What is Pipefitting?

Felicia Dye

Pipefitting is work that involves the installation or repair of pipes or tubes. Pipes and tubes are necessary for a wide range of reasons. This makes pipefitting necessary in different industries such as waste management, agriculture, and manufacturing.

Pipefitters, or steamfitters, are responsible for installing piping systems.
Pipefitters, or steamfitters, are responsible for installing piping systems.

A client may know that she needs to transport material from one point to another, but that does not mean that she knows how it should be done. This may leave the pipefitter with the responsibility of choosing which type of pipe or tubing is most appropriate. Pipes can be made from a variety of material, including plastic, copper, carbon steel, and clay.

Unlike a plumber, a pipefitter can fabricate pipes, as well as install and maintain them.
Unlike a plumber, a pipefitter can fabricate pipes, as well as install and maintain them.

One of the primary factors that affects the pipefitter’s choice of pipe or tubing is often the material that is being transported. Different substances, such as water and gas, have different needs. His choice may also be affected by industry or government standards. In some instances, environmental laws or building codes may dictate that a certain type and size of tubing or pipe must be used or may not be used. Normally, the pipefitter must be aware of rules and regulations relevant to the type of pipefitting job he takes.

The pipefitter is often left to use his expertise to decide the best means to join, or fit, the pieces of pipe or tubing together. There are a wide range of options, including elbows, tees, and reducers. Many clients are clueless as to what types of connections are best for effective flow. Not all types of pipes and tubes can be joined in the same manner.

Once a pipe system is set up, the pipefitter’s telephone number should not be discarded. Pipes burst. Tubes leak. A pipefitter can be employed for repair work which is likely to be necessary at some point. He can also be called in the event that breakthroughs reveal that a certain materials are health risks and a client wants to have them replaced.

Pipefitting does involve occupational hazards sometimes, especially in instances of repair and replacement. Pipes and tubes are often used for transporting materials that are toxic or pose threats to human health. This is another area where the pipefitter may need to apply his expertise for the safety of himself and others.

Pipefitting is a global trade. Since it is so crucial to so many industries, pipefitting work is done in almost every country. Standards and techniques may vary. Pipefitters in more developed countries are usually able to offer their clients more options and more sophisticated systems.

Pipes are frequently made from metals like copper and carbon steel.
Pipes are frequently made from metals like copper and carbon steel.

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Discussion Comments


From what I understand, plumbing and pipefitting are pretty closely related professions. The main difference is that plumbers usually work in residences, while pipefitters do more industrial work that can be more hazardous. But sometimes their certifications overlap, and some people are both plumbers and pipefitters.

It doesn't sound like a bad field to get into, because there's definitely options as to where you can work. Also, even after you install pipes, as the article pointed out, you might still be needed to repair them. Pipefitters definitely seem like they would be in high demand in the construction industry.


@Azuza - Well, I would assume it would be easy for a pipefitter from a country with more advanced systems to go to a country with less advanced systems. But probably not that easy the other way around.

Either way, it sounds like pipefitters enjoy a lot of autonomy on the job. They're responsible for choosing what kind of pipes they use, and keeping up with regulations. After all, I assume most people who hire pipefitters don't know enough about the trade themselves to give the pipefitter directions!


I never thought about the fact that pipefitting is an international trade. But I guess it's obvious, because pipes are used everywhere! I assume even if the systems are slightly different, it would still be pretty easy to learn if you have basic pipefitting training.

There are a lot of jobs with skills that wouldn't transfer if you were to move out of the country, but pipefitting sounds like it's pretty universal, and will always be in demand. That's pretty cool if you're looking to maybe move around at some point!

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