How to Start a Plumbing Business: Everything You Need to Know

How to start a plumbing business

With a current industry value of $124 billion U.S. (and growing every day), there’s never been a better time to start your own plumbing business. 

But getting started will require more than your plumbing experience and know-how. You’ll need to cover all your bases—from registering your company to managing your cash flow. 

Not sure where to start? Use these steps to build your new plumbing business from the ground up.

1. Earn your State-required Certification and Plumbing License

Getting certified as a plumber can give you the knowledge, skills, and experience you need to perform your job well. 

Here’s how to become a licensed plumber in four steps:

Step 1 – Get the right education

After graduating from high school, attend a college or vocational school to learn the technical requirements of the trade. You’ll learn about plumbing math and design, building codes, installation methods, residential and commercial repair, and more.

Step 2 – Become an apprentice

A plumbing apprenticeship is paid on-the-job training under a master or licensed plumber. It helps you build your network, gain experience, and prepare for life on the job. Apprenticeships can last from two to five years and are a mandatory part of becoming a plumber.

Getting hands-on experience can help you decide what type of plumber you want to be after you’ve passed your licensing exam.

Step 3 – Pass your license exam

After completing your apprenticeship, you can take your plumbing license exam. Exam requirements will depend on your region, and some regions require you to renew your license periodically. For example, if you’re in Texas or North Carolina, you’ll need to renew your plumbing license annually, but in California it’s only once every two years. Once you’ve passed your exam, you can begin to work as a journeyperson plumber within a company, or on your own.

Pro Tip: Licensing requirements will depend on your local government and state laws. Take a look at the plumbing license requirements per state to make sure you have the right certifications to start your business.

Step 4 – Become a Master Plumber (optional)

Earning this credential can take up to five more years of on-the-job training and certifications, but it comes with perks. Becoming a Master Plumber can lead to more work opportunities and higher pay-additional credentials will help you look more trustworthy to customers.

2. Choose a business structure, register your company, and get liability insurance

You’ll need to get your plumbing business legally set up to operate before you can start taking on your first customers. 

Use this checklist to get started:

  • Choose your legal business structure

Choose between an LLC (limited liability company), sole proprietorship, or partnership.

Most small service businesses chose LLC as their business structure because there’s a limited liability if sued.

  • Register your company name

If you’re operating your business in the U.S., run a quick search to make sure no other business is already using your plumbing company name, and then register your business name with your local government.

  • Apply for the required licenses and permits

Check with your local municipality to make sure you have the right local, state, and federal permits or licenses to operate your plumbing business.

  • Invest in accounting software

Starting your plumbing business on the right foot requires getting your bookkeeping and accounting in order. Use QuickBooks Online to keep your financial records organized, manage your inventory, and track your payroll.

See how Valor Plumbing adopted technology to run their plumbing business

Learn more
  • Get insurance for your plumbing business

Plumbing insurance will protect you, your workers, your business, and your clients in the event of an accident, injuries, or damages.

Depending on your small business insurance needs, your business’s size, and claims history, you can expect to pay anywhere between $600 to $2,000 per month.

The types of insurance most plumbing businesses need include:

    • General Liability Insurance
    • Commercial Automobile Insurance
    • Inland Marine Insurance
    • Workers Compensation

3. Apply for a small business loan

In order to purchase tools and equipment, pay for insurance, and get your first customers, you’ll need to apply for a small business loan. 

Your bank will often offer the best interest rates on loans, but you can also explore other options including online lenders (like OnDeck or Fundera), small business administration (SBA) loans, or even borrowing from friends and family.

To secure the loan you’ll want to have a business plan ready that shows the lender how you plan on making enough money to repay them.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to check with your local government to see if there are any federal or state-level small business grants available.

How much money do you need to start a plumbing business?

At a minimum, plumbers need around $10,000 to start their own plumbing business. But you can expect this number to almost double if you don’t yet have your plumbing license or a work truck.

Here’s a breakdown of what you need to start your business and the costs (all prices are in USD).

Education and licensing – $5,000 to $10,000

Work vehicle – $3,000 to $30,000

Tools and inventory – Around $5,000

Insurance – $600 to $2,000 per month

Write a plumbing business plan

To attract investors and secure financing for your business, you’ll need to write a business plan. 

