Comparing Three Options for Radiant Floor Retrofits

Adding radiant floor heating to your home can have numerous benefits. In addition to keeping your feet toasty warm on chilly winter days, you'll also add a touch of luxury that can increase your home's value and make your house a more indulgent place to spend time. However, the prospect of this costly upgrade may seem offputting at first glance. 

Fortunately, several options are available for retrofitting radiant floors into an existing home. This flexibility means it's easy to find an approach that works for your needs and budget. This short guide will give you the details you need to compare and contrast three standard options for installing radiant floor heating into a home with an existing heating system.

1. Hydronic Floor Joist Heating

Floor joint heating is what many people think of when they imagine radiant floor heating, and it's the option you'll find used in most new construction. This design utilizes metal plates attached in between your floor joists. Hot water plumbing runs through the metal plates, allowing them to transfer their heat to the floor above.

When To Use It: This style of radiant floor heating works best if you have an existing hydronic system. You'll also need access to the joists below the room where you're installing heating. In these cases, a hydronic floor joist will typically require less work to install than other options and shouldn't require much disruption to the rest of your home.

2. Hydronic Subfloor Heating

You can also install hydronic heat plumbing as part of your room's subfloor. Using this method, your contractor will install grooved panels beneath your floor. These grooves accommodate the hot water plumbing necessary for radiant heating while allowing your finished floor surface to sit flush against the subfloor.

When To Use It: Subfloor heating is ideal when you have an existing hydronic heating system but don't have access to the subfloor. Since removing flooring usually requires less demolition than pulling down ceilings, this option may cause less overall disruption. Subfloor heating also works well if you're already in the process of renovating the floor in the room where you're installing your heat.

3. Electric Heating Pads

Electric heating pads are similar to hydronic subfloor heating but don't require plumbing. Instead, these pads use electric heating elements. As with subfloor hydronic heating, you can install the pads beneath your finished flooring surface. You can also purchase electric elements installed beneath the floor, and these are similar in concept to hydronic floor joint heating systems.

When To Use It: Electric systems are ideal when your home doesn't have an existing hydronic heating system, or bringing hot water pipes to a new room is cost-prohibitive. Electric heating pads often work better as a supplemental heat source, but they can still provide the comfort and luxury that comes with any radiant floor heating system.

Speak with a professional about the possibilities of heating installation for you.