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.