Want to be a plumber?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Courses Feedback' started by secret squirrel, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. secret squirrel

    secret squirrel Plumbers Arms member

    Hello All,

    I’ve been a plumber now for about 4 months. So, I thought I’d write a few things down about the industry that I’ve discovered so far. I am not advocating “fast track courses” over apprenticeships. This is purely how I have found things after doing a fast track course. I hope this will give “wannabe” plumbers or people going on courses a broader view.

    Being a plumber is difficult, I never expected it to be easy but there are many issues that I had not considered.

    Funding jobs is one, I have had to pay for the parts for jobs before being paid. This limits your cash flow, especially when customers pay by cheque, you then have to wait for it to clear but pay for the next job. To start, you must have copper tube, 22mm, 15mm, a selection of joints etc. This is all dead money whilst it is sitting on you van. If you add in the cost of a cwst or hot water cylinder, a job could owe you about £150-200 before you kick off.

    Tools, you always seem to need another tool. This again costs. You have little cash flow but you need another tool. Although the tool may only cost £15 that still affects that precious cash flow.

    Jobs, they are rarely what they seem, there is always (for me) something that I’ve not considered, takes longer than I thought or I can’t complete the task because some valve or isolator fails to work. Your then looking for another way to complete the task or need to charge more to sort the issue.

    Work, is sporadic, you can work really hard one week but nothing for the next week. I am sure this will improve but it is a little disheartening.

    Enjoyment, yes, it is enjoyable, leaving the customer with a good job and its working. However, it is quite lonely (not sure this is the correct term) if a job is going wrong you’ve no one to ask, no help to hand, your on your own, in a customers house and the things that can go wrong are endless.

    I don’t want to come across as being negative,thats not my intention because I enjoy it. However, these are issues that no one really laboured on for me. Yesterday, I started at 9.15 home by 1.30 and had been paid my days money. I was having a nice chat with my elderly customer and they also made me a bacon sandwich so there are positives.

    My biggest piece of advice is; ask questions this forum is superb for that. My local plumbers merchant are also excellent for little gems of advice, try not and become blinkered, try and look at the bigger picture. If there are difficulties, explain these to the customer asap. Don’t worry about taking on all the smaller jobs, changing taps, garden taps, new ball valves. Each small job I do my confidence grows a little.

    So, I hope this has helped someone................
  2. andyg0507

    andyg0507 Plumbers Arms member

    Thanks for that it just goes to show that with a lot of hard work and determenation you can become a plumber and not be blinded by the fact that some statements say that you can earn 50k a year, wich we all know is rubbish.

    well done to you
  3. the_ace

    the_ace Plumbers Arms member

    I'm just starting out as a Gas Engineer and i know what you're saying mate. Every time i go to a job i'm a bit nervous but then once i get in about it it all falls into place (usually!)

    Its all about building confidence i reckon!
  4. migoplumber

    migoplumber Plumbers Arms member

    good on you squirrel. well done.

  5. arran123

    arran123 New Member

    Nice one secret squirel a very usefull post

  6. traineedrip

    traineedrip New Member

    "Enjoyment, yes, it is enjoyable, leaving the customer with a good job and its working. However, it is quite lonely (not sure this is the correct term) if a job is going wrong you’ve no one to ask, no help to hand, your on your own, in a customers house and the things that can go wrong are endless"

    im gaining experience with a time served and he has said the same thing.
    It can be lonely at 7pm when its all gone wrong, no moral support or help.
    Im lucky in that i can call on him if im stuck, and will do the same for him.

