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I am looking at the various floor coverings and electric floor heating systems for the basement. Electric is a good heating option for those of us in Quebec, BC and Manitoba where the hydro rates are favorable and stable.

I am still waffling on the floor covering. Either ceramic tile or wood (solid or engineered). I am leaning towards tile since it would be maintenance free and create a bonded mass for the heat transfer. I am uncertain of the insulation options for the slab in order to direct the radiant heat up. Some places do not even address this. Others talk about having insulation under the slab. The slab has been in place for 6 years. No cracks. I basically have an empty canvas. One corner has a bathroom rough-in (toilet, shower, sink). The rest I hope to keep open and make it a general purpose play HT area. In one corner I will have a projector and screen. I realize the choice of floor covering is not the best but sound fidelity does not take priority over functionality and comfort.

I have an opportunity to pick up Warmly Yours mats for a crazy "direct" price through a friend. I have used a Nuheat cabling system plus self-leveling mortar before. It is flexible. Any heatings systems you like please let me know. The area is about 650sqft.
 

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Insulation

I have done a rough-in of water in floor radiant for my garage, and did quite a bit of research into it.
There are two basic views of insulation and insulating in floors:

1) If you intend on heating the area full time, just insulate around the border or foundation wall. Once heated this has the effect of creating a huge heated area under the floor (heat-sink) that will continue to radiate the heat for sometime if power fails.

2) If you intend on only occasionally turning on the heat, then insulate under the floor. This will use slightly less energy and only have to heat the floor not the ground under it creating a quicker heating of the area.

I know this is not exactly what you are intending on doing, but if this is a regularly used rec room or family room I would suggest not to worry about any insulation or reflective material, as you would probably heat it on an ongoing basis and it would give you a larger mass to hold heat. And unless you are going to jack hammer your floor to add insulation, that is probably out of the question. The fact that it is in the basement, below frost level, the normal temperature of the ground/floor is probably about 10C.

A friend of mine used electric in floor under ceramic in a bathroom without any additional insulation or reflective material, and loves the warmth from the floor.
 

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Thanks for the information. I had not heard about the perimeter heating technique. It is a walk-out basement but only the south wall is exposed. Someone I know is putting cork down for a thermal barrier. It seems illogical to me.

Why are you going with hydronic for your garage? I am guessing your location is Manitoba.
 

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Yes, Manitoba....with January temps year round..

I had not heard about the perimeter heating technique
Insulation around the border, but heat the whole floor.

I decided to go hydronic with the idea of someday converting to geothermal for the whole house including water heater.
I was able to do this in an existing house with attached garage because the garage became semi-attached, and had to tear down and rebuild, this time with pilings, there wasn't even a grade beam previously. The bonus was it cost less to tear down, and able to rough in in-floor radiant at very little additional cost.
 

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I would have thought that if you put electric heat directly onto a concrete floor that a fair bit of that heat would be lost to the thermal mass of the concrete. As mentioned above, this would increase the overall power draw and also slow any heating of the room/floor. Of course after heating the thermal mass, it would also take longer to cool, but I would have thought the cost to be very high.

I would therefore think it important to either insulate under the heating medium, or at least add "reflectors" as I have seen on some systems to reflect the heat up rather than to allow it to go into the concrete (at least less of it would go there).

I would go with wood flooring - it's warmer for feet (especially when you don't run the heat say in the summer, or when you have just turned on the heat and the floor is not yet warm) and also "warmer" for audio (but not quite as warm as carpet for audio). An area rug can usually help for audio, along with furniture and wall coverings...
 

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Heated tile is wonderful and you can put area rugs on it too. We have it in about half of our kitchen on an automated timer. Personally, I never liked wood flooring in a basement but I think its the aesthetic rather than a practical concern.

If you go tile, I'd go with porcelain over ceramic tile. It's a bit pricier but its more durable and it was a solid body color all the way through so if a chip in the surface is seldom seen the way a chip in ceramic is.
 

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I'd go with porcelain over ceramic tile
I will consider that. I don't like solid colors or glossy surfaces. The natural-look surface and random coloring is in line with my tastes and the rest of the house.
 

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One thing you should do , after you install the system you want you should cover your installation with what is called light cement like Gypsum or cementer from mapei or proma . the Gypsum one being the less expensive and mapei the most expensive and if you don't have any knowledge how to do it , hire professionals to do it . About Ceramic or porcelain Ceramic always , porcelain has a higher risk of breaking even if its made out of the ceramic tile but if you need to repair your floor or you know what you are doing and if your ceramic tiles break its because was poorly installed . This reminds me the old question why granite in the kitchen and not in a bathroom . Sorry guys i work on cement i do this everyday and also repair natural stones and natural terrazzo floors .If you want just PM me and i will send you the list of companies that do this kinda of job in Quebec .
 

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Thanks Almadacr. I like all points of view. :) I had read about the gypsum. What is its purpose? Also any comments on the insulation for a slab? I.E. how would you build the sandwich? Do you prefer mats or cable systems? The only difference I can see is the cable system uses self-leveling compound and no thinset at first. With the mats I can imagine air pockets are a factor albeit a small one. Self-leveling should have zero air pockets. And applying more thinset over that surface would be more consistent as well.
 

