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A pipefitter is a tradesperson who installs, assembles, fabricates, maintains and repairs mechanical piping systems. Pipefitters usually begin as helpers or apprentices. Journeyman pipefitters deal with industrial/commercial/marine piping and heating/cooling systems. Typical industrial process pipe is under high pressure, which requires metals such as carbon steel, stainless steel, and many different alloy metals fused together through precise cutting, threading, grooving (Victaulic), bending and welding. A plumber concentrates on lower pressure piping systems for sewage and potable water (tap water), in the industrial, commercial, institutional, or residential atmosphere. Utility piping typically consists of copper, PVC, CPVC, polyethylene, and galvanized pipe, which is typically glued, soldered, or threaded. Other types of piping systems include steam, ventilation, hydraulics, chemicals, fuel, and oil.
In the United States, many states require pipefitters to be licensed. Requirements differ from state to state, but most include a four- to five-year apprenticeship. Union pipefitters are required to pass an apprenticeship test (often called a "turn-out exam") before becoming a licensed journeyman. Others can be certified by the N.C.C.E.R.
Pipefitters install, assemble, fabricate, maintain, repair and troubleshoot mechanical piping systems carrying fuel, chemicals, water, steam and air in heating, cooling, lubricating and various other process piping systems. Pipefitters are employed in the maintenance departments of power stations, refineries, offshore installations, factories and similar establishments, by pipefitting contractors.
In North America, Union pipefitters are members of the United Association. Wages vary from area to area (though are often higher than many other construction trades), based on contracts between the local union and contractors.