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What Do Plumbers Do?

Professional plumber doing repair in kitchen home.

Hesitantly, I answered, “They  fix water leaks and unclog blocked pipes and drains.”  Or in the words of  Arthur Baer, ” A plumber is an adventurer who traces leaky pipes to their source.” That was my response when, the morning after one of Wifey and I’s date nights, just as I came out of our master bedroom-where Wifey was still sleeping,  our four-year-old Sonny ran up to me and asked, “Daddy, what do plumbers do?”

Somewhat taken aback,  but suspecting why Sonny had  asked the question (…he had heard us!!), I picked the little guy up, and to distract him, went into a whole harangue about plumbers and different kinds of work they do and don’t do for…

1. Plumbing Contractors

What plumbers do takes place in THREE main areas. These are domestic/residential, commercial, and industrial. Ordinarily,  a plumber will specialize and specifically work in either one of these areas and/or all of them, depending on his trade skill and qualifications.

When a plumber agrees to undertake work in any one of the three main plumbing areas mentioned above, he is known as a plumbing contractor. A plumbing contractor can either work alone as an individual plumber or work with a staff of other plumbers s/he leads or supervises.  The exact responsibilities of a plumber depending on the particular project type.

General contractor looking on his plan.

Typically, as a contracted plumber working in either of the three, a plumber handles tasks that involve water supply and septic systems. S/he is expected to install, troubleshoot, maintain and replace existing pipe systems, connections, fixtures, and devices that facilitate the flow of water. Such plumbing tasks are often required at residential sites such as new builds, industrial sites such as new factories, and commercial construction sites like hotels.

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Plumbers working on such projects must be able to follow blueprints, work with plumbing tools, and know what types of materials are required for each job.

However, aside from installing pipes, plumbing contractors can also be contracted to root out pipes and drains for water supply and septic systems. Such work for plumbers is quite common when a house or hotel renovations are taking place and new piping, drains and septic systems need to be removed or replaced. Generally, though, plumbers specialize in the maintenance of already-existing systems.

Though on occasion they also design piping systems for new construction projects.

2. Domestic/Residential Plumbers and Homeowners

These types of plumbers specifically work in privately-owned residential homes. More often than not, they are not contracted but are usually called in by homeowners because of a leaking faucet, pipe, or clogged drain in their houses. In other, rare cases, residential plumbers who specialize in plumbing maintenance actually have fixed contracts with homeowners to come at set times and maintain and, when necessary,  repair the plumbing at someone’s house.

This normally happens where the home in question is large, does not have a residential plumber, or is an HOA.

Plumber with tools doing reparation in the kitchen.

3. Plumbers and HOAs  

A plumber wearing orange shirt and hard hat.

Also known as a Body Corporate in other climes, HOA stands for homeowners’ association. Such an association consists of members of a gated or ungated community whose members have shared interests and values. For most HOAs, the primary shared interest is to sustain and increase the value of their homes by ensuring that, in addition to shared community values, their properties are well-maintained.

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The Board of Directors/Trustees elected to spearhead such HOAs are habitually tasked to find, contract, and pay skilled artisans/craftspeople like plumbers, electricians, landscapers, and painters to, and for maintaining the community’s homes and surroundings. A plumber(s) contracted by an HOA would see to the community’s plumbing requirements. However, in such cases, a plumber might also need to possess some secondary skills if s/he is to be effective at her/his job.

For instance, during plumbing, a plumber may need to perform basic carpentry to access pipes inside walls or brace pipes to keep them in place. In addition to such skills, a plumber may also need to be able to weld, solder, and attach fittings when necessary. Once a piping system is installed, a plumber must also be able to install fixtures, such as bathtubs, showers, toilets, water heaters, and dishwashers.

What a plumber does, therefore, will largely depend on his qualifications, experience, and skill-set.

4. Plumbers and Commercial Building Owners  

In addition to being contracted by homeowners and HOAs, plumbers are sometimes contracted by owners of multi-unit commercial structures such as condominiums, apartment buildings, motels, and hotels. In such cases, plumbers offer a variety of services, from maintenance to upgrading and replacing systems during retrofitting and remodeling so plumbing meets requisite codes. Consequently, plumbers working on such projects must be knowledgeable of municipal plumbing codes and requirements….

A plumber holding his tools and wrench inside the store.

