Installing Radiant Floor Heating: A DIY Project?
LESLIE: Jeanette in Colorado is on the line and needs some help with a radiant-heating question. What can we do for you?
JEANETTE: I would like to know if it would be good to do the radiant floor ourselves or to have someone else do it. Is it going to increase my electric bill quite a bit and if it is something I could do, what materials would be best to do?
TOM: Wow. Lots of questions.
LESLIE: Yeah. We only said, “One question,” lady.
TOM: Alright. So, the bathroom is the only room in the house that you want to have a warm floor?
JEANETTE: Well, for starters. We would like to do it in the kitchen, also. But we thought we’d start with the small project as the bathroom.
TOM: And what kind of a house do you have? Is it a ranch? Colonial? What are we talking about?
JEANETTE: No, it’s more of a ranch. It has a – the bottom is not sitting completely on the ground because it’s lots of rocks and stuff in the mountains there. So it does have crawlspaces underneath.
TOM: It does.
JEANETTE: Yes, it does have crawlspaces where you – we have sump pumps in there to help anything that might cause that. So you can crawl under the house but it’s not very much room.
TOM: OK. And how is it heated? Is it hot water or a hot-air system?
JEANETTE: Hot air but we mostly use pellet stoves.
TOM: So, it sounds to me like you’re going to be limited to an electric radiant-heating system. There are different types of heating underlayments, so to speak, that you would put on a bathroom floor and you would tile on top of.
Now, is it expensive? Yes. It’s electric heat. It’s expensive to purchase and install, it’s expensive to run. It’s not a way to save money on your heating bill. There’s nothing cost-effective about electric heat. It’s very pleasant and nice to have that warm floor but it is an expensive project and it’s expensive to run. That said, if you put it on its own timer so it’s only on, say, in the morning or in the evenings for a limited period of time, you could manage that expense.
Is it a do-it-yourself project? Yes, if you’re pretty experienced. Because the tile mats usually have to be ordered custom-made. And you have to make sure that they’re installed properly because if you get that floor down and it doesn’t work, you’ve got a big problem. You end up having to tear it up.
Frankly, my advice would be to not do it yourself because I would rather have a contractor do it that’s worked with it time and time again. I’d hate to see the whole thing get together and you’ve got a problem with it and you’ve got to tear it all up and start again. So, the amount of additional expense for labor, I think, would have sort of an insurance quality to it to make sure it comes out right.
JEANETTE: Well, thank you all for your advice and I appreciate it.
TOM: You’re welcome. Good luck with that project. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.