Plumbing jobs are easy to find when we are around RVs and places RVers congregate. Whether it's a leaky faucet or installing a new hook-up, people often need help with their water and septic systems.
Over the years I’ve acquired a fair bit of knowledge about plumbing. I was never taught it formally, but picked it up by doing it. Many times I ended up doing a plumbing job, because there was a leak, or problem, and there was no one else around who knew how to fix it. I didn’t either, but there wasn’t a lot to lose if I failed. That’s how I learned, and I have put that knowledge to use in many jobs, large and small in our travels.
Shortly after Coleen and I started full timing, we stayed at a flea market in Arizona. I went down to the shower house one evening and it was out of order. The water was shut off for the whole building because of a leak. I talked with the caretaker a bit and found out the problem. I suggested it could be isolated so the rest of the system could be used. He said, "Okay." I turned a couple of valves, and turned the water back on. Then I could take my shower. The next day the owner caught up, thanked me, and asked if I could fix the problem. I said I would look. It turned out to be an easy fix, but it was way back under the building. I got it done, and was compensated with free rent.
Over the years, I’ve done many plumbing jobs, for many different people. Some of them were in trailers and motor homes. I’ve replaced water pumps, fixed leaks, changed out toilets, and replaced a water heater. Some were in shower houses and public bathrooms. I hand dug and fixed a water pedestal broken when backed over by an RV. I helped extend a drain field for a septic system, and helped install a complete new septic system once. I dug and replaced a curb stop with a backhoe, after it was damaged by a garbage truck. I helped install all new faucets, shower stalls and fixtures near a swimming pool, along with a leak in the pool’s heating system.
You may ask how I end up with these plumbing jobs. Most of the time, I was in the area and acted interested in the situation. I may have offered an opinion about the situation, or offered a possible way to fix the problem. When it was realized I was knowledgeable about the problem, I was asked if I could fix, or help fix it.
Other times, people would see me working on my own RV, and ask if I could work on theirs. Sometimes people would see me working with the tools needed to do a job and assume I would welcome the chance to work on their project.
I guess I also look capable. I usually wear long pants, shoes, and a long sleeved shirt. Since I’m not in shorts and flip flops, I tend to look as if I would, or could do some work.
I don’t actively look for jobs as we travel, but sometimes I let people know I’m available for odd jobs. When people know you aren’t looking for full time work, they are more apt to ask you to do a single job. The longer we stay in one place, the more word gets around, and the more little jobs I do, the more people refer me to others.
When looking for work on the road, sometimes if you are patient, and observant, work will find you. I find it works this way not only with plumbing jobs, but with mechanical jobs, and other kinds of work.
Coleen's comments: My husband, Bob Nilles, wrote this article about his experiences doing plumbing jobs. Many of these jobs didn't require a professional plumber. They were the do-it-yourself variety, but the RV owner didn't want to do it or wasn't able to do it. With others, he worked under the supervision of the necessary licensed plumbers and contractors.