What do plumbers do?

Plumbers install, repair, and maintain piping systems in residential, commercial and/or industrial buildings. These systems traditionally included water distribution and wastewater disposal, but because of new technology that combines water and gas pipes, plumbers can work with vent, residential fire, irrigation, and chemical systems as well. (For this reason, licensed plumbers who are also certified as gas fitters are qualified for more jobs.) They can also install various customized systems, such as fuel delivery, sewage, water treatment, compressed air, and medical gas.

The duties of a plumber include: installing, repairing and maintaining pipes, fixtures, and other plumbing equipment; opening walls and floors to accommodate pipes and pipe fittings; welding, connecting, and testing pipes for leaks; preparing cost estimates; interpreting blueprints and designs; supervising apprentices; and more. Plumbers must also be aware of safety procedures and follow them at all times.

Plumbing work is more than fitting pipes. Plumbers also use computers to design systems and prepare estimates, and are using more and more computer-controlled devices on the job.

Working conditions

Most plumbers work five days a week for eight hours a day, but there may be overtime during peak periods or especially large projects. They can work in teams or on their own, inside or outside, depending on the project. Plumbers spend a lot of time on their feet and occasionally handle large tools and/or machinery.

Where they work

The sector with the most jobs for plumbers is construction, an industry that remains strong despite a slow economy. Plumbing contractors, service companies, and maintenance departments can also employ them. Some decide to be self-employed.

Published on April 18, 2012
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