Career and Job Highlights
Insulation is important in construction because it minimizes energy use in homes and commercial structures. Other structures that use insulation are chilled storage rooms, containers, storage units, boilers, and water pipes. Insulation keeps heat from dissipating which then reduces the amount of energy used.
The daily work of insulation workers consists of cementing, nailing, taping, or using another adhesive to install installation. For instance, an insulation worker might need to insulate a steam pipe. First they calculate and shape the amount of insulation they need. The insulation has a slit running the length of it, which they spread open and fasten around the pipe. They finish by securing it with glue, tape, or staples, or wire. Alternately, they might cover the insulation with aluminum foil, cloth, or plastic and secure that into place. Workers often attach sheet metal around pipes which shields it from wetness or rough handling and makes it last longer.
When installing insulation on a wall panel, workers often use a sprayer which shoots foam insulation onto a wall. Before applying the foam, workers install a wire screen that the foam can stick to and that makes the wall sounder. To finish the wall, workers may use drywall or plaster.
When applying insulation in attics or outside walls, workers use loose filler insulation. An assistant supplies a machine with insulation materials like rock wool, cellulose, or fiberglass. At the same time a worker uses as high powered hose to push insulation into the wall or attic.
When building new structures or completely remodeling old ones, workers usually staple sheets of batting made of rock wool or fiberglass directly onto outside walls and ceilings. Workers can then finish the walls and ceiling with plaster or drywall. Oftentimes renovation work means that workers first have to dispose of the old insulation. Asbestos used to be a common insulation material, but now it has been proven to cause lung diseases, and so asbestos is being replaced with newer, safer, materials by order of the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Removing asbestos requires special licensure and so specialized workers are usually called in to dispose of it before insulation workers can install new insulation.
Insulation Worker Career Training and Job Qualifications
The majority of installation workers do not have formal training, but learn their skills from experience. Hirers look for applicants who have a high school diploma or equivalent, are physically fit, and who have driver’s licenses. Classes or background in reading blueprints, math, physics, chemistry, wood shop, metal shop, or construction techniques is beneficial.
Most new workers start out as assistants and perform simple jobs, like transporting materials, under the close supervision of professionals. Those professionals will also give them advice and training, and with experience trainees will be given more responsibility (and higher wages) and be less closely supervised. Entering the profession this way can take a lot of time, sometimes up to two years. Currently, contractor organizations are proposing a licensure program for installation workers that will help them get better and more diverse skills. Installing insulation in residential areas usually takes less instruction than installing insulation in commercial buildings.
Many workers, however, prefer to enter the profession by completing a formal apprenticeship. Apprenticeships provide very thorough and comprehensive training in every aspect of insulation. Most programs are administered by an organization that consists of both local contractors and members of regional chapters of the International Association of Heat and Frost insulators and Asbestos Workers. Many insulation workers are member of this association. Applicants for apprenticeships should be high school graduates (or have an equivalent degree) and be eighteen or older. Apprenticeships usually take four years to complete and consist of both coursework and practical instruction. Usually apprentices also have to take written and applied exams.
With experience and skill insulation workers can be promoted to supervisory positions, become an estimator, shop superintendent, or even start their own insulation shop.
Job and Employment Opportunities for Insulation Workers
Prospects for those entering the industry are projected to be excellent. There is high turnover in this occupation as it doesn’t require large investments of training or education. This means that there are always many job openings. Also, many people don’t want to work in such a physically demanding position and so they look elsewhere for employment. Other job openings will result from retirements.
Aside from the need to fill vacancies left by workers leaving the industry, new positions will be created as the demand for workers grows at about the rate of the national average for all jobs. Most of this growth will be the result of increasing construction generally. Other jobs will be created as people become more interested in making their buildings energy efficient for environmental and economic reasons. Many people update their insulation to remove asbestos or make their building more efficient, and many others build new homes or commercial structures that require the work of insulation workers.
The construction industry is notoriously susceptible to fluctuations in the economy. This is mostly due to the short-term nature of the work and the tendency of people to build new structures only during periods of economic growth. This means that insulation workers might have less stable work during economic downturns. However, they will have more stable employment than many others in the construction industry as insulation must be maintained, repaired, and replaced regardless of economic conditions. Also, many construction workers are at the mercy of the elements, but insulation workers will lose fewer workdays to inclement weather as most of their work is done indoors.
Historical Earnings Information
Insulation workers are paid hourly. The majority of workers made between $10.60/hour and $18.40/hour in 2002, with a median of $13.90/hour. The lowest tenth on the pay scale made under $8.50/hour and the highest tenth made over $26.30/hour.
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