Your plumbing business plan should include the following information:

  • Cover page – Include your business name, logo, and contact information
  • Executive summary – A one-page summary of your business plan that covers how much funding you need and what sets you apart from your competition
  • Business overview – A quick summary of your business structure, your company name, contact details, and when you registered the business
  • List of services – Full list of the services your plumbing business will provide
  • Market analysis – A description of your target market and the competition in your region
  • Business operations – A detailed overview of your pricing strategy and how profitable your business can be
  • Marketing and sales – A breakdown of your marketing strategy and sales goals. Outline how you will attract new clients to your plumbing business
  • Financial plan – A summary of the money coming into and going out of your business for the first year. It should include your sales forecast, budget for expenses and marketing, and any personnel costs

4. Invest in the right plumbing equipment

Stocking your plumbing van with a few essential plumbing tools will save you from running to the hardware store for every job or service.

But don’t throw all of your capital into shiny new equipment. Start with the basics, buy used if you can, and only rent or purchase equipment for specialty jobs if you have the license, skills, and customer demand.

Here are some tools, inventory, and safety equipment you’ll want to keep handy in your plumbing tool bag.

Plumbing tools:

  • Hacksaws
  • Cordless battery toolset (drills, saw grinder, screwdriver, impact driver)
  • Pipe cutters
  • Grips
  • Hand tool set: including an adjustable wrench set and pliers (Crescent is a popular choice)

Supplies and inventory:

  • Fittings
  • Pipes (both plastic and copper)
  • Inlet valves
  • Elements
  • Thermostats

Safety equipment:

Go through our complete list of plumbing tools to see everything you’ll need to stock your van.

5. Learn how to price your plumbing services and estimate jobs

Properly pricing your plumbing services will make sure your company stays competitive in the industry, and that you get paid fairly for your hard work.

Before you can perfect your pricing strategy, you need to know what services you’ll be providing. Your plumbing service list may include:

  • Drain cleaning and repair
  • Emergency plumbing services
  • Leak detection and repair
  • Sump pump services
  • Valve installation
  • Toilet, faucet, or shower repairs

Once you’ve compiled your list, you’ll want to write down the materials required to complete the job, determine your hourly rate, and calculate your profit margin.

Pro Tip: Learn from others in your industry by looking at what your competitors are charging for their plumbing services. You can check out their website or even call their office if their prices aren’t listed online.

READ MORE: How to bid plumbing jobs and win more work

How much money do plumbers make?

Plumbers earn a mean salary of $29.37 USD an hour or $61,100 a year . Salaries range from $33,460 annual ($16.09 per hour) to $98,990 annual ($47.59 per hour).

Build an estimate template

Your plumbing estimate template should include:

  • Your business’s contact information
  • An estimate number
  • A breakdown of the plumbing services you’ll be providing
  • The approximate cost of the services
  • Any optional line items that will enhance the work
  • Terms and conditions
  • Space for the client’s signature to approve the work

Handwritten estimates or quotes take forever to make, they look unprofessional, and they’re impossible to track. Creating a digital estimate template you can use time and time again can speed up your estimate process and impress potential clients.

Get your free, customizable plumbing estimate template

Use our estimate template to send professional-looking plumbing estimates fast

Get started

6. Market your plumbing business and get your first customers

With your business and pricing set up, you’re ready to offer plumbing services to your target market. 

You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money on advertising or marketing agencies. When just starting out, try focusing on a few easy marketing strategies to get more plumbing leads instead.

Develop your brand

Good branding can make your plumbing company look more professional and help you stand out from the competition.

To create branding for your business:

  • Choose your company colors and choose a clean, easy-to-read font to use on all your marketing materials
  • Use an online logo generator like Looka to design your company logo
  • Describe what you do differently with a plumbing business slogan and include it on your website and plumbing business cards
  • Invest in a uniform (e.g., a t-shirt with your logo) so you can better represent your company when you’re on the job

Build a professional plumbing website with website builders like GoDaddy or Wix

Get set up for online visibility

Since the majority of your customers will be looking for your services online, make it easier for them to find you with a few digital marketing strategies:

READ MORE: 9 Marketing strategies to grow your plumbing business

Provide stellar customer service

With the right plumbing sales techniques and great customer service marketing your business doesn’t have to cost you a dime.

