How does it take a lot of skill to be a good plumber?

  • #1
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I have been trained as an HVAC technician before, and I have worked as a residential HVAC technician, but I quit HVAC to go back into trucking because I could not bear to work in the hot attics (140+ degrees fahrenheit) in the summertime. I have heard that soon truck drivers will become obsolete and robots will be driving semi-trucks. When human truck drivers become obsolete, I will need to switch careers. I have been considering many different careers I could go into. My father recently told me that he had an epiphany. He said that I could attend a plumbing program at a trade school, and since I would then have had training in both HVAC and plumbing, I could be useful to large apartment complexes as a maintenance man.

I asked my father if plumbing is a highly skilled occupation, and he said that plumbing is a highly skilled occupation. I have never worked as a plumber, so I might be unaware of some sort of important facts that make plumbing a highly skilled occupation. But I don't see how plumbing would require a lot of skill & knowledge. In HVAC, one must learn all about electricity and how electric motors work, so I can see how HVAC is highly skilled. In plumbing, you don't even use electricity at all, except with water heaters. I see plumbing as just consisting of using an augur to clear out clogs in pipes and installing faucets mostly. I don't see how that would require an enormous amount of skill.

If you agree with my father that it takes a lot of skill to be a good plumber, what is it about plumbing that requires a lot of skill and training to be a good plumber?

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Edited to add: I am just asking how it takes a lot of skill to be a good plumber out of curiosity. I don't deny that it takes a lot of skill to be a good plumber. Since I have never worked as a plumber, I am just asking this question to learn why it takes a lot of skill to be a good plumber.
 

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  • #2
DaveC426913
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Try renovating the bathroom in an old house some day, where you have to move your hot and cold lines. Without plumber's knowledge and skills, you'll quickly learn that its not as easy as it seems.

Do you know how to couple copper to lead pipes? Are your solder joints reliable? Did you set the place on fire soldering in a cramped crawlspace? And to top it all: is it all up-to-code? Will it pass inspection?

That last one is nothing to sneeze at. A layperson will have no idea what the local code requires. A plumber has it all in his head.
 
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  • #3
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Try renovating the bathroom in an old house some day, where you have to move your hot and cold lines. Without plumber's knowledge and skills, you'll quickly learn that its not as easy as it seems.
I have never moved hot & cold water lines. Have you? If so, what made it difficult? Please elaborate.

Do you know how to couple copper to lead pipes?
No. But who would be using lead pipes in the year 2020? Hasnt it been well known for well over a century that lead pipes will lead to lead poisoning? These are not rhetorical questions.

Are your solder joints reliable? Did you set the place on fire soldering in a cramped crawlspace?
So soldering pipes together is a major part of plumbing? I did not even know plumbers ever solder. I thought that plumbing pipes just screw on to each other.



And to top it all: is it all up-to-code? Will it pass inspection?

That last one is nothing to sneeze at. A layperson will have no idea what the local code requires. A plumber has it all in his head.
Wouldn't knowing the codes only apply to plumbing work that is new construction?

If a plumber installs a new faucet in the sink of a twenty year old house, what government officials are going to inspect it?
 
  • #4
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I predict this thread will end up locked, since the very premise is "I know nothing of plumbing but I am sure it can't be hard". And yes, I read your PS. And the follow-up message which undermines it.

As for one example:

But who would be using lead pipes in the year 2020? Hasnt it been well known for well over a century that lead pipes will lead to lead poisoning?
So you only plan on working on pipes in houses that were built after 1986?
 
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  • #5
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I predict this thread will end up locked, since the very premise is "I know nothing of plumbing but I am sure it can't be hard". And yes, I read your PS. And the follow-up message which undermines it.
I never said that i am sure that plumbing cannot be hard. Since everyone i have asked says that plumbing requires a lot of skill, i am confident that plumbing does require a lot of skill. Since i know so little about plumbing, i want to know how plumbing requires a lot of skill because i dont fully understand.





