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Plumbers install and repair plumbing fixtures and water, waste disposal, drainage and gas systems in residential, commercial and industrial buildings. They read blueprints to determine the layout of the system and measure and mark areas where the pipes will be installed and connected, checking for obstructions such as electrical wiring. Once a project has begun, they perform a number of tasks, from simple installation of pipes and fittings to complex calculations and planning in specialized environments such as hospitals. The system must be checked for leaks using air and water pressure gauges to ensure that it is working properly.

Plumbers use a wide range of hand and power tools, torches and welding equipment to cut and shape pipe to precise specifications. An important part of their job is to fit the piping into the building with the least waste of materials while maintaining grade or slope and avoiding trapping air or fluids in the system. A plumber's skills are also applicable in maintenance, service work, hydronic heating, and medical gas cross connection controls and inspections.

An interest in construction and good math skills are assets for plumbers. You should enjoy working with your hands, performing a variety of tasks and be proficient in using an extensive range of hand tools, powered machines, torches and welding apparatus. You must be able to understand and follow detailed plans, and to visualize concepts and entire piping systems based on this understanding. In addition, plumbers must be good problem solvers and able to apply their analytical abilities in a wide assortment of situations. Plumbers should be disciplined, responsible and able to concentrate on a single task for long periods of time. As in most jobs, interpersonal communication skills are invaluable, as you will frequently be dealing with co-workers, clients and other tradespeople, although you will often work alone and without direct supervision

The main industry of employment for plumbers is construction, both residential and commercial, working either for plumbing firms or self-employed as sub-contractors. They also find work in the maintenance departments of large institutions such as hospitals or schools. Plumbers are often required to work in cramped areas or at considerable heights, and the work can be physically demanding, as there is a considerable amount of lifting and carrying of piping materials involved. The self-employed have more autonomy and flexibility in their schedules, but must also prepare estimates, negotiate pricing and contracts, and generally work longer than conventional hours.

Related Occupations

  • Steamfitter / Pipefitter
  • Gas Fitter
  • Sprinkler Fitter

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