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Mechanical insulation workers apply insulation to pipes, ductwork, and other mechanical systems to control temperatures. They measure and cut sections of insulation and fasten it with adhesive, staples, tape, or wire bands. A cover of aluminum, plastic, or canvas may then cover the insulation.
Floor, ceiling, and wall insulation workers add insulation to attics and exterior walls by applying or blowing it in using a machine with a compressor hose. The insulation may consist of fiberglass, cellulose, or rock-wool materials. After applying the insulation, workers may install drywall and a final coat of plaster. In old buildings, the previous insulation must first be removed, and specially trained workers are required when asbestos is present.
Insulation contractors use trowels, brushes, knives, scissors, saws, pliers, stapling guns, power saws, welding machines, and compressors. They follow strict safety guidelines and often wear protective suits, masks, and respirators. Work areas must be well ventilated, and workers are sometimes required to take decontamination showers. Insulation contractors generally work indoors and are much less affected by weather-related job shortages than other positions in the construction trades.
Most workers pick up skills informally on the job, except in the case of mechanical insulators, who usually need to complete formal apprenticeship programs. High school graduates are preferred, especially those who have taken courses in blueprint reading, shop mathematics, science, pattern layout, woodworking, and general construction. On the job training can take up to four years, although training for home insulation typically requires less time then training for commercial insulation. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides mandatory certification for all insulation workers who remove and handle asbestos.
In addition to a high school diploma, workers should be in good physical condition and licensed to drive. Good communication skills are a plus for advancement to supervisory positions, and those who are bilingual in English and Spanish may have the best chance for promotion. Skilled insulation workers may advance to supervisor, shop superintendent, insulation contract estimator, or start their own business.
Job opportunities for insulation workers and contractors are expected to grow faster than the national average, and will be be best for workers who are willing to complete voluntary certification programs offered by insulation contractor organizations or the National Insulation Association. Please visit the National Insulation Association for more information about training programs and work opportunities in the insulation trade.
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