Plumber students in class at Herzing College Toronto (2019)
Updated June, 2021.
So, you're thinking of becoming a plumber. What's drawing you to this trade? Maybe it's the fact that we rely so completely on water services, that good plumbers are always in demand.
Or, maybe you're particularly interested in the world of plumbing fixtures, water system design, and all the new technology coming up in this field.
Whatever your motivation, your first step is to consider the steps involved in plumber training, and the skills you'll need to build a successful career.
And that's exactly what we're covering in this post. This is our master list of essential plumbing skills.
Take a look, get a preview of what you'll learn in training, and the 10 key competencies every plumber needs to succeed.
1. Plumbing installation, troubleshooting, and repair
Success as a plumber always starts with good plumber training. This usually involves a pre-apprenticeship program, followed by a 5-year apprenticeship. During your training, you can expect to learn a variety of installation, repair, and maintenance procedures. These are crucial skills, such as:
- installing and repairing piping (for waste, drainage, and venting systems)
- installing and repairing plumbing fixtures (sinks, faucets, toilets, etc.)
- fixing leaking or clogged lines
- connecting appliances that use water (washing machine, dishwasher, etc,)
- installing piping for gas, pneumatic, and air handling systems
But don't forget, to put all this installation and repair knowledge to good use, you'll need excellent problem-solving skills. You'll need to be good at calmly assessing the situation, evaluating all the options, and choosing the most cost-effective and reliable solution.
(This includes during emergency situations, when pipes have burst, toilets are overflowing, and everyone else is in panic mode.)
2. New plumbing trends & technology
Good plumbers also keep track of new technology and trends in the field, so they can offer the latest services. For example, many customers want to lower their monthly plumbing costs, and reduce their impact on the environment. Or they want a high-tech look in their kitchen and bathroom, with "smart", digitally controlled fixtures.
Successful plumbers are familiar with the latest products, and can install/repair solutions like:
- hands-free faucets and toilets that use motion technology to turn off and on
- programmable showers that can be setup with personalized lighting, temperature, and sound
- digital leak-monitoring systems that detect leaks fast, and send alerts straight to the client's cell phone
- greywater recycling systems that take "gently" used water from showers, washing machines, and dishwashers, and recycle it for re-use in the home and garden
Bottom line: You have to be willing to continue learning, and keep building new skills, to really compete as a plumber.
3. Blueprints & basic math
Correctly interpreting blueprints is a key skill for all plumbers (and most tradespeople). You must be able to understand mechanical and architectural drawings in order to correctly install fixtures and appliances.
You'll need to analyze drawings and schematics to locate municipal connections and water sources, and to plan the routing of pipe when installing water services.
Basic math skills are another requirement, for preparing cost estimates, and performing simple calculations for plumbing installations.
4. Hand & power tools
Plumbers use a very wide range of hand and power tools. Classics include plungers, augers, snakes, and wrenches. Power tools range from circular saws and cordless drills, to sump pumps, power threaders, and welding torches.
You'll need clear vision, good coordination and fine motor skills to work with this equipment. Students can expect an introduction to hand and power tools in plumber training, which they'll continue to build upon during their apprenticeship.
Remember: A good plumber regularly inspects his/her tools, and quickly repairs or replaces them when needed. Faulty or broken tools look unprofessional and are unsafe to you, and those you work with.
5. Plumbing Code
You can't call yourself a plumber if you don't know the Canadian Plumbing Code inside and out. These are the rule you must follow when designing, installing and repairing plumbing systems.
The Code is enforced by plumbing inspectors, and covers everything from design and materials, to water-use efficiency for plumbing fixtures, supply fittings and shower heads.
You'll begin studying the Code in pre-apprenticeship plumber courses, but it's always evolving. You must stay on top of changing regulations throughout your career.
6. Plumber safety procedures
If you don't know safety procedures for plumbers, you're a danger to yourself, your colleagues, and your clients. Plumbers must understand and follow protocols for:
- handling chemicals
- protecting the eyes, lungs, ears, and skin
- preventing fire and electrical hazards
- working in confined spaces
- working at heights
- preventing trips and falls, especially in wet working environments
Plumber training covers these safety measures, but you'll need to stay informed and vigilant, throughout your career. Following industry-standard safety procedures is key to proving your professionalism in the skilled trades.
Can you work well with others? Are you respectful, reliable, and ready to help out if someone needs a hand? If you want to build a successful plumber career, you'll need to be a team player.
On any given job site, you could easily find yourself working closely with electricians, gas fitters, and other tradespeople—not to mention, subcontractors and management. You must communicate professionally, share space, and collaborate to get the job done right.
If you can't get along with the crew, you won't get called back for the next job.
8. Customer service
Excellent customer service is the backbone of every successful plumbing business. Whether you're working with businesses or home-owners, it's extremely important to present yourself professionally.
This includes showing up in a clean uniform, clearly explaining the work you'll be doing, answering questions patiently, and cleaning up after yourself. Make eye contact, shake hands, and let the client know if you're making any changes to the original plan.
If you want referrals and repeat business, you must build trust with your clients, and ensure they have total faith in your honesty, quality of work, and reliability.
Never want to work a weekend, holiday, or evening? Becoming a plumber is not for you! Plumbers often get called in to deal with emergencies, like a burst pipe, overflowing toilet, or busted water heater.
It doesn't matter what day it is, or what time. A good plumber is ready to jump in and deal with the issue. This flexibility is key, especially when you're just starting out, and striving to make a name for yourself.
10. Physical fitness
Plumbers have to squeeze into cramped spaces, work at heights, and sometimes deal with extreme temperatures. You don't need to be an athlete to do well in this trade, but a good level of physical fitness will be a huge asset.
You'll need to be comfortable bending, lifting, crouching, climbing stairs, and balancing. You'll be on your feet most of each day, so the fitter you are, the easier it will be to keep up and get jobs done on time.
So there you have it. From technical plumbing skills to physical fitness, and a wide range of qualities and competencies in between. Did we leave out an important plumbing skill? Feel free to add it in the comments.
Learn more about becoming a plumber
Think you'd be a perfect match for this trade? Want to learn more about training, apprenticeship, certification, and how to get started?
Your next step is to speak with Admissions. An Admissions Advisor will guide you through the Plumber program, certification requirements, and what to expect in training.
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