Bureau of Labor Statistics

Insulation Workers

insulation workers image
Insulators must wear safety gear when working in confined spaces.
Quick Facts: Insulation Workers
2020 Median Pay $45,820 per year
$22.03 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, 2020 61,500
Job Outlook, 2020-30 5% (Slower than average)
Employment Change, 2020-30 3,100

Summary

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 $41,690 in May 2020.

The median annual wage for insulation workers, mechanical was $50,030 in May 2020.

Job Outlook

Overall employment of insulation workers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 6,100 openings for insulation workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

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

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

Insulation workers
Mechanical insulators often work in large industrial buildings.

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall held about 33,300 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall were as follows:

Drywall and insulation contractors 67%
Building equipment contractors 13
Nonresidential building construction 2
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 1
Self-employed workers 1

Insulation workers, mechanical held about 28,200 jobs in 2020. The largest employers of insulation workers, mechanical were as follows:

Building equipment contractors 61%
Drywall and insulation contractors 21
Other specialty trade contractors 3
Self-employed workers 1

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

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

Insulation Workers

Median annual wages, May 2020

Insulation workers, mechanical

$50,030

Construction trades workers

$47,480

Insulation workers

$45,820

Total, all occupations

$41,950

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

$41,690

 

The median annual wage for insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall was $41,690 in May 2020. 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 $26,720, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $74,540.

The median annual wage for insulation workers, mechanical was $50,030 in May 2020. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $32,830, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $91,120.

In May 2020, 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 $49,710
Building equipment contractors 45,660
Drywall and insulation contractors 40,640
Foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors 36,580

In May 2020, the median annual wages for insulation workers, mechanical in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Other specialty trade contractors $67,200
Drywall and insulation contractors 50,500
Building equipment contractors 48,410

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

Insulation Workers

Percent change in employment, projected 2020-30

Total, all occupations

8%

Construction trades workers

5%

Insulation workers, mechanical

5%

Insulation workers

5%

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

5%

 

Overall employment of insulation workers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Despite limited employment growth, about 6,100 openings for insulation workers are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Most of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

The continuing need to make new and existing buildings and systems more energy efficient will drive the demand for mechanical insulation workers.

The amount of new home building and retrofitting of existing insulation will continue to be linked to the employment of floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers over the projections decade.

Employment projections data for insulation workers, 2020-30

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

Occupational Title

Insulation workers

SOC Code47-2130
Employment, 202061,500
Projected Employment, 203064,600
Percent Change, 2020-305
Numeric Change, 2020-303,100
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Insulation workers, floor, ceiling, and wall

SOC Code47-2131
Employment, 202033,300
Projected Employment, 203034,900
Percent Change, 2020-305
Numeric Change, 2020-301,600
Employment by IndustryGet data
Occupational Title

Insulation workers, mechanical

SOC Code47-2132
Employment, 202028,200
Projected Employment, 203029,600
Percent Change, 2020-305
Numeric Change, 2020-301,400
Employment by IndustryGet data

State & Area Data

Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS)

The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) 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

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

Occupation Job Duties ENTRY-LEVEL EDUCATION 2020 MEDIAN PAY
Carpenters Carpenters

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

High school diploma or equivalent $49,520
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 $37,080
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.

No formal educational credential $48,830
Roofers Roofers

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

No formal educational credential $43,580
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 $65,360
Hazardous materials removal workers Hazardous Materials Removal Workers

Hazardous materials removal workers identify and dispose of harmful substances such as asbestos, lead, and radioactive waste.

High school diploma or equivalent $45,270
Brickmasons, blockmasons, and stonemasons Masonry Workers

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

See How to Become One $47,710

Contacts for More Info

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

Last Modified Date: Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suggested citation:

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Insulation Workers,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/construction-and-extraction/insulation-workers.htm (visited October 18, 2021).

Telephone: 1-202-691-5700 www.bls.gov/ooh Contact OOH

View this page on regular www.bls.gov

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