Despite the heat, insulation blower finds job liberating

EDITORS NOTE: Grime Pays is a semimonthly series focusing on area workers whose jobs are hot, strenuous or just plain dirty. If you think your job is tough enough to profile, call Rainier Ehrhardt at (706) 828-3853.


Whenever Russell Cook, of Insulation Blowers of Augusta, has a call in the summertime, he knows he's going to get hot.

A bucket of sweat, an hour of work and nine inches of cellulose insulation is what it takes for Mr. Cook to finish the job.

Cellulose insulation, a paper product made of recycled materials, is effective at saving homeowners on their utility bills. It is not, however, user friendly.

"It sticks to everything, and you sweat like a madman," said Mr. Cook, 31. "It's not easy to get off, even in the shower."

Mr. Cook's day job as a groundskeeper at Augusta Country Club has made him acclimated to the heat, but the golf course is nowhere near the ovenlike temperatures of an attic in the summer.

"It gets 10 times worse in the attics," he said. "One of the first attics we did, it was sealed good and the temperature was 170 degrees in July. Some attics I go into, you can only stay 20 minutes before you have to take a break."

For protection, Mr. Cook wears a jumpsuit, respirator, goggles, gloves and a head-mounted flashlight.

"I wear the gloves when I'm dealing with fiberglass because it itches, and also to avoid splinters," he said.

Many attics are not made to be walked in and have only ceiling joists as a floor, so Mr. Cook holds on to rafters in the roof for balance as he traverses the attic, usually in little or no light.

He has fallen only once.

"I was trying to walk across the joists, when an electrical cable caught my shoe and I fell through the ceiling Sheetrock up to my knee," he said. "The house had vaulted ceilings so I couldn't grab hold of anything."

Although spraying insulation is not an easy task, Mr. Cook says, he still enjoys the work and the freedom of owning part of a business, which is half-owned by his wife Erica's parents.

"I like being able to make my own schedule, and I don't have to worry about a boss," he said. "We're trying to build up a word of mouth, and if it gets big enough I'll just run it."