In this instructional video, Blake demonstrate how to correctly drill a hole in ceramic tile using a diamond hole saw and a cordless drill.
Important: This post is a very general guide to help you understand the differences in complexity of installing various in floor heating systems. This article DOES NOT replace the instructions that shipped with the product, and we won’t cover all steps or product limitations. Always follow the instructions you receive with the product when installing in floor heating.
With installation of all our electric in floor heating, we recommend you buy and use a Loudmouth monitor during installation. If the wire is damaged during installation, the Loudmouth will sound and alert.
Also, always make sure to check the ohms before installing any of our floor warming systems and again prior to covering with tile or mortar. Never install any in floor heating under cabinets, toilets, stoves, etc. Always allow proper cure time before turning on your system, 14 days from the time you grout on all our systems except slab heat, which is 28 days. Always check your local building codes to make sure you can install the system you are buying and to make sure the system you are purchasing is legal in your area.
Prior to pouring concrete, you will attach zip ties to rebar at the spacing that is determined by your heat loss calculations. Using conduit, run the cold lead up to the thermostat location to be connected later. Run the probe up another conduit to the thermostat location. I always suggest installing two probes. They are cheap, and if one malfunctions it will save you a bunch of work to replace. Next, pour the concrete. I always recommend using insulation under the concrete when using slab heat to improve efficiency. Pour concrete over the wire. If you are not pouring the concrete, make sure the people who do are careful not to damage the wire in the process. Slab heat can also be used on existing slab by putting down strap, stringing wire and pouring another layer of concrete over the top.
The new RPM-V1 mat can be installed over concrete, wood and backer board using an inexpensive vinyl adhesive. The V-1 can also be used over the top of ceramic tile, vinyl, and natural stone when urethane glue is used. This is the newer version of RPM with vented studs allowing you to trowel vinyl adhesive over the substrate and install the RPM mat directly over without any additional fastener or special glues. Once the RPM is glued down, it’s time to choose your wire spacing. We usually suggest 2.5” when installed over wood and 2” over concrete. If you are planning to use this as a main source of heat for a room you may want to run heat loss calculation to help determine the correct lay out.
Next, you would take your cold lead wire feed up the conduit to thermostat box. Then in a separate conduit, feed your probe wire to thermostat box. Again, I recommend installing two probes as cheap insurance if one malfunctions. Lay the probe in a grove that will not be occupied by wire. String wire as based on your desired layout. If you are using non-coated wire, you will need grommets to hold the wire down. For coated wire, grommets will not be needed. The really cool thing about this system is once the wire is in the channel, it cannot be damaged by people walking on the floor.
Once the wire is placed, it’s time to level the floor with self-leveling underlayment, MasterHeat mix, or a cement-based underlayment to fill the channels. The studs on RPM-V1 mat act as a screed making it very easy to level the cement. Original RPM can be installed on concrete and wood. The only difference on concrete is you would need to use urethane based glue, like Bostic Ultra Set, and on Plywood you would use vinyl adhesive and staple down. This by far is the most user friendly product for a do-it-yourselfer, and pro’s like it for the added protection given to the wire on busy job sites. And if a repair or removal of tile is needed, it can be done without harming the wire.
Keep in mind that RPM replaces the need for backer board. When going over concrete, a cork thermal barrier before the installation of RPM is recommended, especially if the concrete does not have insulation under it. Cork is installed with wood grade urethane and RPM is installed on top of the cork. This makes for a more energy efficient floor because you are only heating the tile and not the entire slab.
Premade mats make installation pretty simple as the wire is spaced within the mat. With custom mats, you draw your room out to scale with location of thermostat, including any obstructions such as counters, heater vents, stove, etc. We send this to the engineers, and once we receive the layout back, you sign off on it for approval. Then about two week later, your mat arrives. Premade mats are available in a wide variety of sizes if you don’t need a custom one.
Mat should be secured to subfloor with 2-sided tape. I will usually staple it as well, which helps keep the mat flat (NEVER STAPLE WIRE). Run cold lead up conduit to thermostat. In separate conduit, run another probe up to thermostat. I usually run two just in case. At this point, if you are installing tile, you can apply thinset using a special plastic trowel made for floor warming wire. This method can be a bit challenging, and I don’t recommend it for the DIY folks.
If you are not using tile, or prefer to cover the wire prior to installation, you can use thin set, underlayment, or self-leveling underlayment. A lot of professionals do this to make it easier for them to install tile. Covering wire before installation of tile should only be attempted by people who are experienced with troweling and topping compounds. Over concrete, you will need to install cork then using wood grade urethane before installing the mat. This product can go directly over plywood, but I recommend backer board first for tile installations. Installation of this product can be done by a very experienced do-it-yourselfer, but best installed by a professional.
For coated and uncoated wire installed with metal gauge over plywood and backer board, first step is nailing the gauge to the floor. On concrete, we again recommend cork as insulation before installing the wire. Use hot glue or double sided tape to attach the gauge to the cork or concrete. Decide wire layout you want based on area you are warming or if using for primary source of heat. Run the cold lead up the conduit to thermostat box. String the wire based on spacing you have chosen. Leave 5 to 6 inches of spacing between wire and wall. Once you are done stringing the wire, take your probe, and using a separate conduit, run it up to thermostat box. Place probe in between the wire without laying over the wire. Install two so you have a backup. Keeping foot traffic off the wire is very important until it is covered. You should be very careful when walking on cable not to damage it. Do not ever walk on metal gauge as you can pinch and damage the wire.
Once the wire is down, you can set tile using plastic trowel and thinset, however I don’t recommend this since it is hard to get flat floor and wire can be damaged. Ideally you would be pouring self-leveling cement to cover and protect the wire immediately after installation. It also makes for a nice flat floor to install your tile on. You may also use thin set or underlayment to cover wire if you are skilled at leveling cement mortar.
