Toasty tootsies: Heat creeps up from below

Virginia Tile, Inc.

 Q.  I heard about this new product that warms your floors. Where do I get it? Can I install it myself?

 A. Many homeowners are installing heated floors, which may add to the value of the house at resale time. Also, pets love heated floors, and your feet are sure to feel the benefits.

Radiant heat products are on the rise throughout the country. WarmTouch is just one of the many offerings that have expanded to include carpeting, rugs, hardwood floors, fog-free mirror backings, and heated office carpets.

The product is a mat with heat strips that warms the entire room, not just your feet. The ceilings, walls, and all objects in the room absorb photons which means you can increase the room temperature, and keep the temperature the same at the floor and the ceiling. Also, operating costs are minimal– the average costs are 1/10 to 1/2 penny per square foot per day.

The mat is no more than 1/8 inch thick. You can fit the mat webbing, with attached heating coils, for any room or space. Installation is easy– over a third of homeowners with heated floors are do-it-yourselfers. You can apply the electric mats over any surface, like wood or concrete, and then finish with tile, hardwood floors, or carpet.

To install the strips under a floor, first unroll the electric-coil webbing and cut it to fit the space. Then weave the webbed mat back and forth across the room. Secure the electric mat with staples, hot glue, or double-sided tape. Finally, put a coat of thin-set adhesive or a self-leveler that makes the layer flat. You're now ready to install tile or hardwood floors.

It's recommended that a homeowner hire an electrician to hook up the system to a floor-sensing or programmable thermostat. With the thermostat, you can program day/night settings and temperature controls.

The cost of the project varies. Retail prices for the electric mat run from $9-$10 per square foot. In addition, you need a $160 thermostat and up to $40 in adhesives. For professional installation, add another $100-$400.

Radiant heat products are expanding to every household object, inside and out. There are now exterior heated strips, called SnowMelt, used to melt ice on walkways and driveways.

If you're worried about allergies or dust buildup, radiant heat also reduces stuffiness. The warming system does not stir up allergens or dust, and there is no more condensation buildup in the wall cavities. No more mold, mildew, or insulation inefficiency with radiant heat products.

Bruce S. van der Linde of Virginia Tile, Inc.