Like most co-op homes in New York City that were built in the early 20th century, ours is heated by steam that runs up risers from a giant boiler in the basement and heats up radiators in each room. Love or hate it, steam heat is what it is, and so we deal. The two exposed pipes—one in the bathroom and one in the kitchen—get very hot. After scalding myself getting out of the shower our first winter here, I made wrapping the exposed heating pipes in rope my special project before the next cold wave. Many have asked how our rope-wrapped pipes are standing up to wear. Well, having just replaced the original manila rope in the bathroom with sisal rope, I thought I’d explain why.
As I mention in my step by step instructions for wrapping a heat pipe in rope, the original manila rope I’d used was, as all manila rope is, treated with oil—and the burn-off was pretty foul. It also didn’t wear especially well. At the joint where steam escapes, it became singed and blackened and started to disintegrate.
By this time, I had tackled the pipe in the kitchen by wrapping it in a different type of rope, sisal, which not only had no burn-off smell but also was better looking. (It looks like the world’s tallest cat scratching post, though sadly does not seem to appeal to our household’s furry feline.)
I bought the rope online in rolls of 100 ft. It takes 300 ft to cover the pipe from top to bottom, like I did in the kitchen, which has 8-1/2 foot ceilings. I also picked up a ceiling medallion to give the top of the pipe a finished look.
In the bathroom, which has 9 ft. ceilings, we chose to leave some of the pipe exposed at the top, as it is the only heat source in the bathroom.
Though this is a simple project, it isn’t easy. It’s painstaking to wrap the rope around the pipe, because there’s so little room between it and the wall. I had to unravel the tight spools that the rope came in and loop the rope around my arm, the way you would a garden hose, then pass these thinner batches of rope between the pipe and the wall, around and around and around. Because the rope has a tendency to get knotted if someone isn’t minding it while the other person’s wrapping, this is a two-man job. But one that’s definitely worth it.
Update: The sisal wore in the same place, which is where the pipe joint is. I believe it’s damp caused by release steam. I’m going to cut it away when the heat goes off this spring.