Plumbers and pipefitters install and repair pipe systems that carry water, steam, air, or other fluids or gases.
Plumbers and pipefitters are considered a single trade. Usually workers specialize in one area.
Plumbers install and repair water, waste, and gas systems in homes and commercial buildings. Pipefitters install and repair pipe systems used in manufacturing. They also work on pipe systems that provide heating and cooling for buildings. Some pipefitters specialize in one type of system. For example, they may specialize in hospital work, where they install oxygen and gas lines. Or they may focus on more efficient systems, such as solar water heating or grey water systems. Steamfitters install pipe systems that move liquids or gases under high pressure.
All three types of plumbers have many tasks in common. They study blueprints, drawings, and building codes. They inspect buildings to determine what materials to use. They select pipe sizes and types according to requirements. They also select other materials, such as supports or hangers. Plumbers lay out the job and try to fit piping into the building with the least amount of waste. They measure and mark where pipes will be installed. They must plan the layout of pipes around other systems, like electrical wires. Plumbers cut holes in walls, ceilings, or floors where the pipes will go. For large pipe systems, they may hang steel supports from ceiling joists.
Plumbers cut and bend the lengths of pipe, using saws, pipe cutters, and pipe-bending machines. They assemble the pipe system. Plumbers install the pipe, fixtures, and appliances. They connect the system to water, gas, or sewer lines. They also check the system with pressure gauges to be sure it is free from leaks and operates properly.
Plumbers also repair and maintain plumbing. They replace defective fittings and broken pipes. They open clogged drains. They also modify existing pipe systems and maintain related equipment. Sometimes plumbers operate pump equipment to remove water from flooded areas, such as basements or manholes. For large jobs, plumbers may direct other workers in cutting, assembling, and installing pipe systems.
The government gives tax refunds for installing equipment that saves water. Plumbers may install water saving devices like low flow shower heads. Plumbers also set up pipe systems to direct water to gardens using recycled water from baths or showers. Others install solar water heaters or tankless water heaters.
Plumbers who operate their own business often provide quotes to customers. They may also negotiate contracts. They keep records and reports of all the work they do.