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Converting a Garage Into a Living Space

We meet with hundreds of contractors in the building construction industry, and many of them are telling us that they are busy with remodeling projects. More and more homeowners are making improvements to their existing homes rather than building a new one.

Last fall, was approached by the producer of the popular home improvement show “Sweat Equity.” The show asked for our assistance with designing a STEP Warmfloor system for a homeowner’s garage-transformation project. The producer had seen the product used for a show that was filmed a few years back and thought it would be a perfect fit for this project. My contribution would be to serve as a consultant to insure the product was installed correctly.

This space could have been heated by other products like electric baseboard or wall-mounted heaters or perhaps even a gas fireplace. However, these options would not have matched the overall comfort of the STEP Warmfloor electric radiant-floor heating system. The space measured out at 435 square feet, which happens to be slightly smaller than a two stall garage. The problem the design team encountered was to provide heat to this space, as it only had one small vent. The solution was to install the STEP Warmfloor product and use it as a primary heat source. Because the application was done over an existing concrete slab, we installed a thin ¼” insulated cement board called Pro Panel to use as a thermal break. This helped to prevent heat transfer to the concrete. And yes, it would have been better to put down a thicker insulation board with a higher R-value, but the homeowner was concerned with the structure’s overall ceiling height.

On the day of the shoot, I arrived to assist the homeowner with planning and installing the STEP Warmfloor system. With the high definition camera ready to roll, the camera man advised the homeowner to proceed in the layout of the STEP Warmfloor element. I instinctively grabbed the roll of heating element and began to install it.

The camera man stopped taping and politely said to me, “Excuse me; the show is called Sweat Equity, and the purpose of the show is to have the homeowners install the products themselves.” Oops! I was already messing up the production of the show! Lesson learned.

After I stepped aside, the homeowner easily installed the STEP Warmfloor heating element on top of the insulation board. They used a floating wood floor as a finished floor covering over the top of the STEP Warmfloor heating elements. I recently contacted the homeowner to see how the STEP Warmfloor system performed over the winter. He said he was extremely satisfied with the heating performance and that he would definitely recommend the product to others.

At the time of this writing, we did not know the exact day that this show will air on the DIY channel. However, we were told that it would air sometime in May 2012, so stay tuned! I think you will enjoy the show, and you’ll be able to see how a garage can be converted into a functional family room that is cozy and warm.