What Do Plumbers Do? (Definitive Guide)

what do plumbers do

What Is a Plumber?

A plumber is a skilled and professional tradesperson who installs and repairs piping in the home or business.

These pipes carry gas and water to appliances and fixtures in the home and carries sewage and water waste away from the home, into the city’s sewer system.

Through a mixture of an apprenticeship, paid on-the-job training, and additional licensure required to move up the career path, plumbers are generally highly skilled.

Plumbers rely on their experience and education to diagnose problems with the plumbing system, which can be a difficult task when dealing with all types of problems.

Once the problem has been diagnosed, it is up to the plumber to repair the problem. If a repair cannot be made or would not be effective, the plumber may also estimate costs and suggest an alternative solution to the discovered problem.

What Does a Plumber Do?

A plumber has a versatile job installing, repairing, and maintaining the plumbing and other piping systems within a residential home or commercial property.

Wherever there is plumbing, there’s water. Sometimes, plumbers must also deal with heating units such as furnaces and water heaters to complete the job, making knowledge about these areas of the home’s systems important as well.

Installation of appliances and plumbing systems is also a common job for plumbers, which can be tiring and intensive work inside and outside the home.

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Required Education

Plumbers might get a bad reputation in some areas, but plumbers are quite skilled at their job and know their way around how a home or business’ piping system should work.

Plumbers often go through a trade school or vocational program to get their start in the plumbing industry. (1) Many who work in plumbing start out with an interest in systems, mechanical engineering, or hands-on labor.

“trade school or vocational program could be a great fit for many high school graduates.”

– Forbes

While a plumber still goes through a lot of education and training to get started in their field, much of this is on-the-job training under a mentor or master plumber.

Required education for a plumber to start as a journeyman is a high school diploma and completion of an apprenticeship program which can last from 4-5 years. Most states require that plumbers are licensed before taking on any professional work.

A master plumber, after they have acquired their licensure, has typically trained enough to rival traditional post-graduate programs, making them a true master in their craft.

Key Skills

If you’re thinking about becoming a plumber, it’s important to first assess whether you have the right skills for the job. Plumbers have several key skills that will help you get a job and excel at the line of work.

With any job, communication skills are a must, and administrative skills can help you take on an office-based or managerial position within the company.

For everyday plumbing problems, mechanical skills and problem-solving are a requirement. Tasks as small and basic as drain cleaning will first require a quick diagnosis and a capable hand.

Plumbing work isn’t for everyone, but any successful plumber will have these skills, or at least be willing to learn with on-the-job training.

Typical Jobs for a Plumber

There are many common jobs a plumber will encounter whether they find themselves working primarily in residential homes, commercial buildings, or factories. Each type of building will have different piping and safety standards.

Overall, small commercial buildings and residential homes are the most common type of building to work on, however, especially as a plumber is first getting their chops in the field.

These typical jobs may be common, but it doesn’t make them any less labor or time intensive. A plumber must still diagnose the issue to ensure that there are no underlying or hidden problems with the plumbing system that is causing the symptoms. There is often more than meets the eye, even with simple problems.

Repairing Leaks

Repairing a leak can be difficult, especially if the piping is in the wall. Repairs often require replacement of a pipe or fitting to ensure it is watertight.

This is important to ensure that the home does not sustain any water damage that can lead to the harmful development of mold.

Depending on the material of the pipe or the extent of the damage, it may be necessary to replace a whole section of piping to ensure that the home is up to the current building regulations.

If the pipe is exposed and easy to access, such as the piping under the sink or connecting the toilet to the wall, the project becomes much less invasive.

Removing or Replacing Sinks

Sinks can be a difficult fixture in the home to replace or remove. Whether you are remodeling, or the sink has sustained damage, it’s important to have a plumber take care of the work so that they can ensure the piping is fitted correctly.

Porcelain sinks are especially fragile and tend to chip or crack when being installed by homeowners or other contractors. A plumber can ensure that the sink is placed correctly without any leaks, and that the water flows through the piping, and the connections to the trap are secure.

Hot Water Tank Repair and Installation

It is typically a plumber’s job to handle hot water tanks, as their repair and installation directly affect the flow of water through the home or business’ piping.

Especially when working with heating elements, it’s important to ensure that these lines are connected properly, and that hot water is sent through the right pipes and heated evenly.

Repair and installation of hot water tanks can be dangerous if not done by a professional and should always be handled with care as the hot water can cause severe burns if exposed to skin.

Drain Cleaning

Drain cleaning is one of the most common, yet least labor-intensive projects that plumbers often get called out for. From slow-draining bathtubs to completely blocked sinks, plumbers are equipped with the right tools for just about any drain cleaning problem.

While homeowners often deal with minor drain cleaning issues using store-bought tools, it is always recommended that a professional does the work to ensure the clog is completely cleared.

In some cases, the pipe may be damaged or constricted due to roots or sewage backups. A plumber will know how to identify this problem quickly without further damaging the line.

Diagnosing Loss of Water Pressure

While this problem is common, there are multiple things that could cause the issue.

A loss of water pressure could be something as simple as a clog in the line preventing the water from coming through at full force. It could also be a leak somewhere in the line, which is important to catch as soon as possible to prevent water damage in the home.

This means that the plumber must have an eye for detail and be able to problem solve based on the troubleshooting steps they take.

How Much Does a Plumber Make?

Plumbers can make a good income depending on the state of operation and how experienced they are, as well as their position within the company.

Entry-level or journeyman plumbers, for example, make less money than a master plumber or specialized plumber.

Still, plumbers make more than the average income on an hourly basis, though this is often determined by the number of jobs they are called in for.

The average salary for a plumber of median job experience is $50,000 depending on the state, though it can range into $30,000 for lower paying areas or entry-level plumbers.

States with a higher cost of living will pay higher rates. For example, for New York, the median plumber income is closer to $76,000.

Plumbers with a wide range of experience and master plumber or more specialized licensure can make $90,000 or more, but this requires more difficult work and more responsibilities.

Do Plumbers Leave a Mess?

No, plumbers do not typically leave a mess. Part of the job of a plumber is cleaning up what they’ve done, whether it’s outside excavation work or piping and plumbing work inside the home.

If your plumber is working on a project that may take several visits, they may do minimal clean-up after each visit until they are done, so that they do not have to undo work such as removing wall panels or removing sections of piping.

While a work-in-progress plumbing job may not be sightly, it’s important that the work can be resumed quickly when the plumber arrives for the next appointment.

If you have specific concerns about how the work is left between visits, it is recommended that you address these with your plumber before they begin work.

References:

  1. Forbes, Alternatives to a University Education for Students Who Want Skills and Fewer Loans, https://www.forbes.com/sites/nancyanderson/2016/08/30/alternatives-to-a-university-education-for-students-who-want-skills-and-fewer-loans/?sh=24b0c9fd47e3

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