Getting you feet warm with a radiant floor heating system is gaining popularity especially in kitchens, baths, and other home areas with ceramic tile floors. Here are the facts and step by step instructions on how to easily install such floor heating systems.

Facts about Radiant Floor Heating Systems

  • Typically installed under stone or tiles floors
  • Can be installed under any floor which does not require nailing
  • Radiant floor heating are available for ceramic tile, carpet, and wood floors
  • Floor heating systems are a network of electrically heated wires installed under the ceramic tiles
  • Also called radiant floor heating systems
  • Heat the living space uniformly and requires little energy
  • Do not carry dust and air pollutants throughout the home as the forced air systems do
  • Alternative to forced air heating, especially for people with asthma or other respiratory problems
  • Provide enhanced comfort by electronically controlling the temperature with adjustable thermostats
  • Radiant floor heating systems are invisible, making the floor more visually pleasing
  • Maintenance-free and quick response time
  • Deemed EMF safe – well lower than the accepted safe exposure level for the United States
  • Typically guaranteed for 10 years or more.

Things to Consider Before Installing a Radiant Floor Heating System

  • If installed under carpet, laminate or hardwood floor coverings, make sure you embed the radiant floor heating
  • Wires in a minimum 3/8″ of thinset or self-leveling cement before installing the floor covering
  • Avoid installing radiant heating systems under carpets or area rugs thicker than 3/4”
  • Do not use asphalt felt paper as underlayment, use rosin instead
  • When installing a radiant floor heating system, the floor will raise with a minimum 3/8″ which is the minimum of thinset cement required to embed the heating elements
  • If the system will be installed on a concrete slab, add a layer of insulation to minimize heat loss into concrete
  • installation of electrical systems presents risks of fire and electrical shock which can result in personal injury – hire a professional electrician to connect the system to the electrical panel
  • Radiant floor heating systems must be connected to the electrical system via a Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI)
  • Avoid damaging the heating elements by dropping tools with sharp edges or points onto them
    minimize walking on top of the elements during the installation
  • Cover exposed areas with thick pieces of cardboard or carpeting to reduce the risk of damage
  • Radiant floor heating must not be installed under cabinets or plumbing fixtures that will be permanently installed and attached to the floor
  • Frequently test the resistance of the radiant floor heating system before, during and after its installation – heating elements may get damaged during installation and must be replaced.

Tools and Materials Required

Steps for Installing Under-Tile Radiant Floor Heating Systems

  • Locate electrical box and remove wall surface
  • Make sure the power leads of the mats reach the thermostat box and mount a double gang electrical box for the thermostat
  • Test the resistance of the mats and make sure the mats are not damaged
  • On the other side of the stud mount a single gang box for the timer
  • Run two thin-wall electrical conduit bewteen the thermostat box and the lower 2×4 of the framing – use 1/2″ conduit for up to two mats or 3/4″ for more
  • Run 12-gauge electrical cable from service panel to the timer box end from the timer box to the thermostat box
  • Attach electric cables to the stud with cable clamps
  • Vacuum the floor
  • Lay the electrical mats and make sure the power leads still reach the thermostat box – make sure you leave at least 2″ between the heating wires of the mats and you leave between 6 to 9″ from the walls, toilette flanges, showers, bath tubes
  • Create recesses in the floor to connect the mats between them – use a chisel and a hammer
  • Vacuum the debris, connect and insulate the electrical wires
  • Lay the wires into the recesses and secure them with hot glue
  • Run the mats’ power wires through the electrical conduits to the thermostat box with the steel fish wire
  • Run the heat sensor wire through the second conduit and wave it into the mats
  • Test again the resistance of the mats and make sure the mats are not damaged

  • Install the floor tiles – make sure to check the resistance of the mats as you progress with the installation
  • Install the thermostat and the timer
  • Once the flooring materials have cured, complete the circuit at the service panel and test the system.

Important Tips

  • Allow the thinset material to fully cure before fully operating the radiant floor heating system – ceramic tile and stone installations require 2 to 14 days for the thinset to cure
  • Fully operating the system before the thinset mortar has completely cured will result in a brittle thinset mortar and a significant shorter lifespan of the system.

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