Including electric floor heating systems in tile flooring projects is one of the hottest trends in the industry. Just 10 years ago, the market was virtually nonexistent. Today, a growing number of tile professionals have embraced electric floor heating as a business opportunity and are installing these systems in bathrooms, kitchens and family rooms. This relatively rapid adoption of electric floor heating as a practical way to add comfort, warmth and luxury to any room is a testament to how easy these systems are to install.
There are a few critical steps you need to perform to ensure a trouble-free installation. No contractor wants to completely install the tile floor and then discover that the floor heating system is not working.
The following three tips, compiled from years of experience, will help you avoid the most common mistakes and install every floor heating system successfully.
1. Always Test Your Roll With an Ohms MeterOnce you have unpacked your floor-heating roll from the shipping box, test it using an Ohms meter. This step can save you lots of time, money and heartache in the long run. It just doesn’t make any sense to install a defective roll. Verify that the reading you get is within a 20% variance of the factory Ohms reading. You can purchase a digital Ohms meter at any hardware store for around $15.
After the floor heating rolls are cut and laid out on the floor, the roll must be tested again. If the roll passes this test, it is ready to be encased in latex-modified thinset or latex modified self-leveling cement. Remember to NEVER cut the heating wire – cut the mesh only. We will talk more about this in Tip #3.
2. Use a Circuit CheckBefore applying the thinset, connect a Circuit Check to each roll that is being installed. This small device is now available from most electric floor heating manufacturers, though it may be referred to by a different name. The device checks the continuity of the floor heating system at all times during installation and beeps in the event that a system gets damaged. Using a Circuit Check is a simple, effective, and invaluable preventative tool to ensure a successful tile installation. After installation, an Ohms reading can help determine if a system is working, however, discovering the problem at that point is too late. That is why a Circuit Check is necessary. It detects a problem during the installation and BEFORE the tile contractor lays tile over the damaged system.
What happens if the Circuit Check beeps? Don’t panic. Follow the instructions in your installation manual or simply call your manufacturer’s technical support team. In most cases, they can walk you effortlessly through a relatively simple repair. As a precautionary measure, some manufacturers include a splice kit with every order so that the contractor can resolve the problem “on the spot” without incurring any unnecessary delay during the installation.
3. Never Cut the Heating WireJobsite measurements always change, so you should expect the unexpected. It could be that a necessary floor-heating vent was not originally specified (electric floor heating can not be installed over a heating vent). It could be that the homeowner decides she wants to include a new piece of large or heavy furniture in the room, and it becomes unnecessary to install floor heating under that furniture. Occasionally, the open area for electric floor heating is just smaller than originally expected. Whatever the reason, keep in mind that you can NEVER cut the heating wire if the roll is too long. You can always cut the cold leads, but you can never cut the heating wire.
A relatively simple way to resolve the issue might be to first try and identify whether there are any spaces where you can utilize the extra heating wire. For example, in a bathroom, you may be able to install the heating wire in the area behind the toilet. If this is not an option for your particular situation, your next step is to return the roll for a new one that fits your space. In an effort to avoid this, we always recommend that customers get a custom installation plan for every floor-heating project. The installation plan, provided by the manufacturer, demonstrates exactly how the system is laid out – all the thinking is done for you. It makes the installation faster, easier, and it helps you identify changes on the jobsite early to avoid these types of issues.
Follow these simple tips and you are well on your way to a successful and profitable installation. Despite the declining economic conditions, electric floor heating remains as popular as ever, with HGTV and other popular remodeling TV shows highlighting these systems in their programming.
Just how far will the floor-heating trend penetrate the U.S. home market? Hopefully as far as the country of Norway where 80% of families enjoy warm floors. Regardless, it will most certainly touch every tile contractor who will likely become involved with an installation at some point. Proactively offer electric floor heating to your customers. You’ll find that it’s a great way to boost customer satisfaction, increase referrals and add incremental profit to your projects.