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.

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

What Do Heat and Frost Insulation Workers Do?

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.

Career Snapshot

Heat/Frost Insulation Workers install, replace, line and cover structures with materials used to insulate buildings or mechanical systems.  May work with batt, roll, or blown insulation materials.  Heat/Frost Insulator Workers generally work indoors. They spend most of their workday standing, bending, or kneeling, often in confined spaces.

(Other job titles in this sub-sector may include:  Insulation Mechanic, Attic Blower, Warehouse Insulation Worker, Retrofit Installer, Insulation Worker, Installer, Insulation Installer, Spray Foam Installer, Insulator, Insulation Estimator)

 

Job Details

Heat/Frost Insulation Workers 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
  • Load materials into construction equipment
  • Apply sealants or other protective coatings

Education and Experience

Floor, ceiling, and wall Insulation Workers typically learn their trade on the job.

Career Outlook

  • Annual pay: In 2019, Insulation Workers earned an average salary of $40,000
  • Employment growth forecast 2018-2028: 5%
  • Entry-level education: There are no specific education requirements for floor, ceiling, and wall insulators

Career Growth Opportunity

Floor, ceiling, and wall Insulation Workers may face competition for jobs because of the occupation’s relatively few entry requirements.  However, increases in home building and retrofitting insulation will spur employment growth for floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers over the decade.  After completing an apprenticeship, insulators reach journey-level status. After becoming journey workers, insulators may advance to supervisor or superintendent positions, or they may choose to start their own business offering insulation services.    

Professional Associations

  • Insulation Contractors Association of America - ICAA represents professional residential and commercial insulation contractors.
  • International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators - This union insulation industry specializes in providing customers with the highest-skilled and best-trained workers in the industry. This is accomplished by providing apprentices and journeymen with the most current and state-of-the-art training available.
  • National Insulation Association - NIA is a non-profit trade association representing merit (open shop) and union contractors, distributors, laminators, fabricators, and manufacturers that provide thermal insulation, insulation accessories, and components to the commercial, mechanical, and industrial markets throughout the nation.
  • 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.
  • Central States Insulation Association - This organization is a non-profit trade association dedicated to working with its member firms and their labor counterparts, the International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers, to ensure that their customers get the best engineered, installed and maintained mechanical insulation systems.
  • North American Insulation Manufacturers Association – This organization brings together North American manufacturers of fiberglass and mineral wool insulation products
  • Consortium for Energy Efficiency - The CEE was developed by a group of Canadian and US energy efficiency managers with the goal of creating energy-effective products, services, and buildings.
  • Refrigerating Engineers and Technicians Association - RETA is an international society of individuals and companies involved in the design, operation and service of industrial refrigeration systems. Its purpose is to provide education and training, as well as networking benefits, to both experienced operators and those who have recently entered this rapidly expanding field.
  • Home Builders Institute - This organization’s mission is to advance and provide education, career development, training and placement of men and women serving the building industry.
  • Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. - ABC's mission is the advancement of the merit shop construction philosophy, which encourages open competition and a free enterprise approach that awards contracts based solely on merit, regardless of labor affiliation.
  • National Association of Home Builders  - NAHB represents the largest network of craftsmen, innovators and problem solvers dedicated to building and enriching communities operating at the local, state and national levels.
  • National Center for Construction Education and Research (NCCER) - This mission of this organization is to build a safe, productive and sustainable workforce of craft professionals.  Their vision is to be universally recognized by industry and government as the training, assessment, certification and career development standard for construction and maintenance craft professionals.
  • The Associated General Contractors of America - The Associated General Contractors of America works to ensure the continued success of the commercial construction industry by advocating for federal, state and local measures that support the industry.
  • National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies - Search here for NASCLA accredited electrical examination programs.

Publications

  • Insulation Nation - official magazine of ICAA
  • SelectSIPS Magazine - provides SIPA members another vehicle to reach a growing audience hungry for information about the industry's products and services.

Licenses, Certifications, Registrations

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. Mechanical insulators also may receive certification in other job duties, such as fire stopping