Expecting Sonny to be fast asleep by now, you can imagine when, to my surprise, he was still wide awake and attentively following. Worse still, when he had some questions he wanted me to answer! Like….

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5. FAQs about Plumbers

Do plumbers work on gas lines?

A: There are THREE states of matter in the world –  solid, liquid, and gas. During their work, plumbers encounter all three states. Yes, they encounter gas but NO, not in gas lines. Only a specialized few actually do.

These have to be qualified and licensed with specialized knowledge to do so, given how delicate and dangerous gas can be. Such plumbers are known as natural gas plumbers or simply gas plumbers.

Plumber repairing washing machine.

Do plumbers fix water heaters?

A: Generally, plumbers install water heaters, but rarely do they fix them. Occasionally, though, you will find a plumber with a background in electronics or power who has been trained to fix water heaters. However, given their sensitivity, the fixing of water heaters is, in my opinion, best left to qualified plumbers, electricians, or HVAC experts.

Do plumbers fix washing machines?

A: As with water heaters, while plumbers can to some extent install washing machines, the fixing of washing machines is best left to qualified electricians. However, depending on what exactly needs to be fixed on the washing machine, they  could give it a go-but at your own risk. For instance, if there is no clog in your drain hose, then the problem is the pump inside of your washing machine and you will need to contact an appliance repair person to have the pump repaired or, replaced.

Do plumbers fix water faucets?

A: Is this a trick question?! Yes, of course, anything transporting or spurting water, plumbers will get their hands wet with. Fixing faucets is right up plumbers’ alleys.

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A plumbing technician can work on the faucet and sink.

Do plumbers install grab bars?

A: Since grab bars are neither electric nor gaseous and actually go well with bathtubs, toilets, and showers, then yes, any plumber worth his/her salt should be able to install grab bars. Many homeowners see the advantage of hiring a plumber to install safety handicap bars inside the shower or bathtub.

Do plumbers fix dishwashers?

A: Plumbers can install dishwashers. But similar to washing machines, the fixing of dishwashers is best left to qualified electricians and licensed technicians. However, depending on what exactly needs to be fixed on the dishwasher, they could give it a go-but at your own risk, of course. Ideally, appliance installers take care of the dishwasher and clothes washer.

Do plumbers unclog toilets?

A: Now, that’s more like it. Unclogging toilets is right up a plumber’s alley or to do thingies. A plumber will unclog the toilet tank by using a plunger with steady strokes or a toilet snake with full power. Actually, this constitutes quite a fair share of a domestic and commercial plumber’s income.

Particularly homeowners’ and hoteliers’ toilets.

Do plumbers unclog drains?

A: As with toilets, unclogging drains should be one of a plumber’s major abilities. Akin to toilets, this constitutes another chunk of a domestic and commercial plumber’s income. Particularly by unclogging homeowners, hoteliers, and restaurateurs’ drains.

When it comes to unclogging drains, plumbers have two common methods. The first way a plumber can unclog a drain is by using motorized drain augurs. So, if your drain has a clog, you need to contact a plumber to check the drain hose and pipe.

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Do plumbers change radiators?

A: No way Jose, not just any plumber at least. As with gas lines, only those plumbers who are qualified and licensed to do so could be able to change radiators. For a qualified and licensed plumber, replacing a radiator is a fairly routine job and should be completed in a few hours.

Do plumbers install toilets?

A: You could say this is what plumbers were born to do. Installing toilets is something plumbers do quite a lot, especially when they have been contracted to work on a new house and commercial construction or renovation projects. In such instances, toilet and drainage installation is one of the primary reasons they are contracted.

The average cost of installing or replacing a toilet is anywhere between $370 and $530.

What qualifications do plumbers require?

A: A High school diploma or GED equivalent is all that’s required. In the words of Kathy Szeliga “You don’t need a college degree to be a good carpenter, welder, plumber, auto mechanic, member of the armed forces, or firefighter.” However, you should possess good math and mechanical skills.

Once you have these, you can attend trade schools for instruction and then later have on-the-job training. Local unions and contractors sometimes also offer apprenticeship programs work to aspiring plumbers.

How much money do plumbers make?

A: Although in the U.S. plumbers’ earnings vary from state to state, on average plumbers earn around $26.00 per hour and $50,000 annually.

Are you a plumber and have you ever been a plumber?

A: gulp

Has mommy ever hired you as her plumber?

A: double gulp

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