In the state of Iowa, plumbing is a regulated trade, requiring proper licensure for individuals to legally perform work. This comprehensive guide provides an in-depth look at the steps and requirements for plumbers to establish eligibility, apply for their plumbing license, and renew their plumbing license in Iowa. It also outlines license bond requirements and insurance needs for plumbers in the state.

Understanding the Licensing Requirements

In Iowa, anyone working in the plumbing trade is required to be licensed by the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board. The board issues trade licenses to plumbers, HVAC-refrigeration, sheet metal, hydronic, and mechanical professionals. There are different levels of licensure, each with its own set of requirements:

  • Apprentice: An apprentice is someone who is learning and assisting in the design, installation, and repair of plumbing systems under the supervision of a master or journeyperson. As an apprentice, you’re expected to progress towards completion of an apprenticeship training program registered by the Office of Apprenticeship of the United States Department of Labor.
  • Journeyperson: A journeyperson is someone who works under the direction of a master in the design, installation, and repair of plumbing systems. To become a journeyperson, you must have completed an apprenticeship and passed the journeyperson examination.
  • Master: A master is someone who works in the planning or superintending of the design, installation, or repair of plumbing systems. Masters are expected to be familiar with the laws and rules governing the trade. To become a master, you must have worked as a journeyperson for a certain number of years and passed the master examination.

Education and Training Requirements

Before you can apply for a plumbing license in Iowa, you must complete the required education and training. This typically involves enrolling in a state-approved apprenticeship program, which combines classroom instruction with on-the-job training. Here’s what you need to know about these programs:

  • Apprenticeship Programs: These programs are designed to provide you with the practical skills and knowledge necessary to become a competent plumber. They combine classroom instruction with on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced plumbers. The duration of an apprenticeship program can vary, but most last between 2 to 5 years.
  • Classroom Instruction: As part of your apprenticeship, you’ll be required to complete a certain number of hours of classroom instruction. These classes cover a wide range of topics, including plumbing codes and regulations, blueprint reading, safety practices, and the principles of plumbing design and installation.
  • On-the-Job Training: In addition to classroom instruction, you’ll also receive practical training on the job. This gives you the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom in a real-world setting. You’ll work under the supervision of a master or journeyperson plumber, who will guide you and provide feedback on your work.

Examination Requirements

After completing your apprenticeship, you must pass the required examinations to become a licensed plumber. The exams test your knowledge of plumbing codes, installation procedures, and safety practices. Here’s what you can expect:

  • Journeyperson Examination: This exam tests your knowledge and skills at the journeyperson level. You’ll be tested on a variety of topics, including plumbing codes, installation procedures, and safety practices. You must pass this exam to become a licensed journeyperson plumber.
  • Master Examination: This exam is more advanced and tests your knowledge and skills at the master level. It covers similar topics as the journeyperson exam, but in more depth. You must pass this exam to become a licensed master plumber.

Applying for Your Plumbing License

Once you have passed the required examinations, you can apply for your plumbing license. The application process involves several steps:

  • Submit an Application Form: You can obtain an application form from the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board. The form requires you to provide personal information, details about your education and training, and proof of passing your examinations.
  • Pay the Required Fees: There are fees associated with applying for a plumbing license. These fees cover the cost of processing your application and issuing your license.
  • Provide Proof of Education, Training, and Examination Results: You’ll need to provide proof that you’ve completed the required education and training and that you’ve passed the required examinations. This typically involves submitting copies of your certificates of completion and examination results.

Maintaining and Renewing Your Plumbing License

In Iowa, all individual and contractor licenses will expire on June 30, 2023. Licensees can begin to renew on May 1, 2023. Licenses can be renewed without penalty until July 31, 2023. Here’s what you need to know about the renewal process:

  • Continuing Education Units (CEUs): To renew your license, you’ll need to complete a certain number of CEUs. These are educational activities that help you keep your knowledge and skills up to date. Up to half of the CEUs can be completed online, and at least half of the CEUs must be in-person.
  • Renewal Fees: There are fees associated with renewing your license. These fees cover the cost of processing your renewal application and issuing your new license.
  • Renewal Application: To renew your license, you’ll need to submit a renewal application to the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board. This application requires you to provide information about your CEUs and pay the renewal fees.

Plumbing License Reciprocity in Iowa

In the plumbing industry, license reciprocity refers to the agreement between states that allows a licensed plumber in one state to practice in another without needing to pass additional examinations. However, not all states have reciprocity agreements, and the specifics can vary widely.

For Iowa, the state does not have a broad reciprocity agreement with other states for plumbing licenses. This means that if you are a licensed plumber in another state and wish to practice in Iowa, you will need to apply for a license in Iowa and meet all the state’s requirements, including passing the state examination.

License Bond Requirements in Iowa

In Iowa, before you can receive your plumbing license, you must first secure a contractor surety bond. This bond is a type of insurance that protects your clients. If you fail to fulfill your contractual obligations, your client can make a claim against your bond. The bond company will then compensate your client for any financial loss up to the bond’s full amount.

The bond amount for plumbing contractors in Iowa is $5,000. This bond must be maintained for the duration of your license. If the bond is cancelled or expires, your license will also be cancelled. It’s important to work with a reputable surety bond company to ensure you meet this requirement.

Insurance Needs for Plumbers in Iowa

Insurance is a crucial aspect of running a successful plumbing business in Iowa. It protects your business from potential lawsuits, damage, and financial liabilities. Here are some types of insurance that you should consider:

  • General Liability Insurance: This covers third-party claims of bodily injury, property damage, and personal and advertising injury. For instance, if a client trips over a pipe you put on the floor while repairing a sink and breaks their wrist, this policy would cover their medical expenses, as well as any legal or settlement fees if they file a lawsuit against you.
  • Professional Liability Insurance: This covers claims of professional negligence, error, breach of contract, or failure to deliver a service on time. If you make a mistake in the installation that causes the system to fail, the owner could sue you for the error. This policy would cover your legal and settlement costs associated with the lawsuit.
  • Business Property Insurance: This covers business property or buildings that are damaged by certain accidents, weather events, or other hazards. If a fire breaks out in your office and destroys all of your plumbing equipment, your business property insurance would cover the costs to replace it.
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance: This covers medical expenses of employees who are injured or get sick while at work. Most U.S. states, including Iowa, require employers to have workers’ comp for their employees.
  • Commercial Auto Insurance: This covers vehicles that you use for business purposes, such as driving to plumbing projects. It covers accident-related expenses resulting from injuries, death, or property damage.
  • Product Liability Insurance: This covers claims of physical injury or property damage as a result of a defective or flawed product, such as pipes, tubes, or tanks.
  • Tools and Equipment Insurance: This covers the cost to repair or replace equipment that is damaged or stolen.

Remember, the cost of your insurance will depend on various factors such as your business location, the number of employees, the nature of your plumbing work, your claims history, and the amount of coverage you need. It’s recommended to work with an insurance agent who understands the local business landscape to identify specialized needs you may have for insurance coverage to meet local regulations. If you’re looking for detailed information on the costs associated with plumbing insurance in Iowa, consider reading this Iowa Plumbing Insurance Guide & Quotes article for a comprehensive view.


Becoming a licensed plumber in Iowa requires a significant investment of time and effort, but it can be a rewarding career path. By understanding the licensing requirements and following the steps outlined in this guide, you can start your journey towards becoming a licensed plumber in Iowa.

For more information, contact the Iowa Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board office at 1-866-280-1521 or submit your questions to

Please note that this guide is for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional legal advice. Always consult with a licensed attorney or professional advisor to discuss any legal or financial issues involved with starting and running your business.