Last Updated April 4, 2016
Any contractor or homeowner hiring a contractor needs to know the licensing requirements for your state.
Otherwise, you could be facing fines, removal of your project without compensation, or a dangerous situation at your home. Contractors can face jail time, and unlicensed contractors may not have any legal recourse if their client refuses to pay.
In general, licenses are needed for the following:
- Commercial contracting
- Residential contracting
- Asbestos/hazardous waste remediation
- Department of Transportation (road work)
Some states have dollar amounts for determining which jobs you must have a license for. This is the total cost of the job including labor, materials, etc. If no dollar amount is listed, then there is no minimum or maximum.
Licensed vs. Registered
Some states require licensing while others require registration. The difference between the two is this:
- Licensing involves passing exams and meeting certain criteria to prove reasonable competency in a trade.
- Registration is a written record of who is performing the work. It doesn’t guarantee expertise or competency.
Find Your State Requirements:
Alabama requires a license for general contractors and subcontractors if the project cost, including labor, is at least $50,000.00 for commercial and industrial jobs, $10,000.00 for residential jobs, and $5,000.00 for swimming pools.
License search: http://genconbd.alabama.gov/DATABASE-SQL/roster.aspx
Alaska requires a separate license for commercial and residential contractors. Non-residential contractors aren’t required to take an exam, but residential contractors need to complete the Alaska Craftsman Home Program or post-secondary course in Arctic engineering, followed up by an Endorsement Application for Residential Construction.
Plumbers, electricians, and those who work with asbestos abatement, hazardous paint, boilers, and explosives must also have a Certificate of Fitness for the Trades.
Arizona has separate licenses for commercial and residential work, and also has dual licensing to cover both on one license. Residential construction is defined as houses, townhomes, condos, cooperative units, and apartments with four units or fewer. A license is necessary to bid on jobs of $750.00 or more.
License search: http://www.azroc.gov/forms/contractorsearch.html
A homeowner in Arkansas doesn’t need a license to do the work himself or herself. However, a contractor (if used) must be licensed if the work, including labor and material, exceeds $2,000.00. Subcontractors working for a licensed contractor do not need their own license. However, if the general contractor is not licensed, then the subcontractor does need their own license.
License search: http://aclb2.arkansas.gov/clbsearch.php
In general, California requires a license for jobs exceeding $500.00 whether on a single project or on multiple projects totaling this amount.
General contractors are not licensed by Colorado. Rather, they are licensed locally. Electrical and plumbing contractors, however, are licensed by the state. Contractors are required to get a business license, but not every contractor is required to get a contractor’s license. Local regulations should be checked.
Connecticut differentiates between “major contractor” from “minor contractor”. A major contractor is licensed to work on institutional residences (care homes, jails, etc.), hotels/motels, multi-family residences, and other large sites. A minor contractor is licensed to work on private homes and small multi-family units. A license is needed if the job exceeds $200.00 for a single job or if the yearly work exceeds $1,000.00 total.
License search: https://www.elicense.ct.gov/Lookup/LicenseLookup.aspx
Delaware requires a license for jobs exceeding $50,000.00. Digging a water well and/or installing a pump requires a separate license in Delaware.
Calculate house water pump costs using our Replacement Well Pump Cost Guide.
Florida has two license types: registered and certified. A registered contractor is licensed to work at the local level, while a certified contractor can take work anywhere in the state. Irrigation contracting is considered a specialty license and require that specific license.
License search: https://www.myfloridalicense.com/wl11.asp?mode=0&SID=
Georgia requires a license for work on detached single-family or two-family homes or single-family townhomes less than four stories tall, and for projects exceeding $2,500.00. A contractor must also take the Georgia Business Law exam.
License search: http://publicrecords.onlinesearches.com/view/lid/49531
Hawaii requires a licensed contractor for jobs exceeding $1,000.00 and/or requiring permits. Electrical and plumbing licenses are required for jobs involving those specific trades. General engineering contractors are needed for land levelling, sewers, excavations, and paving. General building contractors are needed for building structures such as additions and new construction.
