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Childproofing Heating Pipes: How To and With What?

September 10, 2012

We insulated our pipes with fiberglass shell pipe insulation

Whether you live in Brooklyn or Portland, exposed heating pipes in older homes can give kids some nasty burns. The question is: how to do this effectively and also have it look nice?

We opted for a clean-looking, minimal solution at our place: fiberglass shell pipe insulation. My husband and I went to the hardware store, unsure of what to use, but found a paper wrapped insulation that is easy to install.  It is called Fiberglass Shell Pipe Insulation and comes in white and in various pipe sizes (1/2″ to 3″) and is shaped in a semi circle. The insulation is slit on one side so you can fit it around your pipe and then secure it on with the sticky side of the paper.  The piping isn’t usually tall enough for childproofing needs, so stack two on top of each other.

Fiberglass Shell Pipe insulation

Hide the seam with artists’ tape (easily purchased from an art store). It is the same color as the piping paper, so it looks sweet! (We have had this installed for 4 years and it still looks great.)

Purchase 1" artist tape to hide the seam

Another method was suggested by a reader, Mary from PA (her photo is below).  Here is her solution: “So after laying a huge guilt trip on my husband, he bought 1/2″ black foam insulation and 100ft of sisal rope to see which one might work best. I wanted to try the sisal rope first because it would look better and because the babies might chew the foam.  We used about 10 yards of sisal rope (not too thin) and it took about 45 min to wrap.  Twice during the wrapping, we stopped and held it in place with a thin zip tie so that what we had accomplished didn’t unravel.  We removed those later. It took a while to wrap the rope but it looks great.   I’ll be curious, though, to see if the cat uses it as a scratching post!”

From reader Mary in Pennsylvania. Sisal-roped pipe!

One of my favorite design blogs, Apartment Therapy, doesn’t like the insulation foam and prefers manila rope and suggests getting 1/4″ manila rope at about 100 feet of it for a 6 foot pipe.  A commenter complained that the manila rope that they installed smelled with the heat and suggested using biodegradable sisal instead. Here is how the manila rope wrapping looked:

Photo courtesy of Apartment Therapy

I think that if you use sisal, you should try and use a thick sisal- it’s less wrapping and it looks better on a tall pipe.

If you are looking for solutions on how to childproof radiators, visit our post here.

Meanwhile, anyone out there like their solution for childproofing their steam pipe and care to give the rest of us your particulars?