Walking on a cold bathroom floor is a harsh way to start the morning. While most people avoid cold feet by covering bathroom floors with enormous mats, radiant heating is a great way to keep the floor warm while increasing your home’s energy efficiency. Here is a quick guide on how to install heated bathroom flooring in your home without breaking your budget.
Step 1 - Access the Subfloor
Depending on the type of installation (new home construction versus renovation), you will need access to the subfloor to install a radiant heating system. The heating system will be installed directly above the subfloor, making it a dry installation. Once the subfloor is exposed you can start the process of laying down the thermal tile.
Step 2 - Arrange Heated Mats
Most radiant heating systems come with a fiberglass mesh that enables the electrical components to sit flat against the subfloor. You should space the mats at least three inches from walls and six inches from the toilet. Ensure that the lead wire can reach the thermostat. If you have to cut the mat to fit, make sure you only cut the mesh and not the electrical wire.
Step 3 - Securing The Mats
Once everything is in place, make sure the lead wire can still reach the thermostat. If the layout is correct, you can begin securing the mats to the subfloor. The method of securing the mats depends on the type subfloor. The most common method of attaching the mesh to the subfloor is with staples, though you may need to use tape or hot glue if the staples do not hold. When stapling the mesh in place, be careful not to puncture the electrical components.
Step 4 - Securing Lead Wires & Sensors
With the mesh firmly in place, pull up the lead wires up and tape them to the thermostat. These will be installed later. Then insert the sensor probe between two electrical wires. The probe should be placed evenly between the wires. You may need to cut a groove in the subfloor to ensure the area above the sensor remains flat. You can also interlace the sensor wire with the mesh to keep it from moving around throughout the installation.
Step 5 - Thin-set Mortar
Using a trowel, spread a layer of thin-set mortar over the mesh mats. A plastic trowel is best for this installation as it is less likely to cut the electrical wires. Another option is to apply a small layer of thin-set mortar over the electrical components. A third method is to use self-leveling cement over the mesh. After the cement has dried, you can lay down whatever type of floating flooring you desire, including laminates, tile, linoleum, or carpet.
Step 6 - Tile and Grout
Once the thin-set mortar has fully dried, you can lay tile and grout, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When laying down grout, avoid using sharp knives or metal tools because these can puncture the electrical components in the mesh and prevent it from working. If you need to remove tile to get the floor level, proceed with caution and use plastic tools whenever possible. Whatever flooring option you use, consider going with a different finish then the rest of the bathroom. This will make it easier to repair the radiant heating system if something should go wrong down the road.
Step 7 - Let Grout Dry
After everything has been installed, you need to allow the grout to fully dry before hooking up the radiant heating system. Follow the instructions on the grout, as drying time varies between manufacturers.
Step 8 - Hook Everything Up
The final step in installing a radiant heating system is to hook up the electrical components. Follow the instructions that came with the system when connecting the wires. If you are connecting more than one mat, they need to be parallel with the thermostat. Do not forget to hook up the temperature sensor, which helps regulate the mat’s heat settings.
Handle the radiant heating system with care during the install. It does not take much to accidentally cut an electrical wire and ruin the entire setup. When hooking up the lead wires to the thermostat, do not hesitate to consult a licensed electrician. Some locations require that an electrician sign off on the work, so double check the building codes in your area before moving forward with this project.