If you are thinking of starting a career in plumbing, would like a crash course in the day in the life of a plumber, or just want some essential plumbing tips, we’ve got you covered. A day in the life of a plumber is constantly changing, with a rogue pipe burst interrupting even the best planned of days.
To give you a look into what it’s actually like to be a plumber, Dickies Workwear has rounded up some experts in the field to give us an idea of just what goes on in their day-to-day lives, common misconceptions of the industry and what they wish they had known before they started in it.
We spoke to plumbers from The Association of Plumbing and Heating, an organisation that supports plumbers and works to promote the important role of trained tradesmen, and reduce the accidents that rogue plumbers might cause (even though we all might like to think ourselves the next DIY all-in-one handyman).
We also chatted to YouTube plumber and fix-it guru, James Lawrence from Plumber Parts so he could impart some of his wisdom on us. James has spent years giving tips for plumbers, from the best tools to use for a job to what it’s like to work as a professional plumber. If you are thinking of starting a career in plumbing or would like a crash course in the day in the life of a plumber, we’ve got you covered.
A Day in the Life of James Lawrence – Plumber Parts
My day usually starts with all the best laid plans going completely out of the window! There is always a quick call out or the flood of phone calls from customers hoping to pinch you that day. Even we plumbers can only be in one place at a time and so therefore a few will go to the answer machine to be picked up that evening and arranged for later in the week.
Next you arrive at the job to find other trades on site. You are shown the job, make a list of the materials needed and go to the suppliers to pick them up.
Once at the suppliers the inevitable wait begins. Most suppliers employ people who have no knowledge of plumbing or fittings, so it can take a while to order what you need! Having picked up what you need, you battle back through the traffic to the job.
Draining down the system is often a part of the job customers don’t realise exists. It takes time and is of course very important – we don’t want leaks!
Draining down is also a period of getting the tools and fittings ready, plus getting a drink and having a bite to eat. When the hose stops running it’s onto the real work, installing whatever it is we have to do that day.
As a plumber you need a grounded knowledge in many overlapping trades and it helps to know carpentry and the odd bit of cement works to succeed. Once the job is finished you can fill up, and test for leaks. All being well you can then invoice the customer who usually pays two weeks later! You get home and check your answer machine, have some dinner then a beer!
What should everyone know about plumbing? Plumbing is a tough job to do and it takes years (10+) to learn everything - I still learn new things now!
What are the job duties of a plumber? To inform the customer of what needs to be done and for what reasons. To be honest about options, pricing and timings. To fulfill the job to the best of your abilities.
What type of materials and equipment do plumbers work with?
A Day in the Life of Andrew Crookes - Andrew Crookes Plumbing and Heating
My day begins around 7.30am when I look at yesterday's work and try to do at least one invoice before setting off to work at 8am. I only work locally, so I don't incur much travelling time. I try to be at a customer's house for 8.15am if possible.
I diagnose the plumbing or heating problem then set off to Huddersfield to fetch parts. Once I have sourced the correct parts, I return to the job and complete it to the customer's satisfaction. Depending on the size of the job, I then travel to my next appointment.
I always let customers know an approximate time of arrival, as this is helpful for their planning. I have lunch on-the-job, usually a sandwich from the many local shops that I frequent or sometimes a pie from certain butchers shop who bakes their own!
After lunch, I crack-on and try to get finished for 5pm, not always possible in our job, but that is always the target. After arriving home and having my tea, I make phone calls to people who have left answer phone messages, and arrange my work for next day.
I try to be finished by 7pm, although I do have to go out on specific urgent breakdowns or to price-up jobs. I relax by watching football at local level, coaching a junior cricket team during summer and relaxing with my wife, son and daughter.
What are the job duties of a plumber? Swiftly diagnose a problem, source replacement parts, repair where appropriate or replace if needed. Always remember that the customer is King and their wishes are paramount. Safety is also extremely important in our job whether concerning gas, water or electricity.
What are the biggest misconceptions about plumbers? The biggest misconception of plumbers is that we earn a fortune for minimal work! Utter rubbish! We earn every penny we get, as highly trained professionals in our fields, we give a service that is vital to the public in water, gas, heating and sanitary areas. There is a heck-of-a-lot of work goes on behind-the-scenes to just get a day's work organised, especially as most of our work is done "on price".
How did you get into plumbing? I got into plumbing because my father and mother ran their own plumbing and heating business, so you could say I was born into it. This gave me a not-so-rosy view of the job I was destined to do - after my career as a budding Rock star and Professional footballer came to nothing!
What was your first year as a plumber like? My first year as a plumber mainly consisted of brewing tea (I did a 4-year apprenticeship in this!) and going to the shop on foot to fetch sandwiches and cigs. I spent a long time cleaning Yorkshire fittings with steel wool as these were the days before self-cleaning fluxes.
A Day in the Life of Ian Pattle – Heatplumb Supplies
Every day as a plumber is different and varied which is one of the attractions of the job, you never get bored!
What do you wish you'd known when you first started out? Just how hard it can be some days! However, the rewards have been worthwhile. I could have never imagined that I would one day be National Chairman of the APHC and then National President - a great honour and a privilege!
What are the most common plumbing issues you encounter? People who have started something and make a bigger problem than it already was.
How did you get into plumbing? I started in plumbing straight from school as an apprentice with a small building firm.
A Day in the Life of Andy Buchan –Cotswold Efficient Energy Centre
A plumber is now more of a business man than anything else, with site surveys, quotations, doing the work, invoicing, collecting, VAT and keeping up to date with the latest requirements.
What are the biggest misconceptions about plumbers? With media programs like Rouge Traders, plumbers seem to come under the microscope more than other trades, which leads to consumers being wary of plumbers.
What are the most common plumbing issues you encounter? Air locks in low-pressure systems and under sizing of pipe work.
How did you get into plumbing? My uncle was a plumber and he told me that plumbers would always be needed (so I now blame him!).
What was your first year as a plumber like? I think it was probably similar to being on the maiden voyage of the Titanic! Making tea, getting tins of 'elbow grease'; being an apprentice you had to accept this learning curve in the good old days! It’s very different now; you are trained to deal with so many aspects of an ever-expanding industry.
What do you wish you'd known when you first started out? I wish my uncle had been an electrician (joking). How important it was when at college to not mess about but learn everything and get the best qualification available as in later life they can be so important.
Thank you to all of our tradesmen for giving us a look into their lives.