In California, the only plumber’s license is for a plumbing contractor. And whether you need this depends on the exact type of work that you are doing. However, even maintenance of waste-disposal systems is covered by the rule. So even a handyman could fall under this rule.
You must get a plumbing contractor license if any of your projects hits at least $500. And that does include both labor and materials. So if you are a handyman who does not want to get licensed for independent work, then make sure all of your jobs are less than $500. Basically anyone can work for a licensed plumbing contractor without needing a license. Of course, the exception is if you are the actual qualifying individual for a company. In that case, the company gets the license. But you must meed the education and exam requirements for the company to qualify for that license.
The law states that plumbers installing or working on the following types of equipment or activities may need a license (if the $500 threshold is met): on-site waste disposal systems, removal of waste, gas and liquid piping, storage tanks, and venting, gas appliances, flues, and other gas connections, water and gas piping from meter to building, and hot water heaters (and other fluids). Forced warm air units are not included in the plumbing classification.
The law also mentions health and safety devices and gives some examples of what they mean by this. The examples are backflow preventers, water conditioning equipment, gas earthquake valves, regulators, and gas control valves. Installation is only one activity that is covered. Maintenance, repair, and replacement are also included.
If you engage in any of these plumbing activities, then you will have to pay $480 to take a test and get your license to be an independent contractor. The plumbing contractor exam and the law and business exam must both be passed. Individual applicants must have a $15,000 contractor surety bond. It can be more for certain companies. And that number can be found in the applicable application packet.
The exam is not enough to get licensed. You first need 4 years of journey-level experience. One common route to get this is a plumber apprenticeship. Educational or trade-school-type courses can also be taken. But for any method you choose, make sure you have a plan for getting at least 1 year of practical experience, as that is the minimum.
Applications for individuals and companies (LLC, partnership, and corporation) can be found on the Forms and Applications page.