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Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Plumber in Washington D.C.

A plumber in Washington D.C. charges $27.93 per hour, and this professional may save you hundreds of dollars on your water bill for less than a day's work. A good plumber is licensed, issued, conversant with the District's plumbing code, and well trained to fix those undetected leaks adding unnecessary charges to your monthly utility bill. Leakages like dripping faucets, faulty toilets, loose sprinkler heads, and broken underground pipes waste more than 90 gallons of water per day. With DC Water charging $6.34 per 1,000 gallons, this loss may add more than $2,000 to your bill by the end of the year. When in search of a plumber in Washington D.C., ask the following questions to be certain your professional is a good hire:

Are You Licensed to Practice as a Plumber in Washington, D.C.?

The Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) is responsible for regulating the activities of plumbers in the district, and it issues professional licenses to plumbers that satisfy certain eligibility requirements. Per this agency's rules, carrying out plumbing work without proper licensing in Washington D.C. is considered a Class 1 Infraction and is punishable by a fine of no less than $2,000 for first offenders. This department groups plumbers into three categories which are apprentice plumbers, journeyman plumbers, and master plumbers/gasfitters.

Applicants who wish to obtain an apprentice plumber license are required to register with the DCRA's Board of Industrial Trades, provide any information required by this board at the time of registration, and pay all applicable registration fees. Examinations are not required to obtain this category of license. Once licensed, these apprentice plumbers must also work under the direct supervision of a duly licensed master plumber/gasfitter. To obtain a journeyman plumber license, interested parties must meet any of the following criteria:

  • Must have worked as an apprentice plumber for a minimum of 8,000 hours for no less than four years
  • Must have graduated from an accredited post-secondary educational institution with a degree in mechanical engineering and obtained a minimum of two years of practical plumbing experience, which must be verified by a licensed master plumber
  • Must have obtained comparable experience or a combination of experience and education that is deemed equivalent to the criteria listed above and acceptable by the DCRA's Board of Industrial Trades
  • Must provide any additional evidence of qualifications that the Board of Industrial Trades deems necessary in situations where the applicant seeks to obtain a particular specialty license

Obtaining a journeyman plumber license typically requires passing a licensing examination. However, in place of this examination, as well as any of the criteria listed above, the DCRA's Board of Industrial Trades may issue a journeyman plumber license to applicants who provide a certificate from a national certifying organization. These organizations include nationally recognized trade organizations and labor unions that are registered with the United States Department of Labor, the Bureau of Apprenticeship Training, and the DC Apprenticeship Council.

Note that these certificates must certify that the applicant has completed the issuing organization's apprenticeship program, passed the organization's required examination, has been designated as a journeyman plumber by the organization, and has not been disciplined or disqualified by the organization.

Finally, applicants who wish to obtain a master plumber/gasfitter license from the DCRA must provide verifiable evidence to the Board of Industrial Trades that they have a valid journeyman plumber license and have also worked as a journeyman plumber for at least four years. Master plumber/gasfitter license applicants are typically also required to pass a licensing examination before being issued with these licenses.

You can confirm the licensing status of your intended plumber or make plumbing licensed-related inquiries by contacting the DCRA at (202) 442-4400. The DCRA also provides an online platform that interested parties can access to verify the licensing status of plumbers in the district. However, you will be required to create a user account before you can utilize this portal.

How Much Do You Charge Compared to Plumbers in Washington D.C.?

The amount of money that you will pay a plumber in Washington, D.C., is dependent on factors like the plumber's level of experience and the type of plumbing work involved, as well as the cost of materials needed to carry out this work. When hiring a plumber in the district, it is advisable to get and compare bids from several plumbers before picking the one that is best suited to your budget.

A plumber in Washington, D.C., earns an annual average wage of $58,100. Below is a breakdown of the mean hourly wages for plumbers in Washington, D.C., compared with plumbers in other major cities in the United States:

Washington, D.C., Plumber Hourly Mean Wage
New York City Plumber Hourly Mean Wage
Houston Plumber Hourly Mean Wage
Detroit Plumber Hourly Mean Wage
Los Angeles Plumber Hourly Mean Wage
Boston Plumber Hourly Mean Wage

Do You Comply with Washington D.C. Building Code for Plumbing?

