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Pipefitters or Boilermakers????

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  • Pipefitters or Boilermakers????

    Almost done with the welding program I'm in. Trying to figure out wich way to go, either with the Pipefitters or Boilermakers. Who has the most work, highest pay, where the work is, and anything else about the trades would be really helpful. Thankyou!

  • #2
    Pipefitters or Boilermakers????

    Pipe fitters for sure!!!! Why would you want to be a knuckle dragger ... Hmmmm carry a tape level and square .... Or 36" pipe wrenches sleaver bars .. Stick with fitting and welding


    • #3
      You can take this advice from someone who has lived the experience.

      I joined the pipe fitters in 1974 and took a early retirement, with full pension, in 2004. After a few months of doing what ever I wanted, getting everything caught up around the house, doing all the hunting and fishing I ever wanted to do, I finally realized that I had put myself out to pasture "WAY TO EARLY" and that most of my friends were still working, so there wasn't any such thing as just getting together with your buddies any time you wanted to. About that same time one of my friends, who also took an early retirement, realized the same thing and called me up to talk about it. After a little research we found out we could join the boilermakers and at the same time still draw our monthly pipe fitter pension checks. So, near the end of 2005, we decided to join one of the boilermaker locals and just work part time, as tube welders, on 2, 3 or maybe 4 boiler shutdowns a year and pick up some extra spending cash. Some times these shutdowns would only last a couple of weeks, but a few lasted 1 to 2 months.

      Now, so far I'm sure this sounds like a a great money making story and that I had the best of both worlds and by that I mean, drawing a nice size pension each month, from the pipe fitters, plus making lots of money working plenty of overtime, a few times a year.

      Now for the rest of the story. After a few of those shutdowns I decided I was SICK AND TIRED of boilermaker work. Each job I went on I would wind up sick from what the boilermakers call the "BOILER FLU". I'd be sick with flu like symptoms during the job and it would last for about a 2 week period of time, after the job was over. Not only that, but working inside of those boilers is some of the dirtiest, toughest work you'll ever do. NEVER and I mean NEVER, on any pipe fitter jobs I've ever gone out on have the working conditions been that bad, and I've been on some pretty rough fitter jobs, over the years. After about 6 boiler shutdowns I was really deciding to say "SCREW THIS I'VE HAD ENOUGH OF THIS CRAP", I ran into a friend of mine and he told me that the nuclear power plants use boilermakers on their shutdowns also. Since I had worked plenty of those plants, in the past, as a pipe fitter/welder, and knew what the working conditions were like, I called around and contacted a few friends that were still working the nuclear circuit. In late September of 2005 I went to southern Calif. and worked a nuc shutdown at San Onfre. After finishing up that one I had about 2 months off and visited one of my sons that lives in LA. From there I went up north of Santa Barbara and worked the nuc shutdown at the Diablo Canyon plant. That job lasted for about 2 months. I finally got home in late April and was off until late Sept. of 2006. Then I started it all over again. This was great because I could spend the winter in southern Calif. and away from all the rain and cold weather that Oregon has to offer, during the winter months, also the working conditions at the nucs are LOTS better than any boiler job I've ever been on, plus I was making plenty of money just working about 4 to 5 months a year, and still drawing my pipe fitter pensions each month. During that time I set up and paid cash for all the equipment I have in my home fab shop, completely remodeled my shop and finished paying off my house.

      In 2009 I turned 66 and decided to start drawing SS and completely retired. Now each day I can get up and walk a few feet away from my house and work in my heated shop, in the winter, or air conditioned shop, in the summer, building a few small trailers for people, making some repairs or bending tubing for the guys who race cars at the local race track. If I decide to do nothing, that's just what I do. At this time in my life I'm now enjoying being retired.

      Yes, I'm receiving a small pension from the boilermakers, but if you were to ask me if my time spent in the boilermakers was worth it, I'd have to say NO, except for the fact that it got me back at working on the nuclear power plant circuit, which I enjoyed doing, in the past and while I was in the pipe fitters.

      Now the short answer to your question that I'm going to give you is:

      Pipe fitters, go for it and I mean ................. ALL THE WAY.

      Boilermakers, go away from it and I mean ............................. FAR AWAY.

      This is just my own opinion, but since I've worked in both trades, this is what I've personally observed.

      Hope this helps in your decision as to which profession you want to follow in.

      Miller Dialarc 250 AC/DC
      Miller 251
      Thermodynamics Plasma arc
      Benard "Center Fire" wirefeed gun
      Miller alum. spool gun
      Tweco Tig torch
      Victor O/A torches
      B&D Wildcat 9" grinder
      DeWalt 10 amp 4-1/2" grinders
      7"x12" bandsaw

      A shop that's always going to be to small.


      • #4
        I agree with divebill45 on most points. I too am a Uinon pipefitter that retired last year at 61. My pension is awesome after 41 years in the local. As far as retiring early goes, I should have gone earlier.
        Worked with many boilermakers and they want out. Some got in the fitters because our work load is still holding its own.
        As far as highest pay and most work goes, YOU must sell yourself. YOU need to be the one they come to. Gain as much knowledge as possible. The fitters cover a vast amount of work. Welding is just a part of it. Anybody can weld. you must be able to use the head on your shoulders. Organizing, material ordering, drawing isometrics of the exact way it will be installed. Reading a print is only part of it ,that's only a guide. Layout a mechanical room on paper with elevations, detail isometrics, routing, and then have the guys install it. It takes a lot of dedication and learning to get there. Once you do the money will come.
        It is definitely more difficult today. You need to use your head. Anyone can work with the tools, it's getting what they need and showing in detail what to do that makes the money. Good luck !!!!


        • #5
          As a boiler mechanic who does much of his own welding, I have to agree with the previous replies. I am keeping my eye on retirements in other divisions so I can transfer. Our plant runs three coal-fired units and you cannot get them clean enough to work inside no matter what you do. I will be starting an inside and out rebuild Monday, and I am dreading it.


          • #6
            Retired boilermaker here. Pretty well agree with everything up above. Only thing I would add would be that pipe fitter welders weld round and round for years on end. Noted, they do get very good at it. Boilermakers on the other hand do a more variety of projects. Tig welding in boilers of course, but also shipyard, dams, storage work, plate work, back gouging....not always nice but sometimes a change is as good as a vacation. Click on the lower pics.....