Plumbing vs Pipefitting – What Is The Difference?

There are multiple reasons to research the difference between plumbing and pipefitting. Knowing all about plumbing vs pipefitting enables you to choose the right expert for your project. For other people, such information helps them to follow the best career path.

Plumbing vs Pipefitting

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First of all, you should not mistake pipefitting for a part of the plumbing trade.

What is fitting in plumbing? This refers to using pipe fittings to join multiple pipes.

Pipefitting, on the other hand, is a completely different trade, even if there are some connections between the two professions.

Keep on reading to find more about pipefitting and plumbing and which specialist you need to solve your problem. We will also make a comparison of plumber vs. pipefitter salary in case you are trying to make a career decision.

What does a plumber do?

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Plumbers are tradesmen who install and maintain pipes in various buildings. These pipes are used for potable water, drainage, irrigation, sewage, and other purposes.

The job duties of a plumber include:

  • Reading and interpreting blueprints;
  • Assessing and planning plumbing installations;
  • Installing fixtures and domestic appliances;
  • Installing, maintaining, and repairing plumbing systems;
  • Cutting, welding, and assembling pipes and fittings;
  • Testing plumbing systems for safety and functionality;
  • Collaborating with electricians, architects, and other construction professionals;
  • Making sure plumbing systems comply with regulatory codes;
  • Preparing budgets and cost estimates;
  • Keeping records of time spent working and materials used.

What does a pipefitter do?

Pipefitters are tradespeople responsible for installing and maintaining piping systems that must withstand high pressure. They are often found in industrial settings and the systems they assemble involve chemicals, steam, hydraulics, and ventilation.

Duties of a pipefitter usually include:

  • Working with metal fittings such as stainless steel and alloy;
  • Shaping metals through welding to fit specifications;
  • Creating sketches or blueprints of pipe installations;
  • Interpreting existing blueprints and forming pipes according to specifications;
  • Checking the performance of pipe systems;

Unlike plumbers, pipefitters usually work in manufacturing, commercial, and industrial settings. Plumbers are also involved in residential plumbing projects, although they can also be present in industrial environments.

Differences in workplace

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Even if both plumbers and pipefitters are involved in construction projects, they are found on different types of sites.

Like mentioned earlier, plumbers are found at residential and commercial locations. They are required in newly constructed homes, in home building companies, and construction industrial sites.

Plumbers will do pipework for kitchens and bathrooms during construction, but are also in charge with repairs. Plumbers may also be involved in installing the appliances that use plumbing systems, such as washing machines.

Pipefitters are employed in different environments, mainly factories and industrial settings. Look for them in manufacturing industries, in petrochemical plants, and in conventional or nuclear power stations.

Through their complex work, these professionals make possible operations in various industrial facilities. Manufacturing and energy generation processes would not be possible without their contribution.

Differences in skills

Pipefitters have multiple skills in common, such as manual dexterity and math and physics knowledge. Both types of experts need to be able to read blueprints.

The main difference between plumbers and pipefitters come from the greater complexity of the systems created by pipefitters. This is why pipefitters also need welding and metallurgy knowledge.

Main skills required by a plumber include:

  • Dexterity to be able to work in cramped spaces;
  • Math and physics knowledge;
  • Communication skills to help them interact with clients;
  • Supervision skills in case they are in charge of a team of plumbers.

Skills required by a pipefitter are quite different:

  • Welding skills including both big and small pipes;
  • Pipe bending and fabrication knowledge;
  • Installation and shoring skills for fitting pipes above and below ground;
  • Trench and hydraulic shoring skills in case they need to work with huge pipes.

The more complex requirements for pipefitters are caused by the nature of their work. Pipefitters need to work with special alloys and metals that deliver fluids at high pressure.  They are even trained to work with live stream pipes, a skill that requires high qualifications and experience.

Differences in materials they work with

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Plumbers operate with common materials like copper, PVC, and galvanized pipe. They connect these pipes with glue, threads, or solder.

