How to Hire a Good Plumber in the City of Austin
The Environmental Protection Agency notes that fixing easily corrected household water leaks can save homeowners about 10% on their water bills. Considering Austin residents pay an average cost of $36 per 7,727 gallons of water, fixing leaky plumbing arrangements on time is necessary to cut down on monthly water bills and unnecessary water usage. Hiring a plumber is essential in attaining this, as a good plumber will ensure that your work is done up to standard and also ensure that it is in line with the city's requirements. However, hiring a plumber requires some due diligence on your part. You have to ensure that the plumber is qualified professionally and legally to do your work. Hence, it is essential to make the following inquiries before hiring a plumber in Austin:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as a Plumber in the City of Austin?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Plumbers in the City of Austin?
- Do You Comply with the City of Austin Building Code for Plumbing?
- Will You Get the Plumbing Permits as Required by the City of Austin Code?
- What Kind of Plumbing Services Do You Offer?
- Do You Offer Emergency Plumbing Services in the City of Austin?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Plumbers in the City of Austin?
Are You Licensed to Practice as a Plumber in the City of Austin?
The City of Austin plumbing code requires persons offering plumbing services to hold a state plumbing license and register the same annually with the Austin Development Service Department. Anyone who fails to meet this requirement commits a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum fine of $2000.
The Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE) is in charge of state-level licensing of plumbers in Austin. A plumber can either hold a journeyman license, tradesman license, master plumber license or be registered as a plumber apprentice. Each type of license requires the applicant to have obtained experience related to the plumbing trade and also to take a TSBPE-administered examination. The requirement of experience, however, varies depending on the type of license. For instance, to be eligible for a master plumber license, the applicant must have been a licensed journeyman plumber for at least four years. However, applicants that have completed a training program approved by the United States Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship only require one year of holding a journeyman license. In contrast, to get a journeyman plumber license, the individual must have worked under the supervision of a master plumber for at least 8,000 hours. A tradesman license application only requires an individual to have 4,000 hours of experience working as a registered apprentice of a master plumber. Meanwhile, to register as an apprentice, the individual must be at least 16 years old. Note that each license or registration has its scope of work. For example, a plumber apprentice can only assist licensed plumbers or perform manual tasks, while a tradesman plumber can only work on one or two-family dwellings, and this must be under the supervision of a master plumber.
You can check out the TSBPE Find a License portal to verify state-issued licenses, while local plumbing registration can be verified through the Austin Development Service Department by calling (512) 974-9760.
Before hiring a plumber in Austin, try to obtain at least three bids for your project and carefully compare the bids. This would give you an idea of the details of your project and open you to affordable alternatives. However, note that the lowest bid may not always be the best value.
A plumber in the City of Austin earns an annual average wage of $52,470. Plumbing costs are usually dependent on the required material, labor, and the scope and complexity of the project. Below is a breakdown of the average hourly wages for plumbers in Austin compared with plumbers in other parts of Texas and other major cities in the country:Austin Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$25.23Texas State Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$24.44Los Angeles Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$29.04New York City Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$35.78Chicago Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$44.20Minneapolis Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$39.45Boston Plumbers Hourly Average Wage$40.46
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Do You Comply with the City of Austin Building Code for Plumbing?
When selecting a plumber in Austin, it is essential to ensure that the plumber is familiar with the requirements of the city's Plumbing Code. Besides indicating that your plumbing work is up to standard, adherence to the plumbing code will also help you avoid issues with the local authorities. A Plumbing Code violation is a misdemeanor offense in Austin punishable by fines ranging from $150 to $500.
The City of Austin Plumbing Code is an amendment of the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials' 2021 Uniform Plumbing Code. The Code provides minimum standards and requirements for several plumbing works, including water heater and boiler installations, drain systems, piping criteria, insulation requirements, shut-off valves, filter systems, and more. Confirming that your plumber is familiar with the Code's provision is important as even simple projects can have plumbing Code requirements that are different from what is obtainable in other places. For example, in Austin and other parts of Texas, dishwashers are required to have an air gap that prevents dirty water from flowing back into the unit. Meanwhile, other parts of the country allow for a high loop' to solve the same problem. As such, while a method of plumbing might solve your issue, it may not be the approved method under the Code.
To get more information about Code violations in the City of Austin, you can contact the Austin Code Department by calling (512) 974-2633.
Will You Get the Plumbing Permits as Required by the City of Austin Code?
Section 1501.3 of the Austin Plumbing Code requires residents to obtain plumbing permits before commencing plumbing works within the city's jurisdiction. Performing such works without permits is a code violation that can attract criminal punishments, including fines. The only works that can be done without permits include works required to:
- stop a leak in a drain, soil, waste, or vent pipe that does not involve replacement of defective concealed trap, drain, pipe, solid, waste, or vent pipe with a new device
- clear a stoppage, not requiring rearrangement or replacement of valves, pipes, or drains
- repair or replace fixtures and to replace exposed traps, continuous waste piping, fixture supply valves, or faucets not involving inspection from other trades
Plumbing permits are issued by the Austin Development Services Department and only master plumbers registered within the city can obtain them. Application for permits can be made and tracked through the Development Service Department's Build+Connect portal. Note that the application may require the submission and review of building plans, and this process may take up to seven business days to complete. Submission of building plans can be done virtually on the city's project dox portal. To determine whether your project requires a building plan review, you can schedule an appointment with the Department.
