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Flooring options for large sq ft barn in midwest that won't break bank and freeze yer' tootsies?

 
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We have a barn that we're going to be working on converting into a home. It's a pretty big space of about 80 feet by 65 feet (maybe a bit bigger actually), but I'm having some problems figuring out what to do about the foundation/floor.

Right now the barn is very old compacted dirt and not entirely level. I am fighting with a family member that wants to pour concrete. I have been hoping to figure out other options.

One option they are kind of amenable to is "dirt glue" but that will be very labor intensive in the way of taking a heavy duty rototiller to mix it up first I believe or dig it out and then mix it with dirt. Curing is also an issue since it has to be over 53 or 55ºF for probably a month to cure properly. I don't know if I can make that happen right now with us coming into fall in the midwest'ish area.

Anyone have any other thoughts or options that might work in such a big space?

If we were to use concrete, the temperature of the concrete could be a problem and I'd need to figure out some insulating options. The big problem here is we need to keep the foundation + floor option under 15-20,000. Currently I think pouring concrete alone probably will run around 11-15,000 for a 4 inch slab and probably around 14-19,000 for a 6 inch slab. Depends on the concrete company and so forth. That doesn't leave much funds for leveling the floor and gravel. Getting bags of concrete seems to be about 2-4,000 MORE than having a concrete company deliver it and driving thousands of bags of concrete over 30 miles would be crazy.

I suppose if concrete would be the only recourse (still seems cheaper than lumber over a crawlspace I think), then I could maybe use some kind of rigid thin foam on top of the concrete with plywood to create a slight give PLUS insulation barrier that might reduce discomfort. That would also let us add ambient floor heating under it later I think, right?

Another option I have thought a lot about is a wood floor. We have a lot of irregular wood chunks that we could use (more than enough to cover the entire floor) maybe similar to how is presented in that link, but I have already been told that there's no way multiple family members would be willing to deal with sand. They also argue that putting concrete or cob or some such would be a problem because as the wood dries and shrinks it will create gaps and so forth and either we'll need to patch it up figure out a way to seal it (and polyurethane would be pretty darn expensive on such a big flooring area).

We also have dogs and they don't always use the potty outside so there's no chance that that would work out good without sealing it well...

Anyway, any suggestions and experiences would be really good to have. I would like to cut the price down and go more natural, but between fighting family and just not thinking of good options, I'm struggling with this one!!!
 
pollinator
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Sand = 5100sqft x 2inch = 28cubic yard @$/yard
6mil Barrier = 5100sqft @ $/sqft
$14,400 Rigid Foam Board = 5100sqft/(8ftx4ft boards) x $90 per 4inch =160 x$90
$7,800 Concrete Floor = 85ft x 60ft x 4in = 1530ft^3 = 57cubic yard @ $130/yard aka $1300/10yard truck
$5,100 Rebar = 5100sqft x $1, 6inch slab needs rebar but 4inch slab normally doesn't.
$1,400 PEX Heating piping = 85 x 60 = 5,100ft of 1/2inch piping with 12inch spacing, @ $0.24/ft
$1500 Boiler = 40btu/sqft/hr x 5100sqft = 204,000btu/hr
$3,600 Pumps+Valve+Thermostats+Manifold = Zones x Price = 12 x $300
$1,500 Dehumidifier 95pints/day, we just need 66F-68F well/pond/chilled water running in the pex pipe to cool the entire house in the summer


You are really building your floor and heating system so you will have to combine both budget.  
$10,800 AC = 36,000 BTU mini-split four zone x 3

The space can fit over thirty-three rooms that is 12ft x 12ft each.
House = 1 Living Room, 1 Kitchen/Dining Room, 3 Bedroom, 1 Bath/Laundry = just 6 Room
So you could fit 4 such houses under the barn with about 12ft between every house
In a pinch each bedroom could be divided into two giving us 6 tiny bedroom, which could fit 8 people.
Why not just do only 1/4 or 1/2 of the barn space

If we aren't talking about conditioned space with insulation/heating/cooling, you can probably get by with just 1inch of concrete. That way there will be a smooth surface.
Can you post the very rough floor plan for the 5,100sqft space?
 
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S Bengi wrote:
So you could fit 4 such houses under the barn with about 12ft between every house



If budget is an issue, what S Bengi alludes to here is an option. Do you need all that space converted to living accommodation? In the UK it used to be pretty common to have livestock at one end of the building and humans at the other, sharing the warmth in winter. Could you convert part of the building to a ‘better’ standard and leave the rest as an outdoor indoor space? The less space you convert the correspondingly lower could be the budget and therefore the more expensive the option that your budget would stretch to.
 