Chapter 14 of the Code of the District of Columbia, also referred to as the district's Construction Codes, provides a set of rules and regulations that control the design, installation, modification, use, and maintenance of plumbing systems, equipment, and materials in Washington, D.C.

When you require the services of a plumber in Washington, D.C., it is important to make sure that this plumber is not only licensed but also familiar with the requirements of the district's construction codes. This is because these codes are strictly enforced to ensure the safety of Washington D.C. residents, and code violations, intentional or otherwise, can result in penalties of up to $2,000 in fines, a jail term of up to 90 days, or both per violation. You can contact the DCRA at (202) 442-4400 or via email to get specific information on the code requirements for your intended plumbing project.

Will You Get the Plumbing Permits as Required by the Washington D.C. Code?

While plumbing permits are typically required for the installation, repair, or replacement of plumbing systems in Washington D.C., exemptions are made under certain circumstances, such as:

  • Clearing stoppages or repairing leaks in fixtures, valves, and pipes, and removing and reinstalling water closets, as long as this does not involve replacing or rearranging fixtures, valves, and pipes
  • Stopping leaks in drains, water, soil, waste, or vent pipes, as long as this does not require removing and replacing any concealed and defective parts of these pipes with new material
  • Repairing or replacing water meters, provided that this is performed by DC Water

Plumbing permits are issued by the Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), and the permitting process is carried out via the following process:

  • Determine the full scope of your project and find out whether any development restrictions may apply to it. You can do this by contacting the DC Office of Zoning at (202) 727-6311 or via the district's online SCOUT platform.
  • Submit a plumbing permit application online via either the DCRA Permit Wizard platform for one and two-family residential projects or the DCRA Citizen Access Portal for commercial projects. Note that the creation of a user account is required to utilize both platforms.

Once the permit application has been received by the DCRA, it is screened to determine if it meets all relevant requirements. Once this screening is completed, you will be required to submit any applicable building plans and supporting documentation via the DCRA's ProjectDox online platform. During this stage, your permit application and accompanying project plans may be reviewed by additional agencies, such as the DC Office of Planning and DC Water. Once this has been completed and your application has been approved, you will be required to pay all applicable fees, after which you will be issued a plumbing permit. You can contact the DCRA to direct plumbing permit-related queries via email, phone numbers (202) 442-4400 or (202) 442-4320, or in person at:

1100 4th Street SW
Washington, DC 20024
Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Mondays - Wednesdays, Fridays, and 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays

It is important to note that, depending on the scope of your project, you may be required to schedule inspections with the DCRA at various stages of the work done as well as once it is completed. You can contact the DCRA at (202) 481-3524 to get information on plumbing work inspections.

What Kind of Plumbing Services Do You Offer?

When hiring a plumber in Washington, D.C., it is necessary to make sure that this individual can provide the particular plumbing service that you require. Licensed plumbers in the district typically provide several types of plumbing services, ranging from minor maintenance services to massive plumbing repairs.

Nonetheless, you should always get confirmation from your intended plumber that they specialize in the type of plumbing work that you need before reaching any final payment agreements. Doing this prevents misunderstandings down the road. Below are cost estimates for some common plumbing services offered in Washington, D.C.:

Bathtub installation (acrylic tub)
$2,400 - $3,000
Clearing drain clog or blockage
$160 - $200
Drain line video inspection
$330 - $380
Faucets, fixtures, and pipes installation/repair
$100 - $180
Gas line installation (per linear foot)
$35 - $60
Repiping work for home remodeling/addition (1500 sf home)
$5,500 - $7,500
Septic system installation (for conventional 3-bedroom house)
$9,400 - $11,300
Septic tank cleaning or pumping (1,000-gallon tank)
$350 - $415
Sewer line cleaning
$220 - $340
Sewer line installation and repair (per linear foot)
$75 - $100
Sump pump installation (submersible pump)
$1,000 - $1,550
Toilet installation/replacement (with pre-purchased toilet)
$195 - $215
Water main installation/repair (per linear foot)
$40 - $70
Water softener installation (32,000 grain)
$1,300 - $1,800
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Do You Offer Emergency Plumbing Services in Washington, D.C.?

