Can I warm-up my stone countertops using using radiant heat?
We completed the tear-out, expansion, and rebuild of our kitchen last year, and we thought everything was perfect. But when winter came, we discovered how cold the stone countertops can become. Is there a way to warm them up using radiant heat?
— Russ, Wheaton, IL
Tom Silva replies: Sure. I have hot-water radiant heat under our granite countertops, which I installed a few years ago, when we remodeled our kitchen.
First, I stapled foil-bubble reflective insulation to the tops of the base cabinets, to trap the heat against the stone; then I covered them with grooved plywood panels made for PEX tubing. The tubing was laid into the grooves and connected to a zone valve off my boiler.
The countertop fabricator placed the stone on top of the panels, and I covered the plywood's exposed edge with a strip of molding. My wife thought I was nuts, but now she sure loves that warmth in the winter. Also, bread dough rises to perfection.
If you don't have a boiler, you could install electric radiant heat — the kind that comes in a fabric mesh. But the only practical way to add either type of heat to your counters would be to first remove them. And that may not be very practical at this point.