Plumbing equipment used by technical school students to learn plumbing trade

4 Signs a Plumbing Career Pathway Is a Good Fit for You

Should I pursue my goals of becoming a skilled tradesman? Is the plumbing industry right for me? How do I know if I should follow the plumbing career pathway?

It’s normal to ask these questions as you consider the next steps in your career. Perhaps you’ve repaired plumbing or pipefitting work in your home, but you don’t know if you should pursue plumbing training. As a first step, it’s helpful to evaluate what you like about the field and how to take advantage of your personal characteristics. Consider these indicators as you learn more about the plumbing trade.

  1. I’m a problem-solver.

  2. You’re a curious person with a knack for working with your hands. You like the challenge of solving puzzles, problems and collaborating with a group. Even if you’re unsure at first, you’re confident you can figure out most problems. You are both practical and creative when it comes to finding solutions.

     

    Tradespeople in the plumbing industry need to think efficiently. Installations and repair jobs require plumbers to draw on their knowledge and skills of the trade. Because there are many types of fixtures, faucets and pipes, plumbers must know how to handle a variety of tools, read blueprints and find solutions for many systems and appliances.

     

  3. I take pride in being reliable.

  4. Your friends, family and coworkers, know they can depend on you to follow through, show up on time or finish a project. You value hard work in others and you expect it from yourself.

     

    Workers in the plumbing trade need to demonstrate reliability to customers and business partners. Some individuals are responsible for several house calls per day, commercial plumbing projects and installs and repairs. A tradesperson who is consistent and trustworthy is an asset to the plumbing industry.

     

  5. I like to learn and test new things.

  6. You’re interested in the mechanics of how things work. You’re a hands-on person who prefers to troubleshoot an issue, take your time finding the right solution and complete a challenge the right way—and even if the right way takes longer, you never cut corners. You enjoy assembling pieces and parts to find out how things work together.

     

    In the plumbing trade, workers often repair a variety of pipes and appliances—some new and some old. While homeowners may do their best to fix a plumbing problem, a skilled plumber can recognize an unsafe repair job, locate the correct tools and materials and quickly correct the issue. To stay knowledgeable in their trade, plumbers must keep current on techniques, tools and housing and building codes.

     

  7. I don’t mind small spaces.

  8. Individuals in the plumbing industry often find themselves in confined spaces such as crouching under a sink, working in tight corners, and maneuvering around appliances. These areas may be uncomfortable at times and require individuals in the plumbing trade to maintain good health. In addition, manual dexterity and physical fitness help plumbers minimize their risk of injury.

    There are many exciting trade industries and countless reasons to consider a technical school to continue your education. If you’re interested in learning about our trade school classes, explore our plumbing and pipefitting program or contact Apex today.

 
*Apex Technical School and its instructors are licensed by the State of New York, New York State Education Department. Grad rates, debt and other consumer disclosures at apexschool.com.

Disclaimer: Apex Technical School provides training for entry-level jobs. Not everything you may read about the industry is covered in our training programs.

Three common plumbing tools used by a plumber

Common Plumbing Tools for the Plumbing Trade

Plumbers assemble, install, and repair pipes used for heating, water and drainage in residential homes and businesses. Often, they face unforeseen circumstances and scenarios in which they must rely on their training, knowledge of the trade, and the tools they have on hand. Therefore, accumulating and maintaining a supply of tools is key for plumbers.

 

Plumbing Tool List

In addition to hands-on training, individuals in the plumbing trade require specific tools and materials to successfully complete on-the-job repairs. From basic tools such as plumber’s wrench to more advanced equipment like a propane torch, every individual in the trade should learn how to use the common tools of the trade.

 

What tools do tradesman in the plumbing industry need? Let’s look at a few tools common to an average plumbing task or repair.

 

  1. Plumbing Wrenches

    The wrench is one of the most basic and essential tools used by a plumber. It’s important to note that plumbers need several different wrenches to remove fittings due to varying pipe sizes. Some useful wrenches include:

    • Fixed wrenches (standard and metric)
    • Pipe wrench (large and small)
    • Adjustable crescent wrenches
    • Basin wrench

    Pipe wrenches have strong, adjustable jaws for turning iron pipes, but plumbers should be cautious when using them on PVC, so as not to crack the plastic pipe.

