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DIY Radiant Floor Heating Installation

By Our Lake Life on Feb 19, 2013

Yesterday I mentioned that Bryan was helping out my Dad for a little bit while he began installing radiant floor heating downstairs. Our house is a mother/daughter arrangement. We live upstairs with two bedrooms, one bath, eat-in kitchen, living room and a large deck. My parents live downstairs and have one bedroom, one bath, living room, kitchen and a patio.

I haven’t shown the downstairs on the blog for a while: This is what the downstairs looked like on the day of our home inspection. The previous owners used it as a mix of summer kitchen and living area. On the floor there were both slate and carpet tiles.

Since moving in my parents have removed the column and installed a larger beam to support the span; raised the drop ceiling (there was a ton of wasted space up there); and now they have removed the tile and carpeting to install new marble flooring. Pulling up old tile is no easy project. It’s messy and dirty and requires a lot of elbow grease. So since the floor was entirely removed anyway, my Dad decided to install in-floor radiant heating.

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In-floor radiant heating in this case basically means low-voltage wires running directly under the floor. It will warm the room from below, eliminating that cold tile feeling that’s so hard to shake in the winter.

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My Dad is the ultimately DIYer. We have always done projects like these, even back when Bob Vila was the only home show to watch, so it was no surprise when he went on the internet, bought a couple books, read up on it on the subject and began laying the wire. There’s an alternate method where you can buy mats with the wire pre-layed. But it turns out that having it pre-done costs about four times more, and for a floor this size, it just didn’t make sense.

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It took a little bit of trial and error to get the wires to stay in place. There are metal strips glued to the floor every three feet to help hold them down, but in between they tended to get loose and float up.

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After reading a few tips on the internet, Dad heard that you could actually hot glue the wires into place to help them hold. Now I don’t know if that’s an officially sanctioned way to do it, but it worked like a charm.

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After the wires were secure, they poured an entire coat of self-leveling cement. Self leveling cement has a very thin, almost watery consistency. Once mixed, you pour it over the floors to help ensure a level surface. You need to work quickly though, and in sections, because the cement is only workable for about 20 minutes. Once dry, it covered the wires, and what’s left is a nice smooth surface for the tile.

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You can see that, even with all the gluing, a few of the wires floated up out of the cement anyway. Although not ideal, in the end it worked out OK, as the thin-set that was used to set the tile covered it enough for it not to not make a difference.

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It was seriously a lot of work, but the floors are coming along now, and they look gorgeous! I’ll keep you all posted with how it goes and will let everyone know how we like the in-floor heating.

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