How to become a licensed plumber in Minnesota

Minnesota has a lot of great things going for it, including having highly qualified plumbers. Our state is one of the few states in the country requiring its plumbers to have a license. And this is a good thing – it ensures the plumber entering your home is both qualified and competent.

However, if you’re looking to become a plumber in Minnesota, it involves a bit more leg work, but don’t let the process turn you away. If you’re serious about making plumbing your next career move, it can be both fulfilling and financially rewarding. Here’s how to become a licensed plumber in the state of Minnesota.

Step #1: High school diploma or GED

Having either your high school diploma or your GED is required before you do anything else towards your goal of becoming a plumber. It’s also a good idea to take any plumbing classes if they’re offered at your school, to give you a jump start on plumbing skills before you graduate.

Step #2: Apprentice for 4 years minimum

In Minnesota, you must work alongside a qualified plumber for 4 to 5 years to learn the necessary skills and apprenticeship programs are offered in every city. Once you’re ready and have your high school diploma, register with the Construction Codes and Licensing Division of Minnesota or with the Apprenticeship Training Program with Minnesota’s Department of Labor (the cost is $30.00 to register).

Registering with these two places will help you find a local union or independent contractor who will take you on as a apprentice. Also, before you are given an apprentice, you must pass an assessment test, take part in an interview and pass a state-mandated drug test. Once you secure an apprenticeship, plan on doing it for at least 4 to 5 years, and expect a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on training.

Step #3: Journeyman license

After you’ve apprenticeship ends, you’re ready to get your journeyman plumber license; the first official license plumbers can apply for. The license itself costs $55.00 and you must pay a nonrefundable $50.00 application fee (to take the exam). In order to get this license, you must have at least 7,000 hours of practical experience as an apprentice and make sure that a single year does not exceed 1750 hours.

The hours are broken down as follows: 1,000 hours on fixture installation, 2,000 hours of drain, waste and vent system installation, 2,000 hours of water distribution system installation and 2,000 hours of general plumbing work. And another cool thing about Minnesota – once you get your journeyman license you can work in both North and South Dakota.

Step #4: Master license

For most, once they receive their journeyman license they’re content and work with just that. But for those with dreams of starting their own plumbing business, a master license is required. To become a master plumber in Minnesota, five years experience is a must, as well as a journeyman plumber license and three notarized references. To take the master license test, the cost is $120. Also, you must supply proof of a secured $25,000 code compliance bond.

And two more important things to know. Exams are only offered in March and September each year, and at three locations, so plan ahead. Also, journeyman and master plumber licenses have short life spans and expire at the end of each year. Always make sure you renew license in time so you can keep working without any hiccups.

Remodeling? Installing hydronic floor heating easier than ever

If you live in Minnesota, having toasty warm floors is a must, and one of the best ways to keep those pesky floors warm? Hydronic radiant floor heating – pipes that are laid under the floor, and filled with hot water. But don’t think this type of flooring is impossible just because your home is already built. Thanks to exciting installation advances, hydronic floor heating is no longer for only new construction homes.

Before these advancements, hydronic radiant floor heating required the pipes to be laid directly in the cement (under the flooring), which of course was the easiest to do when building a home from the ground up. However, we are now in a new era of hydronic floor heating thanks to the invention of a wooden base, known as either low mass hydronic floor heating or a modular board underlayment system.

How it works

Instead of installing hot water pipes directly into the cement (which was how hydronic floor heating was done for years), a wooden base is instead laid over the cement floor, making the installation process perfect for remodeling and pre-existing rooms. And there are loads of pros to having this installation as well. It has a superior responsiveness, it emits heat upwards quicker than a cement installation, and it’s also more efficient (financially and environmentally), and can operate at lower temperatures.

Once the wood base is installed, the hot water pipes are snapped into place (in the base). And since low mass floor heating tends to be physically closer to the actual flooring (compared to the cement installation), your rooms will heat up quicker, saving you money. This also means almost any kind of flooring can be installed over your in floor heat. Wood flooring conducts the heat the best, and tile and vinyl are good too. Carpet also works ok with hydronic radiant floor heat, although it’s considered the least effective flooring for conducting heat.

Excited to finally install hydronic floor heating now that it‘s possible? There are several manufacturers making this flooring, including Warmzo, Thermalboard and InFloor. And don’t forget, you’ll need the help of a qualified plumber to make sure both the flooring AND piping is installed correctly (for minimal maintenance down the line).

Sealed combustion water heaters saving lives

Up until 6 years ago, if you were in the market for a new gas water heater, a traditional gas water heater (with a draft hood) was the way to go. This was considered the standard in water heaters, the water heater you’d find in most homes.

Most of these water heaters used gas (not oil), and despite having to be replaced ever 10 – 15 years, they proved to be a great solution for domestic water heating needs. However, there was one glaring drawback: Standard water heaters with a draft hood had a bad reputation, and that was for being deadly.

This style had one defining feature – an open gas flame was exposed. While this made it easier to reach for maintenance, it also made it ten time more dangerous. With the flame exposed, multiple water heater explosions occurred. It also caused several deaths since so many water heaters are kept in garages (where guys hanging out happens a lot).

