Educational | 30.11.2015

What’s the Big Deal with Heated Floors?


We designers can have different opinions on a vast number of things, but I think we’d all agree that it is the details that make the design. It’s that finishing touch that can transform the space into a room that you don’t want to leave. A heated floor, particularly in a bathroom, is icing on the cake. On a chilly winter morning, you can make the dash from your cozy bed to the bathroom and experience a warm tile floor. A beautiful way to start your day.

So What Are Heated Floors Exactly?

There are two main types. Firstly, there is heated floors that heat the whole house via under floor heat. This is typically done by installing hot water tubing under the floor, with insulation under the tubes to reflect the heat upwards. While a very efficient low operational cost method of heating your home it is typically not worth the cost of installation in a single room. The second method is actually called floor warming, and it’s typically used in one or two rooms of the house, always in conjunction with your existing heating system. It’s done with electric cables or mats running under the floors. It warms the floor to a comfortable temperature that you can set with a thermostat. This keeps your feet warm while standing on the floor after a shower or sitting on the toilet on a cold winter night. While we have installed these systems in kitchens and mud rooms by far the most popular space (with very good reason) is the bathroom.

Today, we’ll focus on the method of heat warming via electric cables and mats.

Mats and cables can do very similar things but have different installation methods. Both methods are installed prior to your final flooring product (tile, wood, vinyl etc) and while there are certain installation details particular to each type of final flooring which your contractor will address the end result is the same for all floors. WARM FEET!

  • Installing a cable heating system involves stringing a heating cable in a pattern around the floor area and is fastened to the subfloor with mechanical fasteners. A “heat probe” is also installed and connected to the thermostat to monitor the floor temperature. Heat cable, if run in the correct pattern, results in a very evenly distributed continuous warm floor surface.
  • Heating mats come in different sizes and can be connected to the same controller but the size of each mat cannot be modified so prior planning is very important. They are typically a little cheaper than cable systems but care must be taken when ordering to ensure the correct size and configuration.

Both systems are very economical to operate so consult with your designer or contractor on which method is best for your needs.

A few More Facts

  • The first thing on everyone’s mind is that repairs can be costly. However, most suppliers offer a very comprehensive warranty which will sometimes even cover the cost of replacing the flooring, so that doesn’t need to be a cause for concern (read the warranty carefully though).
  • Can be used with many flooring types; tile, stone, engineered hardwood and linoleum floors. Note – you can’t use this under regular hardwood flooring.
  • Available with a programmable thermostat. Normally it would take a few hours for the flooring to get to desired temperature on a cold day (and it will retain the heat for hours after being turn off completely). With the thermostat you can set the floor to be different temperatures during different times of the day. This method is very energy efficient as it doesn’t make much energy to maintain a constant temperature.
  • Can be great for tile floors that are normally cold (a nice-to-have the next time you need to pee in the middle of the night)
  • Runs silently
  • No maintenance required
  • As with any specialty product, not all contractors are well versed in the installation process, which means that it you may have to look for a company you can trust.

Enjoy your Ottawa winters in comfort…