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Converting your measurements you're going to have 477m2 of space. what on earth are your plans for that? That's twice the size of my house and my house has space for 10 people to sleep in 5 seperate bedrooms and still has a living room, dining room kitchen, bathroom, utility room three large hallways...

I don't think you would need 4inches of concrete either if this is just floor and not supporting anything more than furniture and people. our utility room is concrete over gravel and the concrete is only 3inches thick

Since the floor is such an important part and is so hard to replace after you have fixed everything else I say stop. don't try and squeeze it through on a budget you'll regret it later if you can only afford to do 1/3 or 1/3 properly then only do that much and save up for the rest. with concrete if you want it done properly you want insulation UNDER it not over and if you are looking at floor heating you want to lay the pipes for that at the same time you pour the concrete.
 
Greg Payton
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OVERALL budget can go to between 80-120k to build a studio arrangement herein with sufficient bedrooms (7 bedrooms for now) with 3 kitchens and 4 or 5 full baths. The idea is to flesh out the basic and full structure and then build additional rooms (walls) over time. The full square footage will be needed.

Good to hear about the suggested thickness - it is going to be conditioned space for living. As far as support goes, we will have 4x4 or 4x6 beams (not sure yet) throughout the space to facilitate expanding the "hay loft" across the entire area. This will of course be both a ceiling and a second floor that we will use for additional workspace and storage.

We will have several large (55-100 gallon) fish tanks, large freezers (might put in an outside utility room) and some other heavy things in the house. As mentioned, there will be heating/cooling needs, so I guess 1 inch isn't enough, but what would be enough?

I guess I'm not sure what I can/should calculate with for load bearing requirements. Could a couple layers of chicken wire spread through the concrete help a thinner layer without rebar to help keep it from cracking or such?

So thank you folks - perhaps I have been compartmentalizing things too much in my mind.

To date we have planned on running plumbing along the walls and NOT in the floor (cement/whatever). Same with electric. We want easy access and good fire resistant conduit.

Unfortunately we DO need this much square footage based on the way the family situation is. Separating out families into separate compartments will not work, even though some privacy is desirable. It's more like having 2 houses in one since we already have a kind of tiny-house living arrangement going on in another part of the barn (it has another section, but tiny house living is not acceptable for our situation and the limited part of the family using it and need to quickly expand).

I am not locked into a floor plan yet, but I will try to come up with a rough one within a day here. It will probably change, but could give you some ideas of consideration.

Nancy Reading, we have thought about this, but unfortunately it just doesn't work out. We do need some livestock space, but it will have to be separated for some reasons I don't want to get into here.

Skandi Rogers we will ultimately have 11 people to sleep in the near term and that will easily grow to several more over the next 5 years. We also incorporate office and workspace. No one works traditional jobs where they work outside of the home (or off the farm) for 8 hours a day.



 
S Bengi
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Why don't we compare the price of the floor to the price of the roof.

Here are 4 studio, stacked as a unit, the fourplex. Each studio is 24ft by 24ft. And the fouplex is 48ft by 48ft
You could fit 2 fourplex, and then still have space for another 3+ irregular shaped studio for a total of 11.


So continuing with the budget
Roof
$2,400 Plywood = Amount of Board x Price = (5100/(4x8)) x $15 = 160 x $15
$14,400 R-20 Insulation = Amount of Board x Price = (5100/(4x8)) x $90 = 160 x $90
$2,000 Drywall = Amount x Price = 160 x $12.50
$2,711 Lumber = (69ft/12ft) x (85ft/1.33) x $7.53 = 6 x 60 x $7.53 = 360 x $7.53

Floor
Sand = 5100sqft x 2inch = 28cubic yard @$/yard
6mil Barrier = 5100sqft @ $/sqft
$14,400 Rigid Foam Board = 5100sqft/(8ftx4ft boards) x $90 per 4inch =160 x$90
$7,800 Concrete Floor = 85ft x 60ft x 4in = 1530ft^3 = 57cubic yard @ $130/yard aka $1300/10yard truck
$5,100 Rebar = 5100sqft x $1, 6inch slab needs rebar but 4inch slab normally doesn't need rebar.