License search: http://cca.hawaii.gov/rico/business_online/
Idaho doesn’t license general contractors at the state level. However, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, well drillers, fire sprinkler systems, and public works contractors are licensed by the state. General contractors are licensed at the local level.
Aside from public works and roofing, Illinois doesn’t issue contractor licenses. Requirements must be checked at the local level.
Indiana only licenses plumbers at the state level. All others should be checked locally.
License search: https://mylicense.in.gov/everification/Search.aspx
Iowa requires that all construction contractors be registered with the Iowa Division of labor only if their work will earn $2,000.00 for that year. “Construction” includes new construction, building alterations, and home improvement projects.
License search: http://www2.iwd.state.ia.us/contractor.nsf
Kansas only licenses water well drillers and asbestos abatement contractors. All others are handled at the local level.
Kentucky only licenses electrical, plumbing, and HVAC contractors. A homeowner can perform his or her own plumbing work with the proper permits, but for safety’s sake HVAC and electrical require a licensed contractor. Kentucky has HVAC reciprocity with Ohio.
License search: https://ky.joportal.com/License/Search
Louisiana requires a building contractor be registered if construction work exceeds $75,000.00. Home improvement and repair contractor limits are between $7,500.00 and $75,000.00. If a repair or improvement exceeds this limit, the home improvement contractor must register as a building contractor.
License search: http://www.lslbc.louisiana.gov/contractor-search/
Maine only licenses plumbing, electrical, and asbestos abatement contractors. Although general contractors need not be licensed, a business license is still required.
Maryland licenses plumbers (including gas fitters), electricians, HVAC, and home improvement contractors. They must have an MHIC license.
License search: http://www.dllr.state.md.us/pq/
Massachusetts requires anyone supervising or performing construction work to be licensed.
License search: http://elicense.chs.state.ma.us/Verification/Search.aspx
Michigan requires all contractors to be licensed.
License search: http://www.dleg.state.mi.us/verify.htm
Residential roofers, remodelers, and builders must be licensed if gross receipts equal at least $15,000.00. Plumbers are licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health, electricians by the Board of Electricity. HVAC contractors are licensed at the local level.
License search: https://secure.doli.state.mn.us/lookup/licensing.aspx
Any project exceeding $500.00 requires a contractor license.
Missouri requires licensing only for work done in towns that exceed a population of 15,000.
A construction contractor or subcontractor must register with Montana’s department of Labor and Industry only if they have employees. Electricians and plumbers are required to be licensed regardless of number of employees.
Independent contractors license search: http://erd.dli.mt.gov/work-comp-regulations/montana-contractor/icec-search
Builders, plumbers, renovators, and HVAC contractors do not need licenses, but they do require registration if the contract exceeds $2,500.00. Electricians must be licensed with the Nebraska State Electrical Division. Counties with populations of 100,000 or more require a business license.
License search: http://www.nebraska.gov/sed/search/index.cgi
Nevada requires all contractors have a license regardless of the contract.
License search: https://www.nvcontractorsboard.com/datamart/nvscbSearchType.do
New Hampshire only licenses asbestos and lead abatement contractors, plumbers, and electricians. For electrical work, license requirements are determined by the type of circuit. Signaling circuits such as fire alarms do not require a license for installation. Circuits for heat, light, or power do require a license.
License search: https://nhlicenses.nh.gov/MyLicense%20Verification/
New Jersey home builders and home repair contractors must be registered with the state. Electricians, plumbers, and home improvement contractors must be licensed. Home repair contractors dealing in cash payments over a period of 90 days or less do not need licenses.
License search: https://newjersey.mylicense.com/verification/
All contractors in New Mexico must be licensed with the state regardless of the contract.
License search: https://public.psiexams.com/search.jsp
Asbestos abatement is the only contract work licensed at the state level in New York. All others are handled at the local level.
North Carolina requires a general contractor’s license for jobs costing $30,000.00 or more. All electricians, plumbers, HVAC, and fire sprinkler contractors must be licensed.
