People picture the Wild West when they think of Texas, and it turns out they’re not wrong. Not only do cowboy hats and tumbleweeds really exist in the Lone Star State, but their professional licensing requirements are often more lax than the tight regulations that exist elsewhere.
In short: You don’t need a Texas handyman license.
Of course, the more complicated truth is that while there aren’t statewide handyman license requirements in Texas, many major cities do have requirements to run a handyman business or take on complicated home system repairs and renovations. Let’s discuss what it takes to be a handyman in Texas and when you do need to get a license to be a Mr. or Ms. Fix It.
You do not need a Texas handyman license, but some jobs will require specialty licenses. You will need a license to work on specific systems, like plumbing and HVAC but not to do generalized repairs or make aesthetic changes.
Here are some examples of what you can typically do with and without a speciality license in Texas:
Types of work that can be completed without registering with the city or applying for a license include:
Painting the interior or exterior of a home
Repairing home siding
Building and installing custom furniture
Fixing door screens and locks
Keep in mind that these are general guidelines, and some cities and counties are stricter than others. When in doubt, check with your local municipality to see what work constitutes contracting and requires you to apply for a license.
Beyond the types of basic repairs listed above, you will probably need a specialty license. Local municipalities grant these licenses. Here are some specialities for which you need a license before making any repairs:
Fire Sprinkler Installation
Well Water Services
The costs of a speciality license vary by city in Texas. Here are some examples of what you can expect when you apply for a license or a license renewal:
Dallas: The cost of a contractor registration (and annual renewal) is $120.
San Antonio: If you’re doing non-structural work on a home (replacing doors and installing outdoor swimming pools), you need to register as a Home Improvement Contractor. The cost of registration and renewal is $150. Any work involving structural changes to a home requires a Home Builder Contractor registration for an annual cost of $170.
Austin: General contractors do not need a license in Austin, but they must register with the city before they pull their first permit. You can download the free permit form here. Use the city’s official Residential Building Plan Review and Permit Fees schedule to learn more about the typical costs.
Houston: There is no general business or general contractor license required in Houston. Per the city, permits are always pulled on a job-by-job basis. Permit fees are assessed based on the valuation of the property. For instance, for properties valued up to $150,000, the permit cost is $40.86 for the first $7,000 and $4.66 for every $1,000 in additional valuation. Review the full permit fee schedule for more information.
There isn’t a handyman license requirement in the Lone Star State. However, if you want to expand your business offerings beyond painting fences and repairing porch swings, there are licensing requirements for handyman-related fields.
A quick disclaimer before we begin: The future of plumbing licenses in Texas is in flux as of mid-2019. In May of 2019, the state legislature eliminated the state plumbing code and made plans for a wind down of the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners. However, the governor later extended operation of the board through May 2021. While the future of the plumbing licensure in Texas is uncertain, for the short term, you can rely on current licensing requirements.
Here is what you need to know about the of the most common handyman-related licenses in Texas: plumbing, electrical, and HVAC.
We’ll begin with the (similar) processes for plumbers and electricians:
1. Become an Apprentice: Texas trade apprentices are beginners in their field. They may need a high school diploma, but apprenticeship doesn’t require a college education. An employer must sponsor you, and you must register with the state (or a local municipality). You work under a Master Plumber or a Master Electrician. The fee for the application is around $20.
2. Become a Journeyman: Once you have 8,000 hours of experience, you can apply for a Journeyman license. At this level of licensing, you need a high school diploma or GED. You’ll need to take and pass an official exam. Plumber Journeyman candidates also must complete 48 hours of approved course training.
3. Become a Master Plumber or Electrician: After you’re a Journeyman for at least one year you can sit for the Master Plumber exam. To sit for the Master Electrician exam, you must have a Journeyman license for two years and have least 12,000 certified hours of experience working under a Master or Master Sign Electrician.
You can find electrician licensing forms for the state of Texas here. The cost to take both portions of the master exam is $78. Plumbing licensure forms and applications for the state of Texas are available here, and the cost to take the master exam is $175.
To become a licensed HVAC home service professional or handyman in Texas, here is what you need to know:
HVAC requirements are divided into two main sections: licensing and exams. To be eligible for licensure, you need:
A minimum of 48 months of practical experience in air-conditioning and refrigeration-related work under the supervision of a licensed air conditioning and refrigeration contractor in the past 72 months, OR
A technician certification that you’ve held for the past 12 months along with a minimum of 36 months of practical experience in air-conditioning and refrigeration-related work under the supervision of a licensed air conditioning and refrigeration contractor (within the last 48 months).
You may claim an exception to the above rules if you have a degree or certification in HVAC, have a degree in mechanical engineering, or have military training in air conditioning or refrigeration.
Once you apply for the license, the state board will send you information about taking the official exam. HVAC licenses are divided into two classes, each having their own exam. The Class A license allows you to work on units of any size, while a Class B license allows you to work on cooling systems of 25 tons and under and heating systems of 1.5 million BTUs/hour and under.
You must pass the exam with a score of 70% or above. Class A exams cost $74 and Class B exams cost $60.
Whether you’re officially licensed or not, there are job opportunities for handyman work and trade careers in Texas. Many local government post opportunities online. For instance, Austin posts electrician job openings on their official website. If you went through an apprenticeship program, leveraging your relationships with former mentors is often an effective way to seek a job.
For an unlicensed handyman, building a reputation on Yelp or Angie’s List could be your best avenue to find new work if you’re new to an area.
Your out-of-state license may not be required in Texas, but you can certainly use it to advertise your expertise and earn new business. For careers that require sitting for a licensure exam, you may be able to use your license in other places.
Plumbing: Texas considers reciprocity on a case-by-case basis for plumbers with an out-of-state license. You also may use a plumbing license elsewhere, but you would have to check with your new state’s plumbing board.
Electrical: Texas has Master Electrician reciprocity with North Carolina and Louisiana, and Journeyman Electrician reciprocity with Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
HVAC: Texas has reciprocity with Georgia and South Carolina.
Most trade licenses are renewed annually in Texas. Renewals are done online through the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration. You can find many renewal forms (including those for electricians and AC professionals) on their website. You can renew a plumbing license through the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners online as well. Lost your license? You can order a duplicate.
Once you’re licensed and ready to run your own business, you’ll need help with everything from scheduling to invoicing. Let Housecall Pro take on some of the busy work, so you can perform the hard work.
New to the Handyman industry and looking to get licensed, or already a seasoned veteran and want to take your business to the next level? Find out more about Housecall Pro’s all-in-one Handyman Software.