    if you can befriend a few plumbers it can give you that bit of extra support when you need it.
  7. helpsy

    helpsy Plumbers Arms member

    Great advice.
    I am about to finish my course and go out on my own,ideally I would have liked to have spent some time working with an experienced plumber,but current market thats not to be(was made redundant last week).So I have to take the plunge,it undoubtedly will be a very steep learning curve in the real world,away from the training course.
    I have been planning this for a while now,it hasn't been cheap,course £5600 ,tools £3500 and about to get a van for about £7000
    You have to be prepared to invest in YOUR future,I'll give it my best shot.
    I think if you're reliable,punctual,friendly,polite,honest and do a good job for a fair price,peopl will return.
    Anyway all the best to the people about to take the plunge and go it alone WELL DONE
  8. johnmcginty

    johnmcginty Plumbers Arms member

    Hi, Please ,please do not get a van for £7000 get one for £2000 and save the £5000 for when you are earning £100 a week for the first six months. Spend at least £1000 on advertising straight off! Unless you are allready loaded of course;) Good luck
  9. Avatar

    Avatar New Member

    Van - earmark £800

    Tools - kick off on about £500, and get more as you need them

    You are fekkin mad to spend grands on equipment - who do you thinks you are?

    A glorified apprentice with top of the line kit, and not a spot of dust on you yet . . .

    Some people want everything dont they?!

    Start off with basics for Gods sake!!!!!
  10. secret squirrel

    secret squirrel Plumbers Arms member

    I was lucky and had a van when I started, in all fairness before I started plumbing it never had a tool in it, just scuba diving gear.

    Tools are basic and quite cheap they get thrown about bashed etc. Everytime I buy a tool I search for the lowest price on the web (unless I need it urgently).

    My advice, watch very carefully what you spend you need to earn it back and pay to live........ unless (as John said) your rich...
  11. pipebender

    pipebender New Member

    I had been plumbing for years and then turned my hand (after a bit of training) to tiling, carpentry etc that allowed me to widen the type of jobs and clientelle I could take on. I agree that the cost of some of the specialist tools is a burden, but I found the results rewarding.

    As sad as it sounds I placed adverts in the local Co-ops and post offices etc and the jobs for basic maintenance work came rolling in.

    I also agree with Avatar, dont go over the top on the tools !!
  12. Dave

    Dave Guest

    Excellent post secret squirrel....;)
  13. Avatar

    Avatar New Member

    Good topic for the new starters !

    A few points I have discovered:

    Sometimes cheap tools are good - like when you need them, but only once a month/week. Work out what tools can be cheap - like the £15 jigsaw i have got, and used twice. I would be ****ed if it cost £200!!

    Essential tools to spend a few quid on:
    Hammer drill (£70 2kg SDS plus is a good un)
    10v cordless Screwdriver (use mine all day long!) - best when small tho
    (Bosch 10.8v £90)
    4kg SDS with chisel (mine is an erbauer £70 - I core cut, chisel, punch though walls and it keeps going!)

    Dont even think about cordless hammer drills - waste of money unless you have £300 for the bestest. Corded are better, but a light SDS even so.

    Start with the basics, even cheap tools if they get you going.

    You can always replace them in a year or two when they die off, with the best you can afford.

    I have upgraded my DIYish tools now to Makita, Bosch and Dewalt. I am also considering the Millwakee M12 12v kit, but cannot quite justify the spend alas!!

    I am a bit of a 'tool junkie'!!


    M12 12V Lithium-Ion 4pce Kit
  14. Bernie2

    Bernie2 Banned

    Yes I suppose squirrels right. It is lonely being a Plumber, I've mostly worked for companies and its the same there.

    The van man goes out by himself and may only speak to the customers not other employees. Even on site its the same. You go in a house by yourself and usually stay by yourself all day, unless another trade comes in.

    Working on sites was mad, you usually found your where inside during Summer and outside in Winter, then somebody says to you "It must be lovely working on the building in this fine weather?" You haven't seen much of it.

    In reality of course. somebody in work is supposed to check your at least alive each day, but they don't.

    The worst is that horrible "pager" I had a job hearing one at one company and so I put it on to "vibrate" so I could at least feel it if I could not hear it. Then I put it into my breast pocket on my boiler suite. I was bending down all crushed up trying to get to a pipe when it went off.

    Yeee! Ow! It was like having palpitations or what I thought palpitations may feel like.
    It nearly knocked me out.

