Insulation Installation Checklist

Steve Fisher

February 1, 2013

There is
an old saying: Measure twice, cut once. We all have “check” or “to do” lists to
help us remember what needs to be done. Many of us rely on our memory, but it
is usually a good idea to put the lists in writing so that when we are in a
hurry we do not forget anything. The checklists below were developed primarily
for below-ambient piping systems but would apply to any insulation application.
The items listed are in general terms, so there may be additional items to add
to tailor the list to your needs based on past experience.

There are
three main functions that take place during an insulation installation: (1) job
layout or estimation, (2) actual installation, and (3) quality inspection of
the job once it is complete. The checklists below have been broken out for
these three functions. The responsible party for each function also is noted.

Job Layout/Estimation
(Responsible Party:

  1. Review all system
    operating temperatures to be sure they are consistent with insulation use
    temperatures. Consider any temperature cycling and/or yearly maintenance that
    may affect system temperatures.

  2. Determine the desired
    design conditions and the performance requirements of the insulation system.
    For outdoor systems, be sure to take into account the site location, likely
    weather conditions, and weather extremes when formulating the proper design
    conditions. Based on this information, determine the appropriate insulation
    thickness to be used.

  3. Based on the site
    conditions and expected service conditions (UV exposure, exposure to chemicals,
    mechanical abuse, etc.), select the proper jacketing/protective
    covering/coating for the insulation. Note that many sites will have “standard
    practices” or internal specifications that will call out insulation system
    finish requirements.

  4. Consider the
    following when deciding on the insulation configuration/style.

    • Method of
      installation – i.e., mechanical attachment, adhesive, clam-shell, slide-on or
      slit, etc.

    • Trade-off between labor
      and cost of materials. Some insulation systems cost more out of the box but
      install faster than cheaper systems. This saves labor and time during

    • Trade-off between labor
      and insulation system performance: Factory-fabricated fittings may cost more in
      materials but save labor and improve uniformity and performance.

    • Trade-off between up-front
      material cost and maintenance costs down the road: Jacketed systems may cost
      more than those with a mastic finish but usually require less maintenance during
      the life of the insulation system.

    • Configuration and type of
      equipment to be insulated. What is the geometry? Take into account the
      fittings, valves, pumps, etc. How will these be insulated?

  5. Review the layout of
    the system or item to be insulated to be sure there is sufficient room for the
    insulation thickness specified without compressing the insulation or having the
    insulation come in direct contact with the insulation on other pipes or pieces
    of equipment. If not, can this be corrected? Check and see if there are
    protrusions along the system. Are they long enough to accommodate the
    recommended amount of insulation? If not, can they be extended or removed?

  6. Lay
    out the job in a manner to eliminate seams or minimize insulation joints as
    much as possible. If multiple layers of insulation are required due to
    thickness or other performance requirements, the insulation joints of
    successive layers should be offset from the insulation joints of the previous

  7. When deciding on how
    to achieve the desired insulation thickness, consider practical handling of the
    insulation during installation (including the bending radius of the material)
    as well as the ability to achieve full joint closure. In addition, consult the
    insulation distributor or fabricator to verify the availability of different
    insulation sizes and configurations in order to select the most cost-effective
    way to achieve the desired thickness.

  8. Consider the required
    time frame for completing the job. If the time frame is short, as is typical
    for maintenance during a plant shutdown, you may want to consider using
    insulation materials that are quicker and easier to install (e.g., self-seal or
    factory-fabricated products) because of the time saved, even though the initial
    cost of these materials may be higher.

  9. Consider the
    availability of materials to be sure they can be delivered to the job in time.

  10. Consider the
    availability of labor and the skill of the labor pool, as this may make a
    difference in the choice of materials.

  11. Consider how
    important aesthetics are for the job.

(Responsible Party: Foreman)

  1. Review work
    orders/specifications for areas to be insulated and materials (thicknesses)
    required. Lay out a plan/schedule for areas to insulate first, coordinating
    with other trades that may be working in the area. Include your safety training
    and any special safety equipment that may be needed for the job.

  2. Be sure all materials
    (insulation, accessories?adhesives, tapes, jacketing, fittings, etc.?and tools)
    are on site or are scheduled to be delivered at the appropriate time. Be sure
    all materials are stored in a clean, dry room.

  3. Check materials
    against what was specified (i.e., proper sizes and thicknesses). Organize
    insulation according to size and thickness.

