- Do you like machines?
- Are you analytical?
- Do you enjoy careful, precise work?
- Are you good with your hands and could you work with power tools?
- Are you physically fit?
- Do you enjoy working independently with little supervision?
- Are you comfortable with heights?
If the answer to these questions is yes, then a career as a Steamfitter/Pipefitter Sprinkler System Installer could be right for you.
Steamfitters and pipefitters prepare, assemble, fabricate, maintain, troubleshoot and repair piping systems that carry water, steam, chemicals and fuel in heating, cooling, lubricating and other process piping systems.
They are employed by pipeline construction contractors, thermal or steam generating plants, utility companies, oil refineries, pulp mills, and gas and chemical plants. They may also be self-employed.
Sprinkler system installers fabricate, install, test, maintain and repair water, foam, carbon dioxide and dry chemical sprinkler systems in buildings for fire protection purposes.
They are employed in hospitals, commercial buildings, manufacturing plants, homes and apartment buildings.
As a Steamfitter/Pipefitter, your duties may include:
- Installing supports, valves, piping and control systems
- Welding pipes to form piping systems
- Measuring, cutting, threading and bending piping, by hand and with power tools
- Cutting openings for piping in walls, floors and ceilings
- Selecting type and size of piping
- Cleaning and maintaining pipes
- Preparing cost estimates
- Reading and interpreting blueprints
As a Sprinkler System Installer, your duties may include:
- Selecting, measuring, cutting and installing piping
- Connecting piping systems to water mains, supply tanks, pumps and control equipment
- Installing sprinkler heads and alarm systems
- Welding pipes
- Testing systems for leaks using air or liquid pressure equipment
- Servicing and repairing sprinkler systems
- Preparing cost estimates
- Reading and interpreting work specifications and fire codes
The standard work week for steamfitters, pipefitters and sprinkler system installers is 40 hours (8 hours a day, 5 days a week). As with many careers in construction, there are peak periods that will require you to work overtime. The number of additional hours you work each week depends on the construction sector and region you work in, and will vary from one job to the next.
As a Steamfitter/Pipefitter, you may work indoors and outdoors, often at physically demanding tasks that may require climbing. You may have to travel for some jobs and live on-site at a company camp.
As a Sprinkler System Installer, you may work indoors and outdoors, often with a team of other construction professionals. The job can be physically demanding – you may work at considerable heights and have to lift heavy materials.
As with all careers in the construction industry, safety is the top priority. Steamfitters, pipefitters and sprinkler system installers are trained to work safely and wear special equipment to protect against injury.
Training and Certification
Apprenticeship involves both classroom studies and on-the-job training under the supervision of a certified Steamfitter/Pipefitter/Sprinkler System Installer, called a journeyperson.
As an apprentice, you earn while you learn and are paid by the hour while working on the job site. Wages start at about 45-50 per cent of a journeyperson’s hourly rate and increase during your apprenticeship until you reach the full rate.
Entering an apprenticeship program
Requirements for steamfitter/pipefitter/sprinkler system installer apprenticeship programs vary across Canada. In most provinces and territories, you must be at least 16 years old and have a Grade 10 education or equivalent to enter the program. You may also need to have completed courses in math.
Some provinces and territories offer secondary school apprenticeship programs that allow high school students to work towards a career as a Steamfitter/Pipefitter/Sprinkler System Installer.
Apprenticeship training programs for steamfitters, pipefitters and sprinkler system installers vary across Canada. For steamfitters and pipefitters they generally involve four 12-month periods, including at least 6,000 hours of on-the-job training, four eight-week blocks of technical training and a final certificate exam. For sprinkler system installers they generally involve four 12-month periods, including at least 6,600 hours of on-the-job training, three seven-week blocks of technical training and a final certificate exam.
Related work experience or completion of a steamfitter/pipefitter/sprinkler system installer program at a college or technical institute can reduce the time required to complete your apprenticeship.
Steamfitter/pipefitter certification is required in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec. It is available, but voluntary, in all other provinces and territories.
Sprinkler system installer certification is required in British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec, and is available but voluntary in all other provinces and territories.
Even where certification is voluntary, it is still recommended as it tells employers and other workers that you are a skilled professional. It also helps you get jobs.
To be certified as a Steamfitter/Pipefitter/Sprinkler System Installer you usually need to complete a four-year apprenticeship program. Once you successfully complete the required on-the-job training, technical training and exams, you are awarded a journeyperson certificate.
You may be eligible for certification in some provinces and territories if you have more than five years of on-the-job experience and some high school, college or industry courses in steamfitting/pipefitting/sprinkler system installing.
As a certified Steamfitter/Pipefitter/Sprinkler System Installer, you may attempt the Interprovincial Exam to qualify for the Interprovincial Standards’ Red Seal. With a Red Seal, you can work as a Steamfitter/Pipefitter/Sprinkler System Installer anywhere in Canada.
To keep their skills current, workers in this profession must keep up with new technologies by reading and speaking with other Steamfitters, Pipefitters and Sprinkler System Installers.
Anticipated In-Demand Regions