Happy customers can turn into repeat business and refer friends and family to your services.

READ MORE: How to start a referral program for your business

7. Invoice plumbing jobs and manage your cash flow

Creating a steady cash flow ensures you have money in the bank to keep your business running smoothly. The best way to do this is by getting paid for your hard work.

Use these three steps to invoice your clients and collect payments faster:

  • Step 1 – Choose what types of payment you will accept, like cash, check, credit card, or e-transfer. Then select a payment provider to collect client payments.
  • Step 2 – Use a plumbing invoice template to quickly create and send invoices to clients once a job is complete.
  • Step 3 – Follow up on overdue invoices with automatic payment reminders to help you get paid for your services.

READ MORE: What to include on an invoice

8. Learn how to manage your plumbing business and client relationships

How you manage your business will determine your success. If it’s messy and inefficient, you’ll end up losing more money than you’re making. On the flip side, a smooth operation will start your business off strong, impress customers, and have you cash flow positive in no time.

The right plumbing software can help.

Investing in field service software can help to better manage your business and improve communication with your customers.

“Jobber helps to reflect our level of professionalism. When somebody sees an automated text when you’re on the way, it looks like you’re running a serious operation, even if you’re running out of our home. The more professional you appear, the more people will want to use your service and refer you.”

– Kiya, Valor Plumbing

Here’s what plumbing software can do for your new business:

✔ Let new customers request work through your website with online booking

✔ Keep customer details at your fingertips and deliver personalized customer service with a field service CRM

✔ Create and send professional-looking quotes that are easy to approve

Schedule work and dispatch crews with just a few clicks

✔ Efficiently route your plumbing jobs with GPS tracking

✔ Improve your customer communication with appointment reminders and on-my-way text messages

Use job forms and checklist to provide a perfect service every visit

✔ Get paid faster with automated invoicing and credit card processing

✔ Run your business from anywhere with a field service mobile app

✔ Let your customers request plumbing work, approve quotes, and pay invoices through an online portal

Send professional quotes and manage your work orders

Use Jobber to run your business from the office or the job-site

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9. Hire and train plumbing technicians so you can grow your business

Growing your business may mean taking on more work, adding new services, or even expanding your service area. This can be hard to do without the help of additional skilled plumbing technicians.

When should I hire more plumbers?

There’s no one-time-fits-all solution for when you should bring on more plumbers-but there are a few indicators that your business is growing faster than you can keep up.

Here are a few signs it may be time to hire a plumber:

  • You can’t keep up with quotes and are turning down work
  • You fall behind on your paperwork, bookkeeping, and accounts receivable
  • You’re expanding your service list and need a plumber with a specific skill set
  • You’re overwhelmed, burnt out, and are in desperate need of a vacation
  • There’s enough demand for your services to keep a second plumber busy

How do I write a job posting?

To find skilled plumbers to join your company, you need to write a descriptive job posting that advertises the open position.

Every job posting should include a job title, position summary, responsibilities, and qualifications.

READ MORE: How to write the perfect job posting (with free template)

What questions should I ask in a job interview?

Asking the right plumbing interview questions can help you find a candidate who’s both qualified for the position and a strong addition to your team.

A good interview will include a variety of questions that test the candidate’s plumbing knowledge and how they would handle specific situations. This will give you a better look at their skills, experience, and values.

READ MORE: 10 Questions to ask a new employee before you hire them

10. Stay up to date in your industry

Staying on top of plumbing industry trends will help you keep up with the competition when it comes to pricing, marketing, and more.

Start your plumbing business with Jobber

Starting a plumbing business is no easy task. With the right tools and resources available at your fingertips, your new company will be set up for success and your future as a plumbing business owner will be bright.

Jobber has the features you need to manage your work orders and get paid faster.

Count on Jobber to keep your plumbing business organized

Create quotes. Track invoices. Store customer information.

Try for free

Originally published May 2019. Last updated on January 14th, 2022.

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