Exploring this Job
Since some amount of training is required to do insulating work, there is no direct way for a young person to explore the field without being accepted into an apprenticeship program. However, a part-time or summer job as a helper in the building trades will provide useful introductory experience. You can also learn more about this field by talking to insulation workers about their careers. Ask them for advice on breaking into the field, what a typical day on the job is like, and other questions that will help you to better understand the work of insulators.
Insulation workers install material designed to help control and maintain temperature, deaden sound, and prevent condensation of moisture. In the winter, insulation slows the escape of warm air through walls, floors, and ceilings, and keeps cool air from seeping inside. Insulation also helps maintain a desirable temperature in air-conditioning ducts, hot water pipes, refrigeration units, tanks, boilers, and vats. Insulation is made of various materials, including fiberglass, ceramic, rock wool, foam glass, foamed plastic, cellulose, cork, and calcium silicate.
Insulation workers usually place insulation in various types of buildings, but they sometimes work in ships and other locations. They use hand tools and power tools, such as power saws, hammers, staple guns, blowers, knives, scissors, pliers, brushes, trowels, wire, and welding equipment. Sometimes they screw protective sheets of metal around insulated pipes. Some types of insulation are installed by simple cutting, placing, and fastening with staples. Other types are blown in with hoses; this is commonly done in attics and between layers of flooring. Insulation in walls and other visible areas is usually covered with drywall, paneling, plaster, or other finishing material.
Insulation workers also remove old insulation when renovating old buildings. Asbestos, now recognized as a hazardous material when released into the air, was once widely used in wall, ceiling, and pipe insulation because of its fire-retardant properties. Hazardous material removal workers or specially trained insulation workers remove this material and follow government guidelines to dispose of it properly.
There are two main types of insulation workers. Mechanical insulators apply insulation to ducts or pipes in factories, businesses, and many other types of buildings. Floor, ceiling, and wall insulators install insulation in floors, attics, and behind walls in homes and other buildings.