Insulation Workers

Summary

insulation workers image
Some insulation workers operate and maintain sprayers.
Quick Facts: Insulation Workers
2015 Median Pay $38,630 per year
$18.57 per hour
Typical Entry-Level Education See How to Become One
Work Experience in a Related Occupation None
On-the-job Training See How to Become One
Number of Jobs, 2014 55,600
Job Outlook, 2014-24 13% (Faster than average)
Employment Change, 2014-24 7,400

What Insulation Workers Do

Insulation workers install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings to help control and maintain the temperatures in buildings.

Work Environment

Insulation workers 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, often in confined spaces.

How to Become an Insulation Worker

Most floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers learn their trade on the job since no formal education is typically required. Most mechanical insulation workers complete an apprenticeship program after earning a high school diploma or equivalent.

Pay

The median annual wage for insulation workers was $38,630 in May 2015.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of insulation workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth rates, however, will vary by occupation. Floor, ceiling, and wall insulators are expected to face strong competition for jobs because they often compete with other construction trade workers.

State & Area Data

Explore resources for employment and wages by state and area for insulation workers.

Similar Occupations

Compare the job duties, education, job growth, and pay of insulation workers with similar occupations.

More Information, Including Links to O*NET

Learn more about insulation workers by visiting additional resources, including O*NET, a source on key characteristics of workers and occupations.

What Insulation Workers Do About this section

Insulation workers
Mechanical insulators install preformed insulation.

Insulation workers install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings and their mechanical systems to help control and maintain the temperatures in buildings. These workers are often referred to as insulators.

Duties

Insulation workers typically do the following:

  • Remove old insulation and dispose of it properly
  • Read blueprints and specifications to determine the requirements of the job
  • Determine the amount and type of insulation needed
  • Measure and cut insulation to fit into walls and around pipes
  • Fasten insulation in place with staples, tape, or screws
  • Use compressors to spray insulation into some spaces
  • Install plastic barriers to protect insulation from moisture
  • Follow safety guidelines

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

When renovating old buildings, insulators often must remove the old insulation. 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.

Insulation workers use common hand tools, such as knives and scissors. They also may use a variety of power tools, including power saws to cut insulating materials, welders to secure clamps, and staple guns to fasten insulation to walls. Some insulators use compressors to spray insulation.

Workers 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. Some workers, however, 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 steampipe, for example, they consider the temperature, thickness, and diameter of the pipe in determining the type of insulation to be used.

Work Environment About this section

Insulation workers
Insulators wear protective clothing that limits contact with irritants.

Insulators held about 55,600 jobs in 2014. Employment was split about evenly between mechanical insulators and floor, ceiling, and wall insulators.

The majority of floor, ceiling, and wall insulators were employed in the drywall and insulation contractors industry.

About 55 percent of mechanical insulators were employed in the building equipment contractors industry. Another 20 percent were employed in the drywall and insulation contractors industry in 2014.

Insulation workers 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 may also 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 About this section

Insulation workers
Mechanical insulators must be able to explain the cost savings from improved insulation.

Most floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers learn their trade on the job since no formal education is typically required. Most mechanical insulation workers complete an apprenticeship program after earning a high school diploma or equivalent.

Education

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

Training

Most floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers learn their trade on the job. New workers are provided basic instruction on installation and begin to place insulation immediately. 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.

Most mechanical insulation workers learn their trade through a 4-year apprenticeship. Some apprenticeships may last up to 5 years, depending on the program. For each year of a typical program, apprentices must have at least 1,700 to 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training and a minimum of 144 hours of related technical instruction. Technical instruction includes learning about installation techniques as well as basic mathematics, how to read and draw blueprints, general construction techniques, safety practices, and first aid.

Unions and individual contractors offer apprenticeship programs. Although most new workers start out by entering apprenticeships directly, others begin by working as helpers. Some apprenticeship programs have preferred entry for veterans. The basic qualifications required for entering an apprenticeship program are as follows:

  • Being 18 years old
  • Being physically able to do the work

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.

Insulation contractor organizations offer voluntary certification to help workers prove their skills and knowledge of residential and industrial insulation.

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

Important Qualities

Dexterity. Insulation workers must be able to work in confined spaces while maintaining coordination and control of tools and materials. Also, insulators often must reach above their heads to fit and fasten insulation into place.

Math Skills. Mechanical insulators need to measure the size of the equipment or pipe they are insulating. This is especially important when insulation is formed off site so that additional cuts are unnecessary.

Mechanical skills. Insulation workers 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 a compressor and sprayer to spread the foam onto walls or across attics.

Physical stamina. Insulators may spend up to 12 hours a day standing, reaching, and bending. Workers should be able to stay physically active without getting tired.

Pay About this section

Insulation Workers

Median annual wages, May 2015

Insulation workers, mechanical

$43,610

Construction trades workers

$41,020

Insulation workers

$38,630

Total, all occupations

$36,200

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

$35,040

 

The median annual wage for insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall was $35,040 in May 2015. 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 $23,140, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $61,980.

The median annual wage for insulation workers, mechanical was $43,610 in May 2015. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $27,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,710.

The starting pay for apprentices is usually near 50 percent of what fully trained insulators make. As apprentices learn to do more, they receive pay increases.