HVAC
$1,400 PEX Heating piping = 85 x 60 = 5,100ft of 1/2inch piping with 12inch spacing, @ $0.24/ft
$1,500 Space Heating Boiler = 40btu/sqft/hr x 5100sqft = 204,000btu/hr
$3,600 Pumps+Valve+Thermostats+Manifold = Zones x Price = 12 x $300
$1,500 Dehumidifier 95pints/day, we could use 66F well/pond/chilled water running in the pex pipe to cool the house in the summer
$10,800 AC = 36,000 BTU mini-split four zone x 3

Exterior Walls
P=2L+2W= 2x80+2x65=160+130=290ft
$6570 Rigid Foam board Insulation = Amount of board x Price = (290ft/4ft) * $90 = 73 x $90
Studs (2x4) = Amount of board x Price = (290ft /1.33) x $ = 218 x $
$2,725 Drywall = Amount x Price = 218 x $12.50
Exterior Plywood = 218 x $
Siding

Electrical

Plumbing
 
Greg Payton
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--- thank you looks like you edited your post S Bengi ---

Are there any other options for the foam since that seems to be the most expensive component? I think our local foam is closer to $75 for a 4"x4'x8' R-20 polystyrene foam board ins, but still looks like the highest cost.

Also, almost seems like it might be better to add less foam UNDER the concrete and then maybe later add some foam above the concrete as we finish out flooring with maybe some kind of wood topping?

Or something maybe I was not clear on initially - i think maybe you're saying the pex piping is for IN FLOOR radiant heating???

And how would the cooling work? You don't cool the floor do you? Or... maybe that IS what you're saying, pump pond water through the piping (after filtering it some first)? We do have a pond, but it's about 3000 feet away from the barn.
 
Greg Payton
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Also shouldn't we calculate some gravel into this to improve drainage and deter animal tunneling in case of heavy rains?
 
S Bengi
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Lets not forget to compare the floor to the roof? Whats your budget for the roof.

Floor
$2,565 Gravel = 5100sqft x 4inch = 57cubic yard @$45/yard
$510 Barrier (10mil) = 5100sqft @ $/sqft
$12,000 Rigid Foam Board = 5100sqft/(8ftx4ft boards) x $90 per 4inch =160 x$75
$7,800 Concrete Floor = 85ft x 60ft x 4in = 1530ft^3 = 57cubic yard @ $130/yard aka $1300/10yard truck
$5,100 Rebar/WireMesh = 5100sqft x $1, 6inch slab needs rebar but 4inch slab normally doesn't need rebar.
sub-Total = $28k

Roof
$2,400 Plywood = Amount of Board x Price = (5100/(4x8)) x $15 = 160 x $15
$12,000 R-20 Insulation = Amount of Board x Price = (5100/(4x8)) x $90 = 160 x $75
$2,000 Drywall = Amount x Price = 160 x $12.50
$51,000 Roof Framing (flat roof) = 5100sqft x $10    with span
$10,200 Framing = 5100 x $2
sub-total = $26,400

We want all the insulation to be under the thermal mass. So that it can heat the house.

Yes the PEX pipes, are suppose to go into the floor and then coupled with a 11gpm instant hot water heater(Gas for $1,500)  it will heat the slab and the whole house in the winter. I also included a regular Air conditioner setup with 12 ductless mini-split air handlers for 12 different zones for $11k (inclusive of the 3 outside condensers). I also included a dehumidifier so that you could still make the space comfortable without having to turn on the AC unit when it isn't super hot, thus saving energy. Technically if we use this to control condensation we could just run cold water thru the slab and also cool the building for less energy.
 
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Can you dig out the floor a bit or build it up a bit?  

What about putting in a wood floor that is off the ground a bit and insulating between it and the ground with a vapor barrier and then borax (or equivalent) treated sawdust.
 
Greg Payton
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Thank you S Bengi, I'll chew on this a little - I like the idea of keeping the thermal mass separate as you explained it in order to retain the heat and cool. Heating and cooling has been an enormous problem for us in a 6a zone. Having temperature retention is a huge win and we have wanted to figure out a way to incorporate a large thermal mass into our situation, but basing this off of a barn doesn't facilitate the normal options except maybe earthtubes as mentioned earlier.

Mike Haasl we could dig it out a bit to level it especially. So you're thinking of just doing dirt + something like 6 mil poly plastic sheeting + an enormous amount of sawdust with borax (powered or wetted with a solution?) and then a floor? I fear lumber prices might be more than cement right now, no?

What about a hybrid idea Mike Haasl and S. Bengi: what if we replaced the 4" rigid foam R-20 with this sawdust and had a kind of woodcrete mixture with the pipes in it? Maybe more sawdust below and then the concrete + sawdust on top? Just thinking ........
 
Greg Payton
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Also has anyone tried mixing graphene oxide or zeolite into concrete? Wonder what kind of thermal properties it might have. I heard that graphene alone can improve thermal conductivity or make the temperatures more equal throughout the mixture, decrease needed volume of cement, increase flexural strength by (at least) 60%, improves compressive strength by 30%, reduces total porosity by about 4%, and only needs maybe 0.05 to 0.07 weight percent of graphene oxide with regular cement. Graphene oxide is hydroscopic (as opposed to graphene being hydrophobic) so it would maybe help curing too?
 