  4. Know job site
    conditions, including where other trades are working, what the weather will be
    over the period of the job, etc. Understand access to the working area. Because
    of potentially damaging environmental conditions, insulation used on outdoor
    applications nearly always requires protection (coating, jacketing, or
    cladding) from mechanical abuse and UV resistance. Remember, it is also
    important to protect the system from moisture intrusion during the installation
    process. Good practice dictates that no more insulation be applied in a day
    than can be properly sealed and protected from weather before leaving the site
    at the end of the shift.

  5. Check equipment/tools
    (lifts, etc.) to be sure everything is in place for what needs to be done.

  6. Check
    manpower and review the experience of workers. Develop a manpower allocation
    plan accordingly.

  7. Review the insulation
    manufacturer’s recommended installation procedures. If there are any questions,
    contact the manufacturer for recommendations.

  8. Check to be sure the
    piping system or equipment is turned off and at ambient conditions. Make sure
    it is clean and free of dirt or moisture.

  9. For most
    applications, it is recommended to apply the fittings first (which may be
    available for purchase pre-fabricated by a fabricator or the manufacturer, or
    can be pre-fabricated at an off-site location). After the fittings are
    installed, application can begin on the straight runs. The straight length
    material is usually easier to install than fitting insulation, so the straight
    run work will progress more quickly. Protrusions to the insulation system must
    be properly insulated and sealed. For below-ambient systems, protrusions should
    be insulated a distance of four times the insulation system thickness when
    possible. Protrusion on above-ambient systems should be insulated a distance of
    two times the insulation system thickness. For complex applications, contact
    the manufacturer for recommendations.

  10. Inspect
    workmanship as the materials are being installed. Notify appropriate personnel
    if problems arise.

  11. At the end of each
    day, be sure all materials are put away in a clean, dry area and that the
    installed portion of the job has been appropriately sealed/closed in such a way
    to prevent any damage from other trades or from the weather. Make sure all
    scrap insulation material resulting from field fabrication is either (1) put
    back in appropriate boxes to maintain size identification, or (2) appropriately
    disposed of.

  12. On cold applications,
    make sure that all seams are glued and sealed. Install vapor stops when needed
    (for details, contact the insulation manufacturer).

  13. When the job is
    finished, make a final inspection.

Quality Inspection
(Responsible Party: Engineer or Job Inspector)

  1. Obtain
    a list of all areas that were specified to be insulated (including material
    type and thickness). Obtain a data sheet and appropriate installation
    instructions from the manufacturer for each material.

  2. Conduct
    a preliminary inspection of the entire job. Make a list of any obvious issues
    that may need to be replaced, repaired, or corrected. Be sure all areas that
    were called out for insulation have been insulated. Also check for the overall
    neatness of the job.

  3. Check that installed
    materials comply with those specified (material type and size). Material type
    and size (ID and thickness) generally can be found on the product box or on the
    insulation itself.

  4. Ensure that all seams
    (longitudinal, butt joints, and terminations) have been sealed properly per
    manufacturer recommendations. Check all fittings, valves, etc. to be sure the
    insulation is sealed properly at any termination points.

  5. When checking
    materials and insulation systems, be sure there are no tears, cuts, or damage
    that would cause performance issues. If any are found, the damage must be
    repaired or the section of insulation completely replaced. Also, make sure that
    none of the insulation is wet and there is no moisture between the insulation
    and the substrate.

  6. On straight runs,
    make sure that seams are facing down to reduce weight/pressure on the seam.

  7. Inspect the
    insulation finish (jacketing, coating, or mastic) for damage and defects. For
    outdoor applications, it is generally recommended that all insulation materials
    be protected from the elements and mechanical abuse by jacketing or coatings,
    and that all jacketing laps should be positioned to shed water.

  8. On pipe and supported
    equipment, review all hanger and support areas to be sure they were handled
    according to manufacturer recommendations. The insulation should not be
    compressed, as the thickness of the insulation should not be compromised. Also,
    check all protrusions to ensure that they are properly insulated and sealed.

  9. If the system has
    been turned on, look for any signs of condensation or ice formation.

By using
these checklists, and adjusting them for personal use by adding or modifying
steps based on your experience, the job should meet the end user’s expectations
and come in either at or below budget. “Measure twice, cut once” pays off more
times than not in the long run. Taking short-cuts, particularly on an
application involving below-ambient operating temperatures, is a bad bet.