What Does a Plumber Do?

Plumber Sarasota installs, repairs, and maintains the pipes that carry water, gas, and waste to and from homes and businesses. They also deal with issues like clogged toilets, leaky faucets, and broken showerheads.


Licensed residential plumbers are experienced in new installations and basic repairs like float valve replacements, garbage disposal installation, and whole house re-pipes. They may also handle larger scale plumbing projects for multi-level buildings.

A plumber installs and repairs water supply, heating, ventilation and drainage systems in residential and commercial structures. Plumbers often perform inspections of plumbing components to identify issues and violations of building codes, and they use specialized equipment like video cameras to inspect pipes and pressure gauges to test for leaks. They also use their skills to assemble, install and repair plumbing fixtures and appliances such as sinks, toilets, bathtubs, showers, drains, faucets and water heaters. Plumbers often must remove or replace existing piping to reach hidden pipes and fixtures, and they may need to cut into walls to access pipes.

As part of their job duties, plumbers must be able to read and interpret blueprints and other technical documents to understand the layout of plumbing systems and to determine where new pipes should be routed. They must also be competent at using hand and power tools to assemble, install and repair plumbing fixtures, and they must be familiar with a wide range of tools and materials related to the plumbing trade. Plumbers also need to be able to work well under pressure and in tight spaces, and they must have good critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

Plumbers must be able to communicate effectively with their clients, and they may need to explain complex plumbing problems in easy-to-understand terms. They also need to be able to explain the costs associated with the required work and answer any questions that their clients may have. Plumbers must also be able to work as a team member with other members of the construction crew and must follow all relevant safety practices.

Because plumbers sometimes work with dangerous chemicals and materials, they must be able to wear the appropriate safety gear to protect themselves. This includes safety goggles, rubber gloves and a face mask. They may also need to remove or replace contaminated drywall and insulation, and they must be able to handle hazardous materials such as asbestos. Plumbers who work with sewage pipes may be exposed to infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis, and they must be able to recognize and respond appropriately to symptoms of exposure.

Education and Training Requirements

The educational requirements to become a plumber vary by state, but most include completing an apprenticeship program, meeting minimum academic and work experience standards, and passing a certification exam. Many states also require licensing. Obtaining a license demonstrates your competency and professionalism, making you more marketable to potential employers.

Plumbing is a hands-on job that requires a strong attention to detail. You must be able to visualize and assess complex structures, make accurate measurements, and be comfortable working with tools and machines. Critical thinking skills are important, as you will need to weigh options and costs when solving problems. You must also be able to verbally communicate with customers about the required work and related expenses.

To start your career, you will need a high school diploma or equivalent. You can then apply to an apprenticeship, which typically lasts four to five years and combines on-the-job training with classroom instruction. You can find programs through local unions, technical schools, and community colleges.

Some programs offer scholarships or tuition assistance. Others have application deadlines, interview requirements, and entrance exams. You can also find pre-apprenticeship courses offered through Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs at some high schools. These are a great way to test the waters and see if you would enjoy this trade before committing to an apprenticeship.

Apprentices earn a wage while learning the trade. The wages increase with the years of employment. Plumbers also need a valid driver’s license to operate company vehicles to get to jobs. Some apprenticeships have age requirements, and some require background checks and drug tests.

To qualify for a master plumber’s certificate, you must have at least two years of practical experience as a journeyman plumber. You can also qualify by completing an approved educational alternative such as a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering plus at least five years of experience working with plumbing systems. You must pass an examination that covers the planning, design, and installation of plumbing systems. You must also submit proof of insurance coverage with a minimum of $100,000. There are also certifications for specialty fields, such as fire sprinkler installation and water heater installer.

Work Environment

Plumbers work in a variety of settings, including homes, businesses, and construction sites. These professionals install and repair pipes, fixtures, and appliances like sinks, toilets, showers, and water heaters. They also inspect plumbing systems to ensure they meet building codes and regulations. Plumbers may also specialize in specific types of plumbing, such as gas line installations and repairs. Some may choose to focus on green plumbing practices, which promote environmentally friendly water and energy efficiency.

Plumbers typically work full-time, though some may choose to pursue independent contracting opportunities. This allows them to set their own schedules and choose which projects they want to take on. It can also lead to higher earning potential, as experienced plumbers can command more competitive hourly rates. The work environment can be physically demanding, as plumbers often lift heavy objects and work in tight spaces. It can also be stressful, as the profession requires constant attention to detail and problem-solving skills.

The work of a plumber is generally safe, but there is always a risk of injury due to the physical nature of the job. Plumbers are trained to follow safety protocols and take special precautions when working with hazardous materials. Plumbers who work on construction sites must also be aware of the risk of falls and other accidents due to the heights at which they are required to work.

Many plumbers begin their careers as apprentices, which can last up to five years. During this time, they receive both classroom instruction and hands-on training from a licensed professional plumber. Those who wish to become licensed plumbers must pass an exam that tests their technical knowledge and skill.

In addition to on-the-job training, some plumbing schools and vocational colleges offer associate’s degrees in plumbing technology. These degrees can help future plumbers gain entry into the field and can provide a strong foundation for continuing education. It’s also a good idea for prospective plumbers to network with other professionals in the industry to find out about job openings.

Job Outlook

As with most trade jobs, the more experience a plumber gains, the better the pay. Experts in specialty areas like backflow testing, eco-friendly systems and smart home systems often command higher rates for their expertise. Certification in these areas also adds to your value, and demonstrates your commitment to staying up-to-date with industry technology.

The demand for plumbing services should remain high for the foreseeable future. Aging infrastructure will continue to need repairs and upgrades, particularly in urban centers with growing populations. Additionally, the push for green building practices will likely lead to increased demand for plumbers who specialize in installing and maintaining eco-friendly equipment.

In general, job security for plumbers should be good, although employment is subject to the overall economy and construction activity levels. For instance, when the economy takes a hit, demand for new construction may decrease, which could affect plumbers who focus on installation and maintenance of existing systems.

Plumbers who work for large companies or government agencies typically enjoy stable employment. These positions offer benefits including health insurance, retirement plans and paid vacations. Additionally, plumbers can work their way up the ranks and become master plumbers, which is the highest professional level in the field. Master plumbers often earn very well and enjoy flexible work schedules.

With a little time and effort, you can start your career as a service plumber by attending an apprenticeship program offered by many vocational schools. In this type of program, you will learn on the job while getting paid, giving you the skills and confidence you need to begin your career without incurring a lot of debt. Additionally, you can take on freelance or contract work to supplement your income until you are fully qualified and ready to start your own business. With so many options available, it is important to do your research and find a program that offers the best return on your investment. Be sure to ask friends and family for recommendations and read reviews before making a decision.