What Is a Plumber?


A plumber is a tradesman who specializes in the maintenance, installation, and repair of pipes, drains, and other fixtures that help to bring water into and out of buildings. Plumbers are knowledgeable about the ins and outs of different types of plumbing systems, including water mains, plumbing vents, heat exchangers, and potable water sources. They also understand how to install new systems or repair existing ones using a wide range of plumbing tools.

What does a plumber do?

Here is a list of tasks a plumber might perform on any given day:

  • Install or repair water pipes and fixtures
  • Install or repair sewage lines
  • Clear clogged drains
  • Repair or replace septic tanks
  • Inspect homes or commercial buildings to assess plumbing needs
  • Draw up diagrams of piping systems
  • Provide cost estimates for plumbing projects
  • Install or repair gas lines
  • Test pipes for leaks
  • Install backflow devices to prevent contaminated water from flowing backward into the home or business
  • Perform routine maintenance on plumbing systems, such as clearing out sink traps and unclogging toilets
  • Handle emergency repairs, such as fixing a broken pipe or stopping a leaking water heater

Types of plumbers

There are two main types of plumbers: commercial and residential.

Commercial plumbers typically work on larger projects, such as installing new plumbing for businesses or commercial buildings. They may also be called upon to repair or maintain large-scale commercial equipment, such as water heaters or industrial pipes.

Residential plumbers, on the other hand, tend to focus on smaller projects that involve individual homes or private residential properties. Some common tasks performed by residential plumbers include installing new fixtures in kitchens or bathrooms, repairing leaks, and unclogging drainage systems. 

Types of plumbing licenses

There are three main types of plumbing licenses that are typically granted to those in the field of plumbing: Apprentice, Journeyman, and Master Plumber.

The first type, an apprentice license, is typically given to individuals who have just begun their training. As apprentice plumbers, they work alongside experienced plumbers and gain experience while developing their skills.

The second type of license is called a journeyman license, and it is granted to those who have completed their apprentice training and have obtained at least 2 years of relevant experience.

Finally, a master plumber license is granted to those who have completed all requirements to become a journeyman plumber and have obtained at least 5 years of relevant experience. Ultimately, each type of plumbing license represents different levels of skill and expertise within the field, allowing plumbers to demonstrate their knowledge and ability in various areas.

Can you be a plumber without a license?

The short answer to this question is no. In most cases, it is illegal to work as a plumber without first obtaining the appropriate license or certification for the job. This requirement ensures that all plumbers meet certain safety and technical standards. For example, different states may have their own licensing requirements, such as completing a certain number of hours in an approved training program or passing an examination that tests one’s ability to perform plumbing tasks. Furthermore, licensed plumbers must be insured in order to fully protect themselves and their clients from financial liability in the event of an accident or injury. 

What skills does a plumber need?

There are a few key skills that plumber should have in order to be successful.

  • Plumbers should be able to perform various math calculations. This includes being able to read and interpret blueprints. Without these skills, plumbers would not be able to properly install or repair piping systems.
  • Plumbers should be able to use a variety of tools. These include everything from wrenches to pipe cutters.
  • Plumbers should have a strong working knowledge of rudimentary physics and chemistry. They need to understand how various materials react with each other and how different piping systems work.
  • Plumbers should be able to think critically and troubleshoot problems. This allows them to find solutions quickly when issues arise.
  • Plumbers should be able to communicate effectively with both customers and co-workers. This includes explaining complex concepts to clients, as well as working well with other plumbers and construction workers.
  • Plumbers should have the physical strength and stamina to perform strenuous tasks such as lifting heavy pipes and crawling into small spaces.

How do you become a licensed plumber?

To become a plumber, the first step is to complete a high school diploma or equivalent. From there, aspiring plumbers can pursue various training programs in plumbing, such as an apprenticeship, vocational education program, or certification program. Additionally, many employers prefer to hire candidates who have previous experience working with pipes and other plumbing equipment. To build this experience, it is often necessary to complete an internship or apprenticeship that includes on-the-job training.

Finally, plumbers must obtain a license in their state of residence and pass any required testing in order to practice professionally. This typically requires completing an exam and meeting minimum education requirements.

If you are interested in becoming a plumber, there are a variety of steps you can take to pursue this career. Whether you are interested in pursuing a plumbing apprenticeship, attending a technical school, or enrolling in an online certification program, there are many options available to help you develop the necessary skills and knowledge for success in this field.

Finding a job as a plumber

There are a few avenues you can take to find a job as a plumber. The first is to search online job boards, such as Indeed or Monster. You can also check with your state’s licensing board to see if they have any openings for plumbers in your area. Additionally, many plumbing companies that offer plumbing services will post open job postings on their own websites, so it is a good idea to try contacting local plumbing businesses directly.

What does the job description of a plumber look like?

The job description of a plumber may vary depending on their level of experience and specialization. At the entry-level, most plumbers will have responsibilities such as installing basic piping systems, repairing leaks or drainage issues, and performing maintenance work on existing plumbing systems. Here is an example of what a job description for a plumber would look like:

Has proven experience in reading and interpreting blueprints to assess layouts and plumbing installations

  • Experience in installing and repairing plumbing fixtures
  • Adept in cutting and welding pipes, tube fittings, and plumbing fixtures
  • Has good knowledge of various types of plumbing materials and can advise on what to use where
  • Has knowledge and experience in providing services that comply with the law
  • Has experience in fixing installations that comply with safety standards
  • Has good communication and interpersonal skills
  • Has good knowledge of making cost estimations
  • Has a license, approved by local authorities
  • Is a problem solver, innovative, and street smart

How much do plumbers make?

In terms of salary, a plumber can expect to make anywhere from $30,000 to $80,000 per year depending on factors like experience level and specialty area. In some cases, experienced plumbers can make over $100,000.

How many hours does a plumber work a week?

Most plumbers work full time, which means they work around 40 hours per week. However, because many plumbers are self-employed, their actual hours may vary depending on the job and their availability. Some plumbers may work evenings or weekends to accommodate their clients’ schedules. Plumbers who are employed by larger companies may also be required to work overtime on occasion. In general, though, most plumbers can expect to work a standard 40-hour week.

Plumber unions and associations

A plumber union is a professional organization that represents the interests and rights of plumbers in a particular area. As members of these unions, plumbers have the opportunity to network with other professionals, access valuable resources for learning and development, and gain advocacy when issues such as wages or working conditions arise. In addition, joining a plumber union can provide benefits such as health insurance and retirement savings plans, helping plumbers to better manage their finances both during their careers and after they retire. 

There are a few different organizations that plumbers can join, such as the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry of the United States and Canada (UA), or the National Association of Plumbers (NAPL). Joining one of these unions or associations can offer a number of benefits, such as access to training programs, job opportunities, networking events, and more.

What are the risks of being a plumber?

  • Plumbers must often work in cramped spaces and handle heavy materials, which can lead to injuries
  • Working with asbestos, which can be harmful when inhaled or touched
  • Plumbers are also at risk for injuries to their hands and eyes due to the plumbing tools they use
  • Hearing loss due to loud equipment and confined spaces
  • A lot of stooping, bending, and carrying heavy objects that can put a strain on the body over time.

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