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Old 01-20-2012, 09:11 PM   #1
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Hi I'm new to the forum. Nice to meet you all. I have a plumbing career question.

I plan to apply to the plumber's union in my area. Which area of expertise in plumbing is best to go into and/or has best job prospects? I wanted to know in advance in case they ask me to choose in the future.

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Old 01-20-2012, 09:37 PM   #2
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How many different "areas of expertise" do you think there are in plumbing? Rough-in and finish.

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Old 01-20-2012, 09:41 PM   #3
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How many different "areas of expertise" do you think there are in plumbing? Rough-in and finish.
"Although plumbing, pipelaying, pipefitting, and steamfitting are sometimes considered a single trade, workers generally specialize in one of five areas.

Plumbers install and repair the water, waste disposal, drainage, and gas systems in homes and commercial and industrial buildings. Plumbers also install plumbing fixtures—bathtubs, showers, sinks, and toilets—and appliances such as dishwashers, waste disposers, and water heaters.

Pipelayers lay clay, concrete, plastic, or cast-iron pipe for drains, sewers, water mains, and oil or gas lines. Before laying the pipe, pipelayers prepare and grade the trenches either manually or with machines. After laying the pipe, they weld, glue, cement, or otherwise join the pieces together.

Pipefitters install and repair both high-pressure and low-pressure pipe systems used in manufacturing, in the generation of electricity, and in the heating and cooling of buildings. They also install automatic controls that are increasingly being used to regulate these systems.

Steamfitters install pipe systems that move liquids or gases under high pressure. Sprinklerfitters install automatic fire sprinkler systems in buildings. Plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters, and steamfitters use many different materials and construction techniques, depending on the type of project.

Residential water systems, for example, incorporate copper, steel, and plastic pipe that can be handled and installed by one or two plumbers. Municipal sewerage systems, by contrast, are made of large cast-iron pipes; installation normally requires crews of pipefitters. Despite these differences, all plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters, and steamfitters must be able to follow building plans or blueprints and instructions from supervisors, lay out the job, and work efficiently with the materials and tools of their trade. When plumbers working construction install piping in a new house, they work from blueprints or drawings that show the planned location of pipes, plumbing fixtures, and appliances.

Recently, plumbers have become more involved in the design process. Their knowledge of codes and the operation of plumbing systems can cut costs. First they lay out the job to fit the piping into the structure of the house with the least waste of material.

Then they measure and mark areas in which pipes will be installed and connected. Construction plumbers also check for obstructions such as electrical wiring and, if necessary, plan the pipe installation around the problem."

http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos211.htm

Last edited by oh'mike; 01-21-2012 at 12:51 PM. Reason: Added spaces
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Old 01-20-2012, 09:52 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by greaselightning

"Although plumbing, pipelaying, pipefitting, and steamfitting are sometimes considered a single trade, workers generally specialize in one of five areas. Plumbers install and repair the water, waste disposal, drainage, and gas systems in homes and commercial and industrial buildings. Plumbers also install plumbing fixtures—bathtubs, showers, sinks, and toilets—and appliances such as dishwashers, waste disposers, and water heaters. Pipelayers lay clay, concrete, plastic, or cast-iron pipe for drains, sewers, water mains, and oil or gas lines. Before laying the pipe, pipelayers prepare and grade the trenches either manually or with machines. After laying the pipe, they weld, glue, cement, or otherwise join the pieces together. Pipefitters install and repair both high-pressure and low-pressure pipe systems used in manufacturing, in the generation of electricity, and in the heating and cooling of buildings. They also install automatic controls that are increasingly being used to regulate these systems. Steamfitters install pipe systems that move liquids or gases under high pressure. Sprinklerfitters install automatic fire sprinkler systems in buildings. Plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters, and steamfitters use many different materials and construction techniques, depending on the type of project. Residential water systems, for example, incorporate copper, steel, and plastic pipe that can be handled and installed by one or two plumbers. Municipal sewerage systems, by contrast, are made of large cast-iron pipes; installation normally requires crews of pipefitters. Despite these differences, all plumbers, pipelayers, pipefitters, and steamfitters must be able to follow building plans or blueprints and instructions from supervisors, lay out the job, and work efficiently with the materials and tools of their trade. When plumbers working construction install piping in a new house, they work from blueprints or drawings that show the planned location of pipes, plumbing fixtures, and appliances. Recently, plumbers have become more involved in the design process. Their knowledge of codes and the operation of plumbing systems can cut costs. First they lay out the job to fit the piping into the structure of the house with the least waste of material. Then they measure and mark areas in which pipes will be installed and connected. Construction plumbers also check for obstructions such as electrical wiring and, if necessary, plan the pipe installation around the problem."

