• Radiant floor heating is probably the best way to heat up any space. It's comfortable, quiet, and energy efficient. Although electric radiant heat is a popular choice for small projects—retiling a bathroom, say—hydronic, or water-based, radiant provides the ultimate in efficiency for bigger projects or an extensive remodel.

    Hyrdonic radiant is typically a job for a pro, but there is a way you can DIY part of it. The key is to use a specially engineered foam panel from Schluter Systems called Bekotec. You lay the panels directly on the floor, press-fit PEX tubing into them, and add a thin layer of specially mixed concrete—five parts sand to one part portland cement.

    The panels provide a modest thermal break (R3), so you don't have to install an extra layer of insulation. Using this system adds less than 1¾ inches—including concrete—versus about 4 inches for the old-school method of tying tubing to wire mesh. That leaves you more headroom in basement applications. And the thin slab will heat up and cool down more quickly, allowing you to use lower water temperatures and save on your heating bill. Overall, it makes for a more responsive radiant slab.

    Installation by Beta American Services

    1. Prep floor with leveling compound, if necessary.
    2. Clean floor and install foam edging.
    3. Lay first row of click-together panels.
    4. Measure and trim the row's last panel to fit.
    5. Cover the remaining area with panels.
    6. Determine PEX spacing: 6-, 9-, or 12-inch rows.
    7. Press-fit PEX between "studs" in panels.
    8. Cover area with one continuous loop of PEX.
    9. Leave extra tubing at boiler-room end for plumber to make connections.
    10. Mix up a batch of "dry pack" concrete with a 5:1 ratio of sand to portland cement.
    11. Spread and level over PEX, leaving a minimum of 5/16 inch of material above foam "studs."
    12. Allow concrete to cure for a few days, then install your flooring of choice.
    • Difficulty: Easy
      You may want to hire a pro to pour and level the sand-and-cement mix and to make the connections to the boiler.

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      Tools List

      • four-foot level
        4-foot level
      • 30-foot tape measure
        tape measure
      • snap-off utility knife
        breakaway knife
      • straight edge
      • pvc pipe cutter
        pipe cutter
      • wheelbarrow
        wheelbarrow or mixing tub for mixing concrete
      • masonry hoe
        shovel or hoe for mixing concrete

      Shopping List

      Bekotec-BRS foam edging

      Bekotec foam panels

      PEX tubing

      Bekotec THERM-RH 75 PVC clamps

      sand and portland cement. Get enough for a 5:1 sand-to-cement ratio.