Steamfitters, pipefitters and sprinkler system installers (NOC 7252)

About this job

Steamfitters/pipefitters design, assemble, install, maintain, troubleshoot and repair pipes carrying water, steam, chemicals and fuel in heating, cooling, lubricating and other process piping systems. Steamfitting/pipefitting is a trade that specializes in high-pressure liquid, gas piping and other systems.

Sprinkler system installers design, assemble, install, maintain and repair water, foam, carbon dioxide and dry chemical sprinkler systems in buildings to protect homes, offices, warehouses and other structures from fire.

Watch the video below to see what it's like to be a pipefitter.

Steamfitters/pipefitters and sprinkler system installers should enjoy working on large systems at a detailed level. They need to have good technical, mechanical and problem-solving skills. Communication skills are also important because people in these jobs work closely with other tradespeople, as well as clients.

Common job titles
  • fitter-installer, fire sprinkler system
  • installer, journeyman / journeywoman
  • installer, pipe-radiator / steam heating
  • installer, sprinklers and fire protection
  • mechanic, fire protection
  • pipefitter, journeyman / journeywoman

Duties

Steamfitters/pipefitters:

  • Read and understand drawings, blue prints and specifications to plan their work
  • Identify how and where to cut openings for pipes in walls, floors and ceilings using power tools or machines
  • Select the type and size of pipe needed and measure, cut, thread and bend into the right shape
  • Work with and support the welder at certain stages of the project
  • Braze, solder and thread joints to:
    • Join pipes and make sections of piping system
    • Install supports, valves, piping and control systems
  • Test new and existing piping systems for leaks and make sure the system is working 
  • Clean and maintain pipe units and fittings, remove and replace worn components, as well as flush and reactivate systems
  • May work with field engineers and clients to plan projects

Sprinkler system installers:

  • Read and understand drawings, specifications and fire codes to determine layout requirements
  • Install clamps, brackets and hangers to support sprinkler equipment using hand and power tools
  • Select, measure, cut, ream and thread pipe, install sprinkler heads and mount prepared pipe in supports
  • Join pipes and piping sections using threaded and grooved piping equipment
  • Connect finished piping systems to water mains, supply tanks, pumps, compressors and control equipment
  • Install valves, alarms, controls and associated equipment
  • Service and repair sprinkler systems, and test systems for leaks using air or liquid pressure equipment
  • May work with field engineers and clients to plan projects

Work environment

People in these careers may work in the maintenance departments of large factories, manufacturing plants, hospitals, commercial buildings or other companies. They could be employed by pipeline construction contractors, thermal or steam generating plants, utility companies, oil refineries, pulp mills and gas and chemical plants. They may also work on the construction of new homes and apartment/condo buildings. Some choose to be self-employed.

Steamfitters/pipefitters often work more than 40 hours a week to meet project deadlines. Some may work out of town and temporarily relocate to remote locations for specific projects. During these projects, individuals may work for several weeks straight and then have one or two weeks off.

Sprinkler system installers typically work 40 hours a week, but overtime may be required.

Those working at factories and plants may be required to work nights and weekends or work shifts.

Work takes place indoors and outdoors. Outdoor work environments may be noisy and dirty. Workers may be exposed to extreme temperatures, depending on the season. Steamfitters/pipefitters and sprinkler system installers often work at heights from scaffolds, ladders and platforms. They may need to carry heavy items. Work may also be done in cramped and awkward spaces.

Safety measures are in place at every job site to avoid injury from falls, cuts and burns from hot pipes or equipment.  People in these jobs also deal with liquids and gases under high pressure and all risks and hazards must be minimized.

Insights from industry

The demand for steamfitters/pipefitters and sprinkler system installers in B.C. is driven largely by the construction industry. About one-half of openings result from new job growth. This industry has experienced rapid growth in its commercial and industrial sectors, creating a demand for skilled workers.

In northern B.C., many steamfitters/pipefitters work in resource-based industries, such as oil and gas, forestry and mining.

The demand for qualified sprinkler system installers has increased in recent years because building code requirements have become more extensive.

While steamfitters/pipefitters and sprinkler system installers do not weld as a part of their job, understanding welding skills is an asset to this work. They work closely and regularly with welders.

Education in math and science is important in this industry. This knowledge provides a foundation for detailed calculations that are required in planning and doing the tasks required.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

With experience and additional training, steamfitters/pipefitters and sprinkler system installers can move into supervisory and management positions. If they continue their education and take budgeting and business courses, they will be in a good position to advance. Some may choose to be self-employed and start their own businesses.

Additional resources