As for one example:


So you only plan on working on pipes in houses that were built after 1986?
No. I only plan on working on pipes in houses built after 1920. I said the last hundred years, not the last 34 years.
 
  • #6
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Lead pipes weren't banned until 1986.
 
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  • #7
berkeman
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Edited to add: I am just asking how it takes a lot of skill to be a good plumber out of curiosity. I don't deny that it takes a lot of skill to be a good plumber. Since I have never worked as a plumber, I am just asking this question to learn why it takes a lot of skill to be a good plumber.
I debated whether to reply to your thread, since on the face of it you seem quite mean-spirited in your question. Each of the trades on this long list take skills and learning and some sort of apprenticeship and often certifications:

https://tradesecrets.alberta.ca/trades-occupations/trades-occupations-list/

To try to ask whether each one takes "a lot of skill" or whether one takes more skill than another seems unpleasant and misplaced to me. People should pursue occupations that interest them or that they know other people or relatives who work in them, and they should do their best to be the best they can be, IMO. I've done plenty of amateur electrician work and plumbing work and carpentry work on my own homes and helping my friends, but for sure professionals in each of those trades know way more than I do about those trades, and are much more skilled in those trades than I am.

My father recently told me that he had an epiphany. He said that I could attend a plumbing program at a trade school, and since I would then have had training in both HVAC and plumbing, I could be useful to large apartment complexes as a maintenance man.
I think that this is the only redeeming point in your post so far. Combining multiple trades can make you more valuable in some specialized employment sectors.
 
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  • #8
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I predict this thread will end up locked, since the very premise is "I know nothing of plumbing but I am sure it can't be hard". And yes, I read your PS. And the follow-up message which undermines it.
What was your purpose in writing this? Are you trying to stir up drama?

Why would i make a thread trying to learn why plumbing is high skill if i already know plumbing is high skill?
 
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  • #9
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I truly dont understand why everyone is ascribing these evil intentions to me. I just created this thread to learn about what makes plumbing high skill.
 
  • #10
berkeman
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Higher than what?
 
  • #12
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So far dave has listed soldering pipes together, which is most definitely a skill. Dave also listed the skill of moving hot & cold water lines. Dave also listed how one must know the plumbing codes, another skill.

Can anyone else either add something new or elaborate on what has already been said?

I am sure if a professional plumber was here, the professional plumber could list A LOT of plumbing skills that i don't know.
 
  • #14
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I debated whether to reply to your thread, since on the face of it you seem quite mean-spirited in your question. Each of the trades on this long list take skills and learning and some sort of apprenticeship and often certifications:

https://tradesecrets.alberta.ca/trades-occupations/trades-occupations-list/

To try to ask whether each one takes "a lot of skill" or whether one takes more skill than another seems unpleasant and misplaced to me. People should pursue occupations that interest them or that they know other people or relatives who work in them, and they should do their best to be the best they can be, IMO. I've done plenty of amateur electrician work and plumbing work and carpentry work on my own homes and helping my friends, but for sure professionals in each of those trades know way more than I do about those trades, and are much more skilled in those trades than I am.


I think that this is the only redeeming point in your post so far. Combining multiple trades can make you more valuable in some specialized employment sectors.
Ok berkeman, in thr plumbing work you did yourself at your own house and for your friends, did you ever need to research in a plumbing book to do the work? If so, what about plumbing did you specifically research?
 
  • #15
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Berkeman, i looked at your link. It was mildly interesting, but not extremely interesting.

I need to look at a plumbing book. That would prolly be more informative than anything else, short of doing the work myself.
 
  • #16
berkeman
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Ok berkeman, in thr plumbing work you did yourself at your own house and for your friends, did you ever need to research in a plumbing book to do the work? If so, what about plumbing did you specifically research?
Of course! I took classes on home improvement, bought books on home improvement (including plumbing chapters), talked with friends who had done similar work, etc. A lot of that stuff is not intuitive.

