Heated Floors Add Luxury and Appeal to Buyers

Oseye Boyd
Written by Oseye Boyd
Updated March 1, 2015
radiant heated floor
Radiant floor heating is compatible with most flooring types. It's popular in bathrooms, but also works in any room of the home. (Photo by Eldon Lindsay)

Radiant floor heating helps on cold mornings, adds value and appeals to potential homebuyers.

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About the only thing worse than stepping onto a cold bathroom floor in the morning is sitting on a cold toilet.

Solve one of those problems with a heated floor and start your day on a warm foot.

“It makes something that can be cold and hard into something that is warm and comfortable,” says Kevin McKernan, owner of Homesmith Remodeling of Sammamish, Washington. “It can make a huge difference. It’s something once you try it, you never go back.”

Heated bathroom floors are a selling point for homeowners as well, contractors say. Terry Gwin, owner of Gwin’s Tile Co. of Overland Park, Kansas, recalls a homeowner who left a note on the bathroom door requesting potential buyers to take off their shoes before entering the bathroom.

While a heated floor is a perfect addition to the bathroom, radiant flooring works in just about any room and with almost any type of flooring (including carpet)— and even the ground.

“[In] the last two or three decades, it’s really grown by leaps and bounds,” Gwin says. “There are contractors now installing them in concrete driveways. It’s a slightly different cable system, but the principal is the same so that one doesn’t have to ever shovel the driveway.”

Electric and hydronic radiant flooring

Two types of radiant flooring exist for residential use: electric and hydronic.

Electric systems utilize heated coils (which also come pre-attached to mats for easy installation) that attach to the subfloor.

Hydronic systems circulate heated water through a series of tubing under the floor.

Installing a radiant flooring system usually requires raising the floor, so electric systems, which raise the floor no more than a quarter-inch, are optimal for remodels.

McKernan says hydronic systems work better for new construction because the floor needs to be raised higher than with electric systems.

Radiant floor heating operates with a thermostat, and a cold floor takes about a half-hour to heat to the desired temperature. The heating element heats only the area above it, and when it’s spaced evenly, it provides uniform heat underfoot, says Jim McDowell, owner of McDowell’s Tile of Dimondale, Michigan. “It’s like heating an iron if you put that iron on a table,” McDowell says.

Cost for radiant flooring depends on bathroom size, flooring type and system brand. For a 100-square-foot bathroom, McKernan says homeowners could expect to pay approximately $900 to $950 for materials only. Labor costs vary, depending on the amount of work required to install the system.

According to contractors, radiant flooring has a minimal impact on electricity use. A 120-square-foot floor will pull about 6 to 12 amps,” Gwin says. “A blow dryer pulls 15 amps usually. They’re very inexpensive to operate.”

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