• Plumbing: Tools of the Trade

    Every plumber has their favourite tools for getting the job done. There are a few tools that every plumber should have handy, as these can help them handle even the toughest jobs. Here are the best tools for plumbers at any place in the industry.

    Adjustable Spanner

    The old plumber standby, the spanner is the most practical tool for plumbers, no matter the job they are doing. Before you head out to any job, you definitely want to have a few of these, one of each of the three sizes- small, medium and large. Spanners aren’t just useful for turning nuts, but they also help you reach tight spots, turn valves and twist pipes into place.

    Pipe Cutter

    Here is another tool that comes in a few different sizes. You will likely want to have 8, 10, 15, 22 and 28mm pipe cutters to be able to handle any size of copper pipe. Most pipe cutters are not adjustable, so having a variety of sizes ensures that you have the right tool for the job. These cutters can slice through just about any kind of pipe, and they are perfect for removing sections of a pipe at a time.

    Tube Cutter

    Sometimes a pipe cutter just can’t do the job that needs to be done. That’s when you pull out a telescopic tube cutter. This beauty can cut through practically anything, and it comes with a de-burring feature that can smooth out rough edges. That is a feature that is perfect for giving yourself a clean cut when you need pipes to fit together smoothly.

    Pipe Wrench

    Not every nut or pipe can be turned properly with a spanner. Sometimes you have to bring out the adjustable pipe wrench. This is the tool most people think of when they think of plumbing tools, and it has numerous applications. Probably its most functional use is to remove nuts and other fasteners that are corroded or smoothed out and unable to be grasped by the proper tools. If you don’t; have a pipe wrench handy, then you probably aren’t ready to do some plumbing.

    Needle-Nose pliers

    Sometimes you need a fine tool for a precise job. Needle-nose pliers can get into spaces that no other tool can and fix problems that other tools would be too bulky for. Whether you need to cut wires, place screws or work a delicate job, needle-nose pliers are going to come in handy.


    Most plumbers have a couple of screwdrivers, but you need a real assortment of them to be prepared for any job. You need at least one common and one Philip head screwdriver to start, but you also want a few different sizes of each one. If you are using the wrong size, you can strip the screws and leave yourself in a tight spot. You also want to make sure that you are using dependable and sturdy screwdrivers that won’t snap or bend on a tough screw.

  • Starting a Plumbing Apprenticeship

    A plumbing apprenticeship is usually the first step towards becoming a practicing plumber. During the apprenticeship, students will work with certified plumbers and gain the knowledge and experience they need to become plumbers themselves. They will perform a variety of tasks under direct supervision and learn how to conduct themselves within the trade, all the while enjoying gainful employment.

    What You Need

    Before you can start an apprenticeship, you first need to meet a few minimum requirements. The first one is a basic age requirement. You must be at least 16 years old.

    You also cannot be enrolled in school full time while you are taking the apprenticeship. This includes any level of education, since the apprenticeship takes up to several hours a week and may not be conducive to completing other studies simultaneously.

    Finally, applicants must be legally allowed to work within the UK.

    Choosing Your Level

    Not all plumbing apprenticeships are the same. There are actually different levels of apprenticeships, and they will suit different people’s needs. The Intermediate Level apprenticeship is designed for people who have no prior plumbing experience. This starts them out at the bottom and helps them work their way up through very basic training.

    There is also an Advanced Level apprenticeship for people who have their NVQ level 2 qualification. This apprenticeship would help them to work toward a level 3 NVQ qualification. The Advanced training is more practical and hands on, allowing students to learn more complicated techniques.

    Where the Apprenticeship Happens

    There are two different places where an apprenticeship might be carried out. Students could learn at a local college or at a specialized training facility. In both places, their training would be overseen by a veteran plumber or someone with NVQ certification.  A third option, where I undertook my plumbing apprenticeship was at this Isle of Wight plumbing website.  They are a real business, however they offered me a placement which I was very grateful of.

    island plumber apprenticeship

    The apprenticeship will also involve making house calls, and the apprentice will accompany the certified plumber and assist them with their work. While on the job, they would be paid at minimum wage, or more, if the employer permits. They may also receive tips from the customers when they make house calls.

    The wages may be higher if the apprentice already has some formal training. For example, their wages would be greater if they already completed NVQ level 2.

    Why Apprentice?

