A plumber is a tradesperson who specializes in installing and maintaining systems used for potable (drinking) water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

, sewage
Sewage is water-carried waste, in solution or suspension, that is intended to be removed from a community. Also known as wastewater, it is more than 99% water and is characterized by volume or rate of flow, physical condition, chemical constituents and the bacteriological organisms that it contains...

, and drainage
Drainage is the natural or artificial removal of surface and sub-surface water from an area. Many agricultural soils need drainage to improve production or to manage water supplies.-Early history:...

 in plumbing
Plumbing is the system of pipes and drains installed in a building for the distribution of potable drinking water and the removal of waterborne wastes, and the skilled trade of working with pipes, tubing and plumbing fixtures in such systems. A plumber is someone who installs or repairs piping...

 systems. The term dates from ancient times, and is related to the Latin word for lead, "plumbum." A person engaged in fixing metaphorical "leaks" may also be referred to as a "plumber".


The word "plumber" dates from the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

. In Roman times lead
Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

 was known as in Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 which is why the periodic table
Periodic table
The periodic table of the chemical elements is a tabular display of the 118 known chemical elements organized by selected properties of their atomic structures. Elements are presented by increasing atomic number, the number of protons in an atom's atomic nucleus...

 of the element
Chemical element
A chemical element is a pure chemical substance consisting of one type of atom distinguished by its atomic number, which is the number of protons in its nucleus. Familiar examples of elements include carbon, oxygen, aluminum, iron, copper, gold, mercury, and lead.As of November 2011, 118 elements...

s uses the symbol of 'Pb' for lead. Roman roofs used lead in conduits and drain pipes and some were also covered with lead, lead was also used for piping
Within industry, piping is a system of pipes used to convey fluids from one location to another. The engineering discipline of piping design studies the efficient transport of fluid....

 and for making baths. 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". Thus a person with expertise in working with lead was first known as a Plumbarius which was later shortened to plumber.

By country

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
  • 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
  • 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.

Plumbers in the 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.

Other uses

The term "White House Plumbers
White House Plumbers
The White House Plumbers, sometimes simply called the Plumbers, were a covert White House Special Investigations Unit established July 24, 1971 during the presidency of Richard Nixon. Its task was to stop the leaking of classified information to the news media...

" was a popular name given to the covert White House Special Investigations Unit established on July 24, 1971 during the presidency of Richard Nixon
Richard Nixon
Richard Milhous Nixon was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 to 1974. The only president to resign the office, Nixon had previously served as a US representative and senator from California and as the 36th Vice President of the United States from 1953 to 1961 under...

. Their job was to plug intelligence "leaks' in the U.S. Government relating to the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

 (i.e. the Pentagon Papers
Pentagon Papers
The Pentagon Papers, officially titled United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, is a United States Department of Defense history of the United States' political-military involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967...

); hence the term "plumbers".

Notable plumbers

  • S Auld
    S Auld
    S Auld was a Glasgow whistle maker, brass founder, and plumber active mostly during the late Victorian era in England, making whistles from c. 1880 or earlier until 1907.- Addresses & History :...

  • John Braden (politician)
    John Braden (politician)
    John Braden was an English-born plumber and political figure in British Columbia. He represented Victoria City in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia from 1894 to 1898....

  • John Calley (engineer)
    John Calley (engineer)
    John Calley , a metalworker, plumber and glass-blower, was Thomas Newcomen's partner. He helped develop the Newcomen steam engine, and his name is listed on the patent with Newcomen and Thomas Savery.-References:...

  • Don Cameron (Victorian politician)
  • Frank Courtnay
    Frank Courtnay
    Frank Courtnay was an Australian politician. Born in Melbourne, he was educated at state schools and then the Working Men's College before becoming a dairy farmer and later a plumber. He was Victorian and then national secretary of the Plumbers' Union. In 1958, he was elected to the Australian...

  • Thomas Crapper
    Thomas Crapper
    Thomas Crapper was a plumber who founded Thomas Crapper & Co. in London. Contrary to widespread misconceptions, Crapper did not invent the flush toilet. He did, however, do much to increase the popularity of the toilet, and developed some important related inventions, such as the ballcock...

  • Tom Finney
    Tom Finney
    Sir Thomas Finney, OBE is a former English footballer, famous for his loyalty to his league club, Preston North End, and for his performances in the English national side....

  • Joseph-Achille Francoeur
    Joseph-Achille Francoeur
    Joseph-Achille Francoeur was a plumber and political figure in Quebec. He represented Montréal-Dorion from 1931 to 1935 and Montreal-Mercier from 1939 to 1948 in the Legislative Assembly of Quebec as a Liberal....

