There is nothing like the feel of a warm floor beneath your bare feet. And the floor that is usually the coldest and has the most bare feet on it is the bathroom. Why wear socks or slippers into the room that requires you to take them off as soon as you get there; instead consider installing heated flooring in the bathroom of your new home. Warm floors are not just for the winter. The cool spring and fall days can make you bathroom floors just as uncomfortable. It’s a relatively inexpensive upgrade as well as a guaranteed value-adder in the resale market to heat your bathroom floor and add years of enjoyment to your new home experience
Heated flooring was once considered a bit of a luxury many years ago, but today, this option is affordable to most new home buyers; and it is a project that some can consider as a DIY project. If you have the skills to install flooring, you can take care of the basic installation of many of the systems on the market today. You simply need to have an electrician make the final connections to your home wiring.
What is heated flooring and how is it accomplished?
The type of heat used for this purpose is called radiant heat and it relies on the heat from a source (electric wires, hot water pipes, etc.) radiating or moving through air or flooring to produce heat at the surface of the floor or in the living area. Typically, there are two types available. The most popular is called an electric grid system (electric baseboard heaters rely on the same principle) and is composed of electrical mats (circuits) installed under your finished flooring in a bed of thinset mortar. The mortar holds the electric mats down and covers them to allow an even spread of the heat from the cables or circuits, to the flooring above. You then install your finished flooring on the thinset mortar bed and you’re ready to go! This type of system, compared to a hydronic system, is found in many new homes today due to its lower initial cost and fewer moving parts. The electrical mats or cable mats are readily available in many different configurations, most of which can be custom fit to your particular floor plan. This is important because you want to make sure you have even heat distribution across the floor, otherwise you’ll end up with cold spots that defeat the purpose of having the floor heated to begin with.
The second type of system also uses radiant heat and is called a hydronic system. This system uses hot water running through a series of copper pipes to heat the floor. Water is an excellent conductor of heat and the earliest systems were hydronic systems in concrete floors; but the obvious concern with this type of floor heat is the potential for a leaking pipe. It has all the versatility of the newer electric systems in that you can control individual rooms through zone control, but it requires many more working parts and a much thicker concrete slab, adding to your overall floor height. You have to have the water heated which requires a source; normally a boiler, but you could use an electric heating source or a geo-thermal source. The water then needs to be pumped from the boiler to the different areas to be heated. As the water will need to be directed to different areas at different times, control valves and flow valves will have to be installed. All of these parts have the potential to fail and are more expensive to install, thus the decrease in popularity of the hydronic system. Finally, the hydronic system will have a tendency to heat less the further away the water gets from source. With electricity, you have the same heat available regardless of how far you get from the source and therefore a warmer and more enjoyable floor.
What type of flooring do I have to use with a heated floor system?
Today’s new floor heating systems can be matched with almost any type of finished flooring. They are very thin and add very little to the finished floor height. Most people are familiar with a heated floor system going under stone or ceramic tile and there are many good reasons for doing it that way as stone and ceramic will transfer the heat better than carpet or wood; and when installing a heated floor in a bathroom, you want the most water-resistant flooring you can get. But don’t let that stop you from considering all of the flooring options that you might use in a bathroom today.
Many homeowners are choosing hardwood floors for their bathroom because of their visual appeal, lasting beauty and versatility. They can be sanded and refinished in a different color after many years of service without having to replace the whole floor and without installing a new heating system under it. The new thin mat heating systems work just as well under hardwood as they do under tile or stone. Or perhaps you’ve found laminate wood flooring with a look that is perfect for your bathroom but you didn’t think you could put a heating system under it. The new electric mat systems are suitable for this type of flooring also. Their low profile makes it easy for them to go under these floating floor systems. Even carpet can be used as a finish floor over a floor heating system in your bathroom (though the installation is a little different). The real beauty in the electric mat system is that your flooring installer can usually lay them down while they install your flooring; saving you time and even money in some cases.
Heated flooring in the bathroom is the kind of upgrade that makes sense for today’s smart homebuyer. It will only add a few dollars to the overall cost of your new home, but it will bring years of satisfaction to the happy feet that use it.