In 6 easy steps

Installing Bathroom In-Floor Heat

by Benjamin Roussey


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Installing in-floor heat needn't be a complicated procedure. This project is best taken up while overhauling the floor covering, as it consists of a continuous thin cable heating element that is woven into a mat installed under the tile.

Here are 6 easy steps on how to install in-floor heat:

Step 1: Check Your Power Source

You can draw power from an adjacent GFCI-protected outlet to heat a floor area less than 20 sq. ft. But if you are installing in-floor heat for a larger mat, opt for installing a dedicated circuit with its own circuit breaker and wiring, which will avoid overloads of any kind. There are 120-volt and 240-volt mats available. You can also buy a programmable thermostat, which costs more but saves money and energy in the long run.

When considering purchasing a programmable thermostat, be sure to weigh its costs against its length of service. Remember that if you cannot afford to buy something that will last longer than a cheaper alternative, perhaps in a year or so you will be in a superior financial state where you can afford to take a slight financial hit in the beginning for long-term benefits.

Step 2: Choose a Custom-Size Mat

There are standard mat sizes available at tile stores and home centers, but you can also order custom sizes by detailing out the layout of your bathroom plan. These mats come in 12-, 24-, and 30-inch widths and increments of 5 ft. in length.

Step 3: Test-Fit Your Mat to Avoid Problems Later On

Conduct a test layout first before you start actually installing in-floor heat.

  • Install the mat up to where the sink or vanity cabinet will sit, but not under it as it may cause an excessive buildup of heat.
  • Keep the mat four inches away from showers, walls and tubs.
  • Keep the mat four inches away from wax rings.
  • The blue heating cable must be two inches away from itself and not overlapping.
  • Large gaps must not be left between mats.
  • If your mat is smaller, prioritize areas where you'll be barefoot

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Step 4: Glue the Mat in Place

While installing the in-floor mat, secure it to the cement board with double-sided tape. Try not to nick the cable. Make final adjustments wherever necessary, and see that there are no bumps or loose edges.

Step 5: Wiring

  • Fix conduit connectors to both ends of two pieces of 58-inch long electrical metal tubing. Put the power lead cable through one end and glue into the groove. Put the thermostat wires through the other end and weave it 12 inches into the mat.
  • In a 4x4-inch metal electrical box, fix the two lengths of conduit. Secure the box to the studs. Protect the wires and cable by securing metal protective plates.
  • Install the wiring to your wall cavity where your thermostat will be from the main circuit breaker panel.

Step 6: Install the Tiles

Select tiles that are six inches. Smaller tiles create a wavy surface when you tap them in place. Spread the mortar over the floor. Create ridges with your trowel, place the tile, and tap it firmly into place using a rubber mallet. Keep doing that until you finish tiling the entire area.

What You'l Need:

  • Cordless drill
  • Hot melt glue gun
  • Utility knife
  • Trowel
  • Tile

Benjamin Roussey is from Sacramento, CA, and grew up doing all varieties of home improvement projects around the home since his parents did not hire contractors or outside help to maintain their home or vehicles. As a result, he has acquired a multitude of home handyman skills in plumbing, carpentry, electrical and everything in between. He also has two Masters degrees and he served four years in the U.S. Navy.

Take the Next Step:

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  • Visit the TDS library for more great bathroom renovation tips.
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