If you develop problems with underfloor heating you will want to deal with it quickly and effectively, so that the minimum inconvenience is caused for the people in the building.
There are various problems that can occur with both wet and electric systems, whether during installation or years after fitting; and potential problems are not confined to the system itself, as the heating can also damage the flooring and fabric of a house.
Repairs may need the skill of a professional repairman, particularly if underneath the floor, but many simple repairs can be carried out by a DIY enthusiast.
The replacement of parts like thermostats, valves and sensors are jobs most could undertake.
Problems during installation
Several problems could occur during installation, and should be tackled straight away on a room by room basis.
When laying an electric system, many professionals use a monitoring device, which checks the integrity of each circuit or mat as you go along with the installation.
Systems can get inadvertently damaged in transit or on site, so this is a handy tool to have if you are installing the kit yourself.
A wet system should be fully pressure tested after it has been installed, and the screed should not be laid until all the pipe work has been checked for leaks. Any leaks can be resealed and joints refitted before the screed and the flooring is laid.
Many contractors complain of unsuitable fitting or finishes, which can cause major headaches on site if you have not done your research. The flooring you choose must be compatible with the type of heating system you are installing; if the flooring cannot be laid on that type of heating system it becomes a very expensive mistake.
Problems that can occur after installation
One of the possible failures with an electric system is when part of the cable or matting is faulty and loses continuity. Cable repair kits can be bought for this eventuality if you can carry out the repairs yourself, otherwise a qualified electrician can repair the faulty parts for you.
It may involve taking up part of the flooring, and repairmen have tools designed to pinpoint the exact location of the failed component so only one tile or floorboard needs to be lifted to replace it.
A wet system could leak and this can cause more problems than just the need to replace joints or piping. Water could damage the screed and the subfloor as well as the carpet or floor finish. The floor may have to be brought up to replace the offending fitting or length pipe, and repairs may need to be made to the subfloor and the floor finish.
Another problem associated with wet systems are boiler failures, repair and maintenance of a condenser boiler can be quite costly, as the work must be carried out by a suitable qualified and corgi registered engineer.
One problem that can be attributed to bad design is that underfloor heating can damage the backing of carpets and make them ruck and wear. This is not a problem or failure with the system, but a result of bad design and planning.
Other indirect problems from underfloor heating are possible weakening of the structure, by the drying of concrete and screed bases, and cracked grouting between tiles.
Again, these indirect problems are not due to the failure of any part of the underfloor heating, but more to do with a lack of research when selecting different products to work alongside each other, or a lack of planning of the buildings heat loss, insulation, and humidity levels.
How easy is it to replace parts?
If a section of cable or mat has failed beneath the flooring, or a wet system has developed a leak, then it is normally advisable to call in a professional electrician or heating and plumbing engineer.
These types of faults are difficult to get to and require specialist equipment to trace the faulty section.
Some of the other parts are much easier to replace and can be done by most practical individuals.
Components that are accessible are much easier to replace or service without any need to disturb the flooring.
A replacement thermostat can easily be fitted if the original room stat has failed; valves that have failed can be replaced on a manifold quite simply as well, although this would require the isolation and possibly the draining of the system.
Where can I buy parts?
A lot of manufacturers and suppliers offer repair kits alongside their systems, and these can be bought with the system initially, or at a later date on their own.
If a component which is unique to your system has failed, the only place to get it may be direct from the manufacturer, which may take longer. Generic parts are usually readily available from online underfloor heating retailers or from your local merchants.
The repair of an underfloor heating system should always be undertaken by a suitably qualified or competent person, particularly when working with electricity and gas supplies. Some of the easier repairs can be carried out by the home owner however, and taking a practical approach to the maintenance of your heating system can save a lot of money in the long term.
If a serious problem has occurred and one of the sections of cable or pipe has failed underneath the floor, the repair is often best being done by a heating and plumbing engineer or an electrician depending which type of system you have.
They can use specialist tools to trace the source of the problem and isolate which parts of the floor need to be lifted. This causes the minimum damage when repairing a faulty heating element or replacing a leaking fitting.
You can buy repair kits and any other system parts like thermostats, valves, pipe fittings and so on, but it is difficult to have enough parts for every eventuality; it is perhaps best to source the parts, which may have a longer lead time and buy them in advance, while leaving the more common parts to be bought as and when needed.
If you do attempt to carry out repairs on your own heating system, make sure you are comfortable with the level of work you are undertaking, and don’t take on more than you feel confident with.