All over the country, plumbers are often required to undergo years of training before being allowed to provide a critical service to their community. The City of Houston is no exception, as only professional plumbers duly licensed with the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE) are permitted to conduct plumbing work.
What does this mean for “handy” types that are hoping to do some of their own home improvements without paying a plumber?
Is It Illegal to Do Your Own Plumbing?
According to Sec. 1301.051 of Texas’ Occupations Code it is not illegal for a homeowner to perform plumbing on their own home without a license. There are many instances in which a homeowner can safely undertake their own repairs. This is not to say that a homeowner doing their own plumbing repairs do not need a permit.
What Plumbing Work Can Be Done Without a License?
As referenced above, homeowners may perform plumbing work on their own property according to Sec. 1301.051 of Texas’ Occupations Code. Further, Sec. 1301.052. of Texas’ Occupations Code says that unlicensed individuals can perform plumbing when:
- A subdivision or land tract isn’t required to be platted
- They are located outside of a municipality and not connected to the public water system (or connected to a public system that doesn’t require plumbing licensing)
- Their county is inhabited by fewer than 50,000 people, and their city or town is inhabited by fewer than 5,000 people and doesn’t require plumbing licensing
Some maintenance workers, maintenance engineers, and public service companies are also exempt according to Sec. 1301.053 of Texas’ Occupations Code.
Aside from that, the only persons legally permitted to do any form of plumbing within the State of Texas are professionals duly licensed with the TSBPE. As a result, any plumbing work attempted by an unregistered individual is in direct violation of established plumbing regulations.
What Plumbing Work Requires a License?
All aspects of plumbing done within Houston or any other parts of Texas, require the services of a fully-licensed professional plumber if you’re not exempt. An apprentice plumber might be allowed to conduct plumbing repairs only under the direct supervision of a Master Plumber.
Which Licenses Are Required to Conduct Plumbing Work in Houston?
There are four distinct licenses available to apprentice/fully-registered plumbers within the City of Houston:
- Plumber’s Apprentice
- Tradesman Plumber
- Journeyman Plumber
- Master Plumber
Although an apprentice doesn’t require a license, the person must be registered with the state after completing a standard classroom training period.
To qualify as a tradesman plumber, an apprentice must possess at least two years’ experience under a Master plumber and pass a licensing exam set by the TSBPE.
To become a Journeyman and eventually a Master plumber, requires another 16,000 hours of cumulative plumbing experience in addition to two more board administered exams.
Is a Plumbing License and a Plumbing Permit the Same Thing?
Although it is quite easy to confuse one for the other, a plumbing license and a plumbing permit are two very different things. To begin with, a plumbing license is granted to a registered plumber upon satisfactory completion of a training period. A plumbing license recognizes trained individuals and allows them to legally perform plumbing duties within a fixed validity period.
By contrast, a plumbing permit is an official document granted by the relevant permits board or city council to modify or install various aspects of residential, commercial, or industrial plumbing systems. For the city of Houston, a plumbing license is mandatory to be able to conduct plumbing work however, not all plumbing work requires a permit.
When Do I Need a Plumbing Permit in Houston?
The need to obtain a plumbing permit is based on the nature of the plumbing work required. While replacing an existing residential fixture will generally not require approval from the Houston Permitting Center, installing brand new fixtures and conducting extensive plumbing work will need project managers to obtain the relevant permits.
In summary, any plumbing project that requires inspection by city officials to ensure compliance with established building codes will also require a permit.
It’s also important to recognize where you pay your water bill. If your water utilities are going to a Municipal Utility District (MUD – a district within Texas that functions as a limited, independent government) and not the City of Houston, then your permitting requirements may be different.
Do You Need a Permit to Replace a Toilet?
Replacing a faulty toilet fixture does not require a permit, though ideally it would be done by a fully-licensed plumber with knowledge of safe and code-compliant installation techniques.
Do You Need a Permit to Replace a Tub?
Like the replacement of an already existing toilet fixture, replacing a defective or worn out bathtub can be done without obtaining a permit from the city. However, it is advisable to contact a registered plumber to avoid violating established plumbing regulations.
Do You Need a Permit to Repipe Your House
Conducting repiping operations for your home falls under the category of extensive plumbing which will require you to submit plans of the intended work to the City for review. This type of work will require a permit. Such permits will only be granted if the submitted plans meet the minimum requirements laid out in plumbing regulations.
Do You Need a Permit to Remodel a Bathroom?
The answer is yes, remodeling an entire bathroom will require you to hire a contractor, submit the intended plans, and obtain a permit approving the renovations. This type of plumbing work requires the services of a licensed plumber.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Plumbing Permit?
The length of time it takes to get a plumbing permit depends largely on the scope of the intended plumbing work and the quality of the plans submitted to get your permit. The more extensive and elaborate the renovations are, the longer it will take for an approval process to sail through.
City of Houston Plumbing Permit Application
The city of Houston requires all homeowners to fill a standardized permit application form before obtaining a permit. The signed form will name the contractor hired to conduct the plumbing work and explain the nature of the work to be done. The form also provides a list of permit fees that will be assessed.
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