Pipe Insulation–It’s Not Just For Insulating Pipes!


I was hoping to get to my second post a bit quicker than this.  Thankfully my delay in posting was due to a great visit from Nana and Papa and nothing medical in nature.  For my second post I though I would keep to the low-tech theme.

The Background

When we (my wife, J’s team, and I) ordered J’s wheelchair we included a tray.  We wanted J to have a surface both for activities and to help J prop into an upright position.  Due to J’s big (and sometimes uncontrolled) movements padding of that tray is very important.  The tray we choose had a clear hard plastic surface with a Velcro attachable pad.

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J’s tray without the padded cover.  Note the black lip around the edge.

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J’s tray with the padded cover.

The Problem

The problem with the tray was the lip around the outside.  You can see the black lip in the above pictures around the sides and front of the tray.  This lip’s purpose was to help contain activities onto the tray and reduce what would fall off onto the floor.  A good intention; however, it is very hard and has a pretty abrupt edge.  Combined with J’s movements and it resulted in bruises on J’s forearms.  We absolutely needed a padding solution  and fast!

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A close up of the hard edge.  Notice the abrupt shape of the top.

The Solution

This is one of those solutions that is one of those AT Dad gambles that turned out to be a Grand Slam.  While my wife, J’s PT, and I discussed different padding solutions versus various extensions to the tray to make it harder for J to strike the hard border, I proposed pipe wrap insulation as an easy (and inexpensive) solution.  AT Mom was a little hesitant.  I think she was concerned about how it would look.  After all, J would have the tray on most of the time and this would be a very visible modification.

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Two different types of pipe wrap insulation.  The black (top) one is rubber, the gray (bottom) is polyethylene.

Here comes the gamble – while AT Mom was at work one day, I ran out to the local hardware store and obtained a few different 6 foot lengths of pipe wrap insulation. I measured out a piece, cut it to length, and attached it to J’s tray. Not only did it cover and soften that lip, but it provided and even higher lip to help keep activities contained on J’s tray. It looked good to me, but the Grand Slam came when AT Mom got home from work. She took one look at it and reacted … “That actually looks good!”

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Close up of me attaching the pipe wrap insulation.  The greenish plastic is the tape covering the adhesive.

The Results

This is one of those modifications where the actual results far out  performed my expectations.  In fact, I think that this performed so well that AT Mom gave me a little more latitude in attempting a few of my more “interesting” ideas since then (yes, I will be adding some of those in future posts too).

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J grabbing onto the softer, gentler edge of the tray.

Not only does J have a softer edge to protect against those forearm bruises, but it is actually a softer edge to grab onto.  The tray’s lip is now bigger and better prevents activities from being accidentally swiped onto the ground.  According to AT Mom, it does not look half bad either! 

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Close up of how the pipe wrap insulation covers the tray’s original abrupt edge.

For those readers interested in replicating this at their home, here are some details. I recommend using the self sealing type of pipe wrap. This type is split down the middle and has adhesive on the split edges. You attach it by removing the plastic tape covering the adhesive and simply press it in place.

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J’s tray with the new pipe wrap insulation and padded cover.

Using the search term “self seal pipe wrap insulation” on HomeDepot.com returns a price range of $1.64 – $7.25 per 6 foot length (the results you see that cost more than $100.00 are per carton, not per 6 foot length). The price difference depends on the pipe diameter (1/2 inch, 3/4 inch, 1 inch) and the material (polyethylene or rubber). The pictures on this post are using the 1/2 inch rubber pipe wrap. I am actually replacing the 1/2 inch polyethylene wrap. Both work very well to pad the edges. The rubber has a bit more give to it and looks cleaner (smooth black finish instead of rough gray finish). My wife’s first reaction to the new rubber wrap was “I like that one more.”

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One more final shot of the end result.

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Categories: DIY, Low Tech, Newbie | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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