How to start a plumbing business.

Plumbing is a service that is seemingly always in demand and has been described by some as a “recession-proof” industry. Once you have gained the necessary qualifications and experience, starting a plumbing business can provide a highly profitable and solid business opportunity.

Why start a plumbing business?

You’ve probably read stories in the press about how plumbers earn more money than some medical professionals. While this may or may not be true or exaggerated, the simple fact is that people will always need plumbers. This is especially the case within the emergency call-out market, which is both lucrative and always in-demand, however it is worth mentioning that over-saturation of this market has occurred in some areas. Many plumbers also work with construction companies, although this has taken a hit during the economic downturn.

A word from the experts...
Russell Mott, technical office of the Heating and Ventilating Contractors' Association (HVCA), the UK's leading professional body for building services engineering contractors, commented: "Starting a plumbing business is fairly simple but there are several key elements to consider. Competence is essential in the activities of work that the business will operate and proof of this must be demonstrated by holding a minimum NVQ level 2 in plumbing. This qualification will then play a vital role in the process of achieving Building Regulation compliance using a CPS (Competent Person Scheme) such as BESCA (Building Engineering Services Competence Accreditation) by self certification."
He continued: "The benefit of using such a scheme is that the home owner will not only benefit from a quality installation but will have important Building Regulation Compliance Certificates for installations such as bathrooms, showers and hot water cylinders. This may prove valuable when ever selling the property in the future.
"The pitfall initially will obviously be the setting up cost. However, quality of installations, compliance and safe working practices must not be compromised. Starting out and setting up correctly will lead to a good name, referrals and repeat business with the option to progress into the heating and renewable technologies market."


What skills and qualifications will I need?

Most people start their own plumbing business after working as an employee for a plumbing company. In order to work as a plumber you will need to take an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) in plumbing. Starting at Level 2, this will teach you basic household plumbing and will involve both theoretical learning and practical on-the-job training. Once you have gained an NVQ Level 2 you can progress to Level 3, which teaches more advanced skills and is usually the level required to start your own plumbing business. In addition it is essential to have knowledge of UK Water Regulations and Building Regulations. If you wish to expand your business into other areas such as gas or electricity, you must be registered and qualified under the appropriate scheme (e.g. CORGI).

Generally speaking, you will need to be a highly motivated individual and you mustn’t be afraid of getting your hands dirty. You will also need to have a good attention to detail and be highly flexible and calm under pressure. Plumbers have to deal with many varied situations and scenarios, some of which obviously require rapid action. You should be highly personable too as you will be dealing with clients on a day-to-day basis.

If you don’t want to do the plumbing yourself then you could also consider taking on qualified staff to do the work while you concentrate on managing and growing the business.


As a plumbing business you will need to take out public liability and product liability insurance. This will protect you against damage caused during any works you carry out. If you intend to employ staff, you will also need employers liability insurance. Plumbing can be a risky business as far as insurers are concerned so premiums can be expensive. Consider using the services of an insurance broker who can often negotiate a better premium on behalf of your company.

Start-up costs

Obviously you will need to invest money in plumbing equipment and tools. Aside from this, it is essential to have a reliable vehicle to travel around in. This could either be purchased or leased depending on which you find to be most cost effective – and you’ll need to allocate some money towards painting it in your company colour scheme. You will also need to spend some money on marketing and branding. This could include a basic website, advertisements in the Yellow Pages and trade directories, as well as branding your vehicle.

Plumbers rely heavily on their reputation so it is worth becoming certified and joining trade membership schemes such as the CIPHE (The Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering) and CHAS (Construction Health & Safety Scheme). Displaying these logos can definitely help you to portray a professional image and give reassurance to your clients as to the quality of your work. In addition, certain schemes can help you to find work and provide assistance in managing your business and keeping abreast of changes in legislation.

Your next steps

Conduct some market research and seek out which plumbing services are most in demand within your area. Consider the competition too - as mentioned earlier, the market for emergency plumbing services is saturated in some areas for example, whilst in others there is room to grow a very successful business specialising in emergency call outs. In addition, contact the CIPHE and find out more about plumbing qualifications and legislation.