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 however changed the whole water heater scene, making things a lot safer. Instead of allowing traditional gas water heaters with draft hoods to be installed in residential homes, they made instead made sealed-combustion water heaters the new legal standard.

And what’s different about sealed combustion water heaters (also known as direct vented, power vented or induced draft combustion water heaters) is that they’re considered much safer because of the way air gets to the flame. In a sealed combustion water heater, air is supplied directly to the water heater via a duct so it’s able to prevent spillage and backdrafting of natural gas, which was the cause of those pesky explosions.

If you’re searching for a safe, sealed combustion water heater and live in the North Metro of the Twin Cities, please call Paul the Plumber for more information.

How underfloor heating works

A nice money saver (about 20% is saved on heating bills) and a thriving green heating option, underfloor heating is a method of heating many homeowners are increasingly becoming more interested in. There are dozens of pros, and few cons.

It frees up space on the wall since it eliminates the need for radiators, it reduces condensation and dust circulation in the home since it emits a water-based heat. And it’s easier to install that you might think. ask magic 8 ball . If you’re thinking about installing underfloor heating and want to know how it works, here’s a easy explanation.

Lay the piping: The first step in installing underfloor heating is laying plastic pipes under the floor. It should be installed at even spaces throughout the floor and in a sand and cement mixture. Insulation is also put underneath the piping to make sure no heat is lost downward (common in Minnesota).

Fill with water: After the piping is laid, the pipes are connected to a broiler or heat pump. Once the water is heated, it goes through a stainless steel manifold, which is needed for the water to be able to enter the pipes in the floor. This manifold is considered the hub of your underfloor heating. It also controls the flow of water in your pipes, the temperature of the water and the direction of the water.

Self-adjusting temperature: The reason home owners save on their heating bill with this kind of heating is because the temperature of the water used in underfloor heating is cooler than the temperature required for standard/furnace heat, and is usually around 2° less.

And the system also helps save by self-regulating the temperature of the water. The manifold can sense when the temperature of the water begins to drop. When it does, the system turns on to pump more hot water into the pipes. The typical temperature acheived with underfloor heating is a comfortable 75-82°.

Remember, the kind of flooring you choose when installing underfloor heating is also important. Tile, stone and concrete work great with underfloor heating, and no wood floors thicker than 22m or carpets thicker than 1.5 tog should be used.

For information on installing underfloor heating if your home is in the north metro Twin Cities, Minnesota, please call Paul the Plumber for more information.

Top 4 Toilet Manufacturers

The throne, the john, whatever you like to call it, the toilet is one the most used seats in the house. If you’re thinking about remodeling your bathroom, or maybe you toilet has seen better days, getting a toilet from a reputable, quality manufacturer is a smart decision for every homeowner. Don’t go into the plumbing section unprepared. Here are the top four top toilet manufacturers in the industry.


Mansfield been around since 1929 and they sell over 24 different toilet models. They’re known for their Designer Suite toilets (a variety of styles with different colors and finishes), as well as their high efficiency toilets. And if you’re thinking about getting a high efficiency toilet (a great way to save on your water bill) their EcoQuantum and QuantumOne models can‘t be beat. The EcoQuantum includes dual-flush technology, which is a+ huge water saver. Mansfield toilets are also a great choice if you’re looking for high-performing flush systems or pressure-assisted flush.

American Standard Companies

American Standard has also has been around since 1929 (when the American Radiator Company and Standard Sanitary Manufacturing Company merged) and is another top toilet company. They offer one of the largest selections of toilets and they have the latest toilet advancements installed in their products. For example, they offer a “plunge free” toilet, their Townsend Champion Right-Height Elongated toilet, which never clogs. And another nice bonus – their toilets are easy to clean and install.


TOTO is one of the first toilet manufacturers from Japan and they’re considered one of the most high-end toilets in the world. They’re known for almost never clogging, rarely needing repair and when they refill they’re whisper quiet. TOTO’s Drake toilet is a great choice too. It is one of their more inexpensive toilets, yet it still has a powerful flush (this is a great option for homes with low water pressure).


Kohler has been making bath products since 1873 they’re known for making high quality toilets that are affordable (mid-range prices). They do however have a high-end toilet, the Purist Hatbox Toilet, that has a unique minimalist design. It has no tank and looks like like a hat box. It also has an electronic soft touch activation, a 12 inch elongated bowl and every woman’s favorite – a self-closing seat.

The toilet may seem like a nondescript item in your home, but as it is with most things in life, going with a reputable brand is always a smart decision.

5 Fall Plumbing Tips Every Homeowner Should Know

It’s a great time of year. Football just started, fall colors will soon be in full swing and if you own a home, it’s also the perfect time of year to get your home ready for cooler temps. When it comes to plumbing, colder temps can cause several problems, but only if you don’t prepare your home. Here are the top five things every homeowner should before – gasp – the snow flies.

