Installing UFH in bathrooms and wetrooms

Installing UFH in bathrooms and wetrooms

There is still a misconception among some installers that underfloor heating is complicated to install in wetrooms and bathrooms. Chris Ingram, founder of Continal Underfloor Heating, explains why this isn’t the case.

Underfloor heating is now well-established as an efficient, affordable way to heat a home. It offers an even, radiant heat that keeps a property warm without leaving cold spots around people’s feet, and brings a luxury feel and the convenience that comes with not having to fit radiators on the walls. UFH is also the most efficient way to heat a property using a low-temperature heat source which, thanks to recent Building Regulation changes, will quickly become the norm when heating engineers are installing new systems and upgrading existing properties.

That’s why so many newbuild properties are now built with UFH throughout, and why people looking to extend their properties often opt for UFH rather than adding new radiators.

But there is still a lingering misconception among the trades that UFH is difficult to install in bathrooms and wetrooms, because of the restrictions around pipes and drainage. But this simply isn’t true. Thoughtfully designed UFH systems can be fitted almost anywhere, including in any bathroom, WC or wetroom.

So, what do installers need to bear in mind when they’re planning to fit UFH in these areas of a property?

People use the term wetroom to refer to lots of different kinds of bathroom. Some are describing a room with a low-level shower tray set into a tiled floor, others a fully tanked room where the drain is inset into a bevelled floor. There are lots of rules around the best type of UFH to use in these rooms, but the first thing to decide is whether it is a true wetroom you’re working on (ie, tanked), or a more traditional bathroom.

For true wetrooms, electric UFH may be the best option because you can lay the electric mats above the layer of waterproof tanking. That said, we wouldn’t generally recommend using electric UFH in any other situations, as it is significantly less efficient than water-based UFH systems.

Continal’s UltraSlim panels can also be installed in a wetroom. At just 15mm thick it’s Continal’s lowest profile system and combines a high-strength MDF base and heat dissipation layer to maximise output and temperature variance.

People often think that you can’t install UFH beneath a shower tray, when in fact this also isn’t the case. Many shower trays can easily withstand the heat from UFH pipes, and so the pipes can be run beneath the tray provided you make sure you know where the waste is going to be positioned, and allow enough space for it to be installed. Always check with the shower tray manufacturer before going ahead with the UFH installation.

The decision of whether you decide to run UFH under the shower tray depends largely on the size of the room itself, and whether leaving that space free of UFH pipes will still give you sufficient heat output for the room. This is why carrying out a full heat-loss calculation is always recommended before starting work on any system, especially in areas where the effective floor area may be reduced because of the presence of baths or shower trays.

We do recommend that you avoid running pipes beneath where the toilet is going to be sited, to prevent any damage being done to the pipes from those fixings. It’s also important to consider the position of any bath, and whether it is going to be a freestanding or built-in bath. Again, UFH can be fitted beneath any bath as long as space is left for the waste and allowances are made for any plumbing pipes that will be running beneath it, though most people don’t bother to run UFH beneath a bath that is blocked in.

Freestanding baths, which are growing in popularity, need slightly different considerations. It is much easier for freestanding models to be moved at a later date, either because the family are having the bathroom updated or because the house has been sold to a new owner, and the risk is that if they move the freestanding bath elsewhere there will then be a cold area in the bathroom, so it’s always best to run the UFH beneath those models.

This is why it’s so important that, during any renovation or building work, the position of things like units, baths and showers are decided before the UFH is designed and installed, as these things can significantly affect where the pipes should be laid to achieve the best results.

People have a particular desire for UFH in a bathrooms because they want that lovely feeling of walking barefoot on a warm tiled floor on a cold winter’s day. UFH is primarily installed in these areas for comfort, and it’s important to remember that bathrooms with small floor areas, and which have high heat losses due to mechanical ventilation, may need additional heating from a towel rail, for example.

But not all types of UFH are compatible with every type of tile – at least not without needing to add a layer of board between the UFH and the tile, as well as using specialist tile adhesive, otherwise you run the risk that the heat will cause the tiles to shift and the grout to crack over time.

But there is a simple alternative that will allow you to lay tiles directly on top of the UFH, which is particularly useful when you need to keep floor heights to a minimum. Continal’s TileFix system is typically installed over existing solid or timber deck floors, and can have tiles fitted directly on top of it using flexible tile adhesive. It can be used with ceramic, porcelain, marble and stone tiles, and the panels provide pipe routing for return loops and distribution, ensuring simple installation.

You can also lay ceramic tiles directly over Continal’s DriDEK-20 panels, making them especially suitable for use in bathrooms and kitchens, since the panels don’t contract or expand when exposed to water. They are also compatible with laminate, vinyl and carpet floor finishes for extra flexibility.

If you’re unsure what the best UFH solution is for your next project, or you want help designing the perfect system for your customer’s new extension, it’s always best to seek advice from a trusted manufacturer such as Continal Underfloor Heating. Our expert Technical Sales Advisers are always on hand with technical support at every stage of a project, whether it’s in the design phase or you want help with commissioning or when working on site with project managers, customers or other tradespeople. We provide full CAD designs as standard and, because we sells a full range of solid, suspended and overfloor system solutions, we will always provide you with exactly what you need.

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