About three years ago, we bought an old farmhouse south of Erie, PA. Yes, on purpose (it seemed like a good idea at the time, and it’s actually a beautiful area, but you do have to have a high tolerance for snow…). We have been slowly rehabbing the entire house, starting with the bedrooms, so we’d have a place to lay our weary heads at the end of the day. Recently, however, my wife has brought it to my attention that there are a couple of other areas that require my attention: the kitchen and the first-floor bathroom. There is no heat in the kitchen, and the only heat in the bathroom comes from a small wall heater I installed recently. With winter about to descend on us, when the folks at Warmly Yours offered to provide samples of their radiant under floor heat, I selflessly offered our unheated spaces as test zones.
Based in Illinois, the folks at Warmly Yours are on a mission to bring some warmth into this cruel world. Their arsenal includes an array of products, among them under floor radiant heat, snow-melting mats and cables, roof and gutter de-icing systems, radiant heating panels, towel warmers, heated countertops, and mirror defoggers.
Warmly Yours under floor heat can be used under tile or stone floors, under floating or nailed hardwood floors, beneath carpet, even under concrete slab floors! In the category of under floor radiant heat, there are several options. You can order a Warmly Yours Custom Mat, which is designed to the exact dimensions of the room, including any curves or angles, and which requires no alteration to install. There are also Warmly Yours Flex Rolls, which is what I got. These are also designed to be an exact fit for your space, and can accommodate curves and angles, but require some cutting of the backing during installation (this is pretty simple, and will be described shortly).
Other options include the Warmly Yours Easy Mats, which are designed to provide heated flooring systems to specific areas within rooms—for example, in front of the shower or bathtub so you never have to step onto cold tile. They are a no-cut design and are made to fit areas with fixed dimensions. For ultimate flexibility in oddly shaped areas, Warmly Yours Electric Floor Heating Cable makes it easy to customize installation for rooms of any size and shape. A final option in your quest for toasty toes (and other body parts) is the Warmly Yours Shower Mat. These mats are designed for wet locations. They’re one-piece installations, and are available for both shower floors and shower benches.
To control the heat, various thermostat options are offered. These range from simple timers to programmable thermostats. Some of the programmable units have a feature that senses the floor temperature, and fire up the unit early enough to bring it up to the temperature at the time you programmed in. For example, if you want the floor temp to be 83° at 6:30 a.m., and the floor temperature is 62°, the system “knows” how long it will take to bring up the temp, and will come on early enough to reach it.
Bring The Heat
We’ve been working on our farmhouse whenever we get the chance. The kitchen portion of the project is underway; apparently, having a 20-year-old fridge and a microwave as the only appliances, and almost no usable counter tops or cupboard space, is no longer acceptable. And as I mentioned, there’s that other item missing from the kitchen – heat.
At some point in its murky past, there apparently was heat in the kitchen. The service panel in our all-electric home has a 240V breaker labeled “Kitchen,” although whatever it once powered was not in evidence when we took possession. (This, by the way, is just one of many scary electrical mysteries…). We spend a lot of time in the kitchen, and we want it to be a comfortable and inviting space. When we bought the house, the kitchen was pretty much closed off from the rest of the house. We recently opened up part of the wall between the kitchen and dining room, which did a great job of connecting the spaces. This should also help get some heat back into the kitchen, but the fact that the kitchen sits over an unheated basement means the floor is generally pretty chilly throughout the long winters.
Our progress on the kitchen so far consists of removing a small bank of base cabinets, and prepping the floor. We plan to install ceramic tile throughout the kitchen, but need to get down to a stable subfloor. So far, this has entailed removing the top layer of vinyl tile, a layer of underlayment, and another layer of old tile, which was apparently attached with a concoction of asphalt and superglue. The floor is not even close to being flat, and I was in the process of trying to get it level when we discovered another little item to attend to: two collapsing foundation walls. The kitchen portion has been momentarily halted while we got the foundation walls rebuilt. Ah, the character and charm of the older home!
Meanwhile, I decided that the suddenly depleted building fund had enough remaining to tackle the first-floor bathroom (mainly because we had already purchased the floor tile). After making sure the subfloor was solid and level, I began the process to get the Warmly Yours floor heating installed in that room. The bathroom is also chilly, as it sits half over an unheated basement, and half over an unheated crawl space. A tile floor in that room has the potential to be downright COLD (more on that in a bit).
The Warmly Yours Ordering Process
Designing your own heated floor is a simple process. You’ll need to draw a rough sketch of the room you want to heat. It doesn’t have to be beautiful (thankfully), just make a drawing showing where any cabinets, doorways, plumbing fixtures, appliances etc. are located, and label everything with measurements, getting them as accurate as you can. If you have a way to put the sketch into a PDF file, you can email it to the folks at Warmly Yours, otherwise you can fax it or mail it to them.
