Duties and Responsibilities of A Plumber: Ever wonder what it takes to be a plumber? You probably don’t think much about plumbers or what they do until you have a clogged drain or leaky faucet. Plumbers install and repair water systems in homes and businesses. It’s not an easy job but for the right person it can be a rewarding career.
As a plumber, you get to work with your hands and solve problems that directly impact your customers. You’ll spend your days installing pipes, fixing leaks, clearing clogs, and making sure water flows where it needs to go. While it may not seem glamorous, plumbing is an essential service that provides one of life’s necessities – access to clean water.
If you like working with tools, enjoy fixing things, and want a job that will always be in demand, a career as a plumber could be perfect for you. The next time your sink is backed up, be sure to thank your plumber – they work hard to ensure we all have running water. Plumbers truly are everyday heroes.
Understanding the Role of a Plumber
As a plumber, your primary role is keeping people’s water systems running properly. This can involve installing, repairing or replacing pipes, drains, water heaters, toilets, sinks, and other plumbing fixtures.
1. Types of Plumbers
There are residential plumbers who work in people’s homes, and commercial plumbers who work in large buildings like schools or hospitals. Some plumbers specialize in pipefitting, focusing specifically on pipe systems. Many plumbers do emergency repair work, available on-call to fix issues like burst pipes or backed-up drains at all hours.
2. Daily Duties
- Inspect plumbing systems to check for leaks, clogs or other issues
- Repair or replace worn or damaged plumbing fixtures like faucets, valves, pumps or water softeners
- Install new plumbing systems in new home constructions or remodels
- Unclog drains, toilets and sewer lines using plungers, drain augers and high-pressure water jets
- Read blueprints to ensure plumbing systems are installed properly
- Stay up-to-date with plumbing codes and safety standards
3. Key Skills
To succeed as a plumber, you need:
- Manual dexterity and physical fitness to work in cramped spaces and lift heavy equipment
- Troubleshooting skills to diagnose plumbing problems
- Knowledge of water distribution systems, drainage systems and plumbing tools/materials
- Ability to read blueprints and plumbing schematics
Key Duties of a Plumber
As a plumber, you’ll have a lot of responsibilities to keep people’s plumbing systems running smoothly.
Key Daily Duties
On any given day, you might:
- Install, repair and maintain pipes, fixtures and other plumbing equipment like water heaters, sump pumps, and water softeners. This includes cutting, bending and threading pipe, soldering and welding.
- Read blueprints and drawings to understand or plan the layout of plumbing systems, water supply networks, and waste and drainage systems.
- Detect and fix issues like leaky faucets, clogged drains, burst pipes, high pressure, etc. You’ll use tools like snakes, plungers, pipe wrenches and plumber’s putty to clear clogs, seal leaks and repair fixtures.
- Provide emergency plumbing services by responding quickly to minimize damage from burst pipes or flooding. You may have to work evenings, weekends and holidays.
- Educate homeowners and building owners on how to properly maintain plumbing systems and fixtures to prevent future problems. Give them tips for conserving water and improving efficiency.
- Stay up-to-date with plumbing codes, zoning regulations, and new plumbing tools and materials. Continuously build your skills through on-the-job training and courses.
- Keep records of work done, including time spent, materials used, and invoices for payment. You’ll likely use a plumber’s putty, pipe cutters, plunger, drain snake, and wrench on a daily basis.
Daily Responsibilities and Tasks
As a plumber, you have a set of daily responsibilities and tasks to keep your schedule full.
1. Inspections and Repairs
A large part of your day involves inspecting plumbing systems in homes and commercial buildings to detect any issues, then repairing or replacing parts as needed.
This could include unclogging drains, fixing leaky faucets or toilets, repairing pipes, or ensuring water heaters, sump pumps, and other appliances are functioning properly. You’ll use specialized tools like pipe wrenches, plungers, and snake cameras to complete these jobs.
2. Installation and Remodeling
You may also handle the installation of new plumbing systems in newly constructed homes or buildings, or update and replace plumbing during remodeling projects. This could involve installing sinks, toilets, water heaters, pipes, and other plumbing fixtures. You’ll follow building plans and codes to properly size, place and connect all components.
3. Emergency Calls
As a plumber, you need to be available for emergency calls regarding gas leaks, flooding, or other hazardous plumbing issues. You may have to work nights, weekends or holidays to respond to these urgent situations. Quickly assessing the problem, shutting off water or gas supplies if necessary, and making temporary or permanent repairs are critical to resolving emergency plumbing calls.
