What Does a Pipefitter or Steamfitter Do?
Pipefitters or steamfitters start with a blueprint or drawing and make it a reality. These craftsmen are responsible for every aspect of the installation and maintenance of piping systems. They work on residential, commercial and industrial construction projects. The primary difference between pipefitters and steamfitters is the material transported through the pipe systems they design, install or maintain. Pipefitters work with low-pressure and high-pressure systems that are used in heating and cooling, manufacturing and electricity generation. Steamfitters specialize in systems designed for the flow of liquids or gases at high pressure. Established pipefitters and steamfitters often work independently.
Night, weekend and on-call work are sometimes required.
- Cut, thread or hammer pipes to specifications, using tools such as saws, cutting torches, pipe threaders or pipe benders
- Read blueprints and make pipe systems based on those specifications
- Assemble or secure pipes, tubes and fittings by welding, brazing, cementing, soldering or threading joints
- Inspect, examine or test installed systems
- Modify, clean or maintain pipe systems
- Prepare cost estimates for clients
Employers typically require a high school diploma or equivalent. Training to enter the pipefitter or steamfitter trade is similar, and usually requires a combination of classroom instruction and on-the-job training. Most training is conducted through an apprenticeship that can last up to five years. Community colleges and trade schools also offer training programs. At least 144 hours of courses are required in subjects such as drafting, mathematics, chemistry, blueprint reading and physics. Many states require a license to reach journeyman status, and many pipefitters and steamfitters take additional time and training to reach the master level.
- Have a talent for problem-solving
- Have excellent analytical skills
- Have strong math skills
- Are collaborative
- Have strong communication skills
- Are physically fit and limber enough to fit into tight spaces