They’ll take your drawing and turn it into a blueprint for your radiant floor heating system, which comes back looking much more professional and useful (in my case, anyway). When they’ve done so, they’ll send you a copy of the dimensions, along with the specs for the system they’ve designed, so you can review it and verify the dimensions.
If all is well, just give ‘em the word, and they’ll get your Warmly Yours custom heating system made and on its way to you. The products I ordered came very quickly, once the order was placed.
The Warmly Yours Installation Process
The product I ordered, the Warmly Yours Flex Rolls, is made by securing an evenly spaced heating cable onto mesh fabric. When installed, it provides even heat throughout the flooring area. It comes in a roll (hence “Flex Rolls”), and is available in various widths, depending on the size of the room it’s going into. It looks a bit like green snow fence with a wavy wire in it. It comes with a very comprehensive instruction booklet, layout diagrams specific to your installation, and whatever accessories you ordered.
Mine came with the SmartStat thermostat and a circuit check unit. The circuit check is an item about the size of a computer mouse. As you may have surmised from its name, it is used to check the integrity of the circuit. This is something you’ll want to do before, during and after the installation. Discovering that you accidentally broke a wire, and hence have no heat, is easy to deal with before everything is closed up. Once your tile or hardwood flooring is all installed, though, it is significantly more challenging to fix, and may cause you to utter unhappy adjectives.
If you have moderate DIY skills, you should be able to install the Warmly Yours under floor heating yourself. If you were planning to install your own flooring anyway, it’ not much extra work. The only challenging part might be the electrical hookup, but the instructions are excellent, and if you’ve ever added a few electrical outlets, or a new circuit, you shouldn’t have any trouble. If you aren’t comfortable playing with wires, get a qualified electrician to do the hookup for you.
Besides the Warmly Yours heat source, here’s what you need to complete a ceramic tile or stone flooring installation:
• A thermostat, with a sensor probe wire (if applicable)
• The custom design layout that comes with the system
• A digital ohm meter
• The circuit check unit (available from Warmly Yours)
• A staple gun or hot glue gun
• Duct tape (Warmly Yours recommends 3M 6969 HiTemp Duct Tape)
• Latex-Portland cement
• A plastic notched trowel
• Self-leveling cement, if needed
• If installing over cement, Warmly Yours recommends 1/4” cork or 3/16” CeraZorb concrete insulating underlayment, to help increase efficiency
Trust, But Verify
Before installing the material, check it to make sure the dimensions are right, and that you have all the items you ordered. The installation plan provided by Warmly Yours gives all the specs. For our small bathroom, the material came in a roll 18” wide and 18’ long. I unrolled it and measured; everything was spot on. While it was rolled out, I used a Sharpie to mark the mesh where the roll would be cut, at the dimensions indicated on the installation plan. I also marked the subfloor, to show the boundaries where the toilet and vanity would be.
Before making any cuts, it’s time to do a couple of tests on the heating material. You’ll be repeating this two more times – once after the material is attached to the subfloor, and after the flooring is installed. The object is to be sure there are no shorts or breaks in the wire, BEFORE you get everything installed. Grab your digital ohmmeter and the circuit check device, and a pen to write down your test results. The label on the material shows the resistance reading taken at the factory when your material was prepared; in my case, the factory reading was 35.6. My first test showed 38.8, which is within the allowable variance of +/- 15%, so all was well.
After installing the included battery in the circuit check device, I attached the wires as directed (shown above). No alarm went off; looking good! This device will remain attached during the installation process, too. It provides an audible signal if the wiring is damaged during the installation process.
The installation plan shows the thermostat location. There is a long lead wire provided, which provides good flexibility if you want to make any changes. In my case, the thermostat location indicated by Warmly Yours was on an outside wall, over the crawl space. The layout of the walls would have made it difficult to install it that way, so I changed the location, bringing the thermostat around the corner. You need to make sure the thermostat power wire, and the temperature probe wire if provided, have a clear path to the thermostat.
If you’re using a thermostat that incorporates a floor sensor, now is the time to mark its position on the floor, again ensuring there is a clear path to the box. The sensor must be located between the heating cables, and should extend at least 6” into the heated area. The sensor is a bit thicker than the heating mesh, so you may need to cut a groove in the subfloor so it doesn’t stick up too far. You may need to do this for the power wire where it connects to the mesh as well. By the way, the wire for the floor sensor is in the thermostat box.
