Help! I have a plumbing problem! Should I try to do it myself, hire a handyman or call a licensed plumber?
In Texas, there are only TWO legal options when you have a plumbing issue:
1) As the homeowner, you can fix your own plumbing, OR
2) You can hire a state-licensed, insured plumber who is working under a valid Master Plumber's number.
If you have your plumbing work done illegally, it could be a costly mistake, since damage from illegal work isn't covered by your home insurance. Read more below.
It depends. If the project involves natural or LP gas, NO you should not. Working with gas and gas piping can be very dangerous and anyone who works on gas must be licensed. As far as non-gas related plumbing, whether you should attempt a fix depends on how large and/or complicated the project is. In Texas, homeowners can legally do certain types of things to their plumbing without a permit, like replacing a toilet or changing out a faucet. If you feel confident giving a small project a shot, feel free, but call us if you get in over your head! More complicated projects may require a permit and an inspection, which you will have to get through your city. Contact your city permitting office to find out if the job you're attempting on your own will need to be permitted and inspected.
Question 1: Should I Try to Fix My Own Plumbing?
Question 2: Should I Hire a Handyman to Do Plumbing?ABSOLUTELY NOT. In the state of Texas, it is illegal for a handyman to touch ANY plumbing, including small projects like changing a faucet, that a homeowner can legally do. According to the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE) rules, if you don't do your own plumbing you must hire a currently licensed plumber. Here's the TSBPE definition of plumbing:
"Plumbing" means: (A) a fixture, appurtenance, appliance, or piping, including a disposal system, used to: (i) supply, distribute, circulate, or recirculate water, other liquid, or gas; or (ii) eliminate sewage for a personal or domestic purpose; (B) a fixture, appurtenance, appliance, or piping used outside a building to connect the building to: (i) a supply of water, other liquid, medical gases and vacuum, or other gas on the premises; or (ii) the main in the street or alley or at the curb; (C) a fixture, appurtenance, appliance, or piping, including a drain or waste pipe, used to carry wastewater or sewage from or within a building to: - 3 - (i) a sewer service lateral at the curb or in the street or alley; or (ii) a disposal or septic terminal that holds private or domestic sewage; or (D) the installation, repair, service, or maintenance of a fixture, appurtenance, appliance, or piping described by Paragraph (A), (B), or (C).
As you can see, their definition of plumbing includes everything and anything, including installing or repairing fixtures like faucets and toilets, and appliances like garbage disposals. There is no plumbing project a handyman is legally allowed to perform in Texas, according to the TSBPE. A handyman who’s caught performing plumbing work will be fined a penalty of at least $2,000. The names of these individuals are also published annually by the state of Texas so that consumers can steer clear of people who fail to earn or renew their license.
In addition to being illegal, it's also extremely dangerous to have a handyman work on your plumbing, and may be extremely expensive in the long run. Since they are unlicensed as plumbers, they are not up to date on plumbing codes and safety. Shoddy handyman work may flood your house, or worse, cause your gas lines to leak or explode! Since the work was done illegally, your homeowner's insurance will not cover the expensive damage, nor will whatever insurance the handyman may have. You'll be on your own, paying out of pocket, thousands or even tens of thousands. Don't take the risk!
Edited to add on 10/25/18: What you're seeing in the photo below is handyman work that almost killed one of our Round Rock customers. A handyman vented her gas water heater into the attic (instead of out the roof) and that metal pipe spewed out carbon monoxide into her house for an entire year. She was having headaches and nausea every day and couldn't figure out why. If that's not bad enough, that metal pipe is also butted right up against that wood, which is illegal and a fire hazard. They've also drilled the hole through a load-bearing glue lam. Our customer could've died from poisoning, fire AND second floor collapse at any time in the last year, all from one person's shoddy work.
Question 3: Should I Hire a Licensed Plumber Who Is Doing Side Work?
Maybe, after a bunch of research. Sometimes a homeowner will come across a currently licensed plumber on an app like Next Door who is offering his plumbing services separately from the company he works for, after hours or on the weekends. Be careful here and do your due diligence to protect yourself and your home. Only a licensed Tradesman, Journeyman or Master plumber may do sidework, and then ONLY with the express permission of the Master Plumber under whose number they work.
Every plumber in Texas must be, or be working under, a Master Plumber's number. For example, at The Plumbinator all of our plumbers work under the Master Plumber, Mickey Womack, whose Master number is M39038. If you hire a plumber who is doing your job as sidework, be sure to first make a photocopy of his plumbing license and check that the date is current. Next, ask him what Master number he is working under, look it up on the TSBPE website, and call that license holder personally to make sure the plumber has permission to work under that number for sidework. If he doesn't have the Master Plumber's permission, that will make the work illegal, so the plumber won't be insured, and neither will your job. If he floods your house or blows the roof off due to a gas explosion, it'll be your problem.
It's up to you to verify in advance that the plumber is doing sidework legally, so that your plumbing job is insured and you have a warranty on the work. If you do decide to move forward with this plumber, have them give you a written estimate that you both sign, with his information and Master number, as well as your address, name and job description, plus date.