License search, general contractor: http://www.nclbgc.net/lic_fr.html
License search, plumbing, heating, fire sprinklers: https://onlineweb.nclicensing.org/Lookup/LicenseLookup.aspx
License search, electrician: https://lookup.ncbeec.org/Lookup/LicenseLookup.aspx/
North Dakota requires a license for any job costing $4,000.00 or more.
License search: https://apps.nd.gov/sc/busnsrch/busnSearch.htm
General contractors are licensed at the local level. Electrical, plumbing, HVAC, refrigeration, and hydronics are licensed at the state level regardless of contract.
License lookup: http://publicrecords.onlinesearches.com/view/lid/6354
Oklahoma licenses plumbers, electricians, and mechanical (HVAC) contractors. General contractors are licensed at the local level.
License lookup: http://cibverify.ok.gov/
Oregon requires a license for anyone performing construction activity for compensation. The exceptions are handyman projects totaling less than $1,000.00 and being “casual, minor, or inconsequential in nature”.
License lookup: http://search.ccb.state.or.us/search/
Pennsylvania only licenses asbestos and lead abatement contractors at the state level. All others are locally licensed.
Rhode Island requires registration with the Contractor’s Registration Board for building, repairing, or remodeling 1- to 4-family residences. Electricians, plumbers, and HVAC contractors must be licensed.
License search: http://www.crb.ri.gov/search.php
South Carolina requires a license for residential work totaling over $200.00.
License search: https://verify.llronline.com/LicLookup/Resbu/Resbu.aspx?div=46
South Dakota only licenses plumbers, electricians, and asbestos abatement contractors. General contractors are licensed at the local level.
Tennessee requires a license for bidding on jobs exceeding $25,000.00, and on masonry work exceeding $100,000.00.
License search: http://verify.tn.gov/
Only specialty contractors, including HVAC, fire sprinkler systems, plumbing, and well drilling/pump installation specialists, need to be licensed in Texas.
Utah requires all contractors be licensed at the state level regardless of the size of contract. There are over 50 classifications of licenses.
License search: https://secure.utah.gov/llv/search/index.html#
Vermont licenses general contractors or home improvement contractors at the local level. Plumbing/HVAC and electrical contractors are licensed at the state level.
License search: http://firesafety.vermont.gov/building_trades
Tradesman licenses are required for electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and all gas fitting. Construction contractors are licensed by the Virginia Board for Contractors at three levels:
- Class A: Single contracts at $70,000.00 or more, or $500,000.00 in a single year.
- Class B: Single contracts at $7,500.00 to less than $70,000.00, or $150,000.00 to less than $500,000.00 in a single year.
- Class C: Single contracts at $1,000.00 to less than $7,500.00, or less than $150,000.00 in a single year.
License search: http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/
General and specialty contractors must be registered with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Electricians must be licensed and plumbers certified.
License search: http://publicrecords.onlinesearches.com/view/lid/508
General contractors are not required to be licensed, but any subcontractors must be even if the general contractor is licensed. DC has project cost limits according to license class:
- A – No limit
- B – $10,000,000.00
- C – $5,000,000.00
- D – $2,000,000.00
- E – $500,000.00
Plumbers license search: https://www.asisvcs.com/services/licensing/DCOPLA/search_page.asp?CPCAT=4909STATEREG
Electricians license search:
HVAC contractors license search:
All contractors and subcontractors must be licensed if the work performed is $2,500.00 or more. Plumbers and HVAC contractors must be certified.
License search: http://www.wvlabor.com/newwebsite/Pages/contractor_searchNEW.cfm
Plumber certification search: http://www.wvlabor.com/newwebsite/Pages/plumber_searchNEW.cfm
HVAC certification search: http://www.wvlabor.com/newwebsite/Pages/plumber_searchNEW.cfm
Plumbing, electrical, HVAC and building contractors must apply for credentials at the state level. Building contractors must have a Dwelling Contractor Certification and a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier Certification to pull permits.
License search: https://app.wi.gov/licensesearch
Only electricians are licensed at the state level. All others are licensed at the local level. Inspectors are not guaranteed on every permitted electrical project, but they may be specifically requested if you want to be assured of an inspection.
Electrician licenses are checked by calling 307-777-7288.