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To isolate i prefer the acoustic mats from Enkasonic they have several models that range from 1/8 to 1/2 inch and it does is job over a cement slab or over a brand new plywood floor very easy to install . The Gypsum its light weight like a cement product but less expensive .it can be applied from 1/4 till 2 1/2 inch . The installation its made from mat directly to existing floor and the underlayment poured after so the mat needs to be installed according the manufacturer but its a very simple to install . If you have a existing surface already don't ad anything else only the materials like the Mat and then the floor underlayment . If you intend to install ceramic in your floor try to check a Home Depot some times they have granite tiles from China very cheap and you also have the look alike marble/granite ceramic tiles
 

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Discussion Starter #11
i prefer the acoustic mats from Enkasonic
I presume those are good for elevated slabs. This is the basement so acoustics are not important.

granite tiles
I have seem these but they have a glossy finished look. Unless I was looking at the wrong items. I like the rough and irregular appearance. Kinda like me. :D
 

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Yes granite tiles have a glossy finish , like marble the most raw tile in the natural stones is slate . In this area you have tons of options . Regarding the heated floor , its installed directly in your concrete slab directly to avoid moisture and cheaper . If you are installing a water based heating or electric you can apply directly on your concrete slab and save on the costs .
 

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In floor heating

Hi,

I put electric in-floor heating in my basement bathroom and I'll be doing it for the kitchen/bar area. See post #183 that describes (with pics) my install. The electric mat used was from SunTouch which was installed on the concrete slab. In this case, I then used self leveling compound (priming the slab first) to even out the slab and bring the level up to the toilet flange. Once dry, I put down non-modified thinset with Ditra membrane on that; this is important. The Ditra uncouples (amoung other things) the tile/grout on top from the slab below and prevents cracking; which would occur due to thermal cycling. After the Ditra, I tiled with non-modified thinset as the Ditra is waterproof (there's a whole discussion related to using modified vs. non-modified but I digress). Of course, the SunTouch pad has a programmable daily thermostat so the system uses as little electricity as possible. However, when heating (depending on the pad size) the amount of electricity used is equivelent to a light bulb(s), and not space heaters in terms of wattage.

Obviously, having a insulated slab is desireable but impratical if this is a reno/old work since the insulation has to be under the slab. There's no way to "reflect" the heat unless you build an insulated sub floor ($$ and basement height needed).

Some ideas to think about,
Kaoru
 

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Thanks, Dirtroad, 57, Hugh, Alma, and Kaoru. You helped steer me in the right direction and raised good questions, like a cool floor in the summer. What will I do?

I will continue to look into the the self-leveling mixtures and applications. I have pretty much ruled out installing any insulation or reflectors over the slab.

The Ditra uncouples (amoung other things) the tile/grout on top from the slab below and prevents cracking
I will have to look into this. In my mind the coupling is what gives the best stability. Also, by thermal cycling I assume you mean the effect the constant expansion and contraction of differing materials would produce. I should think thermal expansion of concrete would be much less than that of wood.
 

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always you need to have a thermostat connected it doesnt matter which system you install . You need to turn it off and on right :)
 

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Thanks, Dirtroad, 57, Hugh, Alma, and Kaoru. You helped steer me in the right direction and raised good questions, like a cool floor in the summer. What will I do?

I will continue to look into the the self-leveling mixtures and applications. I have pretty much ruled out installing any insulation or reflectors over the slab.

I will have to look into this. In my mind the coupling is what gives the best stability. Also, by thermal cycling I assume you mean the effect the constant expansion and contraction of differing materials would produce. I should think thermal expansion of concrete would be much less than that of wood.
The Ditra has these little angled squares which locks the tiles/thinset down but allows for expansion and contraction without moving anything else. This concept is old as historically masons used sand beds to do the same; tile work that can last a thousand years...

As for controllers, the point of them is to keep the floor within a temperature range. It's like a hot tub, once heated up keeping it that way is actually cheap. Note that you can always turn off the mat in the summer time.

Cheers,
Kaoru
 

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The problem with Ditra is that is costs as much or more than many tiles, basically doubling the material costs. The other issue with tile is that it requires a very stable subfloor. Insulation does not provide that so a new subfloor must be laid over it. That can also be costly. Yet another problem arises when tiles are laid directly on concrete and the concrete cracks or shifts. That's where products like Ditra are most useful. It's little wonder that tile has fallen out of favor with builders.
 

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A couple years back i redid my basement, about 410 SQ/FT of Terracotta, with Flextherm heating cable (2 thermostats and 2 cables 2 rooms in all),there is a lot of debate on weather to insulate or just put the cable down on the slab, i chose not to insulate because it was a lot less work, and lets face it, heat rises.I am very pleased with the installation, i highly recommend the programmable thermostats.It does take a while to reach the desired temperature, but only the first time you use the heat, for the rest of the winter season it is fine.I also highly recommend putting in two sensors when you put down your cable, just in case.If you go with Stelpro heating cable, a sensor is included with the cable, and a second one is included with the thermostat.If you want to insulate you will have to go with Styrofoam insulation everywhere, and then pretty much pour a new slab over it, or sand coat(not recommended as it retains moisture if you ever get water in the basement).Oh and probably the most important step when you decide what to cover your cable in(self leveler, or cement) be sure to add concrete weld to the mix,and take a paint brush, and cover the area to be cemented with a layer of concrete weld. This will help bond the new cement to the old slab, and prevent future problems like a section of tile lifting.Sorry for the long post, hope it helps!!
 
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