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How to DIY or hire someone to insulate my steam pipes???

I did as much research as possible here and on the web, so now it's time to ask questions.

I have an old house (1917) with radiators heated by a gas boiler. Our heating bill is insanely high (and we live in North Carolina, so it's not that cold). I believe the primary culprit is un-insulated pipes delivering the steam/water? to the radiators. It is a single story house with a sizeable crawlspace below. The pipes had aspestos insulation which was abated a year ago before we moved in. However, after removing the old insulation, nothing was installed to replace it.

So, the pipes are effectively heating the crawlspace (great for the snakes, but not great for me).

In looking around this site, I found recommendations for using Urethane or Fiberglass insulation. One of the Professionals recommended having someone do it because the price would be comparable and the job would look (and probably be) better.

One thing I've noticed on my house is the amount of "hack" work done by previous cheap labor. I don't want a hack job.

There are no professionals listed in my area. Oxford, NC near Raleigh/Durham, NC.

Any ideas???? Should I do it myself or hire someone? How do I sniff out the hack from the REAL professional.

Is McMaster-Carr my best bet or do I go to a local supply warehouse?? I've already established that Lowes and the like don't carry this stuff.



  • Steve Ebels
    Steve Ebels Member Posts: 904
    There's no

    There's no huge trick to it. You want to use the fiberglass stuff,(yea, I said fiberglass) with the white wrapping over it if you have steam. For hot water you can use the foam type. A simple hardwood mitre box and a sharp, long bladed knife from your kitchen will give you consistent angles for you 90 or 45* bends.

    Whether you do it yourself or not depends on your level of skill, patience to do it right and how much you hate itching for 2 days when finished.
  • Fred P
    Fred P Member Posts: 77
    I did it myself

    and its not that bad of a job if you take your time. I bought the fiberglass insulation at a local supply house rather then the Home Depot. Basically each piece is made with a slit across the bottom that allows you to push the fiberglass over the pipe and then you peel off the adhesive and seal the the slit end together. The nice thing about buying from a supply house is that they also provided me with the same colored white strip tape that allowed me to join two ends together with out showing the seams.

    Measure the diameter of your pipe and go the supply house. They have to determine what size to give you, I believe the fiberglass sizes are determined by the size of copper pipes that they go over and they have to adjust that for galvanized/steel pipes.

    Play it safe and buy 1 or 2 sizes ,go home and see which one fits, and then buy the rest.

    Oh yeah, you can also cut this stuff with a razor blade and a steady hand.

    Picture shows two ends not joined with white tape, make sure you ask for it to splice both ends in visible areas..makes for a neater job
  • Marc_3
    Marc_3 Member Posts: 9

    I rent a carriage house with steam heat. We live in a cape apartment above a 4 car garage (an assorted storage space). All of the pipes travel through the garage, and are uninsulated. How much does this kind of insulation cost per foot or yard (rough estimate)? My landlord is unlikely to handle the insulation, but if it is relatively inexpensive, I may be able to split it with her.

  • Marcus Mead_4
    Marcus Mead_4 Member Posts: 53

  • Fred P
    Fred P Member Posts: 77
    from what I remember

    each piece of fiber glass was 3 feet long and about $4 each
  • Marcus Mead_4
    Marcus Mead_4 Member Posts: 53
    I just did this!

    It was easy. I actually enjoyed it, compared to so many other jobs.

    I can be hard to find the insulation, or at least is was in Michigan.

    Try these guys:

    Midwest Sales
    Grand Rapids: 3223 3-Mile N.W.
    Grand Rapids, MI 49504
    Toll Free: 1-800-743-8720

    They were EXTREMELY helpful for me. You will need pipe diameters and lengths. I also reccomend using some duct tape to go over the self-adhesive strip,as mine tended to peel off on some of them.

    It's a little expensive, but pays off big time with heating bills, especially with a crawl space like that. The whole job for our 2000 SF house ran under $300, including shipping, and I had a lot left over.

    Good luck!

  • Fred P
    Fred P Member Posts: 77
    I think I saw on this site

    that there was a fire in one of the fiberglass factories, and as a result there is a shortage this year????
  • it will peel

    unless you "iron" it down after sticking it, with the smooth side of a utility knife, or similar.

    Every time.

  • Fred P
    Fred P Member Posts: 77
    Hey Noel,

    mine didnt peel at all..I just ran it down with my hand..and I made sure my hands were real clean so as not to leave dirty fingerprints on it
  • Good hands, Jim!

This discussion has been closed.