Career and Job Search Guide

Pipelayers, Plumbers, Pipefitters, and Steamfitters

Plumbers lay and fix pipe. Steamfitters, pipefitters, and pipelayers have similar responsibilities. However, different piping systems have different functions. Certain systems transport water from treatment facilities to homes and other buildings while others transport waste or move natural gas used to power appliances. Systems located in powerplants move steam to power generating turbines. Special piping systems are used to transport materials to machines used for manufacturing products, such as those located in computer chip production factories.

Even though these professions are related, professionals within them usually specialize in particular piping systems. Pipelayers install iron, concrete, or clay pipes used for sewer systems or pipes transporting oil. Prior to pipe installation, pipelayers must prepare the area where pipes are to be placed.

Following installation, pipe is joined together using cement or special gluing compounds. Plumbers set up and fix sewage, drainage, and gas transport systems in personal residences and office buildings. Additionally, they setup up fixtures found in showers, tubs, appliances, and toilets. Pipefitters lay and setup low and high pressure pipes necessary to operate climate control systems and create electric power. Pipefitters additionally set up automated computer controls designed to control these piping systems. Pipefitters can either specialize as steamfitters, specialists in piping systems transporting high pressured fluids or gases, or sprinklerfitters, specialists in indoor sprinkler systems designed to prevent fires from spreading.

Plumbing and pipe professionals utilize a variety of materials to complete projects. Pipes used to transport water in residential areas are usually constructed of plastic, copper, or steel. City sewer systems and plants are built with pipes constructed from cast iron, requiring teams of professionals to properly install them. Regardless of specialty, these professionals must be trained to read blueprints and follow precise instructions from supervisors.

Being able to read blueprints is important since they contain exact details about pipe systems installed in homes. More plumbers are now designing pipe systems. Plumbers who understand pipe systems can cut their operating expenses. To complete a project, plumbers measure areas where pipes are to be placed, examine the area to make sure no wires or other hindrances exist, and then they lay the pipe. If major obstructions exist, they make the proper changes, so the pipe can be installed around the problem area.

In some cases, plumbers must cut holes in surfaces and walls to install pipes or hang pipes utilizing supports made from steel. They frequently cut pipe while linking a system with fittings. The type of fittings used depends on the type of pipe installed. Plumbers use adhesives to link plastic pipes, and those linking copper pipes use a soldering torch.

Once piping systems have been installed, plumbers setup appliances and link these pipes with sewer systems and water lines. To complete a job, plumbers utilize pressure gauges to make sure the entire system is working according to plan.