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Laying Heated Flooring Under Tile

January 13, 2020  —  Written by Julia 

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The harlequin tile floors (of our dreams!) are starting to get laid in the dining room today! It feels like it has been a long time coming. And in many ways it has, but it’s strange once you reach a point you were waiting so long to reach, everything it took to get up to this point you suddenly feel overwhelming gratitude for. Or at least I do. I’m glad we went through the extra effort to rebuild this room from the ground up. I’m glad we raised the floor so there was no step-down into this room. I’m glad we got the walls finished and painted (Sherwin William’s Alabaster) so when the floors are down we’ll be that much closer to completion.

One big detail went in on Friday, and that’s the radiant floor heating system from WarmlyYours (full disclosure: they sent us the system for this room). I shared some of the process in my stories and got SO MANY QUESTIONS about why we would heat only the dining room, if this is the only source of heat for the room, if it’s a must-have and what happens if it breaks etc etc?!

To answer those questions:

1. The heated floors will not be the only source of heat for the dining room. When we rebuilt this room from the foundation up (oof!), we added HVAC. Previously, this was more like an old patio converted into a sunroom so, very cold in the winter months and hot in the summer. There was an exterior door from the living room leading into it, so making the dining room a working part of our home definitely meant adding heating and cooling to the space. The heated floors (and fireplace!) are bonuses.

2. Is it a must-have? I got this question a lot! And I can’t answer that for anyone else, truly. But I will say that I think it depends on your region. We live in a colder region with an extended winter and cold nights year round. We added heated flooring to our last master bathroom and it was so incredibly nice, we vowed never to be without it again. This house actually already has heated tile in the kitchen/mudroom. And the front walkway is also heated. So this is to say, it’s very standard to heat tile floors in our area. The dining room is going to be the only flooring on the first floor that is tile so it’s the only floor we’re heating.

3. They test the heating elements pretty thoroughly before tiling over it to make sure it’s working properly. If the heated floor stops working down the road, for whatever reason (again, the heated flooring in our kitchen is over 20 years old and still going strong!), chances are it has something to do with the thermostat or circuit breaker rather than wire in the floor itself, and those things can be easily addressed.

 

As a heating system, the TempZone Flex Rolls are extremely easy to install so you get full coverage heating because of the cut-and-turn installation. The heating cable is secured to fiberglass mesh, three inches apart, in a serpentine pattern so there is even heat output. These rolls are very thin (about 1/8 inch) so they have a minimal impact on the floor height once they’re installed. Even still, when we were laying our wood floors in the adjoining spaces, we were mindful to account for the slight raise to ensure the dining room floors meet evenly with the surrounding floors.

Our contractors installed ours, but if you’re handy, you *can* DIY this project. WarmlyYours has an easy-to-follow installation cheat sheet here. (There’s only 8 steps and two are testing the heating element). The last step you see above was pouring a very thin layer of self-leveling concrete over it to prepare to lay the tile.

WarmlyYours offers a free design service for radiant heating (both floor heating and snow melting). You provide WarmlyYours with the dimensions of your project and in about one business day, you get a customized SmartPlan, including an itemized quote, an electrical plan, and an illustrated installation plan that shows you where the heating elements should be laid out and how they should be installed. It takes all of the guess work out of it.

We’re so ready to see the tile! And because I got asked a lot about this too, almost any tile can be installed over the TempZone heating systems (but of course it’s always a good idea to refer to the tile manufacturer’s guidelines to make sure).

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What do you think?

  1. Laura says:

    I love heated floors but the use of an electric floor heating system in such a large space seems like it would be much less efficient than a hydroponic system tied into a boiler. Did you consider a hydroponic system before having this one installed?

  2. Kari Rau says:

    Radiant can be so nice! I love it in bathrooms! Less so in large rooms with lots of windows due to solar gain and HVAC controls that really have to be zeroed in! Love seeing all the transformations. Wish more designers highlighted their use of renewable technology in renovations and new construction since so many cities are starting to have carbon neutral/renewable energy targets. Tying your radiant floors and HVAC system to geothermal is a great way to save money, reduce your carbon emissions, and aids in your outdoor aesthetics since you don’t have an outdoor unit humming away. And your backyard is heating and cooling your home! Maybe you’re already doing some of these things but good luck!

  3. Erin says:

    Love following you both and have for years! Question, and this will seem odd… can you speak more to the self-leveling concrete? We are finishing our basement and our existing concrete is great… I’m just wondering if perhaps we should do one more coat and I’m wondering if the self-leveling concrete is the way to go! Our contractor is suggesting epoxy but I want to explore options! Thanks in advance!

