A plumber is a tradesperson who specializes in installing and maintaining systems used for potable (drinking) water, sewage and drainage in plumbing systems. The term dates from ancient times, and is related to the Latin word for lead, "plumbum".[2]


The word "plumber" dates from the Roman Empire. The Latin for lead is plumbum. Roman roofs used lead in conduits and drain pipes[3] and some were also covered with lead, lead was also used for piping and for making baths.[4] In medieval times anyone who worked with lead was referred to as a plumber as can be seen from an extract of workmen fixing a roof in Westminster Palace and were referred to as plumbers "To Gilbert de Westminster, plumber, working about the roof of the pantry of the little hall, covering it with lead, and about various defects in the roof of the little hall".[5] Thus a person with expertise in working with lead was first known as a Plumbarius which was later shortened to plumber.

Plumbing activities

Years of training and/or experience are needed to become a skilled plumber; some jurisdictions also require that plumbers be licensed.

Some needed skills, interests, and values

  • Reading drawings, and specifications to determine layout of water supply, waste, and venting systems
  • Detecting faults in plumbing appliances and systems, and correctly diagnosing their causes
  • Installing, repairing and maintaining domestic, commercial, and industrial plumbing fixtures and systems
  • Locating and marking positions for pipe connections, passage holes, and fixtures in walls and floors
  • Measuring, cutting, bending, and threading pipes using hand and power tools or machines
  • Joining pipes and fittings together using soldering techniques, compression fittings, threaded fittings, and push-on fittings.
  • Testing pipes for leaks using air and water pressure gauges
  • Awareness of legal regulations and safety issues
  • Ensuring safety standards and build regulations are met.

United States

Each state and locality may have its own licensing and taxing schemes for plumbers. There is no federal law establishing licenses for plumbers.[6]

United Kingdom

Plumbers in the United Kingdom are required to pass Level 2 and Level 3 vocational requirements of the City and Guilds of London Institute.[7]

Other uses

The term "White House Plumbers" was a popular name given to the covert White House Special Investigations Unit established on July 24, 1971 during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Their job was to plug intelligence "leaks" in the U.S. Government relating to the Vietnam War (i.e. the Pentagon Papers); hence the term "plumbers".[8]

Notable plumbers