Mike Haasl
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Greg Payton wrote:Mike Haasl we could dig it out a bit to level it especially. So you're thinking of just doing dirt + something like 6 mil poly plastic sheeting + an enormous amount of sawdust with borax (powered or wetted with a solution?) and then a floor? I fear lumber prices might be more than cement right now, no?


I'm guessing you could get some simple pine for flooring for under $2 per board foot.  Hopefully in large quantities closer to $1 per square foot.  So that might not be as much as the other options.  And it is sequestering carbon...
 
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I a Civil Engineer in Australia I have done a few of these and my suggestions are different.
This product provides vapour barrier and insulation
insulation and VAPOUR BARRIER
ITS cost is a lot less than quoted.
I would not lay any concrete less than 4 inches and it would have reinforcing mesh held up by 'chairs'.
With a slab that big cracks will occur, otherwise.  And the slab would need to have saw cuts on a 4 metre grid cut within 24 hours of being poured, this is also to prevent cracking across the slab.
I would use 20mm road base as the fill required.  levelled with a bobcat
The slab will not need leveling afterwards if it is poured properly in the first plACE WITH ACCURATE FORMWORK AND A COMPETENT SCREEDER.
With a slab that big, you need it continuous and only a competent concreter can do that.

You may need to consider underfloor plumbing for bathrooms etc

I can say a slab that big will act well as thermal mass, and providing your walls and ceilings are prepared properly I think it will be ok
 
Greg Payton
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John C Daley, thank you for sharing your experience: are you saying this insulation+vapor barrier called Prodex (that appears to be only 0.5mm/0.2in) is able to do the work of the 4in R-20 boards?

I think S Bengi's goal with the 4in insulation board is to create a really massive thermal barrier between the ground and the cement.... I'm not sure where to find out if/how this thinner stuff can do the same or a similar job.

Can you go over what you would do in this case on a stepwise process from earth to the top of the floor? For example, I don't know if you are thinking: 1. dirt, 2. gravel, 3. sand, 4. thermal+vapor barrier sheet, 5. framing, 6. inside of framing wire/rebar/chairs/etc., 7. pex piping for radiant heating worked throughout, 8. pour cement on?
 
Skandi Rogers
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Going to other ideas, there are some threads on earthen floors that are pretty much like concrete in look when they are done, but not as forgiving about missuse, and of course a lot more work.
https://www.lowimpact.org/lowimpact-topic/earthen-floors/
It probably wouldn't be any cheaper than concrete since you'll still have to buy a mass of materials, and have them shipped.
 
John C Daley
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Greg, look at the link attached to get the full details of the insulation factor of that product.
In Australia we use a different method of rating the insulation values and I am confused by the North American system.

I will try again later to check things.
From that site above I found this page that details the R values of the product.
R values explained

it seems the thin 5mm sheet has an R17 value.

FromR values range of materials
I found this surprising
Expanded Polystyrene (Extruded)       1" 5.00
Polyurethane Foam (Foamed on site) 1" 6.25
Polyisocyanurate (Foil Faced).             1" 7.20

Steps I would use are as follows;
- earth at finished level
- crushed rock to finalise levels.[ no sand ]
- vapour barrier, plastic sheeting rolled across and taped at joints.
- insulation panel, sheet
- reinforcement sheet laid on chairs
- concrete, levelled and finished with a helicopter.

Concrete could be coloured when poured or painted after.
 
S Bengi
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The reflective foil is great for attics/roof. It works with layers of air. In fact you have to make sure that you face the foil on the right side or else it doesn't work for a roof/attic installation.  It might even work for a crawl space insulation. the sub-floor effectively becomes the "roof" of the crawl space. But for the slab on grade setup where there is no air and it is mostly conductive transfer vs convection/radiative. It doesn't really give that R17 value.
 
Greg Payton
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John C Daley, this is really interesting. I'm blown away that your suggested material could only be 3 R less than the 4in stuff!!! Can this really be true?