  4. Phil says:

    Hi would not have put tile over the plywood even with the thinset, backer board is the way to go.

  5. Antonio says:

    We’re going to renovate a house we purchased not to long ago and we are researching all the possibilities to make this project as smooth and well planed as possible. This was very good information, thank you!

  6. Jenny says:

    Hi! This will be so comfortable!

    We had radiant heat (from a boiler) all throughout our house in Idaho and it was so great! Smart to put in HVAC to control temps during shoulder season when it’s cool at night but heats up 30 degrees and you need air conditioning. Definitely great to program floors and HVAC differently for Spring/Fall. It’s easy to turn off heated floors in summer.

    We learned the hard way put insulation between a slab and the electric blanket in a small cottage in Seattle. Radiant heat travels in all directions–Up and down. The ants loved it too much in winter and it was expensive since some heat was lost downward to the earth via the cement slab. It also took longer to bring the tile up to full heat of a 12×12′ space. Insulation keeps a thermal break between indoors and out keeping out insects looking for warmth and directs more energy/heat up, right where you want it.

  7. Kristin says:

    We moved into a very old home in a cold part of the US. The house has an addition on it, with our family room/great room and office. That part of the house has heated floors (wood flooring on top though, not tile) and it is AMAZING. We have long winters and we love that great room so very much. It’s heated entirely through the floors and it stays so comfortable and warm all winter. The rest of the house is forced air heat and it’s no comparison how much more comfortable the great room is. We turn it off in the summer, but we keep it at a steady 68 all winter. I will say when the furnace broke it was very pricey to fix—almost as much as a new gas furnace and we only replaced one part—but it’s worth it! You are going to love it!

  8. Jessica says:

    I just brought up this topic to my husband for our upstairs bathrooms. I was glad to see a post on it!

  9. Erin says:

    Wow… I live in the south so really no need in our area… but great post!!!! So many things I didn’t know! Your posts are always so well written!!!

  10. Jill says:

    Hi chris and Julia,
    What is the wood structure showing on the left in the last picture, and also showing in some other views? Thank you.

  11. Allison says:

    Love how this is turning out. Removing the step down to the room makes all the difference to making it feel cohesive with the rest of the house! By raising the floor up to be level with the music room and great room, are there now steps to get down to the patio on the outside?

  12. Debbie V. says:

    This room is going to be absolutely stunning!!! I’m so happy for you and your family.

  13. JaneS says:

    I’m sure the heat is not left on all the time. If you heat a bathroom floor, how long does it take to warm after turning on? For instance, leave it on 24/7 to have warm feet when you use the bathroom at night? Will the dining room be heated at all times? I can not wait to see the tile!!

  14. Jenna says:

    We rented a house in the mountains at Christmas and it had heated floors and now i hate my stupid, cold floors!! It was SO NICE!

  15. Heated floors is one of my dreams! It’s cool to see what it actually looks like under the flooring.

  16. Michelle says:

    Too benefits of heated flooring to add, as I’m a huge fan. 1) they transfer a gentle heat to any furniture that touches the floor, which helps everything feel warmer. This is a gentle effect, not drying or damaging at all, and better than the forced hot spots a lot of forced air vents or fireplaces subject furniture too. 2) impact on humidity. My parents put a tile floor in a walk out basement ore heated flooring and in summer it needs a lot of dehumidifiers to keep from getting clammy. A gentle warming reduces the temp differential and keeps you from getting dew on your floors. Not an obvious benefit because people mostly think about the need for warmth. But temperature management at the floor level impacts everything. My parents rebuilt a lake cottage and put it everywhere, even their garage (so they could remove the cars and use it for entertaining space in winter). It’s divine.

  17. Jenn(ifer) says:

    Can’t wait for the tile either!
    I have nothing but floor heating (with water running through the floor) in my house (in northern Germany). I have laminat flooring, tile and carpet. It is dream! No ugly vents or radiator anywhere, the warmth is evenly spread all through the room and it’s a very nice warmth (and I hardly ever have cold feet).
    So cool to see this diy-able system!
    Greetings from Germany
    Jenn(ifer)

  18. Elaine says:

    OldTownHome installed Warmly Yours in their master bathroom for anyone looking for the DIY application and how they handled it.

    I had heating elements installed when I redid my old bathroom and heated floors are sooooo worth it. They do just enough to take the chill out of the air. Really really (really) missing them this winter.

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