4. Ordering Supplies and Paperwork
Plumbers also typically spend time each day ordering any supplies needed for current and upcoming jobs. This could include pipes, fittings, sinks, water heaters or plumbing tools. You’ll also need to provide customers with estimates for larger jobs, track invoices, and handle other paperwork related to running your own plumbing business or working for a plumbing contractor.
Skills and Expertise Needed
To work as a plumber, you need a certain skill set and level of expertise. Some key requirements include:
1. Technical skills
Plumbers need to be comfortable working with specialized tools and equipment like pipe cutters, wrenches, plungers, augers, and pipe threaders. They use these tools to install, repair, and maintain water systems and plumbing fixtures. Plumbers should have a working knowledge of the plumbing code requirements for their area as well.
2. Problem-solving ability
Plumbers frequently encounter plumbing problems and need to determine solutions. They have to evaluate issues like leaks, clogs, and malfunctioning systems and figure out the best way to resolve them. Strong critical thinking and troubleshooting skills are important.
3. Customer service orientation
Plumbers work directly with homeowners and building owners. They need to be able to communicate clearly with customers about the work that needs to be done. Plumbers should have good interpersonal skills to be able to address customer concerns and complaints courteously and professionally.
Plumbers may work in cramped, confined spaces at times. They need to be physically fit and flexible enough to maneuver in awkward positions. They also need to be comfortable working in a variety of settings from residential homes to large commercial buildings. Plumbers’ schedules can also be irregular since plumbing issues often arise on short notice or during off hours. The ability to adapt to varying and sometimes difficult work conditions is key.
How to Become a Licensed Plumber
To become a licensed plumber, you’ll need to complete a certain amount of training and pass an exam. The path to becoming a plumber typically involves the following steps:
1. Education and Training
Most plumbers get their start with an apprenticeship program where you earn while you learn. Apprenticeships usually last 4-5 years and combine paid on-the-job training with technical courses. You can also get a certificate or associate’s degree in plumbing from a trade school or community college. Coursework covers areas like plumbing codes, blueprints, math, and safety.
2. Gain Experience
As an apprentice, you’ll work under a licensed plumber to gain the necessary experience. Apprentices start by doing simple tasks like installing and repairing pipes and fixtures. As you gain more experience, you’ll move on to more complex work. Many states require a minimum number of hours of paid on-the-job training.
3. Pass an Exam
To become a licensed plumber, you need to pass an exam that tests your knowledge of plumbing codes, safety standards, and installation methods. The most common exams are the Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC) exam and the International Plumbing Code exam. Exam content varies by state, so check with your local licensing board.
4. Consider Certification (Optional)
While not always required, earning certification from a professional organization like the American Society of Plumbing Engineers can demonstrate your knowledge and skills. Plumbing certifications also allow plumbers to work in multiple states. The most well-known plumbing certifications are the ASPE’s Certified Plumbing Designer (CPD) and Certified in Plumbing Engineering (CIPE) designations.
5. Maintain Your License
Once licensed, plumbers must keep their license valid through continuing education. Requirements vary by state but usually involve completing a certain number of hours of coursework every 1-2 years. Plumbers must also renew their license periodically, typically every 2-4 years. Staying up-to-date with the latest plumbing codes and techniques is essential to providing the best service to customers.
Plumbers frequently get asked a lot of questions. Here are some of the most common ones:
1. What services do plumbers provide?
Plumbers handle installation and repairs for:
- Pipes (water, gas, sewer)
- Water heaters
- Water softeners
- Garbage disposals
- Septic systems
They can take care of leaks, clogs, water pressure issues, and appliance hookups. If it involves water, plumbers deal with it.
2. How much does a plumber cost?
Plumber rates vary depending on the job, but you can expect to pay:
- $45-$65 per hour for minor repairs
- $200-$500 for installing fixtures like faucets or disposals
- $200-$2,000 to clear clogs or repair leaks
- $600-$2,000 to install a water heater
- $5,000-$25,000 for repiping or replacing waste lines
3. When should I call a plumber?
Call a plumber right away for any of these situations:
- Major leaks that can’t be contained. Water damage can happen fast!
- Complete lack of running water or blocked plumbing vents
- Burst pipes or water heaters
- Sewage backups
- Gas leaks (call the utility company first in this case)
For minor clogs, drips or appliance issues, you can try DIY fixes first. But if problems persist, call a pro rather than risking further damage or wasted time and money on temporary solutions.