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Warming Up Cement Floors with Hydronic Heat | 2021 Modern Barnhouse

In Minnesota, winter comfort is a high priority. The main level of our Modern Barnhouse will be heated with a hydronic radiant slab on grade. Read on to learn how it’s installed.

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota Courtesy Hartman Homes

Here at the TOH Modern Barnhouse, homeowner/designer Amy Matthews was mulling over flooring options when inspiration struck. “I was already pouring a concrete slab to be heated, and since I love the minimalist look of concrete floors, I thought, ‘Why not leave it as it is, and just burnish the concrete for a modern industrial look instead of adding another material—and another expense—on top?’”

Concrete floors are incredibly durable, easy to care for, and make a sleek style statement. And thanks to in-floor hydronic radiant heat, these floors will be toasty to the touch.

Planning stage

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota Courtesy Amy Matthews

Shown here, Amy Matthews, site supervisor Jeff Mears, and plumber Nick Dusek review the plans to determine the location of trenches for the plumbing and electrical that needs to live within or below the slab.

What lies beneath

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota Courtesy Hartman Homes

First, a sand and gravel base is laid atop the dirt infill and leveled.

Insulation and PEX tubing

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota Courtesy Hartman Homes

Next, rigid foam insulation is set down on top of the sand and gravel base, and flexible cross-linked polyethylene, or PEX, tubing is snaked around the room and fixed in place with staples. Rebar adds structure and prevents the foam and PEX tubing from rising when the concrete is poured.

PEX tubing: Uponor

Hydronic heat route lines

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota Courtesy Hartman Homes

Tucked out of sight, but easily accessible in the ground floor mechanical room, these manifolds are the heart of the radiant heating system. A carefully laid out system of PEX tubing distributes supply water from the heat source (a high-efficiency natural gas boiler) to smaller pipes that circulate hot water throughout the system.

PEX tubing: Uponor

Zoning for comfort

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota Courtesy Amy Matthews

Hidden within an access panel in the walk-in closet off the main hallway on the first floor, the manifold gauges monitor and regulate the temperature and water pressure for separate zones. Heated to 80 to 85 degrees F, the floors will feel warm underfoot in winter.

Hydronic heat system: Uponor

Pouring, leveling and troweling the slab

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota Courtesy Amy Matthews

Concrete trucks poured the 1,900-square-foot slab in just two hours, and a crew quickly levels or “screeds” the floor to keep it from drying unevenly. Once it’s partly hardened, laborers supported on kneepads smooth out rough spots with trowels.

Burnishing the floor for a beautiful finish

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota Courtesy Amy Matthews

With the floor hardened just enough to support a workmen without leaving deep footprints, a troweling machine runs over the surface at high speeds buffing and burnishing it to a smoother, harder, and silkier surface with each pass.

The finishing touch

Modern Barnhouse, Idea House 2021, Minnesota Courtesy Hartman Homes

A sealer is applied to protect the rich, variegated patina.

Watch the Hydronic Heat System Come Together

To learn more about the hydronic radiant heat and cement floors at the 2021 Modern Barnhouse, watch Episode 2 of our Idea House video series.