5. Disconnect water hoses

Any garden hoses or outdoor hoses should be disconnected once near-freezing temps hit. Also, drain all the water out to prevent them from splitting in freezing temps. If you leave a hose connected during the winter, the water will freeze and expand, causing your faucets and the connecting pipes inside of your home to freeze and break. You can still use your hose in the fall, just make sure to turn off the water and drain the water out after each use.

4. Check outdoor faucets for leaks

Another easy thing to get your home prepped for winter is to check your outdoor faucets for any leaks and dripping. Leaks in an outdoor faucet can lead to frozen pipes inside of your home. If you see any leaks, call a professional to have it repaired.

3. Insulate exposed pipes

Make sure to go around your property, on the outside of your home, in your basement, in your garage and insulate any exposed pipes. Especially insulate any pipes near the outside walls if you live in states like Minnesota, where temperatures can get extremely cold. Heat tape is a great product to use for insulating exposed pipes.

2. Service septic tank and sewer system

Also, make sure to get your septic tank checked so it’s in good operating condition. It is much more expensive to fix if it breaks in the winter. And have your septic tank flushed, as well as your sewers snaked, which will remove any tree roots that grew over the summer.

1. Flush hot water heater

Your hot water heater works overtime each winter, so you need to get it ready to operate smoothly in colder temps. A good flush of the system should be done to remove sediment buildup, which if left, can shorten the life span of your hot water heater. Also make sure to adjust the temperature to around 120° Fahrenheit, which will give you plenty of hot water, but save you money.

It’s all about being prepared when it comes to saving money as a homeowner. Make sure to follow these plumbing guidelines each fall. I’ll help you save money by preventing larger (more expensive) issues from happening in the future.

Pros and Cons of Tankless Water Heaters

There’s a trend in the water heater on the scene and it’s more important than ever for homeowners to fully understand their options. Before, it was upright tank heaters that were the standard, now tankless water heaters are giving them a run for their money.

But…is switching to a tankless water heater always a good idea? From a comparison of the upfront costs to how much energy each uses, here’s a quick rundown of the pros and cons of tankless water heaters. Let’s start with the pros.

They take up less space: One of the most popular things about tankless water heaters is that they require much less space because of their small size. They’re about the size of a suitcase and are usually mounted on the wall.

Lower utility costs: One of the biggest differences of a tankless water heater is that it only heats the water you need when you need it (so you no longer have to pay the extra energy costs for it to heat all the water in the tank.

Federal tax credit: Tankless water heaters have been promoted by the government as part of their “green” objective since 2005 (thanks to how they promote lower energy costs). Depending on the tax bracket you fall in, you can receive up to a $1500 tax credit.

Now, let’s look at a few cons of the tankless water heater….

Bigger upfront costs: If you’re short on change, one of the biggest drawbacks of a tankless water heater is that it usually costs around 3 times as much as a standard tank water heater (for the initial purchase). While the long term energy savings can help balance this out, the higher price of a tankless heater is significant.

No reserve hot water: If you live in an area where the power goes out frequently, whether because of inclement weather or a not-so secure power grid, a tankless water heater can be a headache, since they don’t keep reserve hot water. However if you don’t mind not having hot water on-hand if your power goes out, then a tankless heater can work.

Requires more natural gas: Standard tank water heaters require natural gas to operate, but tankless water heaters require significantly more; around 3 times as much.

Whether you’re remodeling or just in need of a new water heater, remember that while both tank and tankless water heaters, they definitely have their differences. ask magic 8 ball China

Comfort Height toilets can be a lifesaver

Life can be quite the bumpy ride, and having limitations in mobility is one of those bumps many of us will at some point experience. But losing your mobility doesn’t mean you have to lose your independence, especially if you’re concerned with using the bathroom. The Comfort Height toilet is the toilet to consider if you are in need of a higher, better toilet.

You’ve probably used one of these toilets before and didn‘t even know it. Since the Comfort Height toilet sits higher from the ground than a standard toilet – 18” versus the usual 16” – it is the perfect solution for facilities wanting to offer universal accessibility. Most public restrooms have this high-quality toilet.

And the great news for homeowners is that the Comfort Height toilet can be installed easily in your bathroom at home. Here are the top reasons to consider the most easily accessible toilet available.

Easier to get on and off: Since the toilet sits 2” higher than a traditional toilet, a huge difference in getting on/off the toilet will be noticed. Two inches may not seem like a huge amount, but they can improve the independence for many.

Works great for grab bars: If you’re worried about your balance, the Comfort Height toilet is great if you want to install grab bars as well. Since it sits higher from the ground, there is more room around the toilet to install them. A quality plumber will be able to install these for you.

Flush-assist can be added: Another great thing about this toilet is that assisted flushing can be added. Assisted flush is a must-have option for anyone with limited hand function.

For more information on how long it takes to install a Comfort Height toilet and pricing, call your local friendly WBL plumber, who can help you with any of your questions.

How to Prevent Plumbing Pipes from Sweating

Every summer when the humidity rises, there’s a handful of things you should always keep in the back of your mind when it comes to the plumbing maintenance of your home. (more…)