Bathroom Floor Heating Costs, Installation Tips
By Julia Billen
Heated bathroom floors are the epitome of luxury but, unbeknownst to the average homeowner, that doesn’t mean they have to carry an exorbitant price tag. Here are the costs of purchasing and running an electric floor heating system. Plus, installation tips and which flooring types are compatible with radiant flooring.
Heated Floor Cost
Floor heating systems for warming tile in a bathroom cost between $5 and $12 per square foot for electric heated mats, rolls or cables with fixing strips. The in-floor heating cost increases to between $15 and $20 per square foot for heating cables with a waterproof installation membrane instead of fixing strips.
What does that amount to?
For a mid-sized, 50-square-foot bathroom, 35 square feet can typically be heated. (You can’t heat right up against the wall or under permanent fixtures like vanities, showers, tubs or toilets.) This puts the price for a floor heating system between $175 and $420. A heated floor with a waterproof installation membrane raises the price to between $525 and $700.
The cost to operate floor heating in a bathroom varies depending on electricity costs in the area, but often it is only pennies a day to run. Generally, a small bathroom will end up using approximately three cents worth of electricity per hour of operation.
The best way to maximize energy savings with a floor heating system is to install a programmable floor heating thermostat. This allows the homeowner to set up the floor heating system to only turn on when needed.
One of the fastest, least expensive ways to warm a bathroom floor is with a prefabricated heating mat like TempZone Flex Roll. This roll features electric cables embedded in a serpentine pattern in green mesh, so the cables are already properly spaced. The green mesh helps to protect the electric heating cables during installation.
Heated bathroom floor mats or rolls are typically installed by laying them in thinset beneath a new tile floor.
To begin, the subfloor must be clear of any debris. This means ensuring there are no staples, nails or other sharp objects protruding from the subfloor that could damage the heating element.
Next, use a digital ohmmeter to test the heating element. The results should be within 15 per cent of the value marked on the UL label.
Then, following the directions on the installation plan, roll out the heating mat with the cable face down. When the end of a run is reached, cut the mesh (not the cable) and turn the heating element to continue installation. The cable can be free formed as well, if you run into an awkward corner or pillar in the room.
If the homeowner’s thermostat is compatible with a floor sensor, it can be installed at this time. Place the sensor in-between and parallel with two heating cables, making sure not to overlap them. Secure the sensor with hot glue to make sure it won’t move when the thinset or self-levelling cement is applied to bind to the flooring.
Once the heating element has been installed, test it again with a digital ohmmeter. A circuit check is also advisable to ensure it is in good working condition.
Finally, have an electrician connect the thermostat per the instructions provided with the control.
When heating under tile, stone or nailed hardwood, loose cable is also an option.
Ceramic and porcelain tile are the most popular materials selected for heated bathroom flooring. However, electric floor heating is designed to work with nearly all flooring materials, including less sturdier options like marble and even laminate, so long as it’s waterproof.
Since water is likely to find its way on the floor in a bathroom, consideration should be given to waterproofing the floor heating system and the subfloor. (As a proactive defence, the subfloor should be waterproofed regardless of whether a floor heating system is installed or not.)
Julia Billen is president, owner and co-founder of WarmlyYours Radiant Heating. For more than 20 years, Julia has been at the forefront of innovation for the radiant heating industry. She is an active member of several governing committees and panels for the industry, including the UL standards committee, U.S. technical advisory group and flooring technical standards and issues panel. Julia can be reached at [email protected].