So from what you are saying it seems:
1. earth (leveled)
2. stone (maybe #5, 8 or 10? https://www.reagg.com/different-crushed-stone-sizes-applications/)
3. vapour barrier - are you thinking I should use plastic sheeting here? The product you mentioned before has a diagram that shows the Prodex filling the role of both the vapour barrier AND insulation.
Prodex diagram:

4. insulation - see above
5. reinforcement sheet laid on chairs - i don't see this in the Prodex diagram, but of course that's probably not authoritative. Is the following sampling indicative of what you mean?
concrete reinforcement chairs:  

But on this #5, can we also use the Prodex as the "reinforcement sheet" so as to kill 3 birds with one stone?
6. concrete - could 3in with graphene oxide mixed in WITH 2 or 3 layers of chicken wire work as well as 4in and also eliminate the need for some of the considerations such as cutting and rebar?
 
Greg Payton
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S Bengi this product is really interesting and their website is interesting:
https://www.insulation4less.com/insulation/prodex/under-concrete-prodex-total-insulation-5m

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QkHWGnfFyOw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jYrngdhKNDo

But I have to think you must be right, apparently there is a good bit of trickery that goes into this kind of marketing:
https://youtu.be/Vl8GslJ9hnI?t=85

I have to think that while this sounds really cool it might be deceptive.

This is interesting (says to use plastic over insulation foam):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iQi2bj9XH80

He also uses ICF for his walls which is interesting.

What about Prodex replacing the vapor barrier and using a thinner foam board to reduce cost?
 
S Bengi
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https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/article/stay-away-from-foil-faced-bubble-wrap

Radiant barriers work for roofs (attic/crawlspace) but not for conductive heat loss like slap on grade.
It would have a R value of R-1, so yes we could go from the rigid foamboard having a R-20 value down to R-19.
 
John C Daley
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It seems that the thin insulation is pretty good and serves as the vapour barrier.
The notes I wrote work here because we dont have the thin material.
Yes the R value seems unbelievable, but investigate locally.

S Bengi may be onto something.

There is an argument that floor insulation does not have to go all the way across a floor, in Australia. Coming in 1.2M from the edge is sufficient because the slab edges can cool down
but not the centre. CHECK LOCALLY
Stones should be 1/2 inch crushed rock.

I would stick with 4 inch because that works.
The images are correct, for the concrete chairs they hold the mesh in place and it should be about 40mm or 11/2 inch from the bottom of the concrete.
They are placed at 1 Metre intervals.

I would not muck about with chicken mesh.

Reo sheet is made for the job, it gives tensile strength where its needed and the concrete will slip through it.
You will need 1/4 inch bars on an 8 inch grid.
I am not sure what it would be labelled as in North America.

Your slab is very big, I would only deal with ready mix and I would ensure the trucks can get close to discharge.
You should consider a concrete pump for the size you have in mind. 80 x 65 feet.
I would not do this slab by myself with mates.
You may find a concreter who will come in on the day and do his magic, if you have set everything out.

It will take some time to set it out after a bobcat has cleared the site and levelled the rock.
I would allow 2 men 8 hours to set out the vapor barrier, the insulation, the reo and the chairs.
I think 3 good concreters with hand tools and a helicopter would be needed to do the job properly.

In Australia that would cost about $A36,400 for 4 inch slab start to finish with a contractor.
 
John C Daley
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I see your mesh comes in 8x20 sheets or as a
10 Gauge Remesh Roll with 750 Square Feet of 6 inch x 6 inch mesh $US224

Austin Texas prices.
 
Greg Payton
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John C Daley, thank you for further information and clarification there and considering S Bengi's input. If we were to put radiant heating pipes and sewage (maybe not water in pipes) into the cement I would think it would NOT allow us to "cut" the cement. Are you saying then just go ahead with both 4 inch FOAM AND 4 inch CEMENT?
 
Greg Payton
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S Bengi what do you think about a layer of radiant heat protection ABOVE a foam layer to stop heat loss DOWN into the foam and earth? In other words reflective foil facing UP?
 
John C Daley
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Remember Cement is a component of concrete.
S Bengi has raised the point that the thin foil backed material may be useless.
As I said, the R value system we use in Australia is different.
I was surprised when I saw it, thats why I suggest you get local knowledge on the matter.

There is no reason you cannot put sewerage pipes in the ground under the proposed slab before its poured.

As for heating pipes, that is something I am not up to speed on.
S Bengi seems to have that covered.
 
John C Daley
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Here are the results of a quick search of Hydronic underfloor heating

There are two types using water or a fluid of some type ;
IN SLAB
A typical hydronic system is usually installed at the beginning of a build and laid onto the makeup of slab before construction commences, its attached to the reinforcing mesh prior to the concrete being poured.
IN- SCREED
Hydronic screed heating is installed on top of the structural slab held on the floor by galvanized clips and provides faster reaction times than in-slab heating.

Both  Hydronic systems provide a constant thermal ambient temperature, controlled by a variety of thermostats.
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