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Summary

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Quick Facts: Insulation Workers
2019 Median Pay $44,180 per year
$21.24 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, 2018 58,600
Job Outlook, 2018-28 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2018-28 3,100

What Insulation Workers Do

Insulation workers install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings or mechanical systems.

Work Environment

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, often in confined spaces.

How to Become an Insulation Worker

Floor, ceiling, and wall insulators typically learn their trade on the job. Mechanical insulators may complete an apprenticeship program after earning a high school diploma or equivalent.

Pay

The median annual wage for insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall was $40,380 in May 2019.

The median annual wage for insulation workers, mechanical was $48,690 in May 2019.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of insulators is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth rates, however, will vary by occupation. Floor, ceiling, and wall insulators may face strong competition for jobs because of the occupation’s relatively few entry requirements.

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, also called insulators, install and replace the materials used to insulate buildings or 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

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 handtools, 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.

Work Environment About this section

Insulation workers
Mechanical insulators often work in large industrial buildings.

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall held about 33,300 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall were as follows:

Drywall and insulation contractors 67%
Building equipment contractors 12
Nonresidential building construction 2
Self-employed workers 2
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 1

Insulation workers, mechanical held about 25,400 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of insulation workers, mechanical were as follows:

Building equipment contractors 57%
Drywall and insulation contractors 18
Other specialty trade contractors 8
Self-employed workers 2

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. 

Injuries and Illnesses

Common hazards for insulation workers include falls from ladders and cuts from knives. In addition, small particles from insulation materials 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, to protect against hazardous fumes or materials.

Mechanical insulators may get burns from insulating pipes that are in service.

Work Schedules

Most insulators work full time, and more than 40 hours a week may be required to meet construction deadlines. Those who insulate outdoors may not be able to work in bad weather, such as during a storm or in extreme heat or cold.

How to Become an Insulation Worker About this section

Insulation workers
Many insulators are trained on the job.

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. 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.

Training

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.

Licenses, Certifications, and 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

Advancement

After completing an apprenticeship, mechanical insulators reach journey-level status. After becoming journey workers, mechanical insulators may advance to supervisor or superintendent positions, or they may choose to start their own business offering mechanical insulation services.    

Important Qualities

Ability to work at heights. Insulators may be required to work high on ladders or scaffolds to install or remove insulation. 

Dexterity. To install insulation, insulators often must reach overhead, sometimes while confined in spaces where maneuvering is difficult.

Math skills. Insulators need to measure the equipment or areas they are insulating and to calculate the amount and dimensions of insulation needed.

Mechanical skills. Insulators must be adept at using a variety of handtools and power tools to install insulation.

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

Physical strength. Insulators may be required to lift or carry up to 50 pounds of tools or materials. 

Pay About this section

Insulation Workers

Median annual wages, May 2019

Insulation workers, mechanical

$48,690

Construction trades workers

$46,340

Insulation workers

$44,180

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

$40,380

Total, all occupations

$39,810

 

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.

The median annual wage for insulation workers, mechanical was $48,690 in May 2019. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,880, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $89,350.

In May 2019, the median annual wages for insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Nonresidential building construction $49,340
Building equipment contractors 44,750
Drywall and insulation contractors 39,350
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 35,220

In May 2019, the median annual wages for insulation workers, mechanical in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Other specialty trade contractors $57,910
Building equipment contractors 47,900
Drywall and insulation contractors 47,040

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

Most insulators work full time, and they sometimes need to work more than 40 hours a week to meet construction deadlines. Those who insulate outdoors may not be able to work in bad weather, such as during a storm or in extreme heat or cold.

Job Outlook About this section

Insulation Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2018-28

Construction trades workers

10%

Insulation workers, mechanical

9%

Insulation workers

5%

Total, all occupations

5%

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

3%

 

Overall employment of insulation workers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Growth rates, however, will vary by occupation.

Demand for mechanical insulation workers may be spurred by the need to make new and existing buildings more energy efficient.

Increases in home building and retrofitting insulation will spur employment growth for floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers over the decade.

Job Prospects

About 7,200 openings for insulation workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade.

Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who exit the labor force, such as to retire, and from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations.

Floor, ceiling, and wall insulators face competition for jobs because of the occupation’s relatively few entry requirements.

Mechanical insulation workers who have completed training should have the best opportunities.

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, 2018-28
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2018 Projected Employment, 2028 Change, 2018-28 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Insulation workers

47-2130 58,600 61,800 5 3,100 Get data

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

47-2131 33,300 34,200 3 900 Get data

Insulation workers, mechanical

47-2132 25,400 27,600 9 2,200 Get data

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.

CareerOneStop

CareerOneStop 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 on Entry-Level Education 2019 MEDIAN PAY Help on Median Pay
Carpenters

Carpenters

Carpenters construct, repair, and install building frameworks and structures made from wood and other materials.

High school diploma or equivalent $48,330
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 $36,000
Drywall and ceiling tile installers, and tapers

Drywall Installers, 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.

No formal educational credential $47,360
Roofers

Roofers

Roofers replace, repair, and install the roofs of buildings.

No formal educational credential $42,100
Boilermakers

Boilermakers

Boilermakers assemble, install, maintain, and repair boilers, closed vats, and other large vessels or containers that hold liquids and gases.

High school diploma or equivalent $63,100
Hazardous materials removal workers

Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

Hazardous materials removal workers identify and dispose of asbestos, lead, radioactive waste, and other hazardous materials.

High school diploma or equivalent $43,900
Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons

Masonry Workers

Masonry workers use bricks, concrete blocks, concrete, and natural and manmade stones to build masonry structures.

See How to Become One $46,500

Contacts for More Information About this section

For details about apprenticeships or other opportunities for insulators, contact the offices of the state employment service, the state apprenticeship agency, local insulation contractors, or firms that employ insulators. Apprenticeship information is available from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship program online or by phone at 877-872-5627. Visit Apprenticeship.gov to search for apprenticeship opportunities.

For more information about apprenticeship or training for insulators, visit

National Insulation Association

NCCER

International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers

North American Building Trades Union

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

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, Insulation Workers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/insulation-workers.htm (visited July 07, 2020).

Last Modified Date: Monday, May 11, 2020

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

The Work Environment tab includes the number of jobs held in the occupation and describes the workplace, the level of physical activity expected, and typical hours worked. It may also discuss the major industries that employed the occupation. This tab may also describe opportunities for part-time work, the amount and type of travel required, any safety equipment that is used, and the risk of injury that workers may face.

How to Become One

The How to Become One tab describes how to prepare for a job in the occupation. This tab can include information on education, training, work experience, licensing and certification, and important qualities that are required or helpful for entering or working in the occupation.

Pay

The Pay tab describes typical earnings and how workers in the occupation are compensated—annual salaries, hourly wages, commissions, tips, or bonuses. Within every occupation, earnings vary by experience, responsibility, performance, tenure, and geographic area. For most profiles, this tab has a table with wages in the major industries employing the occupation. It does not include pay for self-employed workers, agriculture workers, or workers in private households because these data are not collected by the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey, the source of BLS wage data in the OOH.

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 CareerOneStop.

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).

2019 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 2019, the median annual wage for all workers was $39,810.

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, 2018

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2018, which is the base year of the 2018-28 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2018-28

The projected percent change in employment from 2018 to 2028. The average growth rate for all occupations is 5 percent.

Employment Change, 2018-28

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

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 2018-28

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2018 to 2028.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2018 to 2028.

2019 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 2019, the median annual wage for all workers was $39,810.