Radiant heat makes for a warm and toasty environment on cold winter days. Cammy and her husband Steve included radiant heat flooring in their extensive kitchen renovation plans. The installation process was labor intensive, but very straightforward and the results made the effort worth it.
Homeowner: Cammy Nolin
Project: Installing Radiant Heat Flooring
In the summer of 2010, Cammy and her husband embarked on a nine-month DIY adventure of epic proportions. Their project started with a complete demolition and rebuild of their farmhouse kitchen, from the foundation to the ceiling. Aside from the completely rebuilt walls, floor, custom cabinets, and new appliances, they each had one wish-list item they would not give up. Cammy wanted hidden, under-cabinet lighting hardwired to a switch. Cammy's husband wanted a heated floor. They both got what they wanted.
They found linkable, low-profile LED light bars at the local box store and hardwired them into a dedicated light switch. One wish list item crossed off.
Choosing Radiant Heat
The heated floor was a little more work, but not any more complicated. They identified a distributor of radiant electric heat systems and evaluated cable versus mat options. The cable based radiant heat system they chose offered more flexibility to accommodate the size and shape of the kitchen. It also made it easier to work around obstacles such as the kitchen island. They decided that cable, laid out in a repeated hairpin pattern on the cement board subfloor with tile on top would be the best solution for their new kitchen floor.
Installing Radiant Heat
They provided the heating manufacturer with a detailed layout drawing of their kitchen. The vendor calculated the amount of cable required for the space and shipped it just a few days after they placed the order. The cable kit included a special heat-resistant tape and a digital, programmable thermostat.
Installation of the wire was a full-day affair in the 14’ x 14’ kitchen. Cammy’s husband began by the wall where the thermostat was connected. He layed out the cable in the hairpin pattern, with parallel lines running three feet long and about four inches apart. Cammy followed him with the special duct tape and covered the long runs of cable completely.
After taping the wires down onto the cement subfloor, they had to press the tape as snugly against the wire as possible so it would adhere to the floor and keep the wire from shifting when the mastic was applied. After about six hours, their thumbs and fingertips were pretty sore, and so were their backs and knees. Since the wire didn’t affect the application of mastic, they were able to install the new tile as soon as their schedule allowed, in this case, just a few days later.
Advice for Installing Radiant Heat
There are many different types of radiant floor heating, using either electric and hot water. You can learn more about radiant heating at the Energy.gov website.
Installing a radiant heat floor is a slow, labor intensive process, but it’s not complicated. The alternative method is where the wire is laid out in wet, self-leveling cement, but that seemed like more than Cammy and her husband wanted to take on.
Cammy says the only downside to this type of radiant heat is the physical toll of the installation. “Plan on spending several hours on your knees to put everything in place. The upside is a perfectly lovely and warm floor that you will enjoy walking barefoot on, your pets will adore, and will cost far less to run than electric baseboard heat. “
Have you ever installed radiant heat in your home?
Cammy Nolin is a former technical writer who now splits her time between children, chickens, and freelance editing. She is in training with her best buddy to run a 5K, and aims to read all 100 classics on her “best books of all time” bucket list.