Insulation workers install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings or mechanical systems.
What they do
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 hand tools, 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.
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.
How to become an Insulation Worker
Most floor, ceiling, and wall insulators learn their trade on the job. Many mechanical insulators complete an apprenticeship program after earning a high school diploma or equivalent.
There are no specific education requirements for floor, ceiling, and wall insulators. Apprenticeships for mechanical insulators typically require a high school diploma or equivalent. High school courses in subjects such as math, mechanical drawing, and science are helpful for all types of insulators.
Most floor, ceiling, and wall insulators learn their trade on the job. New workers learn about installation and get mandatory Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety training on insulation handling and asbestos abatement. Beginning insulators work alongside more experienced ones to learn how to use equipment for installing spray insulation.
Many mechanical insulators learn their trade through a 4- to 5-year apprenticeship, which includes both technical instruction and paid on-the-job training.
Unions and individual contractors offer apprenticeships. Although most insulators start out by entering apprenticeships directly, others begin by working as helpers. The International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, an affiliate of the North American Building Trades Union, provides contact information on local union chapters.
Insulation workers who remove and handle asbestos must be trained through programs accredited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Some states require a license for asbestos abatement. Check with your state for more information. Mechanical insulators who complete an apprenticeship through the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers may receive this license as part of their apprenticeship.
The National Insulation Association offers a certification for mechanical insulators who conduct energy appraisals to determine if and how insulation can benefit industrial customers.
The median annual wage for insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall was $40,380 in May 2019. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $25,860, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $68,860.
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.
The need to make new and existing buildings and systems more energy efficient will drive the demand for mechanical insulation workers.
The amount of home building and retrofitting of insulation is linked to the employment of floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers over the coming decade.
Similar Job Titles
Attic Blower, Installer, Insulation Estimator, Insulation Installer, Insulation Mechanic, Insulation Worker, Insulator, Retrofit Installer, Spray Foam Installer, Warehouse Insulation Worker, Commercial Insulator, Heat and Frost Insulator, Industrial Insulator, Insulation Helper, Insulator, Mechanic Insulator, Mechanical Insulator, Boiler Coverer, Composition Weatherboard Installer
Construction Carpenters, Rough Carpenters, Cement Masons and Concrete Finishers, Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers, Roofers, Terrazzo Workers and Finishers, Helpers-Carpenters, Fence Erectors
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- Ceilings and Interior Systems Construction Association - CISCA members with their industry partners will identify, communicate and nurture industry specific trends, diversity and growth for the interior specialty, acoustical products and wall construction industry.
- Insulation Contractors Association of America - ICAA’s mission is to assist its members by developing and executing programs to keep them on the leading edge in the rapidly changing world of insulation.
- National Insulation Association - NIA is a not-for-profit organization representing all facets of the commercial, industrial, and mechanical insulation industry. NIA is led and funded by its members, and it operates through a committee structure.
- Structural Insulated Panel Association - SIPA is a non-profit trade association representing manufacturers, suppliers, dealer/distributors, design professionals, and builders committed to providing quality structural insulated panels for all segments of the construction industry.
- International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers - The primary focus of the union is to assist its membership in securing employment, to defend their rights and advance their interests as working men and women, and by education and cooperation, raise them to that position in society to which they are justly entitled.
Magazines and Publications
Keeping out the winter chill… and staying cool inside when outdoor temperatures rise… insulation maintains conditions at the right temperature and humidity both for human comfort and safe operation of equipment. Insulation workers install and replace insulation materials for buildings and mechanical systems – to balance temperatures and save on energy. These workers remove old insulation and safely dispose of it. Using blueprints to guide their work, they use math skills to figure out the insulation needed, and to measure and cut it accurately. Insulation workers are skilled with both power and manual tools for cutting materials, welding fittings and stapling insulation in place. They work full time, spending much of the day on their feet, bending, or kneeling in confined spaces. When needed, they wear suits, masks, and respirators to protect against hazards. There are two types of insulation workers: Floor, ceiling, and wall insulators install insulation indoors— in attics, under floors, and behind walls in homes and other buildings. Most work for drywall and insulation contractors. These workers learn on the job— no formal education is required. Mechanical insulators apply insulation both indoors and outdoors to equipment, pipes, or duct work at commercial buildings. Most work for building equipment contractors, or drywall and insulation contractors. Mechanical insulation workers typically complete a 4-year apprenticeship after earning a high school diploma or equivalent.