Are Heated Floors Worth It?

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Tired of cold feet in the morning? Heated floors may be just the answer you're looking for. Heated floors, or radiant floor heating, keep your feet warm even on the coldest days.

Why Does the Floor Get So Cold?

Heat rises, cool air sits much lower. It's just how the science works out. And because the heat in your house rises, the floors throughout your house get left out in the cold.

As your heater runs throughout the winter, the warm air fills your home and rises while the cool air sinks, leaving your floors cold. Tile, wood, or laminate flooring will be especially cold without the warmth of carpet.

If you want a more permanent solution for eradicating cold floors, see if heated floors may be right for your home.

What Is Radiant Heat?

Radiant heat flooring uses thermal radiation in conjunction with waves to warm your room from the floor up. Instead of heating the air in a room, floor heating systems warm the room by radiating the heat up from the floor.

As your room begins to warm from the floor up, the heat gets trapped in other objects around the room. If you heat your kitchen this way, you may notice that your tables and chairs warm up too.

Radiant heat is expensive to install, but it's a more efficient way of keeping a home warm. This type of heating is more common in parts of the US where it stays very cold for long portions of the year.

There are two forms of radiant heat made widely available, the first being electric. Electric heated floors use electricity to heat the floors throughout a space.

The second type of radiant heating is hydronic, a system that uses pipes, water, and a boiler room to heat the floors throughout a space.

radiant heating pipes running throughout a room under construction

Can I Install Radiant Heat Throughout My House?

Yes. If you want radiant heat throughout the house, as long as your flooring materials are suitable for radiant heat. That being said, you don't have to install it throughout the whole house.

If you only need radiant heating in one or two rooms, you can certainly install it in just one space to start out.

How Much Does It Cost to Install Radiant Heating?

Radiant heating costs, on average, five to nine dollars a square foot to install, depending on the area of the country that you live in. That cost can add up quickly, which is why some people only install it in small places.

Bathrooms and smaller rooms with outside walls are common places where individuals may install radiant heating. These smaller areas benefit greatly from this type of heating, and it saves money.

To have a contractor install in-floor heating for you, you're going to pay based on the local rate, but on average, it cost around twenty dollars a square foot for a contractor to install your radiant heat flooring.

With that number in mind, it's easy to see why DIYing this project will certainly save you money, but because it's very time-consuming and technical, it may still be worth it to pay a contractor.

Can You Install Radiant Heating Yourself?

You can definitely install radiant heating yourself. Not a project for a first-time DIYer, installing radiant heating can be done DIY style and is fairly easy for those with home improvement experience.

Installing radiant heating into an existing home is more time-intensive and difficult than installing radiant heating into a new build, but it is still possible.

Installing radiant heating yourself will save you money and help cut the upgrade expense in the long run. Because radiant heating heats the whole room, you can save on your traditional heating bill.

hands installing radiant heat under flooring

How to Install Radiant Floor Heating Yourself

If you want to install radiant floor heating yourself, here's where you need to start. First, you have to decide whether you're installing hydronic heating or electrical heating.

Hydronic is significantly more difficult to install.

If you are installing electric radiant floor heat, you'll want to get a professional recommendation for which specific electrical system to use in your home based on the type of flooring and subfloor that you have.

After you have your specific recommendation from a professional, determine whether or not you feel comfortable doing the electrical part of this project yourself. You may want to hire that portion out to a professional.

You can't cut radiant heat, so you need to do some math next. You also won't take this heating system wall to wall, so you have a little buffer room.

You'll also need to install a dedicated breaker with two conduits for the heating system.

Once you are ready to start, make sure an electrition clears your home for installation, remove the current flooring, and clean it all up. Make sure to sweep and vacuum the area for ease of installation and safety.

Follow the instructions that came with your specific brand very carefully. You'll likely need to rough in the electrical first, and then you'll need to install the mat onto your subfloor.

After the mat has been successfully installed, you need to hook up the controls. This may also be a point where you wish to have help from a professional electrician.

Next, when all the electrical is in place, apply a layer of thin set over the mat. A self-leveling compound comes next so that you have a good surface to re-install your flooring on.

Then, reinstall your flooring.

We recommend that you test your system several times throughout the process because mistakes are much harder to rectify after your flooring has been replaced.

Most Popular Place for In-Floor Heating

bare feet walking on bathroom floor

It's hard to say where the most popular place to install in-floor heating in a home is, but if we had to take a guess, we would say the bathroom.

Most bathrooms have tile or stone floors that hold onto heat and hold onto cold longer than other types of flooring.