In some areas, workers receive a per diem to offset travel costs.

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.

Union Membership

Compared with workers in all occupations, insulation workers had a higher percentage of workers who belonged to a union in 2014.

Job Outlook About this section

Insulation Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24

Insulation workers, mechanical

19%

Insulation workers

13%

Construction trades workers

10%

Total, all occupations

7%

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

6%

 

Overall employment of insulation workers is projected to grow 13 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Growth rates, however, will vary by occupation.

Employment of mechanical insulation workers is projected to grow 19 percent from 2014 to 2024, much 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. In the past, mechanical insulation had been reduced or cut from building plans as a cost-saving method, but energy analyses show that improved insulation provides a greater return on investment. The anticipated construction of new power plants, which are big users of insulated pipes and equipment, also should result in greater employment demand. In addition, jobs are being created that are related to the extraction and transportation of oil and natural gas.

Employment of floor, ceiling, and wall insulators is projected to grow 6 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Increases in home building will spur employment growth over the coming decade. In addition, insulation will continue to be added into existing buildings to save energy.

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. Workers with military service experience are viewed favorably during initial hiring.

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.

Employment projections data for insulation workers, 2014-24
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Insulation workers

47-2130 55,600 63,000 13 7,400 [XLSX]

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

47-2131 25,600 27,100 6 1,500 [XLSX]

Insulation workers, mechanical

47-2132 30,100 35,900 19 5,800 [XLSX]

State & Area Data About this section

Occupational Employment Statistics (OES)

The Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program produces employment and wage estimates annually for over 800 occupations. These estimates are available for the nation as a whole, for individual states, and for metropolitan and nonmetropolitan areas. The link(s) below go to OES data maps for employment and wages by state and area.

Projections Central

Occupational employment projections are developed for all states by Labor Market Information (LMI) or individual state Employment Projections offices. All state projections data are available at www.projectionscentral.com. Information on this site allows projected employment growth for an occupation to be compared among states or to be compared within one state. In addition, states may produce projections for areas; there are links to each state’s websites where these data may be retrieved.

Career InfoNet

America’s Career InfoNet includes hundreds of occupational profiles with data available by state and metro area. There are links in the left-hand side menu to compare occupational employment by state and occupational wages by local area or metro area. There is also a salary info tool to search for wages by zip code.

Similar Occupations About this section

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION Help 2015 MEDIAN PAY Help
Carpenters

Carpenters

Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures—such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, rafters, and bridge supports—made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.

High school diploma or equivalent $42,090
Construction laborers and helpers

Construction Laborers and Helpers

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

See How to Become One $30,890
Drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers

Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers, and Tapers

Drywall and ceiling tile installers hang wallboard and install ceiling tile inside buildings. Tapers prepare the wallboard for painting, using tape and other materials. Many workers both install and tape wallboard.

No formal educational credential $40,470
Roofers

Roofers

Roofers replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings using a variety of materials, including shingles, bitumen, and metal.

No formal educational credential $36,720
Sheet metal workers

Sheet Metal Workers

Sheet metal workers fabricate or install products that are made from thin metal sheets, such as ducts used in heating and air conditioning systems.

High school diploma or equivalent $45,750

Contacts for More Information About this section

For details about apprenticeships or other opportunities for insulation workers, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local insulation contractors or firms that employ insulators, or local union–management apprenticeship committees. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor's ApprenticeshipUSA program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about apprenticeship or training for insulation workers, visit

National Insulation Association

NCCER

International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers

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, 2016-17 Edition, Insulation Workers,
on the Internet at http://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/insulation-workers.htm (visited May 28, 2016).

Publish Date: Thursday, December 17, 2015

What They Do

The What They Do tab describes the typical duties and responsibilities of workers in the occupation, including what tools and equipment they use and how closely they are supervised. This tab also covers different types of occupational specialties.

Work Environment

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How to Become One

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Pay

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State & Area Data

The State and Area Data tab provides links to state and area occupational data from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) program, state projections data from Projections Central, and occupational information from the Department of Labor's Career InfoNet.

Job Outlook

The Job Outlook tab describes the factors that affect employment growth or decline in the occupation, and in some instances, describes the relationship between the number of job seekers and the number of job openings.

Similar Occupations

The Similar Occupations tab describes occupations that share similar duties, skills, interests, education, or training with the occupation covered in the profile.

Contacts for More Information

The More Information tab provides the Internet addresses of associations, government agencies, unions, and other organizations that can provide additional information on the occupation. This tab also includes links to relevant occupational information from the Occupational Information Network (O*NET).

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

Work experience in a related occupation

Work experience that is commonly considered necessary by employers, or is a commonly accepted substitute for more formal types of training or education.

Number of Jobs, 2014

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2014, which is the base year of the 2014-24 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2014-24

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Entry-level Education

Typical level of education that most workers need to enter this occupation.

On-the-job Training

Additional training needed (postemployment) to attain competency in the skills needed in this occupation.

Employment Change, projected 2014-24

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2014 to 2024.

2015 Median Pay

The wage at which half of the workers in the occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. Median wage data are from the BLS Occupational Employment Statistics survey. In May 2015, the median annual wage for all workers was $36,200.