Cavity wall insulators install insulation material into the cavity space between the inner and outer walls of new and existing buildings. They also fit loft insulation, draught-proofing and install soundproofing materials within buildings. Insulation materials include foam, expanded polystyrene beads and granules, and mineral wool (fibreglass). Insulators must ensure that materials and techniques comply with Building Regulations.
Cavity wall insulators normally work in a team of two, carrying out the installation process.
A pre-installation survey is carried out to judge the suitability of the property for insulation, and to mark out existing ventilation points together with wiring and pipework. The amount of insulation required is calculated and brought to the site.
Insulators drill a pattern of horizontal and vertical holes in the walls of the building, using hand-held electric or pneumatic drills. Different parts of the wall may be drilled and existing openings, such as air vents, may be temporarily sealed, depending on the material being used. This allows the insulation to be applied in a controlled and efficient manner. Installers drill from the outside when working on old buildings, and from the inside on new buildings. They often work from ladders or, on tall buildings, from platforms or cradles.
The insulating material is injected into the cavity space by mechanical pumps in a designated sequence. Once complete, holes are re-filled and mortar re-pointed taking care to colour match it with the original.
A post-installation survey is then done to check all airbricks and flues are clear and any surplus material is removed.
The average working week is around 45 hours and may include weekends. The work can be physically demanding and much of it takes place outdoors, in all weathers. Conditions can be dirty, cold, wet and dusty. Installers also work in cramped conditions when working on roof or loft insulation. Protective masks and gloves may be required, particularly when handling mineral wool.
Installers travel from site to site within a wide area, so a driving licence will normally be required.
To be a cavity wall insulator you should:
The cavity wall insulation business is dominated by small firms, usually with between two and six employees. The majority of firms are located in urban areas. Opportunities are good, as energy efficiency and conservation measures are being heavily promoted by the government to help meet its targets for reductions in CO2 emissions.
Many cavity wall insulators are self-employed. Some larger companies may offer chargehand posts. Career progression generally involves insulators moving from paid employment into self-employment.
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