What You'll Learn
Installation Details While you can hire a pro to do a radiant-floor retrofit, it's not a difficult job if you're comfortable setting floor tiles. We recommend that a licensed electrician hook up the new electrical circuit. The objective is to cover the subfloor with a continuous, closely spaced pattern of heating cable, connect it to a thermostat on the new circuit, and cover the cable with thinset and tile. There are two types of cable systems on the market. The SunTouch system uses heating cable that's woven into 1- or 2-foot-wide plastic mats. While the mats can be cut to extend the cable into odd-shaped areas, this system is easiest to use when your installation area is rectangular. The heating cable for the Warm Tiles Electric Floor Warming System from EasyHeat is supplied in lengths determined by layout requirements. The cable fits in slotted plastic channels fastened to the floor at right angles to cable runs. This system has a real advantage when the installation needs to go around curves or extend into odd-shaped corners. The best way to get started with either system is to make a scale drawing of the floor plan and identify the "walking area" where the cable will run. You don't want cable under or against cabinets, a tub, shower enclosure, and the like; it should also be at least 6 inches from wax seals for toilets or bidets. Send a copy of your floor plan to the cable supplier (see Where to Find It). The technical support staff can determine the optimum layout and quantity of cable you need. Standard thermostats are available for each system, but you're better off spending a few extra dollars for a setback model. You'll save energy by cutting heat during periods when the system is in use. Once the cable is down and the wiring is hooked up, all that remains is the tile work. While these systems are compatible with any tile, there are certain thinsets that work better than others; check with the cable supplier for specific recommendations.