May 16, 2022 | 8 min read

How to start a plumbing business: 8 helpful tips

To become a master plumber, you’ll need to go through plumbing certification, an apprenticeship program, work as a journeyman, and then pass state exams to hit that rank. 

But the struggle and ascent are worth it. Once you do reach the highest levels of mastery, you’ll be prepared to branch out with your own venture where you’re the boss. 

Wondering how to start your own plumbing business

This guide will set you up for long-term success. 

#1: Drill down your niche

So, you’ve already passed the stage of how to become a plumber, and now, after years of working the job, you should have a good idea of what aspects of plumbing work you enjoy, the clients you prefer to work with, and tasks you excel at. When you’re self-employed, you get to decide what type of business you want to be. And while there are several paths before you, the most common plumbing focuses include:   

  • Commercial plumber – A commercial plumbing business will typically work with larger enterprises such as colleges, hospitals, or large companies. This type of plumbing job takes place on a bigger scale and by necessity requires knowledge of a variety of issues, be they water system installation, building codes, waste removal, or working around industrial equipment.
  • Residential plumber – A residential plumber works more closely with clients in their homes and specializes in installing, maintaining, and repairing plumbing fixtures and systems. 
  • Service and repair plumber – This type of plumber is a specialist that focuses on fixing leaks or eliminating clogs. As such, they tend to work with both residential and commercial clients  
  • Sanitary plumber – A sanitary plumber specializes in everything home sanitation. Their efforts are primarily directed to the bathroom, namely the toilet, tub, shower, and sink. 
  • Water supply plumber – This plumbing occupation primarily deals with water supply systems. They may perform other residential plumbing services, but their main concern is water tanks. 

#2: Set attainable goals 

What is it you hope to achieve with your business? 

Do you want to work solo or would you prefer to grow it to the point where you have multiple employees and plumbers operating under your brand? 

Your specific desires for the business will impact your future plans and actions. Regardless, you must take the time to think and then clearly outline your goals for both the immediate and the long-term future. These will serve as benchmarks that you can review further down the road in order to identify where you’re succeeding and where you’re coming up short.  

Plumber Magazine provides the following advice: 

A good goal has a measurable outcome. You’ll never reach your goal if you ask for ‘more’ because there is always ‘more.’ Clarify your goals by deciding the degree of change you’d like to see. For example: Instead of ‘make more money,’ say ‘increase revenue by 20 percent.’

#3: Build a business plan 

Before you invest in a venture, you first must confirm that there’s demand for your services and a fit in the market. Study your competitors to see what they do right or wrong, and to identify factors that differentiate you from them. 

Once this initial legwork is complete, you can start creating a business plan for how to grow a plumbing business. This document is composed of three overarching sections—the business concept, the marketplace section, and the financial section. Done properly, it can act as the roadmap that you follow to make business decisions and convince investors or creditors that the business has potential. 

As notes, those three major sections can be further divided into six key components

  1. Executive summary – Briefly conveys what the plumbing company is and why it will be successful. It provides a general overview of the mission, the plumbing service, the team, and general growth plans. 
  2. Company description – This provides a more detailed discussion of the problems you solve, the market as a whole, your ideal operational plans, and your goals.
  3. Services – Highlights the types of services you offer, the ways your service will address a plumbing need, and the key differentiators.  
  4. Operational plan – Includes a competitive analysis and outlines your operational model on both a micro and macro scale.
  5. Marketing plan – Details the ways the marketing strategy will be employed to acquire a potential customer base and retain existing ones. 
  6. Financial plan – Lists your budget, revenue, and expected costs. This section is imperative if you require outside funding, seeing as creditors and investors want evidence that they will see a return. 

#4: Purchase equipment 

Chances are, you have already assembled an array of plumbing tools and items over the years. That said, let’s assume you’re starting from scratch. 

