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Saturday, October 3, 2015

Covering Exposed Heating Pipes with Rope

covering exposed heat pipes with rope
The formerly exposed pipe is now completely covered to shoulder height

When we gut-renovated the bathroom, one of the first things we demo'd was some ugly crumbling insulation covering the heat pipe. The previous owners had small children, so that insulation was a necessary safety measure. But I was sure that I could find something nicer looking, fit to be seen outside of the walls.

A whole year went by before I got around to it, though. And in the interim, both Ross and I have scalded ourselves while drying off after a shower.  So this year, covering this pipe was top on my list of things to do before cold weather hit and the heat was turned on in our building.

With this weekend turning unseasonably cold for early fall - no time like the present to check this project off my list. 

If you are interested in covering an exposed heat pipe with rope, here's what you will need:
  • 150 feet of 1/4" manila rope (will cover 5 feet of pipe)
  • Scissors or knife
  • An assistant (possibly not required, but helped a lot)


covering exposed heat pipes with rope
The rope arrived coiled in a box

I purchased my rope online from Sea Gear Marine Supply, which I found by googling 1/4" manila rope and comparison shopping for the best price. Sea Gear charges $.05 per foot, so the total bill was about $7.50 plus $8 and change for shipping. Arriving by ground ship, it took about a week to get here.

covering exposed heat pipes with rope
Unwind the rope completely, and coil it into a much larger thinner loop

Step 1: I started by taking about 4 inches of the end of the rope and holding it in place up the side of the pipe. 

covering exposed heat pipes with rope

Then I wound a few rounds of coil on top of that, effectively locking the rope upon itself.

covering exposed heat pipes with rope

Step 2: While I held this in place, Ross started looping the rope around the pipe. After a few rounds of pulling the whole 150 feet of rope around and through, around and through, around and through the back of the pipe - like trying to sew with the world's longest piece of thread - I realized that if we uncoiled it, then recoiled it in a larger loop, the whole coil would be thin enough to pass between the wall and pipe at once. This made the "winding" up the pipe move much faster!

It really helped to have a partner working with me on this project. As Ross passed the rope through and around, I kept tightening it and smoothing it. 

covering exposed heat pipes with rope
Coiled in a big loop like you would a hose, the whole length was thin enough to pass behind the pipe

Step 3: When we started approaching the end of the line, I let the loops be looser and looser so that I could tuck the end of the rope through, then Ross tightened the loose coils up by sliding them all counterclockwise. 

Step 4: Cut off the leftover rope if you want to. I chose to leave a bit of rope hanging out the back, in case we need to adjust the tightness once the heat comes on.

covering exposed heat pipes with rope
Manila rope is very rough and fibrous

Tip 1: 150 feet of rope was just enough to cover about 5 feet of pipe - high enough to protect all body parts that might get scalded while coming out of a shower. If you prefer the look of the rope going all the way up to the ceiling, you will need to order about 50 additional feet. 

Tip 2: The rope is treated with a preservative chemical at the manufacturing source - Sea Gear warns about this in the product description on their website. To off-gas, we worked with the window wide open and left it open a full 24 hours with the door to the room closed.

covering exposed heat pipes with rope


Tip 3: The rope was unexpectedly messy. When we finished, I swept a whole pile of rope fibers. 

Tip 4: If I had this to do again, I would wear jeans, safety glasses, and canvas work gloves. The stiff fibers that fall off the rope float through the air and get in your eyes. And I did get a splinter in my fingers from "smoothing" the coils up the pipe.

Tip 5: It's possible our cat may use this as a scratching post. That would be an unexpected and cool thing. I'll keep you posted.