How to Insulate Hot Pipes with Rope

updated Jan 11, 2024
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(Image credit: Maxwell Ryan)

Steam pipes aren’t just eyesores: If you’ve ever knocked up against a steam pipe in the bathroom of an old apartment, you know that they can be downright painful, too. To give these industrial-looking pipes a little character and make them a little more tolerable to the touch, try wrapping hot pipes in rope.

We thought that this would be hard to do in our bathroom. It wasn’t. And yet it has totally changed the rusty, scalding pipe in our bathroom into a decor moment that we are very happy with. If you ever want to cover up a pipe and provide some minimal insulation, this is a far nicer fix than insulation foam. Here’s what you’ll need and how to do it.


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How to Wrap a Steam Pipe:

For the 6 feet of pipe that we were going to cover we estimated that we needed about 50 feet of 1/4-inch manila rope, but we bought 100 feet of it because it was only 20 cents a foot. The total bill was $20. We needed every bit.

1. Start wrapping from the bottom.

Starting at the bottom, we held 5 inches of rope up the pipe while we wrapped it firmly in the first coils. In this way it locked on itself and gave us a firm staring point with the coils starting flush at the floor.

2. Keep wrapping upward.

We then settled in for about 45 minutes of pipe wrapping. There is no secret to this except to be patient and keep the rope tight. Every now and then you can push down on the coils to keep them snug as well.

After each wrap you need to pull the rest of the rope through. We would pull the rope tight, place our foot on it to hold it tight and then quickly overhand the rope through, being careful not to let it snag or get knotted.

3. Finish by tucking the loose end under the coils.

At the end you finish off the way you started: Loosen up your top coils and snake your loose end through so that it pops through a gap in the coils about 5 inches from the top. Gently pulling it down and working the coils tight with your other hand the entire thing should lock up nicely.

You can then cut off the excess if you like or leave it. We left the excess on the back of our pipe to allow us to tighten it up if we ever needed to.