    An apprenticeship is the best way for aspiring plumbers to get the hands-on training they need to become experienced, certified plumbers. They will learn how to do much of the same work as actual plumbers, and they can start to make a career for themselves at the apprentice level. Many apprentices actually go on to work for the companies that train them after they have completed their apprenticeship program. Many also go on to start their own practices eventually.

    This form of training is much more intense and practical than any course that can be taken entirely online, and it provides the real-world knowledge necessary for new plumbers to do well and to become successful.

  • How to Become a Plumber

    A career as a plumber can be very rewarding, as it offers many different advancement opportunities and can quickly lead to a point where you own your own business. Before you can be a plumber and operate a business or work with a plumbing company, you first have to acquire the proper qualifications.

    What You Will Need to Achieve

    The most basic requirement for plumbing work in the UK is to pass a training course, specifically an S/NVQ level 2 course. That is the bare minimum requirement, and it will generally get you started on a plumbing career. That is not enough qualification to give you what you need to start your own business or to work at some of the most prestigious plumbing companies in the country.

    If you want to do more than basic plumbing and apprentice work, then you will need to gain further certification. An NVQ level 3 certification will prove that you are highly trained and equipped to handle any type of plumbing work. If you can pass that certification process, you will be able to open your own business and work at the highest level in any plumbing practice.

    The level 3 training course can take about three years to complete. That may seem like a long time, but it can be worth it for a rewarding and lucrative career.


    There are other quick training methods, some of which only take a few months to complete. These are compacted and truncated courses that may not carry the same weight as the NVQ courses. The training is often not as intense and the requirements are not as demanding. That can leave you with a level of certification that is not accepted by many parts of the industry, so you will want to be careful about these kinds of courses.

    What You Will Need to Have

    There is more to plumbing than just attainting certification. You also have to have a desire to learn and to improve continuously. If you stagnate, you will be left behind in the industry. That’s because the technology used by the finest plumbers is always changing and advancing. If you want to keep up, you will have to learn about new equipment, keep your training current and study the most modern practices.

    You also have to be dedicated to what you do. If you want to simply operate under a plumbing contractor and do basic plumbing, you can do that, but you may not be happy. To advance your career and become your own boss, you are going to have to acquire some business acumen.

    Also keep in mind that no one does well at plumbing without a decent understanding of math and science. You will need to be able to perform calculations, understand chemical relationships and solve problems quickly and on your own. All of these are traits that make up great plumber, and if you hope to do well, then you will need to be able to push yourself and learn as much as you can.


  • How to Become Gas Safe Registered

    Those who work in gas in the UK must be gas safe registered. This is a legal requirement, and there are harsh penalties for those who do not follow the guidelines set in place for registration and certification. With that in mind, let’s look at what exactly it takes to become gas safe registered in the UK.

    gas safe register

    Basic Requirements

    Being gas safe registered simply means that you are registered with the Gas Safe Register. This is a government organization within the UK, and they oversee the registration process and ensure that all those who work in the gas industry have the proper qualifications.

    There are different types of gas work people can do, and that means that there are different kinds of qualifications to apply for and complete. Those who want to be registered with the Gas Safe Register need to complete the proper qualifications for their particular area of interest in the gas industry.

    The bare minimum requirement for qualification is to complete the S/NVQ level 2 training. That also means completion of the level 1 training is required. The S/NVQ stands for Scottish/ National Vocational Qualification. If you would like to gain further training and certification, the level 3 S/NVQ certification is available. This level of training is usually reserved for people who want to operate their own business or work at a managerial level in the gas industry.

    Exceptions for Experience

    The Gas Safe Register recognizes that some people may already have training in working with gas. They allow for special exceptions for these people by giving them a different certification path. Those who have some previous training may be able to qualify of the ACS or Nationally Accredited Certification Scheme. If you are permitted to use this method for certification, you would receive a certificate of competence. This qualifies as full registration for the Gas Safe Register.

    Not everyone with some prior training will be able to take this route. It really depends on the the level of training you have had before and if you can prove that prior training was had. If you had very little training or you cannot show that you took some formal training in the past, then you will have to go through the S/NVQ training process like everyone else.

    Those who might qualify for the ACS would include people who have had gas training in other countries or who took apprenticeships within the UK but were never formally registered.

    For those who have had gas training in the past, there is a cut-off limit to where your old training would no longer be valid. If your training and the qualifications you hold are older than five years, then you will have to retrain for you particular area of gas work. The Gas Safe Register would not accept your current qualifications.

    If you would like to find out more about gas safe training and an S/NVQ qualification process, then you can contact either your local city guild or the Energy and Utility Skills department.