Karen says:

          I can’t wait for winter now, LOL! I plan to lay on the kitchen floor all day long. ~ k!

  19. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    May you have the warmest and most hairless feet in the kingdom..”What do you mean Canada is not a kingdom”..”Well it should be”..Sheez..my son thinks he knows everything..Sorry I am late for today..or early for tomorrow..

  20. Sera says:

    Karen! This is awesome! I’m forwarding this post to my mom who wants to put radiant floors in her bathroom. Supposing I ever convince her to rip up the floor…

  21. Barbie says:

    CRAP….this comes about 7 yrs to late! When we built our house I wanted radiant floor heating and hubs would not do it! This looks pretty easy and risk free!

  22. Adrienne says:

    Well, this really rivals how impressed I was by your front yard veggie garden project last year. You are a hell of a woman. 😉 (Not the first time you’ve heard that, I bet.)

  23. Marcy says:

    I told my husband that if he ‘accidentally’ broke any tiles in our master bath remodel that I wanted radiant heat. He did break tiles and it was an accident, but a deal is a deal.

    We laid ceramic tile over ours – his first time tiling – and I wouldn’t recommend putting a radiant heat floor under tile on your first try but he managed through and it looks great and I absolutely LOVE the heated floor.

  24. Toronto Boy says:

    Including a floor plan with the heating coils makes the job a little less stressful. After reading the article, I think the hardest part is figuring out the wiring and laying the concrete/flooring on top. Great job as usual! I can’t wait to read the followup article!

    • Karen says:

      The concrete flooring scared the crap out of me but as you’ll see in the next part of the series (next week) it wasn’t so bad. ~ karen!

  25. Cindy@ DesignLove says:

    We love our heated floors! We turn it down and the kids turn it up! Our 8 yr old lays on it with her shirt off, but don’t let the fella see you do this, he may get worried! lol….enjoy!

    C.

  26. Janet says:

    We had heated floors installed in our bathroom last spring and I’m so glad we did. You won’t believe the difference next winter. It feels great on your tootsies for sure, but it also warms the room significantly.

  27. Susan says:

    Excellent post, well explained. Looking forward to the next one on the concrete. Also looking forward to hearing what kind of hit your electric bill will take with these additions, since that’s a big part of installing something like this. I want a heated bathroom floor like yours, but I need to know first if I can afford the electricity hit on our fixed income.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Susan – Here’s a handy cost calculator that Warmly Yours has on their site … http://www.warmlyyours.com/en-US/floor-heating/cut-turn-rolls/operating-cost For me it looks like the cost to run my mats in the kitchen and bathroom for 24 hours a day in the winter will be around $40 a month. From October – March that means a total cost of $240 for the entire winter. Which for me is hugely worth it. For one thing the mats don’t just warm the floor they warm my ENTIRE kitchen, which is a good 10 degrees colder than the rest of my house. I’m pretty excited. ~ karen!

  28. Patti says:

    Dear Karen,

    You’re the best.

    Yesterday, a good friend had the guy and I over for a BBQ. He’s been renovating his house and is working on his bathroom.

    The conversation became very dudely – they were talking about pipe fittings called ‘snakebites’, sloping floors, pipes, tools, heat exchanges… I was in over my head.

    Then, my friend brought up how he’s planning to install radiant heating.

    Well, somehow, I remembered like, every word of this blog post, and was the coolest chick ever. I told him about the plans, the warranty, how you remove the mesh for those weird smaller spaces, self levelling concrete… I was seriously the coolest, ever!

    Thanks for your informative posts, Karen! I sent my friend this link – I’m sure he’ll find it as useful as I did!

    Warmly yours,

    Patti

    • Karen says:

      LOL!! “Warmly Yours,” Love it! Glad you were able to be a big shot. It’s fun isn’t it? ~ karen!

  29. Radiant heating is the best…especially in Canada! Your feet will be singing next winter!

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  31. Kim says:

    I just want you to know that because of your post, I’ve decided to go with Warmly Yours. I was completely overwhelmed by all the options for floor heating, and was not getting a lot of support from our local vendors. Knowing that WY will walk me through the process is completely worth the few extra dollars we might spend. They are currently working on two custom quotes for me, and I almost feel like we have a general contractor helping us since I don’t have to do any more thinking! Phew!

    • Karen says:

      Thanks for letting me know Kim! I think you’ll really like it. They really do take all the horrible thinking out of it! ~ karen

  32. Zoe says:

    Hi! I’m going to try to follow in your footsteps. I’m going to to put this stuff under the tile in my two bathrooms and I’m getting ready to order. Do you think I need insulation under the cables? My house is slab on grade so there’s nothing but cement and dirt under the floor surface. My concern is that a layer of cork insulation will raise the level of the floor in comparison to the rest of the house and might not be as sturdy for the grouted tile. Thanks!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Zoe – My kitchen is the same. Cement and dirt underneath, no insulation or crawlspace. If you’re really concerned you can email the people at Warmly Yours, (or whatever product you’re going to use and ask them. ~ karen!

  33. Thanks for sharing your plans and experiences! We certainly need more website like your online!
    I would like to add another option to electric floor heat, which is radiator panel heat:
    http://doctorpapadopoulos.com/diy-radiator-heat-buderus/

    The concerns I have with electric floor heat is obviously the electricity bill and the fire potential. In Maryland gas is about 4 times cheaper than electricity. But as you say the install is so much easier. If it’s only for a small area it’s fine

  34. Random Guy says:

    LOL at the glowing Creme de Menthe! You’re a hoot!

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