Learn about installing radiant heat in your home. Find out how costly it can be and what materials will work best for a floor with radiant heat.
LESLIE: Judy from California, who’s looking to talk about radiant heat for a floor. What can we do for you?
JUDY: Well, I’m glad that you know what it’s called because I didn’t know. (Tom laughs)
LESLIE: Oh, well there you go.
JUDY: (chuckling) I live in the lovely foothills of California where it gets pretty chilly in the winter.
TOM: I bet.
JUDY: And I have three border collies. So I want to replace my hardwood floors with tile; some sort of tile, which I haven’t figured out yet what would be best. So that’s part of one question but the other – the bigger question is isn’t there a way to put heat under it and, if so, how prohibitively expensive is it?
TOM: Well, it’s not cheap; I’ll tell you that. Because first of all, it’s not cheap to use because it’s electric resistance heat, electric radiant heat. So it’s going to be fairly costly to operate. You know, if you’re going to use it in addition, I presume, to your existing system – perhaps only on the coldest days – you know, it might be sort of a luxury that you can add but it’s not cheap to run.
It’s also not terribly cheap to install. The panels are available and, actually, the radiant heat is sort of built in, in some cases, to sort of what looks like a plywood subfloor.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Would you use the same type of plywood subfloor if you’re going to go with tile or is this something that gets set in the mud if you go tile?
TOM: I think that that’s probably the type of subfloor that might be set in under the tile. But I don’t see why it wouldn’t work; you know, to go right on top of the floor that she has now.
JUDY: Oh, really?
TOM: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. You might want to take a look at SunTouch
, which is one of the very common companies that makes radiant floor heating. They’ve been around for a long time and they have floor heating mats that can be embedded into the tile mastic.
TOM: And take a look at that.
JUDY: So now, the bigger question is if I decided to go that route, is tile a good solution in a cold country even with heating. I mean …
TOM: Don’t forget, three dogs.
LESLIE: Yeah, I mean are you …
JUDY: Yeah. Yeah, the three dogs is the reason for the tile. (chuckles)
TOM: Yeah. It is a good solution when you have dogs because it’s – you know, it’s indestructible. I mean you can always clean the stuff.
Now, if you wanted to save some money and not go with tile, then my second choice would be laminate floor, which looks pretty nice. It can look …
LESLIE: Mm-hmm and it can look like anything.
TOM: Yeah, it can look tile; it can look like hardwood. You know, we’ve had laminate floor in our kitchen now for probably ten years and it’s really incredibly durable stuff. It’s stood up to, you know, our dog and our three kids for all this time.
JUDY: Oh, really?
TOM: Yeah. And a lot less expensive.
JUDY: OK. Well, you’ve helped me very much. I thank you.
TOM: You’re very welcome, Judy. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT. And Judy, online at MoneyPit.com, we’ve got several articles about laminate flooring. So if you ever have questions, you could find them right there.