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Through their complex work, pipefitters make operations in different industrial environments possible. Thus, pipefitters may demean plumbing jobs. Besides, they believe that energy generation and manufacturing processes would not be possible without the contribution of pipefitters.
Plumbers are legally permitted to do pipe fitting but often require some certifications in addition to the plumbing license.
Conversely, some pipefitters aren’t allowed to work on projects where a plumbing license is required.
But pipefitters believe they’re superior to plumbers as they often do industrial work, and some even argue that the pipefitting career path isn’t accorded the weight befitting it.
Is A Pipefitter Considered to Be a Plumber?
While a person can be skilled at both, a pipefitter isn’t the same as a plumber. Typically, a plumber has specific training on protecting public health while installing waste, water, and gas supply systems.
In various jurisdictions, plumbing has a legal definition while pipefitters don’t.
Conversely, pipefitting entails residential and commercial hot water heating and gas piping systems, which aren’t plumbing.
So, for instance, a pipefitting license doesn’t permit them to do sanitary drainage work. Similarly, very few plumbers are trained for refrigeration piping or pipe welding, commonly done by pipefitters.
Is A Pipefitter and Plumber the Same Thing?
Plumbers and pipefitters are occupations with several similarities. For instance, they are both required to read and understand blueprints of a building or structure.
They’re also proficient in building codes and regulations.
Moreover, both pipefitters and plumbers need to undergo apprenticeships to become licensed. Apprenticeships are programs involving in-school and on-the-job training.
Ultimately, apprenticeship for these occupations often takes 4-5 years to complete.
Furthermore, since they both work with pipes, most people tend to think that these two career paths are the same.
However, these occupations have distinct differences. For example, virtually all pipefitters are highly skilled at welding pipes.
They also often work from highly detailed drawings. Essentially, the skills required by a pipefitter are much more comprehensive and might be more challenging compared to those of a plumber.
That’s due to the nature of their job and the material they handle in their day-to-day duties. For example, pipefitters work with cutting torch, fitter grip, saws, welder, and pressure gauge.
Conversely, plumbers use tools like toilet auger, basin wrench, flashlight, pipe wrench, and tube cutter.
They lay out the pipework for bathrooms and kitchens during construction and help to repair the systems or install appliances that use the systems.
Plumbers also work on roof drainage systems, smaller hydronic systems, and smaller fuel gas piping systems.
Moreover, plumbers need skills such as dexterity to work in cramped spaces, communication, and supervision skills in case they’re in charge of a team of plumbers.
Skills required by a pipefitter are different and include welding skills for small and big pipes, pipe fabrication and bending knowledge, shoring skills for fitting pipes below and above ground.
Do Pipefitters Make More Than Plumbers?
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics lists plumbers and pipefitters in the same job category. Hence, the earnings of pipefitters and plumbers are similar.
But wages can vary depending on how advanced a person is in the career path and where you find employment.
Pipefitters often earn an average amount of $54,000 annually, higher than plumbers (experienced plumbers earn $50,000 per year).
Some plumbers who are starting earn up to $30,000 per year. In some states, pipefitters earn up to $80,000 per year, with those working for more than eighty hours a week earning between $100,000 and $140,000.
Plumber vs Pipefitter: Which is Better?
While pipefitters and plumbers may have similar roles, the type of project might determine which one is the best choice:
For Water Systems: Typically, plumbers are an excellent choice for any project related to wastewater and drinking water. They have the necessary tools and knowledge to complete the residential plumbing job.
For High-Pressure Systems: Pipefitters specialize in high-pressure piping systems and have the required skills, tools, and experience to complete this type of project safely.
For Residential Projects: A plumber can be ideal for residential plumbing projects. However, choose pipefitters if the project involves an unusual setup, including hazardous substances or a high-pressure system.
For Industrial Projects: Pipefitters are an excellent choice for industrial projects involving potentially dangerous substances transported under pressure. They are also proficient in working with hydraulics or fuel delivery lines.
Plumbers Vs. Pipefitters: Job Descriptions and Work Environment
While pipefitters and plumbers work with pipes, they work with different systems. For instance, plumbers work with fixtures and pipes related to basic types of systems.
Part of their job description is installing and repairing pipes, clogs, toilets, garbage disposal, and water heaters.
Besides, plumbers tend to work for small companies, primarily in residential areas and occasionally in commercial settings.
Conversely, pipefitters work with piping systems related to boilers, refrigeration systems, or HVAC systems.
Some of these systems are designed to handle high pressure and hence handle more hazardous materials like steam or chemicals.
So, essentially, pipefitters work with more specialized systems than plumbers.
They primarily work in manufacturing or industrial settings like factories or power plants, in industrial pipelines, and equipment associated with such systems.
What Do Pipefitters Do That Plumbers Don’t?
Plumbers work within any plumbing field that doesn’t need additional licensing or specializations.
They fabricate, install, fit, maintain, and repair low-pressure piping systems, fittings, and fixtures.
The typical tasks for pipefitters are fixing, installing, servicing, and maintaining industrial and commercial high-pressure piping systems. Pipefitters also deal with fuel delivery and hydraulic systems.
Do Pipefitters Work with the Same Material as Plumbers?
The plumbers and pipefitters need to know the type of pipes that work best on the different systems they work with. The type of pipe used varies based on the kind of material that runs through the pipe.
Pipefitters work with more types of pipes than plumbers do. This is because they are specialized plumbers, and they tend to work with tougher pipe materials.
In addition, since they work with high-pressure substances, the pipes are made from resilient materials like copper-nickel, chrome-moly, high-carbon, or duplex stainless.
Besides the capacity to weld different metal alloys, a pipefitter can also work with live stream pipes.
On the other hand, plumbers tend to work with materials such as PVC, copper, and galvanized pipes. They connect the pipes with threads, solder, or glue.
However, a plumber installing a drinking water system needs to know which material could cause contamination.
Moreover, the pipefitters should know the type of material of the pipes as the systems might carry toxic or hazardous materials. Hence, they should learn which are safe in specific situations.
Do Pipefitters Require Licensing Like Plumbers?
In both pipefitting and plumbing, you should carefully check the working areas’ regulations to ensure you comply with all local codes.
For example, plumbers face licensing requirements in most places, either through licensing in the city or the locality they work or through a statewide licensing system.
Conversely, only some states require licensing for pipefitters. But pipefitters should know that they might need specialty licenses for different types of systems on which they work.
For instance, a special permit is required in order to work on gas lines in most places.