Heated floors under natural stone or ceramic tile add value and comfort to the home.

For several years, the NTCA has been actively promoting the sale and installation of radiant heat as an underlayment for ceramic tile and natural stone installations. It has been, and continues to be our contention that heated floors will add value and comfort for homeowners, creating a higher demand for our products in more areas and space of the home. In addition, the use of these quality products can add significant profit to the sale and installation price of the project.

Many of our members have embraced this concept, with a high degree of success. And you don’t have to reside in Minnesota or Maine to embrace this technology. Heated floors are popular all over the United States. For example, the NTCA’s current president is John Cox, who owns a contracting business in San Antonio, TX. And our first vp is Nyle Wadford of Neuse Tile Services in Youngsville, NC. Both John and Nyle actively market installed radiant heat systems to their customers; and have had a great deal of success.

Cox provides quality installations for high-end residential customers in custom homes. “Our customers demand a quality product, and their response to radiant heated floors has been tremendous,” said Cox. “This is a unique situation where both the client and the contractor benefit from the added luxury a warm floor provides.” Wadford agrees, stating “often the heated floor installation can add significant profit margin to a job, in a time when margins are being seriously challenged to the economy.”

Cox Tile in San Antonio, TX, uses the proper size trowel over electric radiant heat to ensure adequate coverage of the mortar.

Enter now the trend towards building a “green” or sustainable home. There is much confusion as to what products are truly “green.” What is indisputable is that radiant heat, whether it is provided in water-filled tubes (hydronic) or electric heating elements, typically provides up to 30% higher energy efficiency than forced air. Contact electric radiant manufacturers for more information on how to use these quality products in “green projects.”

The Tile Council of North America (TCNA) has introduced several approved methods of installation over different substrates for both hydronic and electric heating systems. Go to www.tileusa.com for these details and to order the Handbook. Generally, hydronic radiant floor systems are often used in larger areas or throughout the home. They also can be used in both commercial and residential areas where hot water is already used as a heat source. Methods for hydronic systems include situations where the tubes are embedded into a concrete slab, stapled between the floor joists, or installed over an existing subfloor.

Longtime NTCA supporter Easy Heat offers a cable set, laid into the floor with space between the cables, attached to a programmable thermostat that can be turned on when required. Basically, the three types of electric heating elements are the cable sets, wire that is pre-installed on mesh mats, and mats that have the wire embedded into the system. I urge you to research all these systems to find the one that best suits your needs.

Because the tile contractor is not a licensed electrician, the successful installation of ceramic tile or natural stone over an electric radiant system requires some planning and coordination. Work with your builder, architect or design professional to agree to a well thought-out plan that includes the approval of both parties.

The NTCA recommends the use of a crack isolation membrane for these types of installations. This follows the methods currently approved in the TCA Handbook. However, some of the radiant heat manufacturers may warrant their systems directly adhered to the subfloor, so it is suggested you research this issue and get in writing the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Electric radiant-heated floors come in a variety of formats, lengths and widths and can be custom fit to any application.

One other important installation tip is to allow the mortar and grout to properly cure prior to turning the system on. If this is not done, the result could be powdery or weak grout or mortar and the installation could be compromised. The NTCA Reference Manual has a quality document it produced on radiant heat installations. Contact them at www.tile-assn.com for more information on how to obtain this.

The United States continues to be a market receptive to radiant heat installations for ceramic tile and natural stone. Still, we pale in comparison to other countries in the use of the product. This is a perfect way to add profit and value to a project. But it requires educating yourself on the systems available. It takes some investment in time to be a professional installer. Heated floors provide you with a unique opportunity, and I urge you to consider incorporating this skill into your business strategy.