5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known as a Rookie Plumber
We talked with a self-described ski-bum-turned-veteran-plumber to learn the five things he wishes he would have known when he started his career.
Max Rose was living life as a self-described ski bum in Colorado when one day he decided to open up the local paper and find himself a career. That led him to a nearby community college where he started learning everything he could about plumbing. That was in 2003, and 16 years and an apprenticeship later Max is still in the plumbing industry. We sat down and talked with Max about his experiences in the plumbing trade to find out five things he wishes he would have known on his first day in the field.
Don’t discredit classroom experience
Sitting in a classroom to learn how to become a plumber might seem like a waste of time to some beginners. Shouldn’t you be out in the field, learning real world solutions to real world problems? Max recommends taking the classroom work seriously and using it create a base of knowledge.
“I drove to Denver twice a week and learned the proper way to do things. Learning the ins-and-outs of plumbing in the classroom made things much easier in the field.”
Try new things
When he was first starting out, Max was pretty sure about one thing: he didn’t want to do “service work”. To him, service work, or plumbing in people’s homes and other residential areas, seemed like a bad time. He didn’t like the idea of cleaning up people’s plumbing messes and thought that working in new construction would be cleaner overall.
“I thought that service work was dirty work,” Max said. “But I was wrong about that.”
Turns out, Max greatly preferred doing service work in furnished and air-conditioned homes to working on dusty new construction jobsites. While that opinion will vary from person to person, Max recommends getting out in the field and trying new things before making any judgements.
Understand how water works
Plumbing is all about getting water in (and out) of places it would not be in naturally. Having a good understanding of how water flows is an essential part of any plumbing job and will make learning new concepts easier.
“The most essential piece of advice I got early on is that ‘water follows the path of least resistance,'” said Max.
Try not to settle early on
“I got lucky- the first company I worked for was very supportive and had a great culture,” said Max.
Not everyone is so lucky. It can be easy early on in a career to settle for a job in a company that may not be a good work environment in favor of a consistent paycheck. Max recommends that beginning plumbers pay attention to the culture of the companies they work for and take mental notes of the things they like and don’t like. That will become helpful later on as you learn more about the plumbing trade and can get more selective about where you work. And if a company has a toxic culture, don’t be afraid to look at other options. Working for bad bosses with disgruntled employees could give you a bad experience in plumbing and might turn you off to the trade altogether.
There’s a tool for that
“A lot of jobs come with specialty tools that make them way easier,” he said. “Always check to make sure you’re using the right tool for a job.”
Max told a story about how early in his career he spent hours doing a very specific job that involved painstakingly knocking down metal clips. Hours into it, he found out there was a tool specifically designed for that task that made the whole process much simpler. Bottom line: take advantage of specialty tools- they are there for a reason.
About the expert
Max Rose is a 16-year plumbing industry veteran and the owner of Four Seasons Plumbing in Asheville, NC.
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