Insulation of basement steam pipes
  • We have a nice and cozy warm basement. UNFORTUNATELY. The previous owners removed the asbestos insulation from the steam pipes in the basement when we moved in. Right now, we need to reinsulate them because we really don't need to keep the washer and dryer warm at our expense.

    I thought we could just go to Home Depot and pick up some fiberglas insulation for pipes and do it ourselves. Is this a DIY project, or am I missing something?
  • IMHO, this is a nice DIY project. Cover only the headers at the boiler and only the supply pipes in the basement.

    All the wet returns, including those at the boiler should be left unwrapped.

  • I'm a big fan of NJ Plumbing Supply on Newark Way as opposed to Home Depot. The insulation comes in 3 foot sections. You will want to figure out the pipe sizes and the amount of insulation needed for each pipe size.

    If memory serves me correctly, the insulation sizes are different for iron versus copper pipe even if the size of the pipe is the same. The pipe size is always the internal diameter. The insulation size varies because the wall thickness iron versus copper pipe is different. So, the outside diameter of 2" iron pipe will be greater than the outside diameter of 2" copper pipe. Also, while a standard residential steam main is 2" iron, there is a lot of non-standard piping in the world, so you need to check and measure.

    Web sites such as this one: will help explain the inside-outside diameters for different pipe materials.
  • I second NJ Plumbing supply wrapping the pipe work on the steam lines isn't really hard to do the elbows and tee's are tricky.
  • palmer plumbing has the insulation. the last basement we did dropped the temperature at least ten degrees.
  • were you successful at this? we have the same problem and were not sure if this was a DYI or if we should call in a contractor. The contractor we asked for a quote said it would be 500 for the insulation and 750 for the labor. seems a bit high. does anyone have any recommendations?
  • Really how much pipe are you covering?
  • Is it energy efficient to insulate basement steam pipes in a home where the floor of the room above (and for that matter the basement) is uninsulated? Wouldn't the heat help keep the 1st floor warmer?
  • Yes and the basement too.
  • We had the asbestos removed from our home just two days after closing on the purchase (7+ years ago). That winter our basement, like the OP's, was TOASTY warm. My DH bought the insulation and wrapped the pipes himself. It reduced the temperature in the basement significantly and hopefully helps ensure that we are heating our living space more efficiently. Well worth the effort and the minimal cost!
  • Grauer14 ,

    Wrapping the heating pipes with fiberglass insulation is DIY project, IMO. We had the asbestos insulation removed last year by American Eagle Abatement (973-686-3400). I then wrapped the pipes myself.

    After measuring the width of all the pipes, I went to HD and picked up the fiberglass insulation. I don't think I spent more than $200 or $300 to wrap about 100 feet of pipe. It may have been less than that, but I don't recall exactly. Anyhow, make sure you get those plastic tie-wraps to secure the insulation after you install it. I did this after I noticed that the glue that is supposed to seal the wrap around the pipe did not hold very well. I put a tie wrap every two to three feet.

    Make sure you wear gloves, a long sleeve tshirt that you will throw out, a mask and safety goggles. You don't want to get fiberglass on your skin, as it itches like crazy. It comes off with a good scrub, though. You will also need a utility knife and a 2x4 or other piece of wood so you can cut some of the insulation to fit some of the smaller pipe sections.

    Hope this helps.
  • Definitely DIY - I did it last year - covered most but left a few unwrapped to heat the basement. Huge difference in temperature.
  • The insulation sold at HD has inferior glue and does not stick for long. If you want to buy from HD and save money, use tie wraps to keep the insulation in place
  • katratcho - Out of curiosity, how much was the asbestos abatement? I'm assuming 10-20 feet of pipe? We've got some covered pipes in the laundry toom where the heater and boiler are, but the wraps are still tight. I can leave them, but if the cost isn't excessive we might put it on the to-do list.
  • Phil the plumber,

    I am not sure how many pipes exactly, an average maplewood basements worth I guess. would doing this also warm the rest of the house? right now our basement is toasty, our 1st floor a little less so and the 2nd floor a bit chilly. could insulating the basement pipes fix this odd phenomenon of the house getting cooler as you go up?
  • Your system may need to be balanced when you have it serviced ask the plumber what can be done, You may not have main vents or they may not be working properly. The radiators should all start getting hot about the same time if not then it needs to be looked at..
  • ctrzaska:
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