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  3. Drain Tools

    A plumber should be well-prepared to resolve clogged sinks, bathtubs, showers, toilets, and other drains throughout households and commercial businesses. To do so, he or she should understand some helpful tools:

    • Plunger
    • Hand auger (also called a plumber’s snake)
    • Screwdriver
    • Bucket, rags, and sponge

    Hand augers and plungers help remove debris and allow water to flow freely through a drain pipe. No matter which drain is clogged, it’s wise to have a bucket, rags, or a sponge on hand to clean up excess water and debris.

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  5. Tools and Supports for PVC Pipes

    Another common tool in the plumbing trade is the hacksaw. Plumbers use hacksaws to cut new pieces of pipe to the correct size when replacing old or damaged PVC pipe. To make clean, level cuts, plumbers also utilize a pipe cutter.

    • Hacksaw
    • PVC pipe cutter
    • Metal file and brush
    • PVC primer
    • Pipe glue

    Plumbers use a metal file to smooth any rough edges and a brush to dust off residue. Additionally, plumbers can create a water-tight seal around the mouth of a PVC pipe with pipe glue. Though easier to install and repair than copper or galvanized steel pipes, plastic plumbing pipes still require a support system to minimize vibration and help distribute the weight of passing water. Generally, plumbers support PVC pipes with strapping, clamps, and anchors.

  6.  

  7. Emergency Supplies
    Corrosion from rust or mineral deposits can damage metal parts, and replacement is often necessary to ensure a proper fit and resolve leaks. In addition to tools, plumbers should have a variety of spare parts available, including:

    • Fittings
    • Washers
    • Valves

    Lastly, if a plumber uses a propane torch to sweat copper pipes and fittings, a fire extinguisher should always be nearby for safety.

 

Disclaimer: Apex Technical School provides training for entry-level jobs. Not everything you may read about the industry is covered in our training programs.
 

S-shape pipe for toilet, designed by famous plumber Alexander Cummings for the plumbing trade

5 Plumbing Trade Lessons from Famous Plumbers

The plumbing trade is full of famous plumbers who built up their careers like you’re working to do. Use these tips to start your career off on the right foot, and aim to take the trade even further.

  1. Sir John Harrington: More is not always better.

  2. As noted in our history of the plumbing trade article, Sir John Harrington invented the first flushable toilet. His toilet could accommodate up to 20 people between flushes, was two-feet deep, and required an in-house cistern to provide 7.5 gallons of water to flush. While the toilet’s size allowed for greater efficiency through a lower number of flushes per person, it did not catch on. Harrington discovered that it was difficult to dispose of the quantity of waste.

    As many in the plumbing trade learn, sanitation and comfort should not be sacrificed for efficiency and quantity.

  3. Alexander Cumming: Seals are essential.

  4. Alexander Cumming invented the S-shaped pipe that connects the toilet bowl to the sewer path. The S-shape creates a water seal that prevents sewer gases from entering the bowl. These toxic and nontoxic gases, while unlikely to cause harm, can lead homeowners to contact someone in the plumbing trade due to an unpleasant smell.

    It’s essential to check for proper seals in all pipe systems. Scents aren’t signs of plumbing danger, but they can point to smaller issues that can make homeowners unhappy.

  5. Thomas Crapper: Your name matters.

  6. While Thomas Crapper did not invent the toilet, his name is the source of the American slang term for the toilet. Because he was successful at his job, his name became synonymous with the plumbing fixture he helped optimize.

    When entering the plumbing trade, remember that your name matters. Customers will remember you, whether you do a good or bad job, and they can either recommend you to their friends, or steer their friends away from you. It’s essential that you prove your integrity. Your name and reputation can quickly expand beyond your control – for better or worse.

  7. Philip Haas: Use your experience to innovate.

  8. Philip Haas made several improvements to plumbing devices, greatly advancing the trade, including:

    • Frost-proof toilets: He moved the water supply for toilets located in unheated areas to below the frost line.
    • Commercial flush valve design: He patented the first metal toggle knob to improve operation efficiency.
    • Rim flushing: He invented the method of toilet flushing in which water beneath the bowl rim rinses the sides of the bowl and flushes the toilet at the same time.

