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Does Pressing Take the Skill Out of the Trades?

January 5, 2021 Viega
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It’s a claim that pops up frequently on social media and in comments on our how-to videos: “Anyone can learn how to press pipe. It requires less training than soldering or threading. Pressing takes the skill out of the trades.”

Not true. While pressing is more easily learned than most other methods of joining pipe, that doesn’t mean it’s hurting the trades or taking the skill out of plumbing.

Plumbing, like virtually every other trade, has evolved with better tools, materials and techniques since the Egyptians first used copper pipes in 2500 B.C. And with every advancement someone probably grumbled about the old ways being better. But think about it -- Did PVC pipe take the skill out of the trades? How about power tools? Should we still be pouring lead joints like our grandfathers did?

Progress is good.

Plumbing is driven by the pursuit of better ways to do things. Pressing is faster, cleaner and safer than traditional methods of joining pipe. It gives users an edge in a difficult and competitive field. That’s why it’s being adopted by more and more tradespeople.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with traditional methods. At our seminar centers in New Hampshire and Colorado, Viega trainers teach all methods of joining pipe, not just pressing, because a good contractor should know them all and because pressing is not applicable for every job.

One of those trainers is Troy Locke, master plumber and Viega’s manager of technical training and tech support. He addressed the issue in a recent video: “I’m sure our grandfathers felt the same way when they went from pouring lead for joints to using PVC. The joining method is a way to allow you to be efficient and effective. I do not believe press takes the skill out.”

And to boil down trade skills to something as simple as joining pipe is to forget all the other skills required in plumbing. Pressing doesn’t replace or eliminate the need for those. It’s simply an evolved way to do part of the job.

Of course, there are those who don’t believe in evolution. Plumber and professional snowboarder Jonathan Cheever (sponsored by Viega) has run into a few of those and he always asks them the same question: “Did you ride your dinosaur to work today?”

It doesn’t have to be an either/or situation, says plumber Alan Carlson (alan_carlson): “Soldering has a time and place. ProPress has a time and a place. They’re both appropriate. If you’re not willing to change … you haven’t tried it, have you?”

Another Instagram plumber, conradtheplumber, clapped back at the haters: “I am not by any means saying solder is going away. That skill will always be needed, but when something is around for 20 years and keeps evolving and changing and branching off to different pipe systems, it’s not ‘killing the trade.’ It’s moving this trade forward and beyond. I can’t wait to see what press can do in another 20 years.”

And there you have it.

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