Warm Up Your Bathroom

warm up your bathroomHeated bathroom flooring is not only a good investment, it’s a really nice feature to wake up to every morning. When temperatures outside drop, many of us start wishing we had such a feature. In the following article, Daniel Ortega, a heated-flooring expert at Siles Remodeling, talks about what homeowners need to know when discussing this option with a contractor. There are two basic types of heated flooring:

– Electric radiant heat has an electrical current that’s applied to a heating element.
– Hydronic heating uses heated water that’s distributed through a complex tubing system.

“Both have pros and cons, depending on how many areas on your home you are planning to install the system on,” Ortega says. If you’re renovating the entire house, “a hydronic system is a good solution,” he says, “but if you’re just adding this feature to a bathroom, the electrical system is the way to go, because it’s more cost effective and far less complex to install in a small space.”

Installation. To install electric radiant heating, you’ll need an electrician and a tile installer. “They will work together to lay the heating cables, which are interlaced with mesh mats,” says Ortega. “The system gets sandwiched between layers of thinset and covered under ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tile. The cables are so thin that there is an indiscernible height difference between floors with the system and ones without.”

Floor materials. Electric radiant heated systems are best covered by ceramic, porcelain or natural stone tiles, which are excellent temperature conductors. Wood doesn’t respond as quickly to temperature changes, so it’s not a good choice for this application, Ortega says.

Controlling the temperature. The heating system is connected to an electronic control, which includes a thermostat. The specific controls vary by brand. “Some offer features such as a programmable timer, which is a beneficial option during the cold months, when you can’t imagine getting out of your warm bed to step into a freezing bathroom,” he says.

Safety. Ortega is quick to note that most heated floor systems in a bathroom need a dedicated 20-amp GFCI protected circuit because of the constant exposure to water. You don’t have to worry about burning your tootsies, though. Every heating system on the market has features that prevent the floor from overheating.

Cost. There are two types of costs to consider: the price of the system and your utility bill. Fortunately for consumers, new products are more cost effective in both areas. “Years ago radiant heated flooring was considered a luxury,” Ortega says. Now, given the competition between manufacturers, prices have dropped substantially, he says.

Add to that the fact that you won’t need to blast your entire house in heat just to warm the bathroom. By limiting the heat to a single bathroom, you’ll save on utility costs. Though system prices vary per brand, Ortega says to plan to spend $900 to $1,500 to install a heating system in a 100-square-foot area, the average bathroom size.  As far as utility costs go, if you keep your floor’s thermostat programmed to go on only first thing in the morning, you may find that your overall heating bill will drop, Ortega says. Ceramic, porcelain and natural stone tiles retain heat for a long time, resulting in warmth well after the system is turned off.

warm up your bathoomResale value. San Francisco design consultant Katie Anderson notes that you don’t have to live in snow to reap the benefits of a warm bathroom floor. “Even in the Bay Area, it gets cold enough to make a heated bathroom floor desirable,” she says. “Though a heated bathroom floor won’t sell a house on its own, it’s an added amenity that buyers will appreciate — especially when the installation has already been completed. It’s the sort of thing that once you have, you don’t want to live without.”

Considerations. While a heated bathroom floor sounds ideal, it has its share of cons that you need to consider before making the investment. Ortega breaks them down:

– Installing a system will mean tearing out your existing floor; this may be painful in a recently built home.
– Older houses might need extensive electrical work to meet the manufacturer’s requirements.
– If you need a repair down the line, you may be forced to remove sections of the floor to fix the problem.