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Insulation Workers

What Insulation Workers Do

Insulation workers install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings or mechanical systems.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPTjBhZ0Zuk

Work Environment

Insulators generally work indoors. Mechanical insulators work both indoors and outdoors, sometimes in extreme temperatures. They spend most of their workday standing, bending, or kneeling, often in confined spaces.

How to Become an Insulation Worker

Floor, ceiling, and wall insulators typically learn their trade on the job. Mechanical insulators may complete an apprenticeship program after earning a high school diploma or equivalent.

Pay

The median annual wage for insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall was $40,380 in May 2019.

The median annual wage for insulation workers, mechanical was $48,690 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of insulation workers is projected to grow 3 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. However, growth rates will vary by occupation.

Insulation workers, also called insulators, install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings or mechanical systems.

Duties

Insulators typically do the following:

  • Remove and dispose of old insulation
  • Review blueprints and specifications to determine the amount and type of insulation needed
  • Measure and cut insulation to fit into walls and around pipes
  • Secure insulation with staples, tape, or screws
  • Use air compressors to spray foam insulation
  • Install plastic barriers to protect insulation from moisture

Insulators install and replace the material that saves energy and helps reduce noise in buildings and around vats, vessels, boilers, steam pipes, and water pipes. Insulators also install fire-stopping materials to prevent the spread of a fire and smoke throughout a building.

Insulators often must remove old insulation when renovating buildings. In the past, asbestos—now known to cause cancer—was used extensively to insulate walls, ceilings, pipes, and industrial equipment. Because of the health risks associated with handling asbestos, hazardous materials removal workers or specially trained insulators must remove asbestos before workers begin installing new insulation.

Insulators use common handtools, such as knives, trowels, and scissors. They also may use a variety of power tools, such as welders to secure clamps, staple guns to fasten insulation to walls, and air compressors to spray insulation.

Insulators sometimes wrap a cover of aluminum, sheet metal, or plastic over the insulation. Doing so protects the insulation from contact damage and keeps moisture out.

Floor, ceiling, and wall insulators install insulation in attics, under floors, and behind walls in homes and other buildings. To fill the space between wall studs and ceiling joists, workers either unroll, cut, fit, and staple batts of insulation or spray foam insulation.

Mechanical insulators apply insulation to equipment, pipes, or ductwork in many types of buildings.

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall held about 34,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall were as follows:

Drywall and insulation contractors 67%
Building equipment contractors 11
Nonresidential building construction 2
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 1
Self-employed workers 1

Insulation workers, mechanical held about 27,300 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of insulation workers, mechanical were as follows:

Building equipment contractors 62%
Drywall and insulation contractors 18
Other specialty trade contractors 4
Self-employed workers 1

Insulators generally work indoors. Mechanical insulators work both indoors and outdoors, sometimes in extreme temperatures. They spend most of their workday standing, bending, or kneeling in confined spaces. Insulators may work at great heights on scaffolding, work platforms, or ladders. 

Injuries and Illnesses

Common hazards for insulation workers include falls from ladders and cuts from knives. In addition, small particles from insulation materials can irritate the eyes, skin, and lungs. To protect themselves, insulators must keep the work area well-ventilated and follow product and employer safety recommendations. They also may wear personal protective equipment (PPE), including suits, masks, and respirators, to protect against hazardous fumes or materials.

Mechanical insulators may get burns from insulating pipes that are in service.

Work Schedules

Most insulators work full time, and more than 40 hours a week may be required to meet construction deadlines. Those who insulate outdoors may not be able to work in bad weather, such as during a storm or in extreme heat or cold.

This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of insulation workers.

Occupation Job Duties Entry-Level Education Median Annual Pay, May 2019

Carpenters

Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,330

Construction Laborers and Helpers

Construction laborers and helpers perform many tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.

See How to Become One $36,000

Drywall Installers, Ceiling Tile Installers, and Tapers

Drywall and ceiling tile installers hang wallboard and install ceiling tile inside buildings. Tapers prepare the wallboard for painting.

No formal educational credential $47,360

Roofers

Roofers replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings.

No formal educational credential $42,100

Boilermakers

Boilermakers assemble, install, maintain, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.

High school diploma or equivalent $63,100

Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

Hazardous materials removal workers identify and dispose of harmful substances such as asbestos, lead, and radioactive waste.

High school diploma or equivalent $43,900

Masonry Workers

Masonry workers use bricks, concrete and concrete blocks, and natural and manmade stones to build structures.

See How to Become One $46,500

For details about apprenticeships or other opportunities for insulators, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local insulation contractors, or firms that employ insulators. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For more information about apprenticeship or training for insulators, visit

National Insulation Association

NCCER

International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers

North American Building Trades Union

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

O*NET

Insulation Workers, Floor, Ceiling, and Wall

Insulation Workers, Mechanical


Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Insulation Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/insulation-workers.htm (visited ).


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Kate Williams

Kate Williams is a business communications expert and is the editor of Job Affirmations. She is a professional resume writer and has studied Myers-Briggs personality types and how they influence career choice. Job Affirmations has hundreds of job descriptions categorized by the 16 Myers-Briggs types, by career interests and work values. Kate also shares her best writing tips including the proper formatting of emails and cover letters You'll find positive affirmations for work, inspirational quotes, career vision boards for your best year ever.

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