A plumber is a
tradesperson A tradesman, tradeswoman, or tradesperson is a skilled worker that specializes in a particular trade (occupation or field of work). Tradesmen usually have work experience, on-the-job training, and often formal vocational education in contrast ...
who specializes in installing and maintaining systems used for potable (drinking) water, and for
sewage Sewage (or domestic sewage, domestic wastewater, municipal wastewater) is a type of wastewater that is produced by a community of people. It is typically transported through a sewer system. Sewage consists of wastewater discharged from reside ...
drainage Drainage is the natural or artificial removal of a surface's water and sub-surface water from an area with excess of water. The internal drainage of most agricultural soils is good enough to prevent severe waterlogging (anaerobic conditio ...
plumbing Plumbing is any system that conveys fluids for a wide range of applications. Plumbing uses pipes, valves, plumbing fixtures, tanks, and other apparatuses to convey fluids. Heating and cooling (HVAC), waste removal, and potable water deliv ...
systems.Employment and Occupations in the Skilled Trades in Michigan
, Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget, Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives (June 2013).


The origin of the word "plumber" dates from the Roman Empire. Roman roofs used lead in conduits and drain pipes and some were also covered with lead; lead was also used for
piping Within industry, piping is a system of pipes used to convey fluids ( liquids and gases) from one location to another. The engineering discipline of piping design studies the efficient transport of fluid. Industrial process piping (and acco ...
and for making baths. The Latin for lead is '. In medieval times, anyone who worked with lead was referred to as a plumber; this can be seen from an extract about workmen fixing a roof in Westminster Palace; they were referred to as plumbers: "To Gilbert de Westminster, plumber, working about the roof of the pantry of the little hall, covering it with lead, and about various defects in the roof of the little hall". Thus a person with expertise in working with lead was first known as a ''Plumbarius'' which was later shortened to ''plumber''.

Plumbing activities

Years of training and/or experience are needed to become a skilled plumber; some jurisdictions also require that plumbers be licensed. Common plumbing tasks and skills include: * Reading drawings and specifications, to determine the layout of water supply, waste, and venting systems * Detecting faults in plumbing appliances and systems, and correctly diagnosing their causes * Installing, repairing and maintaining domestic, commercial, and industrial plumbing fixtures and systems * Locating and marking positions for
pipe Pipe(s), PIPE(S) or piping may refer to: Objects * Pipe (fluid conveyance), a hollow cylinder following certain dimension rules ** Piping, the use of pipes in industry * Smoking pipe ** Tobacco pipe * Half-pipe and quarter pipe, semi-circula ...
connections, passage holes, and fixtures in walls and floors * Measuring, cutting, bending, and threading pipes using hand and power tools or machines * Joining pipes and fittings together using
soldering Soldering (; ) is a process in which two or more items are joined by melting and putting a filler metal ( solder) into the joint, the filler metal having a lower melting point than the adjoining metal. Unlike welding, soldering does not in ...
techniques, compression fittings, threaded fittings, solvent weld, crimp and push-fit fittings. * Testing pipes for leaks using air or water pressure gauges * Paying attention, in all work undertaken, to legal regulations and safety issues * Ensuring that all safety standards and building regulations are met.

United States

Each state and locality may have its own licensing and taxing schemes for plumbers. Some states license journeymen and master plumbers separately, while others license only master plumbers. To become licensed, plumbers must meet standards for training and experience, and in most cases, pass a certification exam. There is no federal law establishing licenses for plumbers.


In Canada, licensing requirements differ by province; however, the provinces have pooled resources to develop an Interprovincial Program Guide that developed and now maintains apprenticeship training standards across all provinces. The Red Seal Program, formally known as the Interprovincial Standards Red Seal Program, is a program that sets common standards to assess the skills of tradespeople across Canada. The Red Seal, when affixed to a provincial or territorial trade certificate, indicates that a tradesperson has demonstrated the knowledge required for the national standard in that trade.

