Pipe Insulation Types

Written by shane grey
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Pipe Insulation Types
Puffy, pink fibreglass insulation is available in rolls. (spiralling insulation image by jbattx from Fotolia.com)

Innovative manufacturers continually develop new wrappings for plumbing pipes. Although pipe insulation varies in appearance and design, all types achieve one of two important goals: they keep pipes from freezing or help hot water pipes retain heat. Understanding the applications of various pipe insulation types will help you choose the right pipe insulation for your job.

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Installed in residential and commercial structures prior to 1981 and subsequently banned, this material has the reputation of causing several forms of cancer. Asbestos is a mineral fibre and, applied as pipe insulation, appears as a blanket, tape or coating. Professionals must remove asbestos to ensure safety. If a homeowner suspects that asbestos insulation covers pipes, he should contact a local asbestos removal professional.


Typically available in small rolls, fibreglass pipe insulation is the same woolly material used for residential ceiling and wall insulation. You can wrap thin rolls of fibreglass around both hot and cold water pipes to decrease thermal transfer. Fibreglass is relatively easy to install. For fibreglass pipe insulation, a plumber unfolds a roll of the material and simply wraps the fibreglass around the pipes. Once finished wrapping, the plumber secures the fibreglass with tape. However, fibreglass pipe insulation installation is messy. Contact with fibreglass causes skin irritation and severe allergic reactions. Working with fibreglass insulation requires full body coverings, such as coveralls, goggles and face masks. Some manufacturers produce fibreglass insulation in rigid tubes that fit directly over pipes. The outside of rigid fibreglass insulation tubes comes with a protective plastic covering, reducing the skin exposure.

Mineral Wool Insulation

Mineral wool shares its appearance and woolly texture with fibreglass. However, mineral wool is a by-product of the steel industry. Mineral wool manufacturers combine basalt rock and steel slag to create the woolly mixture. You can purchase mineral wool insulation in loose, fabric-like rolls and compressed, rigid tubes. Because mineral wool insulation withstands exceedingly high temperatures, it frequently appears in industrial and manufacturing applications. Unlike fibreglass insulation, mineral wool insulation is non-combustible.

Foam Insulation

Manufacturers produce many types of foam insulation. Although the particular type of foam varies from extruded polystyrene to polythene, most manufacturers offer the insulation in rigid, pipe-fitting tubes. A single seam cuts across the length of the foam insulation's tube. An adhesive strip covers the insides of the seam's edges. To install foam insulation, a plumber fits the tube over a pipe, pulls the adhesive strip and presses the adjacent sides of the seam together to glue and bind the insulation.

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