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How to Find a Licensed Plumber

Though working with the average licensed plumber can be great, finding one who isn’t can be devastating for your home, your wallet, and your family.

Unlicensed plumbers typically have no insurance, no knowledge, and no shame. Hire one for emergency plumbing service and you could be a victim to poor quality work, work that isn’t in compliance with plumbing code or, worst of all, no work, even if you’ve already paid. You could even be sued for job site injuries, and, guess what, you’d most likely lose.

While unlicensed work is generally much cheaper up front, the price you could pay in the end is never worth the savings. The problem has become so bad recently, with the down economy and home owners trying to save money anyway they can, Channel 13 did an investigation of the dangers of hiring unlicensed plumbers.

Unlicensed Plumbers: Things You Will and Things You Won’t Be Getting At That Price

You always hear that you should stick with a licensed plumbing contractor, but why? What are the real reasons and major differences? Well, here are just a few:


Unless you are a professional contractor, you probably don’t realize that the amount of education required to even sit for the Virginia State Journeyman Plumbing License Exam is the equivalent of a Master Degree from a traditional university. Hire an unlicensed plumber to do your plumbing and this is all the experience they likely don’t have:

Pre-Qualifications For Virginia Journeyman Plumber License

  • 2 years of practical experience in the trade and a degree or certification showing the completion of a 2 year program from either a trade or technical school, or a community college; OR
  • 4 years of practical experience in the trade and 240 hours of formal vocational training in the trade; OR
  • 5 years of practical experience in the trade and 160 hours of formal vocational training in the trade; OR
  • 6 years of practical experience in the trade and 80 hours of formal vocational training in the trade; OR
  • A bachelor’s degree in an engineering curriculum related to the trade and 1 year of practical experience in the trade; OR
  • 10 years of practical experience in the trade, verified by an affidavit who observed the candidate’s work in the trade.

Pre-Qualifications For Virginia Master Plumber License

  • 1 year of practical experience as a licensed Virginia journeyman; OR
  • 10 years of practical experience in the trade, verified by an affidavit who observed the candidate’s work in the trade.

Plumbing Code

Many plumbing projects, even some small ones you wouldn’t think would, do require county permits and inspections, and all plumbing must be in compliance with The International Building Code. Unlicensed plumbers often either don’t know or don’t care about these requirements. While the repair might work for a time, it could be putting your family at serious risk.
At a minimum, if the plumbing repair work that’s done doesn’t comply with the state and county plumbing codes, when the time comes for you to sell your home, you may have to remove or repair what was done at your own expense. If an state building inspector sees it, you could even be subjected to government fines.

Quality of Workmanship

Because an unlicensed plumber doesn’t have the years of experience a licensed plumber is required to have, chances are, they won’t be as good at making the repair. As often as not, homeowners are forced to call a licensed plumber out to repair the unlicensed plumber’s repair, which was either done incorrectly, or simply not completed. When considering the savings of hiring an unlicensed plumber, consider if the savings is worth the risk of having to repair or replace your home’s plumbing twice.

Broken Contracts and Fraud

Contractors are called “contractors” because they make contracts with their customers to do certain work for agreed upon prices. The contracts are usually written in such a way that they protect both the contractor and the customer. For the contracts to have the weight of law, all contractors must have a contracting license; a license they can loose if a customer can prove, in court, that they broke their contract and failed to perform the work they agreed to do the way it is meant to be done.

In the eyes of the law, plumbers are actually licensed plumbing contractors, and your agreement with them is a contract that carries the weight of the law. However, when your plumber isn’t licensed, your contract with them isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. They have no fear of reprisal should they simply decide to take your money and not do the work. In this case, your only option is an expensive, generally pointless civil suit.

The problem of unlicensed contractors taking money from their customers before a job is finished, and then simply leaving it that way has become something of an epidemic in recent years. This kind of dishonest practice, which preys on vulnerable families in need of affordable work, flourishes in the wake of natural disasters like a hurricanes and floods, or during hard economic times.

Liability and Homeowner’s Policy Coverage

If a plumber hasn’t bothered to get a license, chances are they didn’t bother with insurance either. That means that injuries that occur on the job site as well as property damage aren’t their problem; they’re yours. If an unlicensed contractor, or one of their employees, is injured while working on your home, you could end up liable for their hospital bills! The average homeowners policy also require that you get your work done by a licensed and insured contractor, and will provide no coverage if proof can’t be shown.


People with criminal backgrounds find it hard to be hired by legitimate companies. That’s because a company knows it can be held liable for the conduct of its employees. When someone with a criminal background finds it difficult to get hired, they turn to you, the unsuspecting homeowner, instead. You don’t have the resources to perform background checks. Hire an unlicensed plumber, and for all you know, you could be inviting a violent criminal into your family’s home.

If you still aren’t convinced that hiring an unlicensed plumber is a bad idea, click here and you can read up on even more reasons why you should never hire an unlicensed contractor to work on your home.

A Licensed Plumber: The Smart Choice

With all the reasons, and horror stories that are out there, on the Internet and in the news, talking about the terrible things that happened to some unfortunate homeowner who tried to save a buck by hiring an unlicensed plumber, you would think that people would be more careful. But ask any professional, licensed plumber, and they’ll tell you that a good percentage of their work each month comes from fixing problems caused by unlicensed contractors doing work for which they were not qualified.

Before you ever sign your name on the dotted line, be sure and ask a plumber these questions:

  1. Are you licensed?
  2. Do you carry general liability insurance?
  3. Do you carry workers compensation insurance?
  4. Do you guarantee your work?
  5. Do you provide references in writing?
  6. Will you provide me with written lien waivers?
  7. Who will be in charge of the job once it starts?
  8. Do you pull all required permits?
  9. What professional organizations are you a member of?
  10. Always ask questions about how they work.

Want to Know More Questions? Call Home Service Doctors Today!

Contact Home Service Doctors today if you want service from a reliable, licensed plumber!

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