Plumbers install and repair pipes, fittings, and fixtures in both residential and commercial buildings. As a plumber, you’ll have an understanding of the procedures necessary to work on plumbing systems and fixtures using the appropriate tools. You’ll also need to have an understanding of building codes and how to follow them correctly. Business and customer service skills may be required, especially if you are self-employed.
But how can you obtain a license as a plumbing contractor? What do you need to know before you get started? While the requirements for becoming a plumber vary from state to state, there are general steps that you’ll likely need to take regardless of where you will be working.
Here are five steps to becoming a plumbing contractor.
1. Get trained up by completing an apprenticeship
After graduating from high school or completing your General Educational Development (GED), you may wish to explore enrolling in a plumbing apprenticeship. While this isn’t the only option to gain the skills needed to succeed in the field, most plumbers pursue this route. Apprenticeship programs typically last four to five years.
Completing an apprenticeship will give you on-the-job training in all areas of plumbing, including waste systems, and installing pipes, and fixtures. You’ll also learn about the plumbing industry’s safety standards, plumbing laws, working norms, and numerous other regulations.
Plumbing training is often provided through technical institutions and vocational colleges. Typically, you must attend both theoretical and practical sessions to complete an apprenticeship. If paying for this training is a concern, there may be scholarships offered by various organizations, labor unions, and local businesses that can help cover the cost. Some employers may pay education fees for you, so long as you commit to working for them for a set amount of time after you’ve completed the apprenticeship program.
2. Obtain your plumbing license
After completing an apprenticeship program satisfactorily, you can obtain a plumbing license and be referred to as a licensed journeyman plumber. This means you can accept jobs and provide plumbing services without supervision. Bear in mind that being a certified journeyman requires you to produce the essential documentation, pay the applicable fees to the state licensing agency, and pass an exam.
Depending on state rules, 1-5 years of verifiable experience is necessary to become a licensed master plumber. To become a licensed master plumber, candidates must sit a supplementary exam and complete the state’s specified qualifications. Although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably, there are significant differences between journeymen and master plumbers:
- When a master plumber works, he is frequently joined by an apprentice.
- You’ll need to be a master plumber if you want to start your own contracting company.
- The team’s decision-maker or supervisor is regarded as the master plumber.
3. Become a legal contractor
To become a legal contract, you’ll need to undertake a few more procedures to receive a plumbing contractor’s license. After obtaining the correct license, you can start a plumbing firm, hire contractors, and subcontract work to other qualified plumbers.
Each state has its own set of standards and requirements in place to become a licensed contractor. In most cases, the contractor’s state license board requires candidates to pay an application fee and complete a series of exams covering law, regulations, and building codes. You may also be required to show proof of financial credibility to demonstrate you have the financial means and capacity to start a contractor firm.
- Exam preparation and renewal courses are available in community colleges and schools.
- Licenses are renewed on an annual basis, depending on the state.
- Before your license is renewed, you may be required to complete further education.
4. Ensure you have the correct insurance
While not all states require proof of insurance before issuing contractor licenses, having your own ensures the safety of your company. Unexpected occurrences and unfavorable conditions can occur at any time, and failure to prepare can put your company in serious financial jeopardy.
If you do not have the correct insurance in place, you could be responsible for any legal costs that result from an ensuing lawsuit. Getting the correct insurance for your plumbing firm acts as protection against financial dangers and commercial threats, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
- General Liability insurance covers you against claims of personal injury and property damage brought by third parties. This coverage may be mandated by your state or be required by your commercial landlord.
- A surety bond protects and guarantees your work, and any performed by the contractors you work with. This may be a legal requirement of working as a plumber in your state.
- Workers Compensation protects you and your employees in the event of a workplace injury or illness. This coverage is required in most states if you have employees and for sole proprietors, in some cases.
5. Develop your business skills
You must keep up with the newest trends and problems to stay ahead of the competition. It may be simple to obtain a plumbing contractor’s license but getting recognized and building your business is something different entirely. If you want to run a successful plumbing business, you must arm yourself with the necessary information.