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Matt Muenster warms up to in-floor heating

There’s nothing like unexpected luxury to turn a home improvement project into something beyond a facelift. A good renovation should also change the way a space feels and even improve the way you live. I approach every design with a goal of incorporating a luxurious amenity or two that will really make a space feel special. One of the best examples of this is in-floor or radiant heat.

In-floor heating is exactly what you imagine. It’s a product that gets installed beneath the finished flooring material which – when heated – makes that flooring material warm.It’s essentially a system of small wires that are carefully placed underneath the areas where people will spend time standing or walking. The wires are then hooked up to a power source and a thermostat which will control the temperature of the heat. There are many different companies with their own variations of the product. Whatever product you choose, in the end what you have is a floor that is warm underfoot and a space which is warmed radiantly through the floor.

Heated tiles – and hardwood and vinyl and…

Installation of in-floor heat can be DIY friendly if you do your homework. There are three basic types of in-floor heat products: mesh-backed heating coils, rolls of low voltage electric mats and tile underlayment systems that allow you to snap the heating wire where you want it placed. Each are set beneath the finish material that you’re heating, which means you have to make your decision before you install your final product. Keep in mind, you can heat more than just tile. Wood, carpet, concrete and vinyl can all be heated. Just make sure to heed manufacturer’s instructions on safe temperature settings for the product you choose.

When considering whether a space is a good candidate for in-floor heat, remember it is an upscale product with a rather upscale price tag, so you’ll want to use it where you’ll get the biggest bang for your buck. Bathrooms are easily the best candidate. You’re likely spending a lot of time barefoot in the space and, let’s face it, tile can be chilly –especially if the area beneath your bathroom is an unconditioned space like an unfinished basement or a garage.

Spot heat for your feet

An entryway where you put on or take off your shoes is also a great spot to heat up your floor. Just keep in mind, you don't have to heat the entire floor. You can choose just the areas where you spend the most time, which saves you money; your kitchen floor between the sink, stove and refrigerator is maybe another opportunity for heat.

In the end, comfort is key when trying to decide if in-floor heat is right for you. Pricing can vary greatly, depending on the product and whether or not you install it yourself, but figure on $10 to $15/sq. ft.. Even though in-floor heat doesn't have a massive visual wow factor, it is an amenity that can make your home a cozier place to live. What could be more valuable than that?

-by Matt Muenster