A plumbing contractor installs, troubleshoots, maintains and replaces the system of pipes, connections, fixtures and devices that facilitate the flow of water in and out of buildings. He may specialize in the residential, commercial or industrial sectors, or work in all three. Some plumbing contractors work alone and others have a staff of plumbers they supervise.
Some plumbing contractors specialize in maintenance and have annual contracts with proprietors of multi-unit structures, such as hotels, motels, apartments and condominiums. Others may confine their work to new construction projects. Plumbing contractors may also choose to only apply their skills to retrofitting and remodeling projects that normally require upgrading or replacement of systems to increase efficiency or bring the plumbing up to code.
When his services are required by homeowners, a plumbing contractor is normally contacted by telephone and an appointment is scheduled for him to inspect the site and prepare an estimate for the work. Occasionally a plumber can give an estimate over the phone if the problem is common, such as a clogged garbage disposal, but he normally prefers to inspect the source of the problem before committing to a price for his work. He typically provides a written estimate to the customer that they both sign to confirm the cost and the scope of the work to be performed.
Once the bid has been accepted, the plumbing contractor assembles the tools and parts needed for the job. Wrenches, snakes, pipe fitters and cutters and tube benders are commonly part of his tool collection. He normally has standard pipes, fittings and connectors in stock. The craft of plumbing is notorious for requiring unanticipated components, so additional parts not normally in the plumber’s stock may be needed for some jobs.
If a plumbing contractor is self-employed, he is typically responsible for obtaining building permits for new projects or extensive retrofitting jobs. He is also customarily required to update his contractor’s license as needed, keep his insurance and bond documents up to date and maintain all related files and records. In some areas, special certifications may be required to perform certain plumbing jobs.
To be a leader in his profession, a plumbing contractor is usually required to be aware of any changes to building codes in the areas in which he works. He should also keep himself informed on new products and processes in the plumbing industry. His knowledge of plumbing options, along with a reputation for quality work, help keep his customers happy and willing to refer him to others who need similar services.
A plumbing contractor job does not require any specific education, although most in this position have attended trade schools for instruction and have on-the-job training. Local unions and contractors sometimes offer apprenticeship programs. Good math and mechanical skills are typical requirements for the job as well.