DIY Plumbing That Doesn’t Require a License (And When To Call a Licensed Plumber)

Last Updated On June 21, 2024

Updated on January 23, 2023



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DIY Plumbing That Doesn’t Require a License

Did you run into a plumbing issue but don’t know whether you should tackle the job yourself or hire a professional plumbing contractor. There are many plumbing jobs that can be done without a license. 

If you are comfortable performing basic residential plumbing repairs and maintenance,  then you can save yourself some money by doing the work yourself – assuming it’s “legal” for you to do the plumbing task at hand. 

In this PlumbingNav guide, we will cover:

  • Plumbing Work that Requires a Permit
  • Obtaining a Plumbing License
  • DIY Plumbing Tasks that Don’t Require a License or Permit

In this PlumbingNav review, you will learn: 

What's In This Guide?

      Plumbing Work that Requires a Permit

      In most states and municipalities, you will need a plumbing license to perform any work that involves the installation or replacement of pipes or other water-related infrastructure, such as plumbing vents. Homeowners also can’t perform tasks involving digging into the ground to gain access to pipes underground. 

      Some plumbing tasks that always require a permit and a plumbing license include:

      • Pipe installation
      • Pipe replacement
      • Plumbing ventilation
      • Water heater installation
      • Gas lines

      Plumbing systems get complicated. One small mistake during installation can make the plumbing system unsanitary and hazardous to the homestead’s health. Furthermore, one home with bad plumbing can affect other homes in the area or the city’s sewer pipes and water treatment center.  

      These mistakes are dangerous and expensive to fix. A professional has the work experience and knowledge to do the plumbing job correctly the first time. 

      Always hire a professional plumber for new plumbing installation or plumbing replacement that goes beyond small leak fixes or fixtures. Also, you should always call a plumber to find a gas link.

      Since the stakes are so high for new plumbing installation and pipe replacement, the state requires work permits for major plumbing work. The permit indicates that the person who received the permit has permission to do the work in question. 

      In most cases, permits only go out to licensed plumbers with some exceptions for private wells and septic systems, based on the state. 

      A licensed plumber and unlicensed plumber alike must take great care to follow all regulations exactly or face failing an inspection and potentially getting fined. 

      Did You Know? The most common cause of injuries doing plumbing tasks is improper training or poorly maintained equipment.

      did you know DIY Plumbing That Doesn’t Require a License

      DIY Plumbing Tasks that Don’t Require a License or Plumbing Permit

      For the ambitious homeowner, there are some basic tasks that you can perform without a license. For example, you can generally replace faucets, toilets, and garbage disposals without any special training or certification. You can also typically clear clogged drains without having to obtain a plumbing license. 

      While the laws vary from state to state, Michigan stipulates what DIY plumbing work you can do without a license as follows:

      “A permit is not required for repairs which involve only the working parts of a faucet or valve or clearance of stoppages provided alterations are not made in the existing piping or fixtures.”

      For example, you can replace a toilet but not the plumbing associated with the toilet. If the toilet drain gets clogged, you can unclog the toilet drain. However, if the toilet drain shows corrosion and growing leaks, a professional plumber will need to come to replace it. 

      Before you start work on an intermediate plumbing task, do your research regarding the laws and regulations in your area. 

      First, here is a great video overview of your plumbing system:

      Installing a Shower Head

      If your current shower head has seen better days or you want a more luxurious or more economical shower head, you can remove the old shower head and attach the new one yourself. 

      You have options when it comes to your new shower head, including:

      If you get a shower head with a new feature you didn’t have before, you will need to remember a diverter valve that will transfer the water between the different available outputs. 

      In most cases, if the shower head resembles your old shower head in terms of connections, you can simply unscrew the old shower head and attach the new shower head (using plumber’s tape or pipe dope to prevent a leak at the threads).

      Sometimes, the shower arm may not cooperate with you. If that happens, use these tips on how to remove a shower arm when it’s stuck

      Unclogging a Drain

      Any homeowner knows that clogged drains are a common occurrence. Over time, hair, soap scum, and other debris can build up and cause a blockage, creating backflow, foul odor, and slow drains. The clog may also cause damage to your pipes due to increased pressure levels. 

      While there are many store-bought products that claim to unclog drains, they are often expensive and contain harsh chemicals. You may want to try a sink plunger first. 

      For best results using a plunger, start by pouring a pot of boiling water down the drain to loosen the clog. Then, place the plunger over the drain and pump it up and down several times. The suction will help to break up the clog, and the hot water will flush it away. 

      You can also try using a plumbing snake, a long, thin item you feed into your drain to break up the clog at the source.

      If that doesn’t work either, it’s time to try a chemical drain cleaner. Use chemical drain cleaners sparingly. While effective, they can expedite corrosion in your pipes if you use them too often.

      Learn more about how to unclog your bathroom sink

      Replacing a Toilet Seat

      At some point, every toilet seat will need to be replaced. Whether it’s due to wear and tear damage, a change in color, or simply an upgrade, changing out a toilet seat is a relatively easy task that anyone can do. Here’s how:

      • Remove the old seat by unscrewing the bolts that hold it in place. If the bolts are rusted or stuck, you may need to use a little WD-40 or a similar product to loosen them up.
      • Clean the area around the seat opening with a mild cleaner to remove any dirt and grime.
      • Place the new seat on the toilet, lining up the bolt holes with those on the bowl.
      • Hand-tighten the bolts until they are snug, but don’t overdo it or you may strip the threads. 
      • Use a level to make sure the seat is level front to back and side to side, then tighten the bolts securely.

      Some people install a new toilet seat to promote comfort, especially for people in the home with mobility issues. Higher seats are more comfortable, but what is the highest toilet height?

      Fixing a Leaky Pipe

      Dripping water from a leaky pipe can be annoying and wasteful. If you have a leaking pipe, there are a few ways you can try to fix it yourself before it bursts, turning the situation into a plumbing emergency.

      One way to stop a leak is to tighten the joint where the two pieces of pipe meet. 

      You can also try wrapping the joint with plumber’s tape, applying pipe dope, or replacing the O-ring seal.

      If these methods don’t work, you may need to replace the damaged section of pipe. As we mentioned, pipe replacement usually requires more training. If copper, you’ll want to ensure soldering is done correctly to avoid future leaks inside walls.

      If it gets to this point, call a plumber. 🙂

      Frequently Asked Questions about DIY Plumbing Work that Doesn’t Require a License

      Does a plumber have to be licensed?

      A plumber does not technically need to have a license to offer services. However, they will face severe limitations, as they won’t be able to perform plumbing installation jobs or trenchless pipe replacements. 

      If a plumber is not licensed, they usually market their services as a handyman. 

      What plumbing work can I do without a license?

      For the DIY plumber who likes to save money on plumbing bills, you can perform work on anything connected to your plumbing but not the plumbing system itself. For example, you can replace a valve in your toilet or unclog a drain, but you can’t adjust or replace the actual pipes. 

      Regulations vary from state to state and in some cases city to city. Protect yourself by researching the laws in your area before you start intermediate-level plumbing tasks yourself.

      What is the highest level in plumbing?

      You have reached the pinnacle of your training if you manage to become a Master Plumber. Depending on the state, you may have to spend up to 4 – 5 years as an apprentice then continue moving up the ranks for another 5 years as a working plumber before you can take the certification to become a Master Plumber.

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      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about "all things plumbing," helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

      About Plumbing Navigator

      We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.

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