The Difference Between a Plumber and a Licensed Plumbing Contractor

The Difference Between A Plumber And A Licensed Plumbing Contractor

Which Kind of Plumber Is Better To Hire? 

Shakespeare wrote that a rose by any other name is still a rose; he didn’t write anything about plumbers, but we at Ongaro & Sons can tell you that a plumber by any other name than a licensed plumbing contractor is not the same thing. One of the biggest misconceptions is that a plumber can do any kind of plumbing.

Not so. While both are professional tradespeople, a plumber and a plumbing contractor assume different roles and responsibilities. 

To take a look at what each of these job roles can or cannot do for you when and if you have a plumbing need, in this blog we plumb the depths of: 

  • What Is a Plumber?
  • What Is a Plumbing Contractor?
  • Plumbing Licenses and Training
  • Different Types of Plumbing Skills
  • How Ongaro & Sons Meets All Your Plumbing Needs

What Is a Plumber?

A plumber specializes in installing, repairing, and maintaining plumbing systems. Plumbers are typically skilled tradespeople who undergo training and apprenticeships to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills for their work. Plumbers can work as employees of a plumbing company or operate independently. In either case, plumbers interact directly with customers, performing tasks such as fixing leaky pipes, installing bathroom and kitchen fixtures, unclogging drains, and repairing plumbing appliances.  A plumber can perform both residential and commercial work.

What Is a Plumbing Contractor?

A licensed plumbing contractor is a plumber who has met certain additional requirements to obtain a contractor’s license. These requirements usually include a certain number of years of experience, passing a licensing examination, and maintaining liability insurance. A licensed plumbing contractor is legally authorized to contract plumbing work and to pull the necessary permits for such work. They can oversee larger projects, such as plumbing installations for new construction or major renovations, and they are often responsible for ensuring that the work complies with all relevant building codes.

In many jurisdictions, certain types of plumbing work can only be legally performed by a licensed plumbing contractor. This is to ensure that the work is done safely and correctly, to protect the health and safety of the building’s occupants and the public at large. The specific requirements for becoming a licensed plumbing contractor, and the types of work that require a licensed contractor, can vary by jurisdiction.

The plumbing contractor ensures new construction or renovation is in compliance with local and federal building codes (and that commercial plumbing complies with all requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Plumbing contractors typically employ a team of licensed plumbers and other skilled tradespeople to work on new construction projects, do large remodeling or renovation jobs, or provide comprehensive building maintenance plumbing services.

The specifics of what a licensed plumbing contractor can do and the requirements to become one can vary by jurisdiction. However, common tasks performed by these contractors can include:

-Designing and installing residential or commercial plumbing systems.

-Repairing or replacing parts of these systems, such as pipes, faucets, or water heaters.

-Identifying and fixing problems with these systems, such as leaks or blockages.

-Ensuring that the systems they work on comply with local building codes and regulations.

Plumbing Licenses and Training

Plumbers are one of the most closely regulated trades in the United States. Almost all states have licensing requirements, although they do vary by state. Both plumbers and plumbing contractors require licenses to operate, usually obtained after completing certain training. The levels of licensing and training are:

  • Apprentice: Someone who is beginning to learn the trade, and who can perform certain tasks under supervision.
  • Journeyman:  Someone who has completed apprenticeship, trained under a master plumber for a certain number of hours, and passed a state certification test.
  • Master Plumber: Someone who has held a journeyman license and worked as a journeyman for a certain number of hours, and who has passed a state test. Signifies a high degree of experience, qualifications, and knowledge.

In addition, plumbers can receive trade association training and certification. The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors Association (PHCC) is the oldest trade association in the construction industry—it’s the premiere organization for the plumbing-heating-cooling professional and a leader for industry promotion, advancement, education, and training.

In California, a plumbing contractor license is a C-36 classification awarded by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board. This license is required for any plumbing work worth $500 or more. 

The plumbing contractor must show proof of four years of experience at a journeyman level or as a foreman, supervising an employee, contractor, or owner-builder. An additional requirement is to pass a law and business exam and a trade exam. There is an additional Hazardous Substance Removal Certification that requires passing a test in order to install and/or remove underground storage tanks or other hazardous substance removal work. Finally, the plumbing contractor must submit a $25,000 bond. 

Different Types of Plumbing Skills

You might think that any plumber knows about, and is experienced in, any kind of plumbing. This is not always the case. There’s a difference, for example, in the installation of water pipes and the installation of natural gas pipes.

For laying a water pipe, a plumber must know how to calculate water pressure and water force, as well as the various complexities concerning the type of pipe, distance considerations, city codes, and temperature fluctuations.

By contrast, the natural gas plumber has a different license and skill set required to install natural gas lines, and to install or repair water heaters, HVAC systems, fireplaces, stoves, and even outdoor grills.

While a plumber may have experience in both skill areas, some plumbers prefer to specialize in only one area.

How Ongaro & Sons Meets All Your Plumbing Needs

Looking for a plumber? Ongaro & Sons is a third-generation, family-owned business originally founded in 1932 by Ernest V. Ongaro in Fairfax, California. As a family-owned business, we understand better than anyone the importance of good plumbing to ensure your family’s safety and comfort.

A fixture in the North Bay community for nearly a century, the Ongaro & Sons service area also includes Sonoma County, Marin County, Santa Rosa, and San Anselmo. Our fully licensed plumbers are literally just a phone call away.

Contact us with any questions about your plumbing needs or to schedule an appointment. Our experienced and certified technicians offer a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee and peace of mind that you’ve chosen the best plumber to address your situation.