United Kingdom

National Vocational Qualifications (
NVQ National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) are practical work-based awards in England, Wales and Northern Ireland that are achieved through assessment and training. The regulatory framework supporting NVQs was withdrawn in 2015 and replaced by th ...
) remained the main form of plumbing qualification until they were superseded in 2008 by the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) and then again, in 2015, into the
National qualifications frameworks in the United Kingdom The national qualification frameworks in the United Kingdom are qualifications frameworks that define and link the levels and credit values of different qualifications. The current frameworks are: * The Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) for ...
. The terms NVQ and SVQ ( Scottish Vocational Qualification) are still widely used. Plumbers in the United Kingdom are required to pass Level 2 and Level 3 vocational requirements of the
City and Guilds of London Institute The City and Guilds of London Institute is an educational organisation in the United Kingdom. Founded on 11 November 1878 by the City of London and 16 livery companies – to develop a national system of technical education, the institute has ...
. There are several regulatory bodies in the United Kingdom providing accredited plumbing qualifications, including
City and Guilds of London Institute The City and Guilds of London Institute is an educational organisation in the United Kingdom. Founded on 11 November 1878 by the City of London and 16 livery companies – to develop a national system of technical education, the institute has ...
Pearson PLC Pearson plc is a British multinational publishing and education company headquartered in London, England. It was founded as a construction business in the 1840s but switched to publishing in the 1920s. Spender, J. A., ''Weetman Pearson: Fi ...


In Ireland, a 4-year apprenticeship plus qualification exam was necessary for someone to practice professionally. Accreditation of businesses is of great help in order to show their credibility and experience in the job.


Plumbing work is defined in the Australian Standards (AS3500) Regulations 2013 and refers to any operation, work or process in connection with installation, removal, demolition, replacement, alteration, maintenance or repair to the system of pipes and fixtures that conveys clean water into and liquid waste out of a building. To become a licensed plumber a four year apprenticeship and a Certificate III in Plumbing is required. As part of this course, instruction in the basics of gas fitting will be undertaken. Upon completion, these basics in gas fitting will allow the plumber to not only apply for his plumbing license but also an interim gas license and carry out gas work under the supervision of a fully qualified gas fitter. To obtain a full gas license from the Department of Mines and Energy, the plumber will need to have worked on an interim gas license for a minimum period of twelve months and successfully completed a Certificate IV in Plumbing.


There are many types of dangers to a plumber. These include electric shock, strains and sprains, cuts and lacerations, bruises and contusions, fractures, burns and scalds, foreign bodies in the eye, and hernias. Working at height or in confined spaces, or working with lead and asbestos are all on-site dangers that plumbers can face.

Infectious disease risks

Plumbers risk infections when dealing with human waste while repairing sewage systems. Microbes can be excreted in the faecal matter or vomit of the sufferer onto the toilet or sewage pipes. Human waste can contain infectious diseases such as cholera, typhoid, hepatitis,
polio Poliomyelitis, commonly shortened to polio, is an infectious disease caused by the poliovirus. Approximately 70% of cases are asymptomatic; mild symptoms which can occur include sore throat and fever; in a proportion of cases more severe s ...
cryptosporidiosis Cryptosporidiosis, sometimes informally called crypto, is a parasitic disease caused by '' Cryptosporidium'', a genus of protozoan parasites in the phylum Apicomplexa. It affects the distal small intestine and can affect the respiratory tra ...
ascariasis Ascariasis is a disease caused by the parasitic roundworm '' Ascaris lumbricoides''. Infections have no symptoms in more than 85% of cases, especially if the number of worms is small. Symptoms increase with the number of worms present and may i ...
, and
schistosomiasis Schistosomiasis, also known as snail fever, bilharzia, and Katayama fever, is a disease caused by parasitic flatworms called schistosomes. The urinary tract or the intestines may be infected. Symptoms include abdominal pain, diarrhea, bloo ...

Other uses

The term "
White House Plumbers The White House Plumbers, sometimes simply called the Plumbers, the Room 16 Project, or more officially, the White House Special Investigations Unit, was a covert White House Special Investigations Unit, established within a week after the publi ...
" was a popular name given to the covert White House Special Investigations Unit established on July 24, 1971, during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Their job was to plug intelligence " leaks" in the U.S. Government relating to the Vietnam War (i.e. the
Pentagon Papers The ''Pentagon Papers'', officially titled ''Report of the Office of the Secretary of Defense Vietnam Task Force'', is a United States Department of Defense history of the United States' political and military involvement in Vietnam from 194 ...
); hence the term "plumbers".

See also

Pipefitter A pipefitter or steamfitter is a tradesman who installs, assembles, fabricates, maintains, and repairs mechanical piping systems. Pipefitters usually begin as helpers or apprentices. Journeyman pipefitters deal with industrial/commercial/marine pi ...
Piping Within industry, piping is a system of pipes used to convey fluids ( liquids and gases) from one location to another. The engineering discipline of piping design studies the efficient transport of fluid. Industrial process piping (and acco ...


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