What Does a Plumber Do?

Plumbers Aurora CO install, maintain, and repair water pipes and fixtures in homes and businesses. They are also responsible for interpreting and executing plumbing designs and blueprints.


Like most trade jobs, becoming a plumber requires both educational hours and on-the-job training. Depending on the program, apprenticeships can last two to five years.

The plumbing industry encompasses a wide range of work. Many plumbers focus on installing pipes and other systems that facilitate the distribution of water, gas, and waste in residential and commercial settings. Others focus on repairing and maintaining these systems, ensuring they function properly. Still, other plumbers specialize in more specialized plumbing projects. For example, one plumber might focus on installing and repairing water tanks, while another might focus on sewage systems.

Plumbing Layout: During new construction, plumbers may be responsible for planning the layout of pipes in homes and businesses. They must understand and interpret blueprints in order to install the right pipes in the correct places, according to building codes. These plumbers often have to perform other tasks, such as removing existing pipes and relocating them where needed.

Piping: Pipefitters and steamfitters, which are also considered plumbing specialists, install the pipes that carry liquids and gases throughout buildings. They work with pipe material such as copper, steel and cast iron. They also use tools like reamers, drills, pipe cutters and caulking guns. They must be able to recognize and fix problems related to water pressure, temperature fluctuations and other piping issues.

Toilets: Often, when a customer calls to report a leaky toilet, the plumber will be called in for repair or replacement of parts and the installation of new fixtures. These plumbers must be familiar with a variety of toilet types, including low-flow and high-efficiency models. They also must be able to diagnose and repair problems with urinals, faucets and showers.

Kitchen and Bath: Often, when homeowners are remodeling their kitchens or bathrooms, they will call a plumbing specialist to help with the job. These plumbers can install sinks, toilets and other fixtures, as well as reroute or remove drains to accommodate new appliances. They can also work with drywall and paint to make sure the finished product is up to code.

Natural Gas Lines: Plumbers who specialize in natural gas lines can install, repair and connect gas lines to a variety of home appliances and fixtures, such as stoves and water heaters. They can also troubleshoot problems with gas leaks and other issues.

Work Environment

The work environment for plumbers can vary widely depending on the type of job and location. In most cases, plumbers work in homes, businesses and factories where they install, fit or repair pipes and plumbing fixtures. They may also be called in to work on sewer or drainage systems, such as those that run underground or through a building’s walls.

Because plumbing systems provide essential services, such as taking away waste water and providing clean, fresh water and regulating indoor climate, they need to be constantly maintained and in working order. Plumbers often spend time on maintenance tasks, such as checking pressure levels and unclogging drains and toilets. This can be very hazardous and require specialized tools, but it is an important part of the job.

Plumbers are also called on to install new systems, such as water lines for sinks and appliances, or piping for hot water heaters or kitchens. These can be very challenging to install and require extensive knowledge of plumbing codes and regulations. In addition, it is necessary for plumbers to have excellent communication skills to explain to customers what needs to be done and why it is necessary.

Many plumbers are employed by construction or engineering firms, while others are self-employed contractors or work for plumbing companies. They may also be members of professional associations, which can give them access to a variety of training opportunities and other resources.

Plumbing involves physical activities, including lifting heavy objects and working in tight spaces. It can also involve exposure to biohazards, such as raw sewage and chemicals. As a result, it is important for plumbers to wear the proper safety equipment and follow strict health and safety guidelines when performing their duties.

The work can be very rewarding for those who enjoy meeting people and resolving problems. Plumbers are constantly interacting with new people, and their daily activities can forge the basis for future business relationships. Additionally, because they are usually not office-based, plumbers must be willing to travel to different sites or work outside of normal business hours if required to complete a task.

Education and Training

Students interested in a career as a plumber can begin their training at a vocational school or community college. Some programs allow students to earn a certificate after completing just two years of study, while others lead to an associate degree. These schools typically offer courses in math, drafting and blueprint reading, and basic plumbing. Many also offer a hands-on component that provides students with practical experience in soldering and welding and technical education related to the materials used in plumbing, building codes, and safety.

Another route to becoming a licensed plumber is to complete an apprenticeship program, which can take between four and five years. During this time, apprentices work alongside licensed journeymen and master plumbers to learn the skills of the trade. The apprenticeship includes 144 hours of classroom instruction per year, along with at least 2,000 hours of on-the-job training.

After completing an apprenticeship, some students choose to pursue a license in order to become a master plumber. State licensing procedures vary, but they generally require two to five years of experience and passing a comprehensive test. For example, applicants must pass a written and practical exam that covers topics such as pipe sizing, drafting, and backflow prevention techniques.

Job Duties

Plumbers install, inspect and repair systems that supply water and gas to homes and commercial buildings, and remove waste. Their duties include laying pipe sections and tubing, fittings and fixtures, cutting, soldering, welding and assembling plumbing tools and equipment. Other job functions may include reading blueprints to assess or plan pipe layout and installation, completing inspections and tests, ensuring compliance with safety regulations, and handling customer queries and calls.

Plumbers must be able to work with their hands, have good mechanical skills and be able to solve problems quickly. They should also have good communication skills and be able to describe the problem to customers in a clear way, so they can understand it. They may need to be able to lift heavy materials, work in small spaces and climb ladders to reach overhead areas. They also need to be able to use hand and power tools, and understand the principles of plumbing, including drainage, water supply, and ventilation.

Some plumbers specialize in particular types of installations, for example sewer systems or water heaters. Others are experts in maintenance tasks, such as unclogging drains or repairing toilets and sinks. Still, other plumbers may be generalists who can handle a variety of different installations and repairs. They might be called in to help with emergency situations, such as a burst pipe or flooding caused by sewage backing up into a home.

A high school diploma is generally required to become a plumber. Some trade schools or apprenticeship programs offer more advanced training, and may lead to a journeyman or master plumber designation. Some plumbers are self-employed, but most work for companies that provide maintenance, repair and installation services to residential and commercial customers.

A journeyman plumber must have a minimum of two years of experience in the field, or be a certified apprentice. They must have a valid license in their state or territory to practice plumbing and pass a background check and drug test. In addition, they should have a strong understanding of building codes and be familiar with a variety of materials, including copper, PEX, CPVC, and cast iron.