Sunday, November 6, 2016

House Post: What to do about this steam pipe?

Not a terribly exciting question, but one of interest to me.

See, the longterm plan is to get all of the radiators in the house sandblasted and repainted. We've done two so far. This summer was a bust in terms of getting them done; the house will be much further along for next summer, and that will be one of my main focuses. (We can't do them during the winter because then not only do we not have heat in a room for a few weeks, it's a PITA to cap off the steam pipe.)

Steam radiators work by having a furnace in the basement that superheats water, turns it into steam, and then sends that steam through pipes to the radiators. The hot steam works its way slowly through the coils of the radiators, heating them up, expelling extra air from the regulator at the end, and then condensing back to water at the bottom of the radiator and draining back down to the furnace, where the whole thing starts all over again.

We are really happy with the steam heat system, overall. It works amazingly well, heating up the house quickly and thoroughly, and after a little bit of adjustment I even find the sounds of the system working to be pleasant and reassuring.

In order for the steam to travel up to the second floor, many of the rooms on the first floor have steam pipes in the corner. They're also an additional source of heat. All of those pipes are currently painted to match the walls behind them - mostly cream or beige, matching the radiators themselves.

What to do about the steam pipe in my office, the first downstairs room we've renovated with a steam pipe?

Taking it out would be a HUGE hassle, so whatever I do has to be in place.

Right now, my best thought is that I could sand the paint off and repaint it to match the radiator, a chrome color. But I worry that that will be too distracting. There's also the fact that the paint might well contain lead - so I'll have to be VERY careful about the dust.

I can leave it as is - the paint is in more or less fine shape and the cream does work with the blue behind it. It's halfway behind a chair anyway, and the way you enter the room means your eye is not drawn to it.

What would you do?


  1. I had the same issue, although we did replace our radiators with furnaces so we could get central air in this house for the first time. We eventually cut all our pipes out with sawzalls.

    In the new kitchen, we left the steam pipe in place and designed the cabinets so that they had a board that went diagonally from one corner to another, so instead of a 90 degree corner in the back of the corner cabinet, the cabinet is hexagonal.

  2. Colorful insulation tape? Jute rope? (see last photo on this blog >

  3. wrap it in jute rope! looks great and makes a great kitty scratching post!

  4. I'm lazy and would leave it alone!


Thanks for commenting! It's great to hear from you.