When you think of the term “plumber,” you might think of someone who fixes water pipes or unclogs drains. Water is a big part of a plumber’s job, but plumbers do a lot more than fix pipes. In this series, we’re going to explore plumbing as a career, what it takes to become a plumber, and what kind of opportunities are available in plumbing and related trades.
Believe it or not, plumbing is one of the key components of any modern society. Plumbers build and maintain systems that bring fresh water into buildings, and remove wastewater safely. Plumbers also work with pipes that carry gases to and from buildings. As such, plumbers often work in both the plumbing and heating/cooling trades.
Plumbing can be specialized
Plumbers can specialize in commercial or residential work, or they can do both. Specialty plumbers include pipelayers, pipefitters, gas fitters and steamfitters. These plumbers work exclusively in specialized commercial and industrial construction and require additional training.
Plumbers work in people’s homes, and in commercial and industrial spaces. They can work exclusively for one employer, or they can work on multiple job sites on short-term assignments. Plumbers may or may not belong to a union. Many master plumbers are self-employed, and provide plumbing and related services to individuals and businesses in their communities.
Because a plumber’s work can affect people’s health and safety, plumbers require special training and licensing to do their jobs. The state licenses plumbers. Each state manages its own licensing program, but all states have similar licensing requirements. The type of license a plumber has determines the kind of supervision he or she works under. To become a licensed plumber, you must complete a training program that combines classroom learning with on-the-job learning. You must also update your license periodically with additional training and education.
Plumbing involves clean water, dirty water and gas
Plumbers can work on any portion of a water system. On the “clean” side, plumbers may install or replace pipes and fixtures, locate and repair leaks, install water heaters, water filters and repair water pressure problems. They can also install gas service lines. In homes, natural gas (or propane) lines are likely to be the only gas lines you might see. In commercial spaces, plumbers may install fire suppression systems, natural gas lines, lines for compressed air, welding gases, or other gases (like anesthesia or oxygen) in medical facilities.
On the “dirty” side, plumbers work on drains, sewers, plumbing ventilation, septic and sump systems. They may also install dry wells or other catchment systems to manage rainwater runoff and “grey water.”
Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems often require plumbing and ventilation, so it is common to find plumbers working in HVAC operations. In addition to installation of furnaces, boilers, chillers and cooling systems, plumbers perform scheduled and emergency HVAC maintenance.
Plumbing can be a 24-hour job
As a profession, plumbing requires some level of physical fitness because the job often involves climbing, crawling, lifting, working with your arms over your head and in small spaces. In addition to the physical demands of the job, plumbers are problem-solvers. The most successful plumbers can diagnose and repair existing systems, and develop creative, individualized solutions for difficult situations.
Some plumbers work exclusively during the day, but most residential plumbing services offer some type of 24-hour service. Plumbing emergencies are just that – emergencies! They must be addressed immediately because plumbing problems can put people’s health and safety at risk. The same is true with heating and cooling problems. Additionally, some commercial work may only be done when the business is closed. As a result, plumbing isn’t considered a traditional “9-to-5” job.
If you’re considering a career in plumbing or HVAC, please give us a call at Boston Standard Plumbing & Heating at (617) 288-2911. We’ll be happy to discuss your career options and let you know how you can get started in the trade.
Photo Credit: Duncan c, via Flickr.com
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