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Plumbing in the Home/Any recommendations on how to learn to be a plumber, starting from nothing in socal? (Which school, no school, or home study?)


Just wondering what you did. If you have any advice that would be great. Thanks! I know it's a different question but as we're both local I figured you may be able to give me some schooling tips as the closest community college with plumbing classes is in San Diego.

Hi Dave,

I never did any "formal" schooling. I was raised in central California on a chicken ranch and we pretty much did everything ourselves. My grandfather had been a plumber among other things and we did everything from building our own multi-unit wire cages to building the buildings that they went into. We also did our own electrical and plumbing. This pretty much gave me a basic grounding in many different construction trades. It also cultivated a very strong mechanical aptitude.

There is kind of a joke in the plumbing industry that "All you need to know to be a plumber is that water flows downhill, payday is on Friday and don't bite your fingernails."

By biggest benefit has been my mechanical aptitude and just "knowing" how things should work. Understanding the dynamics of fluid flow is most important. All of the rest, such as fitting selection and pipe sizing is pretty much provided in the plumbing codes that one has to follow so there's no guesswork involved in that.

Many years ago, when I went to take my general contractor's license test, the plumbing section still had crazy stuff like "how much sheet lead does it take to line a tank of X by X dimensions?" While that may have been relevant at one time, obviously, it no longer is. Using any kind of lead in contact with potable water is totally forbidden these days.

Plumbing trivia: Do you know why the word plumber is spelled with a b?  It is from the Latin term for lead, chemical symbol Pb.  It literally means "one who works with lead" because back in the old days plumbers actually hand fabricated many of the plumbing fittings they used out of sheet lead that they poured right in their shops.

Today, there are basically 2 routes to becoming a plumber; The Union route - by getting signed up for an apprenticeship program and working your way up. The other way is to get hired on by a working construction plumber as a helper (grunt). You will spend a while on the end of the "goon spoon" (also known as a shovel). LOL you will also be the "go get me" guy, and make hundreds of trips back to the truck everyday to get whatever part the plumber didn't bring with him to the work location. This is all useful for skills standpoint. It's important to know how to dig a graded ditch with proper slope. It's also important to learn about pipe sizing and all of the various fitting configurations and how they are named. Is important to learn how to handle the different types of pipe. How to carry it, store it and cut it.

The speed at which you learn and demonstrate competence will determine how quickly you move out of the gofer category and into actually doing something productive.

There are many different areas of the plumbing trade; New Construction, Remodeled and repair, Commercial and just general service and repair of finished systems. There are even sub-specialties within those areas like commercial restaurant plumbing systems. As you work your way up through the trade you will find that you may have a particular liking or a knack for one particular area and choose to specialize in that but you really need to know all of it.

Good Luck

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Dana Bostick


Pretty much any residential plumbing questions. For "item specific" details such as a specific model of fixture, I will need to research and there may not be any useful information available. Note: I live and work in Southern California. We do not, as a rule, use hot water or steam heating systems, oil fired boilers or private water wells so my knowledge in those areas is pretty limited. There are others here on AllExerts that can probably answer those questions better.


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