Types of Plumbers: 6 Different Plumbers, Services, and Salaries
Knowing the different types of plumbers and the plumbing services they offer can give you the direction you need to gain on-the-job experience and build a successful career.
Different types of plumbers specialize in different areas. The fundamentals are the same, but how you apply your plumbing skills will differ depending on the type of plumbing service you perform.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the 6 common types of plumbers and the services they offer their clients.
How much do plumbers make?
If you’re looking to get started in the trades, the plumbing industry has plenty of opportunities available with high earning potential.
On average, plumbers earn $54,605 per year or an hourly rate of $22.64—based on up-to-date, crowd-sourced data as of May 2022.
Depending on the company you work for, plumbers may also enjoy benefits such as:
- Paid vacation
- Flexible work schedules
- Life insurance
- Health insurance
- Parental leave
- Disability insurance
- 401(k) plans.
1. Residential plumber
A residential plumber specializes in residential plumbing systems. Residential plumbing helps to ensure clients’ homes have running water and working toilets.
Residential plumbers are also heavily relied on during kitchen or bathroom remodeling, and they provide repairs or maintenance as needed.
The types of plumbing services a residential plumber would offer include:
- Installing plumbing systems and different piping (like a PVC pipe, copper pipe, iron pipe, or PEX pipe) in home additions or renovations
- Installing, repairing, and servicing a plumbing system or plumbing fixture in a single- or multi-family home
- Installing water and gas pipes
- Diagnosing and fixing a plumbing problem (like a burst water pipe, clogged drain, or low water pressure) in a residential setting
If you’re interested in becoming a residential plumber, consider finding an apprenticeship with a residential plumbing company.
2. Commercial plumber
A commercial plumber works in large commercial settings like office buildings, schools or colleges, and hospitals.
They have experience working with a large number of pipes and outlets and understand the complexities involved in larger plumbing systems.
A commercial plumber’s list of plumbing services would include:
- Install pipes and water tanks in large commercial settings
- Install waste removal and water systems by digging trenches and putting in piping to connect the building to a local sewage system and water reserve
- Provide regular maintenance, troubleshooting, and repairs to plumbing systems
If you’re interested in becoming a commercial plumber, find an apprenticeship with a company that offers commercial plumbing services to grow your knowledge and gain experience.
Residential vs. commercial plumbing: what’s the difference?
The overall tasks and job responsibilities aren’t the only things that differ between residential and commercial plumbing.
Here are a few things you should know if you’re deciding which specialty you’d rather work in:
- Building codes: Depending on the type of building (e.g., hospital, school, factory) commercial plumbers will need to know and follow many different building codes to perform their job. Residential plumbers, on the other hand, will only need to know one building code.
- Permit requirements: Commercial plumbers often require a permit to install, maintain, repair, or modify a building’s water infrastructure. The type of plumbing permit required will depend on the job. Although not as common, residential plumbers may also need a permit to complete major plumbing work in a home. Check your local state or county regulations to make sure you have the right permit before you begin.
- Plumbing equipment: Commercial settings require larger plumbing equipment to move water throughout the building. This means commercial plumbers can expect to work on bigger boilers, site sewer lines, and lift stations that require an understanding of extremely complex plumbing systems.
- Time on the job: Because commercial plumbing systems are larger and more complex, repairs are typically a much bigger job and can take a lot longer than residential plumbing jobs. For example, finding a leak in a two-story home will be a much easier task than finding a leak in a 20-story building.
- Customer service: Residential plumbers are working in a client’s home and need to provide a higher level of customer service to educate the homeowner of the problem at hand and the solution they’ve provided. Commercial plumbers, on the other hand, work in a larger setting and often have little to no communication with the building owner on-site.
3. Service and repair plumber
Service and repair plumbers are called specifically to troubleshoot and repair plumbing systems in both residential and commercial settings. They have strong problem-solving skills and the know-how to fix a variety of plumbing issues.
Service and repair plumbers perform professional plumbing services like:
- Fixing issues with water pressure
- Cleaning and servicing plumbing systems
- Repairing leaks and unclogging drains
- Responding to plumbing emergencies
Service and repair plumbers often work on-call shifts and respond to plumbing emergencies beyond the standard nine-to-five. They work with the (often stressed) home or business owner to quickly investigate the issue and make the repair.
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4. Water supply plumber
Water supply plumbers are responsible for the flow of water into a home, business, school, hospital, or other building.
They install and repair various water tanks and supply lines, like kitchen sinks, overhead storage tanks, bathroom tanks, and pipes.
The types of plumbing services a water supply plumber offers include:
- Installing water supply lines and sanitation systems in kitchens, laundry rooms, and bathrooms
- Performing water supply services like unclogging drains and toilet repairs
Water supply plumbers are often residential or commercial plumbers who specialize in various water supply systems.
READ MORE: How to bid plumbing jobs and win more work
5. Sanitary plumber
Sanitary plumbers troubleshoot and repair any issues related to sanitary pipes, tanks, and plumbing systems in residential or commercial bathrooms.
This type of plumber will not install appliances like washing machines, or replace or repair taps, ball valves, or plugs.
Some sanitary plumbing services include:
- Installing, unclogging, and cleaning bathroom and toilet pipes
- Fitting new water heater systems and boilers in showers and toilets
- Installing, maintaining, or removing bathtubs
6. Construction plumbers
Construction plumbers help plan and install plumbing systems for new residential or commercial buildings or remodels.
They’re essential contractors to make sure a home or commercial building has running water.
A construction plumber’s list of plumbing services would include
- Fitting, laying, and installing new pipe systems and drainage pipes, and connecting them to local water reserves
- Connecting and testing shut-off valves and new water heaters
- Installing all plumbing fixtures such as sinks, faucets, shower heads, washing machines, dishwashers, and toilets
How to make more money as a plumber
- Get more experience
The amount of plumbing experience you have will influence how much you are paid as a plumber.
Plumbers with less than three years of experience will earn on average $40,023. Plumbers with three to six years of experience will earn on average $49,784. While plumbers with seven to ten years of experience will earn $55,733 on average.
- Choose a different work location
Where you work will also play a role in how much you make as a plumber.
For example, plumbers working in California earn $62,681 on average, whereas plumbers earn $51,523 in Pennsylvania and $47,294 in Florida.
- Work towards your master plumber’s license
The plumbing license you hold will also have a direct impact on how much you earn.
For example, a plumber apprentice earns on average USD $36,526 annually, while a journeyman plumber will make, on average, USD $56,054 annually.
A master plumber is a fully licensed plumber, and the highest certification you can earn. Plumbers with this title earn USD $66,479 a year on average.
Once you’ve achieved your master plumber certification, you’re considered an expert in the trade and ready to start your own plumbing business.
Whether you’re just starting out, or making the switch from one specialty to another, learning about the different types of plumbers is an important part of your plumbing journey.
It can help you decide what you’d like your plumbing career to look like, and what skills and experience you need to achieve your goals.