Thursday, November 17, 2011

Another Household Project: Living Room Improvements

The living room is getting a facelift here at Chez Elliott. The basic idea is to put new tiles in front of the fireplace hearth along with new carpeting. This, like many ambitious projects, has to be done in stages:

  • Stage 1: Prep the room so there is power for a new floor-heating system (electrician, drywall work, painting). 
  • Stage 2: Lay down new tiles in front of the fireplace (mason/tile guy).
  • Stage 3: Install the carpet pad (carpet installers)
  • Stage 4: Lay in the floor-heating mats, route the wiring to the wall (me).
  • Stage 5: Connect the heating mats to the wall wiring (electrician, again).
  • Stage 6: Lay down the new carpeting (them carpet installer dudes, again) 

(Background): The carpet in the living room does not suit Mrs Elliott. The previous owners picked a color that is colder than she likes. She longs for a warmer color and is drawn to wheat-colored carpet.

A few months ago she took home a number of carpet samples in marginally differing shades of wheat and has since then been vacillating over them and has narrowed down the selection to two or three samples.

She is coming close to making up her mind.

Thinking about the project, I had this brainstorm: The living room is sunken and cold air pools on the floor making it chilly (unless the woodstove downstairs is cooking). It seems to me that that heating the floor would be helpful.

I poked about on the Internet and found that the usual way to heat a floor is to pour a thin layer of concrete with a grid of heating wires embedded into it. That's expensive.

Then I came across a product in the form of a thin electrically-heated mat designed for under-carpet applications. These Environ II mats come in a number of sizes, are UL approved, and installation is simple: simply tape the mat down to the carpet pad, route the wires to a wall-mount thermostat, and put your carpet over it.

A pair of 6 foot by 10 foot mats would cover 70% of the room, and keep Mrs Elliott's feetsies warm.

AND (here's the lucky part),  because there is a Cadet wall heater in the room (put in when the room's electrically-heated ceiling system failed) we have 240 volts right where we need it. Which is what the mats like.


We hired Joe Hawkins (a great electrician here in Bend) to pull the old wall heater, drill the needed wire-routing holes into the wall and floor, put in conduit, and install a new junction box for the new thermostat -- all the wiring needed to light up the mats.

With that done, master carpenter and handyman Mike Accardo patched the big hole in the wall where the heater had come out, mudded around the new thermostat junction box, then sprayed texture so the work would blend into the surrounding wall.

Using a weenie roller, I did the final priming and painting. You can't tell that the wall had surgery.

We can now move onto the next stage: new tiles in front of the fireplace. These had to wait for the electrical work because they will cover the floor beneath the old heater location: the new conduit had to go in before the tiles go down.

Mrs Elliott has been thinking what tiles to use nearly as long as she's been considering which wheat-colored carpet she wants. But the tiles have been bought and the tile guys are coming tomorrow.

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