Technically all flooring materials can be used, but some definitely work better than others. Electric floor warming systems are best covered by ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tiles, which are excellent conductors of heat. They’re also the best floors for bathrooms in general, so it’s a no-brainer. Wood, vinyl, and laminate can also be used but they come with temperature limitations, so you need to work with experienced installers who can advise you.
The best kind of heated floor is one that also provides uncoupling technology to ensure the floors won’t be susceptible to cracks. DITRA-HEAT (and DITRA-HEAT-TB for floors installed over concrete) from Schluter Systems provides uncoupling through its geometric configuration, which allows for movement between the substrate and the tile. It effectively neutralizes the differential movement stresses between the layers, thus eliminating the major cause of cracking and delaminating of the tiled surface.
While some highly experienced DIYers can take on the job of installation, it’s definitely best to have them installed by a professional. All connections should be made by a qualified electrician in accordance with local building and electrical codes. Improper installation can lead to serious issues and fixing them can be a big headache. A professional installer will perform at least a resistance test and continuity test before covering the heating elements. This will ensure the system is working properly and none of the mechanics have been compromised during installation. If you skip these tests and discover after the fact that there’s a problem your only option is to tear out the floor and start again.
Since bathrooms tend to be awkward spaces, the ability to customize is a big plus. DITRA-HEAT is available by the roll or by the sheet to accommodate various room sizes, and the cables can be placed wherever heat is desired so that you can completely customize it for your space. In order to find out exactly what items and how much of each you need consult Schluter’s materials calculator.
‘Reno to Reveal Callout’
In Andrew’s basement bathroom we installed DITRA-HEAT heating cables in the area where someone might walk, and avoided putting it in other areas. This helps to manage cost by only warming the areas of the floor that get used. Make sure to never cover the heated areas with any kind of fixture like a vanity or tub.
There’s no doubt that heated bathroom floors are a nice upgrade, and if you can afford it, it’s a really nice luxury. Despite the advantages, they don’t necessarily give you a huge return on investment (in the current market – this may change). The exception is when it’s in a bathroom that lacks another heat source. When this is the case, they can transform a bathroom that is a bit of a liability into a quality space in the home. Although heated floors won’t necessarily get you a 100% return on your investment, they can help your house seem more appealing to potential buyers and ultimately help sell your house. I’ve installed them in a number of income properties and they certainly helped to get the spaces rented.
“My personal opinion is that if you’re remodelling your bathroom and replacing the floors anyway, a heated system can definitely be worth the expense.” – Scott McGillivray
Don’t put too much stock in trades who give free estimates over the phone. A plumber or electrician can’t properly diagnose an issue unless it’s in person. A free estimate given over the phone is likely to go up significantly once he or she is on-site.