So if you wake up in the morning and the first thing you do is step on a cold bathroom floor, it is definitely not the most pleasant feeling in the world.

Bathrooms are also a popular location for this type of heating because they are small, and thus the project cost a lot less in the end.

Bathrooms are also often attached to other rooms in the home, which means the attached rooms will benefit from the heat coming from the bathroom.

It also just feels really luxurious to have a bathroom with heated floors.

If you're interested in this type of heating as a way to add a level of luxury to your home, definitely start with the bathroom. Skip the towel warmer and go straight for the floors.

When Is Floor Heating Worth It?

Floor heating isn't cheap, and it's a lot of work. If you live in an area where it's cold for long periods of the year, it might be a good investment for you.

We recommend installing floor heating only on the first floor or basement if you're looking to save money. These floors will be colder than higher floors because cold air sinks.

Most heated floors are considered to be more energy efficient than traditional heating and do a better job of warming a space thoroughly, which is a bonus.

These systems typically have a longer life than traditional heating and are cheaper to run. So after the initial installation cost, it works better for your finances in the long run.

This type of heating is also much better for people with chronic dry skin because it doesn't force moisture out of the air as a traditional heating system would.

After taking a look at all of these benefits, it will be up to you to decide if it's worth the money and the labor to install radiant heat in your floors.

When Is a Heated Floor Not Worth It?

radiant floor heating system under construction

When you live in a mostly warm climate, a heated floor is nothing more than a luxury to use a few mornings a year when the bathroom tile feels a little cold in the mornings.

A heated floor costs, on average, seven dollars a square foot for supplies and upwards of twenty dollars a square foot for installation if you pay a professional. If that's going to break the bank, it's not worth it.

If you have to rip up current flooring that cannot be salvaged, heated flooring may not be worth it in that circumstance either. Flooring is not cheap to replace.

Other Ways to Warm a Cold Floor

We live in an area that is cold for almost half the year (yes, we live here on purpose). After the cost of purchasing a house, it wasn't prudent for us to dump more money into the home right away.

Did we want radiant heating in the floors? Yes. Was it the right time? No.

Even though this type of heating is a good long-term investment that sets our home apart and ups our enjoyment of the space and our resale value, there are other ways to warm up a space if radiant floor heating isn't in the cards right now.

We started out with rugs.

On our LVP flooring on the first floor of the home, we layered rugs in the living room, kitchen, and bathrooms during the colder months. This made more of a difference than you'd think.

You can purchase portable electric floor heating mats, very similar to in-floor heating, that tuck under rugs and add heat that way. If that is out of your budget, try adding some carpet insulation under the rug to give it extra squish and more warmth.

You can add other textiles to the space to capture warmth.

We run a space-heater in the coldest rooms once or twice a day, but if that's not your speed, you can skip that step. After we run the heater, though, we try our best to keep all of the internal doors closed when we can.

Keeping the doors closed helps trap heat.

We also set the fan on the ceiling to rotate clockwise. We don't really understand why this works, we just know that it does.

It's also a good idea to make sure that everything is sealed correctly in those colder spaces. Look for correct sealing around doors and windows and replace door tape when necessary.

DIY Electric Fireplace

man installing electric fireplace

A DIY fireplace is another good place to start if you're looking to warm up your floors. Even with building materials costing what they do right now, you can still DIY an electric fireplace on a budget.

The first thing you're going to want to do is to select the fireplace insert.

We recommend creating your building plans around the fireplace insert, as this is generally one of the more expensive pieces of the project.

Fireplace inserts can cost tens of thousands of dollars, but you can also find several for under five hundred dollars if you look at big box retailers.

Make sure to select a fireplace with high ratings that people say heats a room well. After all, that's the goal of installing a fireplace.

After you've selected the insert, you're going to need to draw up plans to frame and either shiplap or drywall around the framing. You'll also want to make plans for some sort of mantle.

We love the look of a skim-coated fireplace that's sleek and modern, but you can easily DIY a fireplace in a different style.

To build your own fireplace, you will need to have framing skills and be handy with power tools, but this is a project you could hire a subcontractor to help you with if you needed an extra hand.

If you install a hearth for your fireplace, consider using stone because stone is a great heat conductor and will hold the warmth for a long time.

That warmth will then radiate into the room and keep the space feeling warmer for longer.

A DIY fireplace won't replicate the warmth of in-floor heating, but it will certainly warm a cooler space up and help warm the floors in a room. It's also a cheaper alternative to in-floor heating.