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Insulation Worker Job Description, Career as an Insulation Worker, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: On-the-job training

Salary: Median—$14.57 per hour for floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers; $16.03 per hour for mechanical insulation workers

Employment Outlook: Excellent

Definition and Nature of the Work

The amount of energy it takes to heat or cool a building is greatly influenced by amount and type of insulation in its walls, ceiling, and other spaces. In addition, boilers, steam pipes, refrigerated storage areas, and many kinds of industrial containers rely on insulation to maintain the proper temperature and reduce energy consumption. The people who install the materials that insulate these buildings and equipment are insulation workers.

Insulation workers use a wide variety of techniques to install many different kinds of insulation. These techniques include stapling, taping, spraying, cementing, and fastening with wire bands. Workers measure and cut insulation material to the proper size and shape, then fasten it using one of these methods. Sometimes they cover the insulation with another material, such as sheet metal, to protect it from being damaged by weather or other forces. When insulating pipes, insulation workers stretch the material open along a lengthwise cut and then slip it over the pipe. Walls and other flat surfaces are often insulated using wire mesh. This mesh, which is placed against the wall, provides a rough surface that a special form of foam insulation will stick to when sprayed on. The worker may then cover the foamed wall with drywall, plaster, or paneling.

Attics or outside walls of buildings are often insulated using a "loose-fill" insulation made of fiberglass, cellulose, or rock wool, which is blown into the open space with a special machine equipped with a compression hose.

Some insulation materials can be harmful if handled improperly, so insulation workers must be careful to follow appropriate handling guidelines. When applying new insulation in an older building, insulation workers must often remove old insulation before installing the new material. When the old insulation is made of a hazardous material such as asbestos, the insulation workers must enlist the services of a specially trained hazardous materials removal worker. In buildings being newly constructed, workers usually staple fiberglass or rock wool insulation into place before the final wall covering, such as drywall, paneling, or plaster, is put into place.

To insulate equipment, workers first cover the area with a base insulator. Then they clip, sew, or staple a canvas, tar paper, or cloth covering over the insulation. (© Martha Tabor/Working Images Photographs. Reproduced by permission.)

Most insulation workers are employed in the construction industry, but some also work in shipbuilding and other manufacturing industries that have a need for heating and cooling systems.

Education and Training Requirements

Most insulation workers learn the trade on the job, though internships are sometimes available. Employers generally prefer to hire applicants with at least a high school diploma, and high school coursework in shop or woodworking is helpful.

Getting the Job

The vast majority of insulation worker positions are with construction companies. A directory of area construction companies, or the local builder's association, can provide information on where to apply for one of these jobs.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

While insulation worker employment is expected to grow more slowly than average, the U.S. Department of Labor nevertheless considers the job outlook for insulation workers to be excellent. This is largely because many insulation workers leave the trade after a short time to pursue other types of work, which creates openings. Insulation workers who acquire a high level of skill may advance to supervisory positions or become insulation contract estimators. They may also branch out and start their own insulation companies.

Working Conditions

Insulation workers usually work indoors, sometimes in confined spaces. They must do a lot of standing, bending, kneeling, and ladder climbing. Some of the work requires the use of protective gear, such as masks, respirators, or even full suits. There is sometimes a danger of being burned when working with hot pipes.

Where to Go for More Information

National Insulation Association
99 Canal Center Plaza, Ste. 222
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 683-6422

Insulation Contractors Association of America
1321 Duke St., Ste. 303
Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 739.0356

Earnings and Benefits

Insulation workers who work on floors, ceilings, and walls earned a median hourly wage of $14.57 in 2005, while those who insulated mechanical devices made $16.03. Workers represented by a trade union tend to earn more than their nonunion counterparts. Union jobs are also much more likely to offer health insurance, vacation, and other benefits. Commercial and industrial insulation work tends to pay substantially better than residential insulation work.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesConstruction & Skilled Trades