Sunday, August 28, 2011

Summer Jobs - Insulation Installation

I had a couple of pretty good summer jobs back when I was in college.  The first summer after Kathy and I were married, I worked in the San Francisco Bay Area for an insulation company.  We lived with my parents in Fremont, and I drove to Hayward each morning to work.

Insulation is installed inside the exterior walls and in the attics of houses to help keep them cool in the summer and warm in the winter.  Most of our wall installation was done in new construction areas.  Once the studs for the walls were framed, the insulation batts were placed between the studs.  Look at this picture.

Once the insulation was in place, the sheet rockers would follow behind and cover up the insulation to create the inside surface of the walls.  I learned how to install the insulation batts and did this at lots of construction sites.  We began the day by loading our truck with packages of insulation.  The bed of the truck was usually piled pretty high with these packs.  We also tied several ladders onto the truck, depending on how high we would have to go with the insulation.  The insulation batts were stuck in-between the studs and were fastened in place using a staple gun.  We would work from the inside of the building and put the insulation along all of the exterior walls.  The insulation was made of fiberglass.  The fiberglass always made my arms itch.  So even on the hottest summer day, I wore a long-sleeved sweatshirt to protect my arms.

The worst job I did was in Berkeley, California.  The owner of a very old house hired our company to have insulation batts installed under the floor of the entire house.  This was to cut down on heat loss through the floor.  I got assigned to do the job.  I had to drag the long packs of insulation through a tiny opening into the crawl space below the house.  The whole area under the floor was covered with big black spider webs, especially around the edges.  I was sure these were black widow spider webs, though I never actually saw any spiders (it was too dark to see well). I had to put the insulation batts in-between the joists, one by one, and staple them in place.  I only had about 3 feet of space to work in and was very cramped.  As I recall, I skipped the outer most joist-space because I was too scared to get close to the spider webs.  That night, after I was home, I discovered that I was covered with flea bites.

The other task I learned to do was with our attic insulator.  You can blow insulation into an attic and cut down on heat loss through the ceiling.  The job of blowing insulation into an attic was usually done in houses that were already built.  We had a large truck that was used for this job.  We would drive to the house that bought the insulation and park out in front.  The insulation installer would then drag a long hose from the back of the truck, through the front door, and up through the attic crawl hole.  Look at this picture.
My job was to stay out in the truck and fill the "hopper" with the insulation material.  The hopper was a big rectangular container that had a worm gear at the bottom that constantly rotated and broke the insulation up into the small pieces you can see in the picture.  The worm gear fed the insulation material into a large blower that sent it out the hose.  Up in the attic, the installer moved around the area making sure to spread the insulation evenly and at the right depth.  It was a hot stuffy job.  Luckily, I never did the attic part.  My part was always to stay out in the truck and keep the hopper full of the insulation material.  There were large rectangular bags of the insulation that were about 1 foot thick.  I used a utility knife to cut a hole down the middle of the bag and then lifted it up and dumped its contents into the hopper.

I made pretty good money and am grateful to my parents for helping me get the job.  The owner of the insulation company was a member of their ward in Fremont.  He treated me well and I am glad for the experience.  It didn't take me long, though, to figure out that I didn't want to install insulation for a living.  Now, if I even get close to fiberglass, my arms start to itch!