http://www.bls.gov/oco/ocos211.htm
Wow. You've done your research.
I didn't know what a pipefitter or a steamfitter was, so I learned something today.
Good luck with your ventures, hope your business is a raging success.
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Old 01-20-2012, 10:12 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by greaselightning View Post
Hi I'm new to the forum. Nice to meet you all. I have a plumbing career question.

I plan to apply to the plumber's union in my area. Which area of expertise in plumbing is best to go into and/or has best job prospects? I wanted to know in advance in case they ask me to choose in the future.
I think you need to focus on getting into the hall first- this may be tough in the current economy. Then try to be an all around, good apprentice and do more then your journeyman says to do- and don't talk back to him As you go through a 5 yr apprenticeship, you'll either find your niche or you will adapt to whats available.
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Old 01-20-2012, 10:46 PM   #6
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I think you need to focus on getting into the hall first- this may be tough in the current economy. Then try to be an all around, good apprentice and do more then your journeyman says to do- and don't talk back to him As you go through a 5 yr apprenticeship, you'll either find your niche or you will adapt to whats available.
I'm not sure how it is in plumbing, but when I applied to an HVAC union there was a check box questionnaire that ask you if you want to go into air balancing, sheet metal, or service. I was thinking maybe they ask something like that too in the plumber's union. If so, I was just wondering which area of expertise would be the best to apply for.
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Old 01-20-2012, 11:48 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by greaselightning

I'm not sure how it is in plumbing, but when I applied to an HVAC union there was a check box questionnaire that ask you if you want to go into air balancing, sheet metal, or service. I was thinking maybe they ask something like that too in the plumber's union. If so, I was just wondering which area of expertise would be the best to apply for.
I think commercial would be the way to go. I don't know if they separate that or not.
And I assumed the apprentiship would be 4 years.
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Old 01-21-2012, 12:21 AM   #8
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Which area of expertise in plumbing is best to go into and/or has best job prospects? I wanted to know in advance in case they ask me to choose in the future.
I couldn't tell you what the best job prospects for the future are but I 'd like to ask you a question. What interests you the most about plumbing? Unions tend to mostly work on large scale commercial/industrial projects, at least around here they do, and so there's opportunities for all kinds of 'specialized' tickets like; sprinkler fitters, steam fitters, gas fitters, medical gas installers and on and on and on.