    Haas started his career in the plumbing trade simply; he went into business with his brother and branched into contracting and supplying. Because of his experience in the trade, he saw how plumbing could be improved. Use your own experience in school and the trade to improve the plumbing industry with your own ideas. What starts as a small question could lead to an influential discovery.

  9. White House Plumbers: Always practice ethical business

While plumbers only in the figurative sense, this group of Nixon White House employees involved in Watergate offer important lessons for those in the plumbing trade. The White House Plumbers’ jobs were to stop confidential information from leaking to the press. To address these leaks, the Plumbers were involved in a burglary and illegal intelligence gathering.

You may encounter difficult situations in the plumbing industry. You may discover that a homeowner’s leak is much bigger than it first appeared; or that the leak is causing problems that will require involving other trade professionals. While this news may be disappointing, the homeowner will ultimately value your honesty and integrity. Always do what’s best in the long-term, rather than only plugging seemingly small leaks.

 

Disclaimer: Apex Technical School provides training for entry-level jobs. Not everything you may read about the industry is covered in our training programs.

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The History of the Plumbing Industry

The plumbing trade is advanced – commonly believed to be founded by the Romans’ legendary water bridges. If you’re wondering if you should start to learn plumbing – or how to become a plumber – start with the fascinating history of plumbing below.

It Started With the Roman Empire (27 BC – 1453 AD)

While small evolutions to plumbing happened in Babylonia starting in 3000 B.C., the Romans were the first to build elaborate systems that could transport water in and out of cities. By building aqueducts, or water bridges that conveyed water (see picture), the Romans could bring water from mountain springs to supply their cities on the dry plains.

Rome’s sewer system was revolutionary for waste disposal. According to Classics professor Peter Aicher in an interview with PBS, sewers hidden underground “took aqueduct overflow and flushed the refuse into the river.” Previous civilizations simply put waste next to the streets or let it drain away from their houses.

Aicher explained that the Romans were focused on clean water sources. Not only would they search for underground springs to connect their aqueducts to using tunnels, but they would also be able to reroute muddied water from lakes after a storm to places that needed water for industrial or irrigation uses, “where cleanliness was not as important.”

Once water arrived in the city via the aqueduct’s gravity system, it was stored in closed tanks or water towers, Aicher said, usually in one of the highest spots in the city. These tanks were the storage point between the open aqueducts and the closed piping delivery system. Only the wealthiest citizens had private pipes, so most of the piped water was delivered under the streets and back up to fountains, Rome’s well-known giant baths, and public water basins.

The First Flushable Toilet (1500s AD)

While the Romans did extend their innovations to public restrooms, their toilets were not typically connected to the sewage system, Julie Beck said in an article for The Atlantic, for fear of contamination. And because many plumbing innovations halted at the fall of the Empire, the first flushable toilet was not designed until the Elizabethan era, long before indoor plumbing.

Nate Barksdale, for HISTORY.com, described the first flushable toilet, invented by courtier Sir John Harrington:

  • It was a two-foot-deep waterproof oval bowl.
  • An in-house cistern provided the water.
  • It required 7.5 gallons of water to flush.
  • It could accommodate 20 people between flushes.

 

Due to the lack of manufacturing and disposal improvements the Industrial Revolution would bring, Barksdale explained, people did not start to adopt this first flushing toilet.

The First Successful Line of Toilets (1800s AD)

Barksdale notes that two major innovations of the Industrial Revolution allowed the toilet to successfully mainstream:

    1. The S-shaped pipe, created by English inventor Alexander Cumming in 1775, which kept sewer gasses from travelling up to the toilet.
    2. The ballcock, an “improved tank-filling mechanism still used in toilets today,” invented in the late 1800s by Thomas Crapper, the Englishman recognized by Americans due to his brand’s success.

 

Thanks to all of the innovations mentioned above, the plumbing trade continues to flourish as experts are needed to maintain, repair, and innovate our plumbing systems. Today’s plumbing trade work with the following:

  • Water supplies
  • Heating systems
  • Gas and oil supplies
  • Drainage systems
  • Piping and fixtures
  • Waste disposal

 

If this history of plumbing has intrigued you, find out if you want to start to learn the plumbing trade.
 

Disclaimer: Apex Technical School provides training for entry-level jobs. Not everything you may read about the industry is covered in our training programs.