Fixing easily corrected leakages in your home is estimated to save you approximately 10% of your water bill. Considering that water fees and charges in Washington D.C. can run into thousands of dollars annually, stemming off any water leakages as soon as they are noticed is the fiscally responsible thing to do. However, while all plumbing-related situations should be handled as soon as possible, some of these situations require more urgency than others. Examples of these situations include burst pipes, sink clogs and sewer back-ups, leaking water heaters, and lack of running water in your home.

Although it is common to want to hire the first available plumber in these types of situations, hiring an unqualified plumber can end up worsening the problem. As such, when you find yourself in need of emergency plumbing services, you need to make sure that the plumber you contact is not only close enough to tackle the situation quickly but is also licensed, qualified, and properly equipped to resolve your emergency plumbing issue. One way that you can ensure your intended plumber meets these criteria is by utilizing the DCRA's Find a Contractor online platform.

Alternatively, you can utilize platforms like Better Business Bureau and Google Review to find qualified plumbers near you when you require emergency plumbing services. Note that you should always verify the licensing status of any plumber that you intend to hire. Also, if your emergency plumbing situation involves a backed-up sewer, you should report the situation to DC Water by calling its water and sewer emergency line at (202) 612-3400.

Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Plumbers in Washington, D.C.?

According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 68 fatal work injuries were recorded in the Washington D.C. area in 2018, with construction-related workers having the highest number of fatalities. Hiring a plumber who is properly licensed provides you with financial protection in the event of work-related injuries and accidents. As such, you should always ask for copies of insurance certificates from your intended plumbers and contact the issuing organizations to ensure that they are valid and that all premiums have been paid up.

Also, although there are no specific mandatory insurance requirements for plumbers in Washington D.C., individuals who wish to obtain licenses to operate a business in the district are generally required to carry liability insurance and possess surety bonds. To this end, it is advisable to contact the DCRA at (202) 442-4400 to find out if there are any applicable insurance and bonding requirements for your intended plumber.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Plumber in Washington D.C.

In July 2019, the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia charged local contractors for allegedly scamming homeowners in the district through deceptive actions like misrepresenting the quality of services offered and negotiating contracts under false pretenses. Unfortunately, fraudulent individuals in Washington, D.C., frequently utilize techniques like these to scam unsuspecting residents of the area who require plumbing services. As such, when hiring a plumber in Washington, D.C., you should always look out for signs of a plumbing scam and take steps to prevent yourself from falling victim to these scams. Some of these steps include:

  • Being wary of unsolicited plumbers that offer unbelievably low prices and one-time offers
  • Verifying the licensing status of any plumber that you intend to employ. You can do this by contacting the DCRA via phone number (202) 442-4400 or online.
  • Insisting on written contracts before any work begins and making sure that you properly understand these contracts before appending your signature to them
  • Keeping proper records of all correspondence between you and the plumber
  • Paying only a percentage of the cost of the plumbing project upfront and making sure that the project is completed to your satisfaction before making your final payment

In situations where you find yourself involved in a plumbing scam, you can file a complaint with either the DCRA or the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia. Complaints can be filed with the DCRA online, while complaints made to the AG's Office can be made either via email, by texting "complaint" to (202) 738-5212 and following the subsequent prompts, by calling (202) 442-9828, or by submitting an online complaint form.

Note that while these offices may provide you with restitution for the actions of the erring plumber, this outcome is not always guaranteed. However, you can take further steps to obtain personal restitution by filing a lawsuit against the plumber in an appropriate District of Columbia Court. If you decide to pursue legal action, it is advisable to consult with a qualified lawyer before doing so. You can find qualified lawyers near you by utilizing the recourse provided by the DC Bar via its Hiring a Lawyer webpage.