What is pipefitter material different from plumber? These seasoned professionals work with systems that carry high-pressure substances. Pipes are made from resilient materials like stainless steel, copper-nickel, high-carbon steel, chrome-moly, or duplex stainless. Aside from being able to weld various metal alloys, pipefitters must be able to work with live stream pipes, too.

Differences in education requirements

Becoming a pipefitter obviously requires spending more time in school due to the increased complexity of the job.

But let’s start with the simpler option, becoming a plumber. The process involves:

  • Getting your high school diploma or GED

Plumbers need a good foundation in subjects like science, technology, math, and computers. Basic drafting classes are helpful as well.

  • Completing vocational training for plumbing

Next you need to enroll in an accredited technical college or trade school where you can complete plumbing vocational classes.

  • Completing a plumbing apprenticeship

After completing a certain amount of classroom hours, you can be accepted in an apprenticeship. At this point you will receive on-the-job training and learn about plumbing codes.

  • Getting licensed

After completing classroom instruction and completing an apprenticeship you will need to take an exam to obtain your license.

  • Gaining experience

By practicing your trade and developing new skills you can even advance to the role of master plumber. This can bring you a higher pay and additional benefits.

How do you become a pipefitter? Educational requirements are slightly higher:

  • Getting your high school diploma or GED

The first step is similar to the one required to plumbers.

  • Completing vocational training for pipefitters

Trade school training is also the path to complete if you want to become a pipefitter.

  • Completing an apprenticeship

Apprenticeships to become a pipefitter last more than plumber apprenticeships, three to five years to be more precise. A minimum of 1500 hours on-the-job training are required to earn all the necessary credits. Multiple skills are taught to apprentices, such as threading, grinding, soldering, welding, and working with metal.

  • Getting licensed and gaining experience

The last two steps are also similar to plumbing training. However, pipefitters are tested for different skills and will gain experience in different settings compared to plumbers.

Plumber vs. pipefitter salary

The average base salary for plumbers in the US is &25.28 per hour. The amount of money plumbers earn per hour depends on the experience. A plumber with less than 1 year of experience earns a little over $21 an hour, while an experienced plumber will earn more then $30. In top companies for plumbers, these tradesmen can earn as much as $71 per hour!

Plumbers can make around $6,750 in overtime per year. Their benefits usually include:

  • Food provided
  • Relocation assistance
  • Professional development assistance
  • Parental leave
  • Flexible schedule

The top 3 highest paying cities in the Unites States for plumbers are San Diego, CA ($29.17 per hour), Denver, CO ($28.84 per hour), and New York, NY ($28.46 per hour). More than half of plumbers in the Unites States think their salaries are enough for the cost of living in their area.

The average salary for a pipefitter is slightly lower, at a rate of $24.52 per hour. However, these skilled tradesmen can earn more benefits. Their additional compensation is higher, at $9.716 per year for overtime. Added benefits usually include referral program, paid time off, health insurance, and vision insurance. Some companies even offer disability insurance, dental insurance, flexible spending account, life insurance, and a health savings account.

The highest paying cities for pipefitters in the United States are Freeport, TX ($30.53 per hour), Corpus Christi, TX ($29.96 per hour), and Deer Park, TX ($26.52 per hour).

The level of satisfaction seems to be higher for pipefitters, as 70% of them say their salaries are enough to make a good living.

Conclusion: plumbing vs pipefitting

If you are a residential client and you have a clogged drain, you definitely need a plumber. Pipefitters are from a different trade and are required in industrial and manufacturing settings.

Are you reading this plumbing vs pipefitting article to make a career decision?

You should know there are major differences between the two trades.

Being a plumber earns you a higher hourly rate, but pipefitters are offered way more benefits. Those with welding skills should definitely consider a pipefitting career. Pipefitters are better paid than welders – earning about 50% more money.