Service Vs Construction Plumbing: Pros, Cons, and Tradeoffs

Plumber using tools

Plumber using tools

Plumbers in the United States are in a great position to make money. U.S.News ranks plumbers at #4 for the best construction jobs and #6 in the highest paying jobs without a degree. Every home and business in America needs the help of a plumber at some point, so work opportunities abound. Where should you focus your attention when it comes to service vs construction plumbing?

Is New Construction Plumbing Worth It?

Construction plumbers and service plumbers make a similar annual salary in many states, so both careers can be lucrative, at least on paper. The main factor that affects profitability for service vs new construction plumbing is the level of competition present. If your market is saturated with other plumbing contractors, it can be hard to get consistent work and make a living. This is especially true if you’re a journeyman plumber going up against master plumbers with decades of experience.

Factors To Consider for Service Plumbing Vs Construction Plumbing Careers

Often, the choice between a career in service vs construction plumbing depends on your goals and lifestyle. Here are several factors that can affect your decision.


The state you live in and even your local market can determine which path is more profitable as a plumber. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California, Florida, Illinois, Florida and New York are the best states for plumbers in terms of job opportunities and lower competition. For the highest wages, though, Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon win, all averaging over $80,000 a year.


Some areas have a lot of competition for projects. Unless you have extensive experience in construction and consistently get chosen by local contractors for projects, you may get more work by focusing on commercial employment or service vs construction plumbing as you build up your reputation.

Housing Market

Construction plumbers depend significantly on how hot the housing market is. When many people are buying houses, remodeling or building new homes, they can make a lot of money from plumbing inspections and installation. Slow periods — including seasonal changes — can leave your crew struggling to make ends meet.

Work-Life Balance

Money isn’t the only factor to think about. If you have kids, you may be looking for work that lets you spend enough time at home. Service work and construction plumbing differ in the hours you work and when.

Business Ownership

For larger projects, you may need a team of plumbers to get the contract or maximize profits. Not everyone is comfortable being an entrepreneur. On the other hand, some plumbers love the freedom of being their own boss.

Commercial or Residential Work

Industrial and commercial plumbers generally make more than residential plumbers. They also enjoy near-constant work and opportunities for overtime pay. That said, industrial employers often seek plumbers with significant experience or specialized training.

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Pros and Cons of Construction Plumbing

Construction plumbing involves installing water, gas and sewer pipes throughout homes and commercial buildings, as well as systems such as sump pumps and septic tanks. Plumbers also install sinks, toilets, showers and bathtub fixtures. What are the benefits?

  • Stable hours: Most construction projects have an ordinary work week: 9 to 5, five days a week. Some families prefer this type of stable environment.
  • Clean work: Construction plumbers don’t need to worry about dealing with black water or waste systems. They stay dry and clean.
  • Construction experience: Knowing what’s what in construction can allow you to offer additional services to your clients in the future, such as bathroom remodeling or appliance installation.

A downside of construction plumbing is being forced to coordinate with general contractors. You may not get paid until the GC gets paid, which can cause stressful situations. Another problem is the seasonal stoppage of construction projects in places with cold weather.

Benefits of Service Plumbing Vs Construction Plumbing

Service plumbers focus on repairing and maintaining plumbing systems. For residential clients, this means fixing burst pipes, maintaining septic tanks, and cleaning home drains or sewer lines. For commercial plumbing, you can stay busy maintaining water and steam pipes throughout facilities. Why choose service plumbing vs construction plumbing?

  • Consistent work: Both residential and commercial service plumbers can easily stay active all year long. This translates into consistent revenue you can plan on.
  • More opportunities to make money: In practice, service plumbers can often make more money than construction plumbers because they have a wider variety of business opportunities, from small-scale remodeling projects and drain maintenance to sprinkler repairs and boiler maintenance.
  • Immediate payment: Homeowners usually pay you right away when you complete the job.

Not all plumbers like performing sewer cleaning tasks or fixing burst pipes. There are many situations where service plumbers must be willing to get dirty to reach problem areas. Another potential downside of service vs construction is the unpredictable job schedule. You may need to visit clients at 3 a.m. or in freezing weather to perform emergency repairs.

FAQ: Service Vs Construction Plumbing

Find additional FAQs for plumbing contractors on our pro blog to help with your career.

Which Is Better for New Plumbers: Service or Construction Work?

New journeyman plumbers need to balance the need for profits with the desire to keep learning. That way, they can get the experience and hours needed to become a master plumber in the future. During this phase, they’re building out their abilities and professional qualifications.

If possible, take on both service and construction work. Even if you don’t do a lot of construction projects afterward, it’s still important to have the skills needed so you can take advantage of opportunities that present themselves down the road.

What Is the Salary for Service Plumbing Vs Construction Plumbing?

The median salary for plumbing contractors is about $72,000 a year ( Service plumbers average about $71,000 annually (Glassdoor). Of course, your actual salary can vary depending on your years of experience, license, and the local area.

Which Plumbing Careers Are the Most Profitable?

Master commercial plumbers can take home approximately $110,000 a year (Glassdoor). Steamfitters can make an average of $41 an hour (Payscale), or about $85,000 a year. Offshore plumbers working on oil rigs can make an average of $70,000 a year, with some making over $120,000 annually (ZipRecruiter).

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