By Mike Reynolds
You have a winterized cottage, but the floors are really cold. It prompts the question: Should you install radiant heat in the floor?
Radiant floor heat is most commonly found either as electric heating wires or heated liquid passing through tubing. It’s a very comfortable and efficient way to heat a home, but certainly not the cheapest to install.
If your cottage has been winterized, you must already have a heat source, so your problem likely has more to do with it not being very well insulated. You’ll see the best return on investment (and increased comfort) if you put your money into insulation and keeping the heat you’ve already paid for.
Yours is a pretty common situation in the Gatineau Hills: cottages close to town are often converted into homes. But cottage upgrades don’t always start with a long-term game plan; it is more a case of stretching first from two to three seasons, then three to four, with the occasional addition wherever it can be squeezed in. So it’s easy for some critical issues to be missed.
In your case, if your thoughts are turning to radiant floors, methinks you might have cold feet. So the first step would be to check if your floor is insulated, and deal with it if it isn’t.
To install radiant floors, you have to consider not only the cost of the system itself, but installing new flooring on top. Radiant floors can be installed from below, but that is less than ideal for a slew of other reasons, but I’d rather use this space to tell you about what you should do rather than what you shouldn’t.
So, first ensure that your floors and attic are insulated. Caulk any drafts around windows and doors; and if your windows aren’t great, then think about replacing them, or at least cover them with plastic for the winter. If the cottage has been winterized but it’s still that cold, I would consider poking into a wall to see what is going on. And if you aren’t too experienced, I would have a professional come look with you.
All that said, if you are planning a kitchen or a bathroom upgrade, electric radiant under tiles is particularly easy and a nice treat when you step out of the bathtub. There is a heated sample tile on the counter at Ace Hardware in Chelsea; they can set you up with all you need.
Ed. note: Mike Reynolds is a former area homebuilder, LEED for Homes inspector and the editor of Ecohome.net, a free web source for building green. For additional building guidance, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.