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Job Outlook for:
Insulation Workers

SOC: 47-2131        OOH: U267

Insulation Workers
Quick Stats
Total Jobs in 2016 59,500
Expected Growth 5%    (As fast as average)
New Jobs To Be Added
from 2016 to 2026
3,200
Median Pay $35,000 to $54,999

 

 

Employment Outlook for Insulation Workers

Overall employment of insulation workers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2016 to 2026, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth rates, however, will vary by occupation.

Employment of mechanical insulation workers is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Demand for mechanical insulators will be spurred by the need to make new and existing buildings more energy efficient.

Employment of floor, ceiling, and wall insulators is projected to show little or no change from 2016 to 2026. Increases in home building and retrofitting insulation will spur employment growth over the coming decade, but the ability of other workers to install insulation will limit growth.

Job Prospects

Floor, ceiling, and wall insulators are expected to face competition for jobs, as they often compete with other construction trade workers and there are fewer job entry requirements for these insulators. Job openings will continue to arise because the difficult working conditions cause many insulation workers in residential construction to leave the occupation each year.

Mechanical insulation workers who have completed training should have the best job opportunities. In fact, overall opportunities for mechanical insulators should be very good as new construction continues to grow, as the increased focus on maintenance and retrofitting continues, and as government and private businesses strive for more energy efficiency.

Insulation workers in the construction industry may experience periods of unemployment because of the short duration of many construction projects and the cyclical nature of construction activity. Workers employed to perform industrial plant maintenance generally have more stable employment because maintenance and repair must be done regularly.

 

 


 

Typical Pay for Insulation Workers

The median annual wage for insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall was $35,660 in May 2016. 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 $23,380, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,520.

The median annual wage for insulation workers, mechanical was $45,430 in May 2016. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $28,920, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $84,230.

In May 2016, the median annual wages for insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Building equipment contractors $39,970
Nonresidential building construction 39,280
Drywall and insulation contractors 34,570
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 34,340

In May 2016, the median annual wages for insulation workers, mechanical in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Other specialty trade contractors $47,720
Drywall and insulation contractors 46,510
Painting and wall covering contractors 46,460
Building equipment contractors 43,630

The starting pay for apprentices is less than that of a fully trained insulator. Apprentices earn more pay as they acquire more skills.

Although most insulators work full time, sometimes they may need to work more than 40 hours a week to meet construction schedules. Those who insulate outdoors may have to stop work when it rains or during very cold weather.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, insulators had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2016.



 

What Insulation Workers Do All Day

Insulation workers, also called insulators, install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings and their 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

Insulated buildings save energy by keeping heat in during the winter and out in the summer. Insulated vats, vessels, boilers, steam pipes, and water pipes prevent the loss of heat or cold and prevent burns. In addition, insulation helps reduce noise that passes through walls and ceilings.

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 this danger, hazardous materials removal workers or specially trained insulators are required to remove asbestos before workers can begin installation.

Insulators use common hand tools, such as knives and scissors. They also may use a variety of power tools, such as power saws to cut insulating materials, 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 vapor barrier (plastic sheeting) 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. Most of these workers unroll, cut, fit, and staple batts of fiberglass insulation between wall studs and ceiling joists. Alternatively, some workers spray foam insulation with a compressor hose into the space being filled.

Mechanical insulators apply insulation to equipment, pipes, or ductwork in businesses, factories, and many other types of buildings. When insulating a steam pipe, for example, they consider the diameter, thickness, and temperature of the pipe in determining the type of insulation to be used.

 



 

Work Environment for Insulation Workers

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall held about 30,900 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall were as follows:

Drywall and insulation contractors 68%
Building equipment contractors 10
Self-employed workers 5
Nonresidential building construction 3
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 3

Insulation workers, mechanical held about 28,600 jobs in 2016. The largest employers of insulation workers, mechanical were as follows:

Building equipment contractors 55%
Drywall and insulation contractors 17
Other specialty trade contractors 10
Self-employed workers 5
Painting and wall covering contractors 2

Insulators generally work indoors in residential and commercial settings. Mechanical insulators work both indoors and outdoors. They spend most of their workday standing, bending, or kneeling in confined spaces.

Injuries and Illnesses

Although installing insulation is not inherently dangerous, falls from ladders and cuts from knives are common hazards. In addition, small particles from insulation materials, especially when sprayed, 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, which protects against hazardous fumes or materials.

Mechanical insulators may get burns from the pipes they insulate if the pipes are in service.

Work Schedules

Although most insulators work full time, more than 40 hours a week may be required to meet construction schedules. Those who insulate outdoors may have to stop work when it rains or during very cold weather.

 


 

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.

Education

There are no specific education requirements for floor, ceiling, and wall insulators. Mechanical insulators should have a high school diploma. High school courses in basic math, woodworking, mechanical drawing, algebra, and general science are considered helpful for all types of insulators.

Training

Most floor, ceiling, and wall insulators learn their trade on the job. New workers are provided basic instruction on installation as well as mandatory Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety training on handling insulation and asbestos. Insulators who install blown or sprayed insulation will work alongside more experienced workers to learn how to operate equipment before being tasked with leading a spray installation job.

Many mechanical insulators learn their trade through a 4-year apprenticeship. Some apprenticeships may last up to 5 years. For each year of a typical program, apprentices complete at least 144 hours of technical instruction and 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training.

Unions and individual contractors offer apprenticeship programs. 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 provides contact information on local union chapters.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Insulation workers who remove and handle asbestos must be trained through a program accredited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The National Insulation Association offers a certification for mechanical insulators who conduct energy appraisals to determine if and how insulation can benefit industrial customers.

Important Qualities

Dexterity. Insulators often reach above their heads to install insulation, sometimes in confined spaces, where maneuvering can be difficult.

Math skills. Mechanical insulators need to measure the size of the equipment or pipe they are insulating to determine the amount and dimensions of insulation needed.

Mechanical skills. Insulators use a variety of hand and power tools to install insulation. Those who apply foam insulation, for example, must be able to operate and maintain an air compressor and sprayer to spread the foam onto walls or across attics.

Physical stamina. Insulators spend much of the workday standing, kneeling, and bending in uncomfortable positions.

 

 

 

 

 

"Insulation Workers"   SOC:  47-2131     OOH Code: U267

Thank you BLS.gov.