Heated floors are an efficient way to heat a room, home or business and can be installed under almost any type of floor. There are two main types of heated floors: electric heating systems and hydronic heating systems. Also called radiant floors, either electric cables or water-carrying tubes are installed under a tile floor and then heat the room (and everyone’s feet) from the bottom up.
Contractors with specialized skills can also install radiant floor heating systems under other types of flooring such as carpet and hardwood, although tile is the most common type of heated floor. Heating systems have to be installed under the floor and can’t be retrofitted without removing existing tiles or other flooring. Because these heating systems require floors to be completely stripped out, the project is great to take care of during a new construction, remodel or larger renovation. Several factors affect the cost of installing a heated floor.
Electric radiant heat
Electric radiant heat floors typically operate from a thin mat, wired with electrical cables, that is adhered directly underneath a new installation of tiles. This system is connected to the home’s electrical source and circuit breaker and has its own thermostat. This type of heated flooring system is especially popular in bathrooms.
About 26 square feet of heated floor has about 60 feet of electrical line that goes in a zig-zag formation across the floor, explains Teddy Cook of Cook Contracting & Remodel in Holtsville, New York. Cook prefers working with Schluter brand electric heating systems.
Electrical heating systems in standard 90- or 100-square-foot bathrooms can operate with a 15-amp circuit. To heat larger areas, a 240-amp circuit will run smoother. Cook Contracting & Remodel charges the following to install an electric heating system under a new tile floor:
40 square foot bathroom: $31 per square foot, including all labor and materials for installation of electric heated floor system and new tile floor over the top
- This project was part of a larger bathroom remodel that cost $250 per square foot overall (including the heated flooring) to completely gut and re-do the bathroom, including ripping out framing and lowering the ceiling. The entire project took two weeks.
Depending on the location of the electrical panel, hooking up the thermostat for a radiant floor heating system may cost extra. In one case, Cook Contracting & Remodel had to run wires and piping outside the house through the attic, which added approximately $450 for materials and labor. Cook says that if the electrical panel is right under or near the bathroom, there would be no extra time or cost to hook up up the thermostat.
Hydronic radiant heat
Hydronic heated flooring systems heat the floor using hot water. These systems are connected to the output and input of a home’s boiler, explains Cook of Cook Contracting & Remodel. Unlike electric heated floor systems, hydronic heated floor systems are made up of parts from a hardware store such as a series of polymer hoses that pump heated water through a cement bed. They run off of a circulator pump and are heated by the boiler. The labor to install a hydronic heated flooring system is more intensive (and expensive) upfront, Cook says, but cheaper to run once installed. Typically a contractor shims out the floor and makes six-inch runs back and forth with the polymer hose, connecting the hose to a mesh screening with tie-ons. On top of that, the contractor pours a mud concrete bed to set it. Cook Contracting & Remodel charges $25 per square foot for parts and labor on a standard installation of a hydronic heated flooring system and $30 per square foot for harder to reach jobs, such as in second-floor locations.