In addition to obtaining permits, the city's Building Inspection Division (BID) performs inspections on plumbing projects during construction or upon completion in order to ensure that they are in line with the Plumbing Code. Depending on the scope of work, a final inspection may lead to the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy, which indicates that a structure is safe for occupancy. You can schedule inspections on the Build+Connect portal. For more information on obtaining permits and scheduling inspections, you can contact the Austin Development Services Department by dialing 311.
What Kind of Plumbing Services Do You Offer?
Ensure that any plumber you hire in Austin has the expertise to perform your task. Plumbers in Austin specialize in different areas of plumbing broadly classified as residential, commercial, and service and repair plumbing. Residential plumbers typically do plumbing works in home settings, while commercial plumbers work majorly on factories, hospitals, and similar facilities. Meanwhile, service and repair plumbers do maintenance and repair works in both commercial and residential structures.
Below are cost estimates of certain plumbing works in Austin.Bathtub installation$1,679 - $2,053Clearing clogged or blocked drains$109 - $134Drain Line Video Inspection$227 - $260Gas Line Installation$27 - $38Home remodel plumbing$3,827 - $4,947Septic system installation$6,450 - $7,665Septic tank cleaning/pumping$239 - $281Sewer line cleaning$152 - $232Sewer line installation$53 - $68Sump pump installation$747 - $1,073Swamp cooler installation$2,044 - $2,189Main Water Installation$28 - $47Water softener installation$905 - $1,215
Do You Offer Emergency Plumbing Services in the City of Austin?
Issues like overflowing toilets, burst pipes, and sewer backup can lead to plumbing emergencies that require immediate attention. However, simpler issues like leaky pipes and faucets should not be taken for granted. This is so, considering that the average household's leaks account for more than 10,000 gallons of water wasted every year, and Austin residents pay $36.74 per 7,727 gallons of water used. Also, note that the fact that there is an emergency does not mean you should allow just any plumber to work on your home. You have to ensure that the plumber is licensed and capable of solving your emergency. You can look up the license status of a plumber using the TSBPE find a license portal. Similarly, you can search sites like Yelp and Better Business Bureau for competent plumbers that provide emergency services near you. Doing this would not only ensure that you pick a qualified plumber, but will also ensure that the plumber will not take too much time to reach you.
Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Plumbers in the City of Austin?
In Austin, master plumbers are required to hold a certificate of insurance evidencing certain insurance policies in order to legally operate within the city. The insurance must include general liability insurance for claims of property damage or bodily injury, with coverage of at least $300,000 in a one-year period. Specialized types of plumbing such as liquefied petroleum gas plumbing and medical plumbing also require additional insurance requirements. According to statistics provided by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 608 fatal occupational injuries were recorded in Texas in 2019, and 193 of these injuries occurred to persons participating in construction-related activities. Ensuring that your plumber is insured affords you protection from unexpected costs arising from occupational accidents that occur during your project.
Note that besides master plumbers, other classifications of licenses do not have compulsory insurance requirements so far as such a plumber is working under the supervision of a master plumber who has met the requirements. Interested persons can verify that a plumber has met the city's insurance requirement by looking up the plumber's license on the TSBPE's license search portal or by contacting the plumber's insurance company.
How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Plumber in the City of Austin
Residents of Austin spend significantly on housing. On average, households spend at least $19,029 annually on housing, representing up to 34% of the household budget. As a result, the home improvement industry is one of the aspects usually eyed by fraudulent plumbers and contractors. For example, complaints have been made against an Austin-based contractor for failing to do construction work, including bathroom and kitchen repairs, after collecting thousands of dollars. Similarly, a family was awarded $95,000 against an Austin-based contractor who received money without doing the required repairs on their water heater. Some techniques of plumbing scammers include high-pressure sales tactics, price gouging, and unlicensed contracting. Take note of the following tips to reduce your chances of falling for a plumbing scam in Austin:
- At the minimum, get at least three bids for your project and thoroughly compare them.
- Before commencing the project, you can make a small down payment either as a retainer fee or for necessary materials. It is not advisable to make full payment in advance of the project.
- Be cautious of contractors who state that no permits or inspections are required. You can contact the Austin Code Department by calling (512) 974-2633 to inquire whether you need a permit for your project.
- Hire only licensed plumbers and ask for proof of a current state license and city-level registration.
- Request references and contact past clients of the plumber. Also, request to see photos of past works similar to yours.
- Look up the Better Business Bureau for complaint records on your contractor.
- Before you start any project, be sure you have documentation of a construction permit and any necessary trade permits. Keep an eye on your contractor's inspection records as the job progresses.
- Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners
- Att: Enforcement Department
- P.O. Box 4200
- Austin, TX 78765-4200
The Consumer Protection Division of the Office of the Travis County Attorney General also receives complaints against unscrupulous plumbers in the City of Austin. You can file complaints with this division either by calling (512) 854-1289 or by communicating your concerns via email.