What Does a Plumber Do?

Plunger Plumber work with pipes to carry water, sewage, and drainage throughout buildings. They use hand and power tools to assemble, fit, and solder pipe sections and fittings. They may also need to read blueprints and other technical documents to plan pipe layouts.

Do you enjoy practical, hands-on tasks and problem-solving? Learn how to become a plumber.

8 Most Common Plumbing Problems and Plumbing Tools

Plumbing is a trade that requires knowledge of water and the surrounding environment and the ability to work with different materials. The profession can be challenging and rewarding at the same time. Plumbers work in various settings, including residential and commercial buildings, and may have to perform routine maintenance or be on call for emergency repairs. Plumbers typically spend significant time on the job and can expect to work overtime during peak periods.

Aspiring plumbers usually start their careers with an apprenticeship program combining classroom instruction with paid on-the-job training. In addition to learning plumbing basics, apprentices learn about local codes and regulations, blueprint reading, and safety practices. Those who complete an apprenticeship can become licensed plumbers.

Once licensed, a plumber can work with construction companies and plumbing contractors or in residential and commercial buildings. They can also choose to be self-employed and work on their projects. Self-employed plumbers usually have more control over their schedules and can choose the types of jobs they want to take on.

Plumbers install and repair pipes and fixtures in residential settings for water distribution and waste removal. They often work with various materials, including copper, steel, and PVC. Plumbers in the field may encounter many issues, from clogged drains to water heater malfunctions. They must be able to troubleshoot problems and find solutions quickly.

Larger systems are the focus of plumbers working in commercial and industrial environments. They may work with large water supply lines, sprinkler systems, and other complex equipment. In these settings, plumbers often collaborate with architects and construction teams to ensure that plumbing systems are integrated seamlessly into building projects.

Plumbers licensed to work with hazardous materials can also find employment in the oil and gas industry. These professionals can install and repair pipes that carry oil, natural gas, and other substances. They often need to work with heavy machinery and must be comfortable working in high-pressure situations. They are also responsible for ensuring that their work meets regulatory standards and comply with environmental laws.

Plumbing professionals assemble, install, and repair pipes that carry water, waste products, and gases. They may also work on domestic appliances such as dishwashers and washing machines. Plumbers inspect the condition of pipes, using specialized equipment to detect leaks and other problems. They must be able to read blueprints and understand building codes to lay out pipe systems according to specifications. Other duties include troubleshooting faulty plumbing, opening clogged drains, and fixing damaged fixtures.

Plumbers use various tools and equipment to complete their tasks, including saws to cut through walls and floors, drills to make holes in the floor or ceiling, and pipe cutters to properly size pipes. They must be able to work with copper, cast iron, and PVC pipes, as well as sewer and drain lines. Plumbers are also responsible for installing backflow prevention devices, repairing sump pumps, and maintaining gas lines.

Plumbers are frequently called on to perform emergency repairs. They must respond quickly and efficiently to address issues such as leaking faucets, clogged drains, or broken toilets. In addition to their plumbing skills, they must communicate clearly with clients to understand their concerns and provide accurate estimates for repair work.

A plumber’s job description also involves advising customers about energy-efficient plumbing systems and products. They must be able to read and interpret blueprints to install new plumbing systems or repair existing ones. Other duties may include:

  • Establishing a budget with the customer.
  • Obtaining necessary permits.
  • Ensuring all work meets state and local regulations.

Plumbers work on construction sites alongside other tradespeople, such as carpenters and electricians. They may be required to climb on ladders or scaffolding to access hard-to-reach areas. They must be able to work safely in these conditions and remain aware of the potential hazards involved with working at heights. Plumbers are also expected to keep up with all industry developments and best practices. They may also be responsible for training and supervising less experienced plumbers.

A high school diploma or GED certificate is a basic requirement for plumbers. In addition, many vocational and trade schools offer specific programs designed to provide students with the necessary skills to work in the field. These programs may include classroom instruction and on-the-job training under a licensed journeyperson plumber. Students in these programs usually earn a salary while they train, with wages beginning at 50 percent of the journeyperson’s hourly rate and increasing over time.

Plumbers must also take a series of technical courses and pass an exam to qualify for their license. These courses often cover plumbing fundamentals, piping systems, water supply and drainage basics, blueprint reading, and safety procedures.

In addition to the required courses, some vocational and trade schools offer advanced coursework in specialized areas like pipefitting, green plumbing, and systems design. Plumbers can also pursue certification in these areas to help them stand out from the competition and increase their earning potential.

Plumbers typically interact with clients, so customer service skills are important for success in this career. They should be able to listen carefully to a client’s concerns, explain complex issues in easy-to-understand terms, and give clear estimates for the cost of services. Plumbers should also be reliable, punctual, and respectful of clients’ property.

Because plumbing is a highly dangerous career, those interested in becoming plumbers must meet some educational and training requirements. In addition to a high school diploma, most states require years of practical experience and passing an exam to obtain a plumber’s license. In some states, this includes taking a written and hands-on exam. In others, it requires completing a four-year apprenticeship program and passing an exam to become a licensed journeyman plumber. Those interested in working as plumbers can also seek certification through professional associations, such as the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters or the American Society of Plumbing Engineers. These organizations offer workshops, seminars, and networking opportunities. In addition, they offer a variety of online resources for those who want to advance in the field.

Plumbing is a trade that is in demand, and plumbers can work for companies large or small. Whether you work as a journeyman plumber or become a master plumber, you can expect a stable career with strong job security and good pay.

To become a plumber, consider enrolling in an accredited vocational program to earn your certification. Alternatively, you can take up an apprenticeship to gain on-the-job experience and learn the trade from a licensed plumber. Both methods require a substantial investment of time and money, but the returns are considerable.

Once you have your certification, you can start your career. However, it is important to remember that the career outlook for plumbers is sensitive to overall economic activity. The employment of skilled workers, including plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters, can stay the same during a recession. The demand for these workers rises as construction activity picks up again.

As a result, plumbers need to be versatile and adaptable, able to shift their focus to other work areas as required. They must also be comfortable working with various tools and equipment and adhere to all workplace safety protocols.

Plumbers can find jobs in various settings, such as residential and commercial buildings, manufacturing facilities, and construction sites. They may specialize in certain plumbing projects, such as installing water-saving fixtures or waste disposal systems. The government employs some plumbers, while others run independent plumbing businesses or work for large industrial and commercial construction firms.

A career in plumbing is ideal for people who enjoy hands-on manual labor and providing a valuable service to the community. It requires less schooling and higher earnings potential than other technical trades. It is also great for naturally mechanically inclined individuals with good problem-solving skills. According to the Career Explorer, a plumber’s employability rating is B, which will provide good employment opportunities shortly. However, a person may be more likely to get a better employment offer from other employers.