    Then they go off every couple of minutes while your working and you have to stop, then run and find a phone usually to be asked something daft by boss or office staff.
    My usually "nowty" mood then goes to ballistic and I start shouting at people for no real reason. I don't mean it of course and then go back and try to apologise, its just stress.

    No they don't tell you any of that about Plumbing, nor about some times being out longer giving free estimates than you are doing paid work.

    Its probably better to link with the likes of B and Q and do jobs on estimates rather than call outs.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2009
  15. Seb.Pickering

    Seb.Pickering New Member

    £7000 :eek: for your first van.
    I brought a realy tidy 2000 wreg transit for a bargain £700 tax and mot'd. Plenty good enough to start with.

    I agree on the tools par to, whilst going through my training last year i brought the odd tool hear and there so i didnt need to spend loads when i desided to go self employed. Even now, and believe me my vans loaded with tools, i still get to a job and think, hmm 'such and such' would have been usefull here i must get one.
    Cheap tools do have there disadvantages, they only last 2 minutes!

    Had my first stop cock change last week, and that was soooo nerve raking lol, i find all new jobs like this at the moment, But when you say to the customer all well, and they are pleased, thats what counts for a good job.

    Hat off to you squirrel, and best of luck to you fella and all us other newbies :D
    Last edited: Aug 15, 2009
  16. david williams

    david williams New Member

    secret squirrel where do you dive
  17. Flanners

    Flanners New Member

    Secret squirrel, this is my advice.

    Dont by a cheap old van for £200 you will look like you have just started out or are an untidy worker. (1st impressions) Get one with a nice paint job and good quality sign writting.

    Wear a nice clean and tidy uniform to come across as a professional. Just because we do an manual job doesnt mean we have to be covered in dirt and look a mess.

    I would invest in good quality tools that will last you. The last thing you want is to be stuck on a job when your tools let you down.

    I have been in this job for 11 years and find it very rewarding and far from lonley.

    Take from this post what you will, but many of the plumbers / heating engineers i speak with earn in excess of 50k per year and a few are millionaires but are still on the tools (BECAUSE THEY ARE GOOD AT THERE JOB!)

    Your local barber would shave your head for £5.00, vidal sasoon would charge you £500 for the same job, whats the difference? One is better than the other...simple.

    Its no different....know your self worth but be honest.

    Hope this has helped a little.
  18. HTB

    HTB New Member

    Nice post squirrel,,re: the lonely comment I know what you mean.

    I liken it to being in solitary confinement (not that I know what thats like of course!!!) but it can be a bit depressing being cooped up in a bathroom all day, much better working with a colleague.

    Good luck with your networking.
  19. helpsy

    helpsy Plumbers Arms member

    I bet you'd be happier to work on your own rather than have some annoying customer there every 2 seconds over your shoulder and getting in your way.
  20. dino25060

    dino25060 Guest

    Great post i'd just like to make people aware of my situation. I carried out a course with OLCI appx 2 years ago and gained my level 2 NVQ. I have a very well paid job doing skilled electrical work on the railway and the 10 years ive been doing it been very busy. 2 reasons i went and done the level 2, 1st was im a hands on man and the endless hours doing paperwork in my van left me needing more as i was only 28 at the time. 2nd is the railway hours are obviously unsociable and nobody ever gets used to a night shift especially at weekends.
    Anyway i passed the course and contacted every single plumbing company i could find basically saying to them that i had a job and would take the smallest amount of money they could pay me to give them a hand and if they didnt need to use me for months its not a problem but the odd shift would help with an experienced man if you get my drift. I was also very good with maintenance problems so could perhaps make them a few quid for minimal return.......
    Out of 40 ish applications i had 10 replys basically saying,not at the minute.
    I saw the situation as a win win situation so what am i missing. I understand that perhaps they want to train up someone permanent but one or 2 days a month surely would be beneficial. Anyway ill keep looking and continue to carry out small jobs in my spare time as i enjoy the work.
    Thanks for readind sorry its long winded its taken bloody ages to write

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