3 Ways to Install Radiant Heat Flooring

Updated September 7, 2011
bathroom with radiant heat flooring
Say goodbye to cold bathroom floors with a radiant heat flooring system. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Michael A., of Meridian, Idaho)

Learn more about installation techniques for radiant heat flooring systems.

Radiant heat flooring systems come in two types: hydronic (water-based) and electric. Though hydronic heating is limited to flooring, electrical radiant heat also can be used on walls and ceilings. In addition, it can be used to melt ice and snow on sidewalks and driveways.

Here are three ways they can be applied:

Concrete: For basements or homes on slabs, tubing or electric heating elements are held in place until the concrete floor is poured. Depending on the design and installation technique, the tubing or elements are embedded in the concrete somewhere between the bottom of the slab to within two inches of the surface.

Subfloor plates: Aluminum plates supported by wood or plastic spacers contain channels to accept radiant heat  tubing. Hardwood floors can be nailed directly to the subfloor plates, or carpet and pad can be placed over the plates. A second subfloor also can be nailed over the plates to produce a smoother finish for vinyl areas.

Staple-up or hanging: Tubing is attached to the underside of the existing subfloor, and insulation is stuffed into the joist space beneath the tubing. A 2- to 4-inch air space usually is left between the insulation and the bottom of the subfloor, allowing the warmth to circulate in the air between joists.

When hiring a contractor, make sure he or she has experience in installing heated floor systems and is recommended by former clients and has positive reviews on Angie’s List. It’s also important to check for insurance and bonding.