At this point, you’re ready to tile and grout. Connect thermostat, let cure, and you are ready to go. The skill level for this product is professional level. Coated wire must be used in wet area and is harder to damage the uncoated wire. Uncoated wire is less expensive and a little easier to work with but it cannot be used in wet areas.
Under Floor heating mats are very easy to install, but you must have clear access to joists. Installation is very simple, as you just staple mat up to floor joist. Connect mats at junction box and install insulation. If you are able to install probe in floor, run up conduit to thermostat. If you are not able to put probe in floor, you can use change thermostat to operate off of air temperature. You may also use a GFI on/off switch. If you do this, floor will operate at max temp. 12 to 15 degrees warmer than if you had a thermostat, depending on floor covering. Under floor systems are relatively easy to install for a more experienced do-it-yourselfer, if you have access to the joist.
Fein started it all with the MultiMaster; an oscillating hand tool that allows you to quickly cut, strip, scrape, sand, and just about anything else in areas that would be impossible to reach with standard tools. These tools are really indispensable, and once you’ve owned one, you will always have one in your toolbox because they save so much time. There are now a wide variety of brands available. We are going to review 3 that we carry here at Master Wholesale, and that we use, or have used regularly.
Fein FMM 250 Q
The original oscillating tool, you can tell when you pick it up it is the real deal. It’s relatively heavy, but in a reassuring way. I have personally used this particular tool for many years, on many projects, and it hasn’t had a single issue. Everything about it is robust, including the 16 ½’, power cord which is both flexible and durable. There is no discernible flexing of the dense matte plastic housing during heavy use. Despite oscillating at between 10,000 and almost 20,000 RPM, it doesn’t create excessive hand fatigue. The weight of the tool, coupled with it’s precise balance and anti-vibration system, makes the MultiMaster surprisingly comfortable to use. The blade change mechanism is top notch as well. This tool has plenty of power, and you’ll find that when pushed, the material is going to be the thing smoking, and not the Fein.
The Fein also has the largest selection, and highest quality blades, scrapers and sanding accessories available. Overall, their status at the top is unchallenged, and they are priced accordingly.
After the Fein, the Dewalt’s DWE315K would be my second choice. Like the Fein, it really feels solid in your hand. Weight is similar, and it just feels very substantial. It performs similarly to the Fein, but I prefer the Fein blades and accessories. The wider speed range of the Dewalt does make a difference for detail sanding. Lower motor speeds will heat the tool up as well, limiting lifespan. This is probably why the Fein starts at 10,000, which does work pretty well for sanding. The Dewalt adds some features that some may like, such as the LED, which does make working with the tool in dark recesses a bit nicer. The variable speed trigger isn’t as useful as you would think. I find it a bit more difficult to use because of that. I prefer to set and go, regarding the speed. The 10’ power cord is adequate. The blade change mechanism is solid and very easy to use. Overall, this is a nice tool, and at about $50 cheaper than the Fein, reasonably priced for what you get.
The Makita TM3010CX1 is another quality oscillating tool that gets the job done, but it lives in the Fein shadow as well. It has plenty of power, but it not quite as well balanced as the Fein, which means a little more vibration and hand fatigue. Overall, this tool is solid though. The weak link is the accessories. Like the Dewalt, you can use Fein attachments on the Makita, and I highly recommend doing just that. The motor operates in a similar but larger range than the Fein, from 6,000 to 20,000 RPM. Overall, the feature set of this tool is more spartan than the Dewalt. No LED, no variable speed trigger. The tool-less clamp system is simple and rugged. Overall, this is a fine quality tool, performing close to the Fein and about on par with the Dewalt. All three tools are professional grade, and will perform well for you, especially when used with the Fein attachments, which all 3 do.
Each type of grout has a specific consistency, and it is important to choose the appropriate float or it will be difficult to manipulate the grout. Harder grout floats will scratch softer materials. You should choose the least abrasive grouts when working with softer stones and tiles, and use a float with a more flexible face. Regarding scratching surfaces, I suggest avoiding metal back floats. They have been around for a long time, but their reputation for scratching and marking tile and stone is well deserved.
Epoxy Grout Floats - Barwalt UFF-1 and Master Wholesale (MWI) Premium Epoxy Float
Epoxy grout has a thick, and sticky consistency. It sets up fairly quickly, and is rather difficult to clean up. You need a hard rubber float when spreading epoxy grout. The rubber must also resist the epoxy or else it will gum up on the float. The MWI Yellow Epoxy Float works great. The hard rubber doesn’t stick to the epoxy, and the smaller size (4” x 9”) makes it much easier to control and push the thick epoxy into the joint. The Barwalt UFF-1 float is another good epoxy float, but personally I don’t find that it fits my hand as well as the MWI float. We carry others but these are my two favorites.
Traditional Grout Floats - MWI Premium 4" x 9" float and Barwalt UWF-2
For urethane grout, I prefer the same two floats as above, assuming the material is hard and does not scratch easily. Urethane grout contains silica and recycled glass that can scratch softer tiles and stone. With softer stone or any tile you suspect might scratch, it is always best to test on a corner or scrap piece first.
The Barwalt UWF-2 and MWI Premium 4" x 9" floats are my personal favorites for conventional sanded and unsanded grout. Both have the appropriate rubber compound that allows you to easily get the ground into the joint without leaving haze or waste behind. Both of these floats will last for multiple jobs. Honestly, between them, it really comes down to which handle you prefer.
If you do a significant amount of grouting, you’ll want to pick up a margin trowel style grout float and maybe a toe-kick float. These make easy work of the hard to reach areas and you’ll be glad you have them in your grouting arsenal.