The Difference Between Plumbers and Pipefitters

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Plumbers and pipefitters are both highly-trained professionals who dedicate years of training to their occupations. There are many people who look at these two job titles and think that they are one and the same. This is untrue. The following looks at the work tasks of each occupation and highlights some of the similarities and differences between them.


Plumbers perform a variety of valuable services. For instance, they install and repair pipes. They remove clogs from pipes, fix water heaters, repair garbage disposals as well as install and fix toilets. Plumbers work with the pipes and fixtures related to both drinking water systems and waste water disposal systems. A plumber may conduct his or her work in private residences or in businesses.

Plumbers need many different types of tools and equipment to perform a variety of repairs. One example of a basic tool for a plumber is a basin wrench. This is used to loosen or tighten the nuts that are hard to reach beneath a sink’s faucet assembly. A plumber may need a basin wrench if he or she is making a repair or installing a new faucet in a bathroom or kitchen. Another basic piece of equipment for a plumber is a toilet auger. This device removes clogs from toilet pipes. With the help of a toilet auger, a plumber can avoid disconnecting a toilet’s pipes to locate and remove a clog.


A pipefitter works with pipes that are made with materials designed to handle high pressure materials. These types of pipes may contain chemicals, acids or even steam. The pipes may be a part of a refrigeration system, a boiler or an HVAC system. Generally, pipefitters work in industrial and manufacturing environments that have elaborate systems of pipes. They must know how to read a building’s blueprints so they can locate the sections of pipe they need to focus on.

The delicate repair work of a pipefitter requires him or her to be able to use many types of tools and equipment. Fitter grips are one example of a tool used by a pipefitter. Fitter grips allow a pipefitter to connect pipes to joints. A cutting torch is a tool a pipefitter uses to cut lengths of pipe. A pipe threader is another useful tool for a pipefitter. This device makes grooves in one end of a pipe so it can be connected to a coupling. The specific tool a pipefitter uses depends upon the task he or she is working on.

Similarities and Differences

There are a few similarities between the occupations of plumber and pipefitter. These occupations are similar in that both professionals work with pipe and pipe fittings. Also, members of both occupations are able to read blueprints of a structure or building. They are also knowledgeable about local building codes and regulations.

With the exception of those few general similarities, there are a great number of differences between these two occupations. While a plumber works with basic types of pipe including copper and PVC found in residences, a pipefitter works with high pressure, specialized pipes. A pipefitter works in industrial facilities such as power plants and factories. Alternatively, plumbers may perform work in businesses, but many of them conduct their work in private residences. Plumbers deal with drinking water and water waste disposal systems. Pipefitters work with pipes that contain hazardous materials including chemicals and gases. A pipefitter works with many more types of pipe than a plumber does. The type of pipe that a pipefitter works with depends upon the type of material that runs through the pipe.

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