Summary

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Quick Facts: Insulation Workers
2016 Median Pay $39,280 per year
$18.89 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, 2016 59,500
Job Outlook, 2016-26 5% (As fast as average)
Employment Change, 2016-26 3,200

What Insulation Workers Do

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

Work Environment

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, often in confined spaces.

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.

Pay

The median annual wage for insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall was $35,660 in May 2016.

The median annual wage for insulation workers, mechanical was $45,430 in May 2016.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of insulators 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. 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, 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 About this section

Insulation workers
Mechanical insulators often work in large industrial buildings.

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 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. 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.

Pay About this section

Insulation Workers

Median annual wages, May 2016

Insulation workers, mechanical

$45,430

Construction trades workers

$42,310

Insulation workers

$39,280

Total, all occupations

$37,040

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

$35,660

 

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.

Job Outlook About this section

Insulation Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2016-26

Construction trades workers

11%

Insulation workers, mechanical

10%

Total, all occupations

7%

Insulation workers

5%

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

1%

 

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.

Employment projections data for insulation workers, 2016-26
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2016 Projected Employment, 2026 Change, 2016-26 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

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

Insulation workers

47-2130 59,500 62,700 5 3,200 employment projections excel document xlsx

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

47-2131 30,900 31,400 1 400 employment projections excel document xlsx

Insulation workers, mechanical

47-2132 28,600 31,400 10 2,800 employment projections excel document 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.

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 2016 MEDIAN PAY Help
Carpenters

Carpenters

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

High school diploma or equivalent $43,600
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 $32,230
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 $42,280
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 $37,760
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 $62,060
Hazardous materials removal workers

Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

Hazardous materials (hazmat) removal workers identify and dispose of asbestos, lead, radioactive waste, and other hazardous materials. They also neutralize and clean up materials that are flammable, corrosive, or toxic.

High school diploma or equivalent $40,640
Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons

Masonry Workers

Masonry workers, also known as masons, use bricks, concrete blocks, concrete, and natural and manmade stones to build walls, walkways, fences, and other masonry structures.

See How to Become One $41,330

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 ApprenticeshipUSA program online or by phone at 877-872-5627.

For more information about apprenticeship or training for insulators, visit

National Insulation Association

NCCER

International Association of Heat and Frost Insulators and Allied Workers

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 December 03, 2017).

Last Modified Date: Tuesday, November 14, 2017

What They Do

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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 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).

2016 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 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.

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, 2016

The employment, or size, of this occupation in 2016, which is the base year of the 2016-26 employment projections.

Job Outlook, 2016-26

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026. The average growth rate for all occupations is 7 percent.

Employment Change, 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

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 2016-26

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Growth Rate (Projected)

The percent change of employment for each occupation from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Number of New Jobs

The projected numeric change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

Projected Growth Rate

The projected percent change in employment from 2016 to 2026.

2016 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 2016, the median annual wage for all workers was $37,040.