The only major scope creek that we had during our basement renovation was our decision to change from forced air (a furnace) to radiant heat (via a boiler). We made the decision for a few reasons. First, we had to purchase a boiler anyways, so we already had some radiant heat costs related to the basement work. Second, when we were trying to design the basement, a large furnace and water tank took up way too much valuable space. Third, at some point we would have to solve our heating problem since our duct work was terrible and barely heat our house. We met with several contractors who gave us a range of options (and prices). We eventually settled on a hilarious and personable guy who was really excited about boilers. He gave us a decent quote (which I, of course, negotiated down) and went to work.
Running the pipes to the first floor was easy because all they had to do was drill through the floor into the open basement. Running pipes to the second floor was a different story.
To run pipes to the second floor, our hydronics team used the existing duct vents as a chase. The only problem was that they then had to run the pipes across the house to get to the final radiator location. This could be done by opening the ceiling or the floor. Luckily we hadn’t installed our hardwood yet so the easiest was opening up the floor, but we did install our subfloor. Ugh.
Luckily we only had to remove some of the subfloor. We discussed the best route for the pipes with our hydronics guy and made sure to only remove the bare minimum. It took us a full weekend to undo our work. More on that here.
Our hydronics team then ran pipes from the basement, through the floor, and up to the new radiator locations. It took them a full day and a couple of hours on the weekend to complete this part of the work.
We then spent the next weekend reinstalling the subfloor so we could get started on our hardwood floor installation. We were a bit cranky to be doing so much rework.
Installing the Radiators
Once all the pipes were run, installing the radiators was pretty straight forward. The hydronics team installed the radiators on the first floor first (since the space was ready to go) but eventually came back once we were done installing our hardwood floors to install the radiators on the second floor. We were pretty happy with how they looked.
Our living room had two radiators. We originally thought we might have to add a third, but after getting through February without being too cold, we decided that two was enough.
We also had a small radiator installed in the front vestibule to help with winter draft.
Our largest radiator was installed in the kitchen near the back door. It’s pretty nice having heat right below our coats to make them nice and toasty before we go out in the cold. It’s also a great way to dry gloves and mittens on particularly wet and snowy days.
On the second floor we installed one radiator in each of the bedrooms except the master bedroom, which has two.
We also installed a towel warmer radiator in the bathroom, which made our bathroom nice and toasty and heated our towels for us.
Radiant Floor Installation
Once the digging in the basement was complete and insulation layer was laid down, it was time for our hydronics team to come and install pipes in the basement so we could have radiant heat in the floors. They were great at staying on standby (which was great because our underpinners kept misjudging when they’d be done). Laying the pipes in the basement only took a day and seemed pretty straightforward.
Installing the Boiler
The boiler installation couldn’t happen until the concrete was poured and dried in the basement. This was the most frustrating thing because it was November and freezing. At one point our house dropped to 8 degrees. Inside the house.
When the underpinners finally poured the concrete, the hydronics guys came in immediately and installed the boiler. So by the end of November, we finally had heat! Glorious heat!
It’s crazy how much less space it takes up than our furnace and hot water tank!
The final step was to install our fancy nest thermostat. Thanks to a crazy Black Friday sale, we got a pretty good deal on it ($50 off) and also get a rebate from our gas company for installing a smart thermostat!
After a full winter with radiant heat, we are extremely happy that we made the investment. For the first time since we lived in the house, we felt warm. Our gas consumption has also gone WAY down. The radiant heat in the basement is amazing and actually does quite a bit to heat the first floor of the house (which is why I think we got away with smaller rads in the living room). And the fact that we’re not blowing gross, dusty air into the house is also a huge plus.
It was worth every penny. And I rarely say that.