When can I do my own plumbing work, and when do I need a licensed professional?

If you're thinking about taking on some plumbing work and need to know whether you're legally allowed to do the work, then read on for the answers.

What's the logic behind licensing?

The municipal, state or federal government owns the infrastructure that you see around you - from roads to public toilets to bridges and pathways. But they also own the infrastructure that we all often forget about - the sewer system, the electricity lines, and the drainage systems under ground.

When you as a normal person (ie, someone without a licence) wants to interact with that infrastructure, you'll interact with it in a 'normal person' kind of way - through an interface eg through an electrical outlet, a toilet, a switchboard, etc. These interfaces are already a form of licensing, because they are made conform to standards set by the people who own the infrastructure.

If you want to interact with the infrastructure behind the interface, you'll usually need a licence to do so. This licence is another form of standards set by the people who own the infrastructure - standards in the form of:

  • Education and training
  • Ongoing professional development
  • Specific guidelines or legislation

A licence is awarded to someone who conforms to the standards, and this is what you as a customer use to establish whether they're allowed to do work on the infrastructure.

But how do you know whether the work needs a licensed professional or not?

For plumbing work, a general rule of thumb is that a licensed professional is needed for work on anything behind a tap, plug, of gas pipeline. Lots of people can forget (or didn't know) that plumbing and gasfitting as usually done by the same people, and then there is also an overlap in some states with roofing licensing and plumbing as well. This can make it very complicated to know whether you need a licence or not.

What about incidental work?

Most states give tradesmen concessions for incidental work which isn’t covered under their licence (usually restricted by type of trade and value of incidental work) but usually plumbing work can't be done by anyone other than a plumber. Restricted licence classes can be available to trades other than plumbers, for example roofers and air-conditioning tradies.

Which jobs do we check licences for?

Service Central automatically checks the licences of each business that responds to your job, based on the category that you have chosen. In the plumbing category, we require a licence for all categories.

Licence requirements vary

While most plumbing and gasfitting rules and licences are very similar from state to state, there can be subtle differences - especially in the sub-categories of licensing. We recommend that you check the details of the job and the licence with your state authority before proceeding.

Click on your state to see their licensing information

Australian Capital Territory

New South Wales

Northern Territory

Queensland Plumbingand Gasfitting(different authorities for each)

South Australia

Tasmania Plumbingand Gasfitting(different authorities for each)

Victoria

Western Australia Plumbingand Gasfitting

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  • Recently wwe had some rain water tanks installed by an unlicensed plumber (we didn't know at the time he was using his brother's licence card). The warranty on the tanks was voided because they weren't installed by a licenced person and we only found out when there was a problem and the manufacturer contacted the plumber (his brother who knew nothing) to ask about installation... we'll be far more careful next time. If you ask for a certificate and don't get one, alarm bells should be ringing (but it's already too late then)

    over a year ago by Sandika
  • I've checked a licence with the victorian plumbing commission before. They give you the answer but were a little irritated when I didn't have the plumber's licence number to check with... they managed to look it up with an ABN though. That didn't mean that the actual plumber was licensed until we matched the names too though

    over a year ago by Paulette
  • The reality in Victoria is that all plumbing installations should include the issue of a compliance certificate. The Plumber buys the certificate from the Plumbing Industry Commission and adds the cost of the certificate to the installation.
    It is interesting to note that a water tank can be installed by an unlicensed person, but it cannot be connected to the spouting of the property or the storm water drain by other than a licensed plumber (who should issue a certificate of compliance). The point here is that often the actual tank, including base etc is installed by others and then the licensed plumber will do do the 'connection" work.

    over a year ago by ba_sales
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