  • Colin Furze
    Colin Furze
    Colin Furze is a plumber, stuntman and filmmaker from Stamford, England. He is currently the Guinness World Record holder for the World's Largest Bonfire and World's Longest Motorbike....

  • Terry Inglis
    Terry Inglis
    Terry Inglis is a fictional character from the Australian soap opera Neighbours played by Maxine Klibingaitis. She made her first appearance on 11 June 1985. Terry was employed by Max Ramsay as his plumber's apprentice. Terry dated Shane Ramsay and Paul Robinson who she married...

  • George Jennings
    George Jennings
    George Jennings was an English sanitary engineer and plumber who invented the first public toilets.Josiah George Jennings was born on 10 November 1810 in Eling, at the edge of the New Forest in Hampshire. He was the eldest of seven children of Jonas Joseph Jennings and Mary Dimmock...

  • Leslie McMahon
    Leslie McMahon
    James Leslie McMahon was an Australian politician. Born in Sydney, he was a plumber, gasfitter and drainer and then an organiser of the Plumbers' Union. He was elected to Sydney City Council in 1967, Leichhardt City Council in 1968, and Sydney City Council again in 1971...

  • Mario
    is a fictional character in his video game series, created by Japanese video game designer Shigeru Miyamoto. Serving as Nintendo's mascot and the main protagonist of the series, Mario has appeared in over 200 video games since his creation...

  • Mike O'Mara (politician)
  • Shawn Nelson
    Shawn Nelson
    Shawn Timothy Nelson was a U.S. Army veteran and unemployed plumber who stole a M60 Patton tank from a United States National Guard Armory in San Diego, California and went on a rampage on May 18, 1995, destroying cars, fire hydrants, and an RV before being shot by police.-Prior to the...

  • Harry Patch
    Harry Patch
    Henry John "Harry" Patch , known in his latter years as "the Last Fighting Tommy", was a British supercentenarian, briefly the oldest man in Europe, and the last surviving soldier to have fought in the trenches of the First World War...

  • Joe the Plumber
    Joe the Plumber
    Samuel Joseph Wurzelbacher , is a conservative activist, author, and commentator. A resident of Holland, Ohio, United States, he gained significant attention during the 2008 U.S. presidential election after he was videotaped questioning then-Democratic candidate Barack Obama about his small...

     - During the 2008 US presidential election campaign, Samuel Joe Wurzelbacher questioned Barack Obama's proposed tax plan. The Republican
    Republican Party (United States)
    The Republican Party is one of the two major contemporary political parties in the United States, along with the Democratic Party. Founded by anti-slavery expansion activists in 1854, it is often called the GOP . The party's platform generally reflects American conservatism in the U.S...

     McCain-Palin campaign
    John McCain presidential campaign, 2008
    John McCain, the senior United States Senator from Arizona, launched his second candidacy for the presidency of the United States in an unsuccessful bid to win the 2008 presidential election. His candidacy, in the works for a number of years, was informally announced on February 28, 2007 during a...

     later applied "Joe the Plumber" as a metaphor
    A metaphor is a literary figure of speech that uses an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea; e.g., "Her eyes were glistening jewels." Metaphor may also be used for any rhetorical figures of speech that achieve their effects via...

     for middle-class Americans
    American middle class
    The American middle class is a social class in the United States. While the concept is typically ambiguous in popular opinion and common language use, contemporary social scientists have put forward several, more or less congruent, theories on the American middle class...

  • William J. Spencer
    William J. Spencer
    William J. Spencer was an American labor leader who was secretary-treasurer of the Building Trades Department of the American Federation of Labor from its founding nearly continuously until his death in 1933....

  • Leonard Susskind
    Leonard Susskind
    Leonard Susskind is the Felix Bloch Professor of Theoretical Physics at Stanford University. His research interests include string theory, quantum field theory, quantum statistical mechanics and quantum cosmology...

  • Richard Trethewey
    Richard Trethewey
    Richard S. Trethewey is an American plumber and HVAC contractor, who is best known as a television personality, appearing regularly on This Old House and its spin-offs, Ask This Old House and Inside This Old House...

  • Alphonse Verville
    Alphonse Verville
    Alphonse Verville was a Canadian politician and trade unionist.Born and raised in the Côte-Saint-Paul neighbourhood of Montreal, Verville was a plumber by trade. At the age of 18 he moved to Chicago and joined the International Plumbers' Union. He returned to Montreal in 1893 and worked to...

  • Orlando Zapata
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