Are you planning on putting in a new tile, stone, or laminate floor? If so, there is no better way to make it cozy and comfortable underfoot than to install a radiant floor heating system.
Of the various types of radiant floor heaters, one of the easiest to install is a fiberglass mesh–backed matting that contains electric-resistance cables. Here we show you the basics for installing this type. (The product shown is TempZone by WarmlyYours.) For information about types of radiant floor heating systems, please see How to Buy Radiant Floor Heating.
Before ordering, you’ll need to figure out how much material your floor will require. To do this, create a basic layout of your floor area on graph paper, noting basic dimensions, and calculate your material needs according to the size of the mesh. You can omit mesh wherever a warm floor is unnecessary: under cabinets, behind toilet, and so forth.
For the system shown, you can simply send a floor plan of the room to the manufacturer; the company will calculate the amount of material needed and send you a layout showing exactly where to cut and position the mesh for the best coverage and easiest installation.
Step-by-Step Radiant Floor Installation
Before beginning, discuss electrical requirements with an electrical contractor. Your system may require a dedicated circuit and will definitely require protection by a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). You’ll also want the electrician to do the final hook-up (Step 4).
Please note: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions implicitly. The steps below are meant to be a general overview of the installation sequence.
1Use a pair of scissors to cut the mesh backing according to the layout. This creates rectangular panels that can be positioned across the floor and fitted around fixtures and cabinetry. Cut only the mesh—not the cables.
2Apply thinset or adhesive. After using the supplied tester to make sure the cables are intact and working, apply a 1/8-inch coating of thinset cement or flooring adhesive over the top of the mesh. (You can staple or glue the mesh—but not the cables—to the subfloor to hold it in place before applying the thinset.)
3Embed the floor tiles in an additional layer of thinset cement. (For more about this, see Laying a Ceramic Tile Floor.)
4Have the system wired to a thermostat that’s installed in a standard 2-by-4- or 4-by-4-inch wall box. The rounded plastic piece shown here is a tester used to ensure that the system is working.
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