What is a Mechanical Insulator?

Insulator (Heat & Frost)

Insulation work is physical and requires well-trained and highly skilled technicians.

Mechanical insulation materials and methods are different than wall and ceiling insulation. Mechanical insulators apply covering made from Styrofoam and styrene to ventilation units, pipes carrying liquid gas, steam and refrigerants, domestic hot and cold water pipes, sanitary lines and soundproofing systems.

These sophisticated coverings can keep mechanical systems at constant temperatures ranging from absolute zero (-273º F) to 5,000º F. Insulators are also trained to remove asbestos and install firestopping systems.

Like all construction trades, insulators may be required to travel out of town to work at industrial and commercial facilities. You often work alone or in small crews so must be able to solve problems on your own, be a team player and get along well with people in other trades.


The Industrial Sector

Insulators working in the industrial sector install insulation and jacketing in facilities such as pulp mills, chemical plants, oil refineries, gas plants, shipyards and many other manufacturing and processing industries. Types of equipment and piping to be insulated include steam and process piping, steam turbines, large boilers, storage tanks, heat exchangers and vessels.


The Commercial / Institutional Sector

In the commercial/institutional sector, insulators work in hospitals, schools, high-rise offices and residential towers. They install insulation materials to Heat, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) and plumbing systems, install fire-stopping systems and apply heat tracing.


Your workplace

As a mechanical insulator, you will work in different workplaces and for different employers around the province. You may work on one project for as little as one day or for several years, but the average length of time in a single workplace is 6 months.

When your job finishes, you need to contact the Union office and put yourself on the Unemployed List. When an employer contacts the Union looking for insulators, this is the list they choose from. If your name is not on the list, you won’t be called.

You are entitled to apply for Employment Insurance (EI) while you are on the Unemployed List. The government will allow you a period of time (about 18 weeks) during which you can collect EI and not be required to take part in additional work searches.

Employers will generally choose from workers in their region, and then choose either an apprentice or journeyperson, depending on the job requirements. If there are multiple workers available with the same qualifications and in the same location.

An employer who works with our members is called a Signatory Employer, meaning they have signed the Union contract. They may not hire non-union insulators. Insulator 118 members may not work for non-signatory employers, and must not solicit work outside of the union.

You may, however, be required to work alongside other non-union trades on a job site.


Wages and benefits

Local 118 negotiates the best possible wages, benefits and pensions for our members during the bargaining process.

Union Apprentice

  • Industrial – $24.71per hour to start
  • Commercial – $21.19 per hour to start

Union Journeyperson

  • Industrial – $41.18per hour ($47.36Foreperson, $49.42 General Foreperson)
  • Commercial – $35.31per hour ($38.84 Foreperson)



Over the course of a four-year apprenticeship program, there will be increases to a maximum of the current Journeyperson rates for Industrial and Commercial.



There is a one-time initiation fee and elevation fee to journeyperson status.


Employment and Training

If you are working for a Local 118 union contractor during your apprenticeship, they will lay you off in order to attend school, and you will return to work when the class is finished.


Benefits and Pension

As a union member, you have access to a medical, dental and pension plan. The benefits and pension will increase at each level of your apprenticeship on a pro-rated basis.
These benefits are funded through joint contributions between the yourself (the employee) and the employer. If you are laid off, you will be sent a shortage notice by D.A. Townley (the Benefit Plan Administrator) advising you to pay your share of the costs. If you choose not to pay, your benefits will be interrupted, until you re-qualify by working enough hours.
Find out more about our benefits.