I've repaired plumbing for my sinks, toilets, dishwashers, vent pipes, etc. And I've done some limited soldering of pipes, which was quite hard to do well (despite my skills at soldering electronic parts). And each of those tasks gets harder with limited access. You mention working in very hot attics (I've been there too), but it's also quite hard to slither on your back through the dusty, dirty confined space below a home's flooring to get to a lot of the pipes that need attention. If you have any claustrophobia issues, being a plumber is probably not for you.
 
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  • #17
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Of course! I took classes on home improvement, bought books on home improvement (including plumbing chapters), talked with friends who had done similar work, etc. A lot of that stuff is not intuitive.

I've repaired plumbing for my sinks, toilets, diswhashers, vent pipes, etc. And I've done some limited soldering of pipes, which was quite hard to do well (despite my skills at soldering electronic parts). And each of those tasks gets harder with limited access. You mention working in very hot attics (I've been there too), but it's also quite hard to slither on your back through the dusty, dirty confined space below a home's flooring to get to a lot of the pipes that need attention. If you have any claustrophobia issues, being a plumber is probably not for you.
I had to go in those tight crawlspaces in HVAC as well. A lot of houses have the ducts and the air handler in the crawlspace.

I am overweight, and my obesity makes both working in very hot attics and slithering in crawlspace only about 2 feet high far more difficult
 
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  • #18
symbolipoint
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The direction of this topic has become ridiculous. Think about the work and decisions of plumbers! You need to be a human thinker here. So you believe plumbers do not need "alot of skill" to be any good? Can you
  • Change a kitchen garbage disposer
  • Repair or replace the (installed) air conditioning and heating system
  • Replace all of the pipes in a house
  • Remove and install air or air exhaust pipes & vents
?
 
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  • #19
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my obesity makes ... slithering in crawlspace only about 2 feet high far more difficult
You know all those pipes you saw in crawlspaces? Who do you think works on them?
 
  • #20
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The direction of this topic has become ridiculous. Think about the work and decisions of plumbers! You need to be a human thinker here. So you believe plumbers do not need "alot of skill" to be any good? Can you
  • Change a kitchen garbage disposer


  • I don't know.

    [*]Repair or replace the (installed) air conditioning and heating system
    Yes, but that is HVAC, not plumbing


    [*]Replace all of the pipes in a house
    Not if it requires soldering.


    [*]Remove and install air or air exhaust pipes & vents
?
That is HVAC, not plumbing.
 
  • #21
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Of course! I took classes on home improvement, bought books on home improvement (including plumbing chapters), talked with friends who had done similar work, etc. A lot of that stuff is not intuitive.



I've repaired plumbing for my sinks, toilets, dishwashers, vent pipes, etc. And I've done some limited soldering of pipes, which was quite hard to do well (despite my skills at soldering electronic parts). And each of those tasks gets harder with limited access. You mention working in very hot attics (I've been there too), but it's also quite hard to slither on your back through the dusty, dirty confined space below a home's flooring to get to a lot of the pipes that need attention. If you have any claustrophobia issues, being a plumber is probably not for you.
If a dishwasher breaks down due to mechanical issues, is that a plumber's territory? I thought that only hooking up the water supply to a dishwasher was a plumber's territory. I thought that repairing anything on a dishwasher other than the water supply was an appliance repairman's job, not a plumber's job.
 
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  • #22
jrmichler
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It looks like @berkeman's experience with electrical / HVAC / plumbing / roofing / general construction is very similar to mine. I can verify everything he said above.

The total knowledge and experience needed for plumbing is similar to, if not greater than, that needed for HVAC. Do you know how to properly size, set up, and troubleshoot an AC unit for optimal cooling AND humidity control AND operating cost? Do you really understand the difference between a capillary and a TXV? If not, you are not a real HVAC tech.

In my state (Wisconsin), the water portion of any HVAC system that has circulating water must be installed by a licensed plumber. And that is enforced, as a somebody I know personally learned the hard way.
 
