What Insulation Workers Do
Insulation workers install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings or mechanical systems.
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.
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.
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.
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|
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|
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.
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 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 replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings.
|No formal educational credential||$42,100|
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 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
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 ).