As EPlumber says get the apprenticeship first, keep your mouth shut & ears open, phone off & work your ass off. You're bound to find something that interests you but you have to be committed and open to learning all the time. That's what separates the good trades people from the hacks.
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Old 01-21-2012, 12:51 AM   #9
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Id say dont just limit yourself to union shops unless you want to spend a lot of bench time till you get some time under your belt.
In the last 30 years ive done electrical/hvac/plumbing/utility installs and repairs/pipe fitting and steam fitting/boiler work.
I ran my own shop for last 15 years,now Im pretty much semi retired picking and choosing the projects I want to do when I want to do them.
If I would have stayed in the electricians union doing just one thing when I was young I would have missed out on a lot of opportunities to learn new skills to make myself more usefull.
Dont get stuck in a rut where you only have one skill,it makes you easy to replace
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Old 01-21-2012, 01:23 AM   #10
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Do some research and find out what YOU are interested in. There may be an "introduction to trades" course that you can take at your local trades/technical school that you can take. I know a few guys who have taken that sort of class and it helped them go into the trade best suited to them, even though they wanted to pursue a different trade previously. I didn't take such a course, but learned what I wanted to do through work experience. I, too, was interested in plumbing, as well as electrical and sheet metal, and was eventually offered an apprenticeship with a small residential/light commercial HVAC company, and was offered either a sheet metal or gas fitting apprenticeship. Since I like having a great deal of responsibility, and had applied to the local gas company because I assumed a large utility company would be a good one to work for, I chose gas. This was a small company, so I learned many different skills from gas service/installations and air conditioning service/installations to sheet metal and also saw how other mechanical trades like plumbers, sprinkler fitters and electricians work. I learned a lot. I eventually learned that gas was what I wanted to specialize in, and eventually went to work for the local gas utility. I couldn't be happier with where I ended up. Despite all the benefits that I get being an IBEW union gas utility employee, if I didn't absolutely love what I'm doing, I'd be miserable. Bottom line: do what you love, or at least really like, lol.

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Old 01-21-2012, 11:33 AM   #11
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Service work will always be there. Drain cleaning is a big one. Playing with people's poop can be eye opening.
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Old 01-21-2012, 11:53 AM   #12
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Also depends on how physically strong you are and whether you are willing to take risks with your safety, health, back etc. I have done everything from steam fitting in a large hospital, large chillers, working off ladders on unit heaters in the air and off forklifts etc etc. Steam and sprinkler fitting and large commercial stuff is not for every guy unless he is built for it. Residential is a lot safer and for some guys less bullwork which suits them fine. Other guys like challenges and bigger stuff. Residential service and you may have to work "on call" after hours a lot and that can wreck marriages and some guys hate it. Commercial / industrial can involve lots of out of town work and being in camps etc and hard on marriages. Lots of food for thought before you get into it. Feel free to ask more questions.

It is INCREDIBLY important to have a good attitude and work ethic when apprenticing as very few Journeyman tolerate an attitude from them. Myself included. If you don't then they won't teach you anything or help you well and you will learn the back end of a shovel real well.
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Old 01-21-2012, 12:15 PM   #13
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I couldn't tell you what the best job prospects for the future are but I 'd like to ask you a question. What interests you the most about plumbing? Unions tend to mostly work on large scale commercial/industrial projects, at least around here they do, and so there's opportunities for all kinds of 'specialized' tickets like; sprinkler fitters, steam fitters, gas fitters, medical gas installers and on and on and on.

As EPlumber says get the apprenticeship first, keep your mouth shut & ears open, phone off & work your ass off. You're bound to find something that interests you but you have to be committed and open to learning all the time. That's what separates the good trades people from the hacks.
Probably what interest me most about plumbing is not working in an office all day everyday . Actually it's probably the fact that I can get paid as I learn thru an apprenticeship, it's a much better deal than college. I like a good work/life balance. Hope that I can one day have my own company truck, travel to job sites, fix their problems, have the paycheck waiting for me on the counter sort to speak, then go home at the end of the day. Also make the big $$$$ on commercial projects, etc. That, and I also think it's a great field to go into. Thanks in advance for the advice guys.
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Old 01-21-2012, 12:43 PM   #14
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Hate to burst any bubble but a lot of commercial or industrial work can be either a feast or a famine. especially with a union you go to the back of the line/hiring hall when the big project ends. then it can take a long time B4 they call you or one of the hundred other apprentices like yourself looking for work. the $$ are better but it is totally at the whims of the economy. residential is very steady as everyone needs a toilet and unless you are in new home construction it can be very steady work. no job is perfect. I should have been born rich instead of handsome.
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Old 01-21-2012, 01:39 PM   #15
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Probably what interest me most about plumbing is not working in an office all day everyday .
Spend the summer in a ditch laying large pipe or a winter on concrete decks several stories high with no windows and sub freezing temps and that office looks kinda nice

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