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  • #23
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It looks like @berkeman's experience with electrical / HVAC / plumbing / roofing / general construction is very similar to mine. I can verify everything he said above.
If a dishwasher had a mechanical failure unrelated to the water line supplying the dishwasher with water, can you verify whose job it would be to repair the dishwasher, a plumber or an appliance repairman?


The total knowledge and experience needed for plumbing is similar to, if not greater than, that needed for HVAC.
Then plumbing is a highly skilled job indeed.

Do you know how to properly size, set up, and troubleshoot an AC unit for optimal cooling AND humidity control AND operating cost?
Wouldn't one use a manual J calculation for that?


Do you really understand the difference between a capillary and a TXV? If not, you are not a real HVAC tech.
I used to know the differences in a lot of detail, but I have gotten rusty on HVAC. Capillary tubes are never used in residential HVAC. Capillary tubes are only used in icemakers and some walk-in freezers/walk-in coolers, as I recall. I know what a capillary tubes metering device looks like, and I know what a TXV metering device looks like.
TXV metering devices are sometimes used in both residential HVAC and commercial HVAC.

A TXV metering device works to keep a constant evaporator superheat. I don't think that a capillary tube metering device works to keep a constant evaporator superheat. I knew more about capillary tubes when I attended the HVAC program at a technical college.

In my state (Wisconsin), the water portion of any HVAC system that has circulating water must be installed by a licensed plumber. And that is enforced, as a somebody I know personally learned the hard way.
I didn't know that.
 
  • #24
symbolipoint
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We apparently all need to learn better the distinctions about the work of plumbers, "HVAC" people, and other repair-people.
 
  • #25
Tom.G
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Just a few tidbits of plumbing I've run across over the years, these are really basic but somewhat obscure examples:
  1. There are four different materials used for water supply lines and fittings in buildings; name them
  2. Some of those four types are compatible with each other, others are not. List the possible combnations and state which are directly compatible.
  3. What are some symptoms of incompatible combinations being used?
  4. What is done to avoid problems when incompatible combination are unavoidable?
  5. Of the materials you listed in 1), what are some common usage limitations of each?
  6. What is the common range of water pressure in a residence?
  7. What is the common water pressure in the city water mains?
  8. What material is commonly used for main sewer pipes under residences and office buildings?
  9. How are the sections joined?
  10. What method is used to replace a leaking section of sewer pipe?
  11. There is a customer that lives outside of the city without city services that is complaining no matter how much detergent is used in the washing machine, there are no suds. Why? Name two ways to correct the situation.
  12. What is the slope of a sewer line? Why?
  13. In multi-story buildings the sewer lines do not go directly to the main sewer under/in the basement. Why? What approach is used?
  14. What approach is used when a basement is below the level of the city sewer.
  15. You can often spot short lengths of 3-inch pipe sticking up out of a roof. Why? Where do they connect? What are they called?
  16. You have another customer out in the country without city services that complains the sinks and bathtub are slow to drain. Where does the water normally go when the system is operating normally?
  17. Same customer calls a year later and complains that water from the faucets starts fine but the flow soon decreases to a trickle. Why?
  18. Away from city services, water for landscaping is often obtained from what source?
  19. There is a galvanized water pipe under a house that goes thru and is embedded in a concrete foundation. The pipe has a small leak in it about 1/2 inch from the concrete. What method is used to repair the leak?
  20. Yet another country customer complains that no well water is coming from the faucets. You replace the well pump in the utility room with a centrifugal pump from the local hardware store. Still no water. Give three possible reasons why.
  21. A customer has a Summer cabin in the mountains and complains that every Spring he has to replace the buried water line from the well to the cabin, even though the line is drained every Autumn. Why? What is the solution?

That's the 'common' stuff I've run across, and my background is in Electronics, not the construction trades. Others here have pointed out other aspects you need to be aware of.

Enjoy the journey!

Cheers,
Tom
 
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