Inside scoop: What it’s like to be a plumber
In a series of Q and A articles, we’re profiling Canadians in a wide variety of jobs, who share their tips about and experiences in their profession.
You’ve probably heard that there’s a good living in being a plumber. In this profile, we’ve asked a plumber with over 20 years of experience about some of the ups and downs of this always in-demand profession.
Name: David Degano
At what age did you decided to become a plumber and why?
I became a plumbing apprentice when I was 24. I had dropped out of University in 1985. I worked odd jobs for about a year, then found a direct sales job. After two years, I realized I was getting nowhere. My father suggested a trade. I looked in the want ads and saw that plumbers and electricians were the highest paid.
What type of training and certification is required?
To become a licensed plumber you must achieve a C of Q ( Certificate of Qualification ).
You must apprentice for 9,000 hours, which takes about five years, during which you must attend three three-month trade school sessions – Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. I went to Durham College for Basic and Intermediate. I took Advanced at George Brown.
What is a typical day like?
A normal work day is eight paid hours. In the morning you would arrive at the shop and load your truck with materials. Drive to the site. Perform your work. Drive back to shop. Talk to your Supervisor about any problems or deficiencies. This could all take between 9 and 10 hours.
If we were installing water services, we would do 20 to 30 a day in conjunction with other work. If you were roughing in a house, you and a partner would spend the day cutting out holes for the piping and installing all of the drains for the house and the waterlines that supply the second floor. A typical house would be 14 or 15 fixtures. If you were installing bath tubs, you and a partner would complete 5 or 6 houses, including shower bases. This includes carrying the bath tubs into the house. Everyone hates doing tubs.
What is the best thing about your job?
The potential to be doing different work from day to day in different houses and being able to breathe fresh air.
What is the worst thing about your job?
Carrying bath tubs into the house and trying to navigate the safety railings. The MUD. Working in very cold environments. Maybe the worst is working on top of other trades in a house and fighting for space.
What does a plumber earn?
Low Rise unionized will make from $ 85,000 to $ 90,000. ICI and High Rise are slightly more. Non unionized typically is less, unless they work more hours.
Is there always work? Do you have a busiest time of the year?
Yes, I am always in demand. Lately the work seems like it will never end. The busiest time of the year is normally the fall. February is probably the slowest.
What would you say the prospects are like for young people looking to get into the profession?
This job is not for everyone. If someone is not afraid to work hard and can handle being put under pressure, then they can be successful. From what I am hearing, in the coming years we will be more in demand as the older plumbers retire.