For starters, you’ll need a vehicle to house all of the equipment, especially if you’re making housecalls around your local neighborhood. Aside from that, the essential equipment includes:  

  • Pipe work
  • Hacksaw
  • Hole saw kit
  • Pipe and tube benders
  • Pipe and tube cutters
  • Pliers
  • Plumber’s torch
  • Press fitting systems
  • Thread sealing tape
  • Wrenches
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Basin wrench
  • Faucet key
  • Internal pipe wrench
  • Pipe wrench
  • Torque wrench
  • Drains 
  • Borescope
  • Hand auger
  • Hydro jetting machines
  • Plungers
  • Snake machine

#5: Register the plumbing business

A licensed plumber exchanges their expertise, time, and labor for money. For a business to be successful, it needs enough cash flow to cover its obligations. And if the business is profitable, there will be tax responsibilities. 

To operate legally and satisfy both state and federal tax requirements, you need to determine what type of business entity you’ll operate as—most plumbers begin as an LLC or sole proprietorship. From there, you’ll be obligated to register the business and apply for an employee identification number (EIN). 

Upon registration, you’ll receive your EIN. You should then download, save, or print this document. In the future, you’ll need it for both the business taxes and employee tax withholdings (if you hire). 

#6: Acquire insurance 

Once you register your business, you’re almost ready to start working. Before you do so,  you need to protect yourself and your plumbing company from risk. All it takes is a single client tripping and falling on your plumbing equipment to jeopardize everything. 

So, what types of business insurance should you acquire? 

At the very least, you should consider the following: 

  • General liability – This protects your plumbing firm from third-party claims of bodily injury or property damage. It typically covers the investigation, defense, and settlement of such claims. 
  • Commercial vehicle insurance – A personal car insurance policy will rarely cover vehicles that are used for business purposes. For that, you’ll need a separate commercial vehicle insurance policy, even if all you're doing is driving your plumbing tools from one home to another. 
  • Workers compensation – If you have any employees or plan to hire workers in the near future, you’re legally required to have workers compensation. This protects your plumbing firm if an employee experiences an injury or illness on the job that prevents them from working. 
  • Commercial property – The equipment and machinery that plumbers use can be expensive and hard to find. Therefore, you’ll want to ensure that your tools of the trade are safeguarded from loss, theft, or damage.  

#7: Set up a website 

In the modern work landscape, creating and establishing a web presence is arguably the most important way you can set up your budding plumbing company for success. It will serve as your virtual office front and the chief tool you can leverage for brand building, customer interface, and marketing. 

The good news is that it's never been easier to set up a fully-functional website. There are dozens of easy-builders that can help you register a domain name, design the site's look, set up a shop, and begin marketing. 

Once that’s done, be sure to harness the powers of search engine optimization (SEO) to help your website improve in its organic search rankings on Google. That starts with your blog. By regularly producing high-quality content about plumbing, subjects related to the plumbing industry, or specific issues people might have, you increase the likelihood that internet users will find you. 

For instance, Trinity Plumbing in Atlanta Georgia has a regular blog post titled “Ask a plumber,” which cleverly answers a user’s likely question, improves SEO, establishes their expertise, and then explains why Trinity is the solution. Posts include: 

#8: Market with Nextdoor 

Plumbing is largely word-of-mouth and local-focused business which is why building a presence on Nextdoor is beneficial.

Claiming your Business Page on Nextdoor is a free and easy way you as a licensed plumber can ensure that your operation gets seen by the people in the neighborhood. With Nextdoor, you can establish a digital presence to put your business on the map, interact with potential nearby customers, and gather recommendations once you begin work.

So, how can you grow your business on Nextdoor? 

One unique option would be to offer free plumbing advice. For example, Weilhammer Plumbing Co. in Indianapolis encourages homeowners to call or message them with any question or concern they might have about plumbing. Nextdoor makes doing this easy with their “Get more messages” ad format. Other ways you can establish ties with the community include, joining local conversations, listing specials, or sharing Business Posts. 

Turning pipe dreams into reality with Nextdoor

Knowing how to start a plumbing business is just half the battle. Actually building that into something that lasts is where the true challenge begins. 

Nextdoor is here to help. It’s a simple solution for plumbers that want to connect more deeply with their neighbors. On Nextdoor, you have the marketing tools you require to meet your community and turn them into clients.  

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Author image Nextdoor Editorial Team At Nextdoor, we love local. The Nextdoor Editorial Team is dedicated to telling stories of local businesses, providing product education, and sharing marketing best practices to help businesses grow.