To mount the thermostat, Warmly Yours recommends an oversized work box. I used a double gang box with a single gang mud ring, as they suggested, and it worked great. If you have power wires and temperature sensing wires all coming in to connect, you’ll be happy for the extra space.
All Prepped? Let’s Install It!
Once you’ve verified that you have everything, it’s time to get on with it. My subfloor was cement backer board. For this surface, Warmly Yours recommends using a skim coat of thin set about 1/8” thick. I applied it, and let it cure overnight. I marked the floor for the toilet and vanity, checked the roll of material, and marked it for the necessary cuts, per the instructions. The instructions, again, are great, showing how to double back, fill in free-form areas, and follow irregular spaces. The main thing to remember when you start cutting is to only cut the mesh; steer clear of the blue wire!
Before laying down the mesh, I hooked up the circuit check unit to the power lead. Starting at the point indicated on my instruction sheet, I laid out the mesh, stapling it through the mesh to the subfloor approximately every six inches. Although a bit intimidating at first, it’s actually very simple to work with, and after making my first turn I was very comfortable getting it down. A few minutes later, it was all down, with no alarms! After the mesh is all stapled, do your second resistance test with your ohmmeter. Mine came in at 38.7; all good!
An important point to remember: Keeping the heat wire undamaged is critical. You need to be very careful when working around it not to cut it by mistake, or put to much pressure on it at any point. Warmly Yours recommends using a scrap of carpet or some heavy cardboard when walking or kneeling on the material, to protect it. I used an old couch cushion, which gave great protection to the floor – and to my knees.
Once the mesh is secured, go ahead and install your tile as you normally would. The only difference is you should be using a plastic notched trowel rather than a metal one, to help protect the wiring. If you have difficulty finding one locally, you can get one from (where else) Amazon. The instructions also suggest spreading the thinset in the direction of the wiring, as much as possible. Keep the circuit check attached during the tile installation, so if any damage occurs, you can stop and repair it before it’s covered with thinset and tile.
When the tile is all in and grouted, it’s time for the final check of the wiring’s integrity. The resistance reading should still be within 15% of the factory readings. My final reading was 38.5, almost exactly the same as the pre-installation reading, so all was well. Using the circuit check all during the installation process gives you pretty good insurance against a last-minute surprise, but it’s still a good idea to do the final check.
With the heating elements all installed, the final step in the Warmly Yours installation is the electrical hookup. This is pretty straightforward, and goes quickly; again, the instructions are clear, with good illustrations. The breaker should be left off until all the connections are made. The power wire and the wire from the floor temperature sensor, if applicable, should be run up through the wall and into the box where the thermostat will be located. If code requires conduit, the power and probe wiring should be run through separate pieces of conduit into the box.
Now it’s just a matter of making the connections between the power supply and the thermostat wiring, and connecting the two wires from the temperature sensor. After that, flip the breaker on, and follow the simple instructions in the thermostat booklet to program your thermostat.
If you have one of the thermostats that use the floor sensor, like the SmartStat in my setup, the unit will register the current temperature of the floor. When mine was powered up, the floor temperature in the bathroom was 46°. The sad thing is, the sensor is in the “warmer” part of the bathroom floor, over the basement rather than the crawl space. How much fun would it be to step out of a warm shower onto THAT! An hour or so later, though, when the temp was 82°…yeah! The Flex Rolls did a great job of providing even warmth throughout the heated area; what an amazing difference! Warmly Yours estimates the cost to heat the floor at $.03 an hour. Even after paying for a new foundation, that’ll fit the budget!
Ready To Get Warmly?
Now that I know how easy it is to install the Warmly Yours under floor heat system, and what an excellent job it does of taking the chill off, I can’t wait to get it into our kitchen and the other bathroom. When I do, I’ll update this post. In the meantime, my wife has notified me that radiant heat panels for the kitchen are something we should consider. Being a firm believer in the credo of “Happy wife, happy life,” I will be looking into the purchase of some Warmly Yours radiant heat panels.
The Warmly Yours products I got were all very high quality, and the instructions and support are great. They offer a free, in-home measuring service, 24/7 installation support, lifetime tech support, and a 25-year warranty on the Flex Rolls I used. If you’re looking for a bit of added warmth in your kitchen, bathroom, mud room, basement, or pretty much anywhere in your home, you should do a little exploring on the Warmly Yours website. The site is very well done, and somewhere in their line of products should be just what you need to keep you and your loved ones toasty, or to melt the ice and snow from your gutters and driveway (or in our case, the bathroom floor!). Give them a little information about your project, and they’ll be happy to provide you with a free quote, or to answer any questions you might have.