Foam insulation wraps around the pipes in your home, providing insulation that might reduce your energy bills. When used on cold pipes, including air conditioning pipes, the insulation keeps cold air from escaping. Because the insulation is suitable for temperatures higher than 200 degrees, it also helps keep warm air inside your hot water pipes and heating lines. Painting the insulation is a simple method of hiding or decorating exposed pipes.
You can paint foam pipe insulation, provided you use the right type of paint. Thermal barrier paint is well suited for the job because it holds up well to high temperatures. The paint has a plain white color, but most home improvement stores can tint it to a different color. Because it dries in four hours or less, the job takes only a few short hours. You have the option of applying the paint with a sprayer, using a paint roller or a paintbrush.
Before painting the foam insulation, consider sanding the surface. Foam insulation is porous and contains small bumps and grooves on the surface, which creates an uneven finished look. Sanding the foam with fine-grit sandpaper creates a smoother surface for painting. If you sand the foam, wear a dust mask that covers your mouth and nose. The mask reduces the chances of inhaling foam particles.
Painting the Insulation
Protect any areas you do not want painted with masking tape or old newspaper taped down. The walls behind your pipes, any exposed areas of the pipes and appliances nearby are examples of things that do not require paint. Covering those areas is especially important if you use a paint sprayer, because you cannot easily control the paint coverage. Apply a thin layer of paint to the foam pipe insulation and let it dry for two hours. If the paint feels tacky or sticky, let it dry for another hour. Apply a second coat of paint to the insulation and, after drying, remove the tape or newspaper.
A foam paintbrush reduces the appearance of brushstrokes caused by traditional paintbrushes. After painting the foam, let the layer dry fully before applying a second layer. The total number of coats required depends on the shade you want and how much paint the foam absorbs. If the insulation appears dusty or dirty, wipe it clean with a damp cloth before painting, which reduces the chances of the dust sticking to the foam.
Jennifer Eblin has been a full-time freelance writer since 2006. Her work has appeared on several websites, including Tool Box Tales and Zonder. Eblin received a master's degree in historic preservation from the Savannah College of Art and Design.