Professional painting contractors are in high demand with people who lack the time and talents to undertake these projects themselves. If you have the skills to provide them with efficient and quality work, then starting a painting business might be a wise move.
But before you begin accepting residential or commercial painting contracts, you may need to get licensed first. Getting a painter and decorating contractor license varies from state to state. Many states require you to show proof of insurance as part of the licensing process, and some don’t require painters to have a license at all.
This guide covers painter license requirements in six states to help you kickstart your small business.
In Alabama, painters must be licensed for projects over $50,000. To bid on such projects, they need the Alabama Painting and Wall Covering contractor license. The process involves passing the Alabama business and law exams, administered by PSI Exams, and submitting a financial statement, proof of experience (three prior projects), and three reference letters. Additionally, proof of general liability insurance is required. The application fee is $300 for general contractors and $150 for subcontractors. After three years in good standing, contractors may seek reciprocity with Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
In Alaska, painting contractors can obtain one of three licenses: Specialty Contractor, General Contractor, or General Contractor with Residential Endorsement. The Specialty Contractor license limits work to commercial and residential structures, while the General Contractor license is for commercial buildings, excluding residential. The General Contractor with Residential Endorsement allows work on all commercial and residential buildings. Contractors performing residential improvements must be licensed by the Division of Corporations, Business, and Professional Licensing. Only the residential endorsement license requires pre-requisites. All license types necessitate a surety bond, but only the residential endorsement requires workers’ compensation and liability insurance. The application fee is $350.
In Arizona, painters working on contracts exceeding $5,000 must obtain a license from the Registrar of Contractors. Two types of licenses are available: residential and commercial. To qualify, painters need to provide proof of a surety bond, pass trade and business exams, and demonstrate experience under a state-recognized contractor. A residential license requires one year of experience, while a commercial license demands two years. Both licenses necessitate state licensure and business registration, ensuring compliance with Arizona’s stringent regulations for painters.
California painters who work on projects of $500 or more must get a general contractor license. These licenses are issued by the Contractors State License Board. To apply, you must be at least 18 years old, have a Social Security or taxpayer identification number, and have at least four years of painting experience.
Once you apply, you will need to complete a background check, provide proof of General Liability insurance and Workers’ Compensation insurance (if applicable), and buy a surety bond. All contractors applying for a general contractor license in California also need to pass three exams covering:
- Your trade
- Law and business
- Asbestos safety, handling, and removal
Your general contractor license needs to be renewed every two years.
In Colorado, painting businesses don’t need a state license to operate but require local registration. While there’s no state-level painting license, local requirements might mandate general liability insurance, with coverage varying by location and license type.
In Connecticut, painting contractors don’t require a specific painting license but must register with the Department of Consumer Protection. If contracts exceed $200 individually or total $1,000 annually, registration is mandatory. Contractors should designate as major or minor and, since July 2022, hold a minimum of $20,000 in general liability insurance. Registrations, especially for home improvement contractors working on residential properties, expire annually on March 31.
In Delaware, painters seeking a license must register with the Division of Revenue and the Department of Labor. This licensing is primarily for revenue purposes and is categorized for resident and non-resident contractors. To obtain a license, contractors must pass an exam and secure a Surety Bond if their annual project value exceeds $20,000. Additionally, painters with employees are required to provide proof of workers’ compensation and unemployment insurance. Non-residential contractors also need a surety bond to operate legally.
Painters working on projects totaling $500 or more must have a general contractor license in Florida. There are two licenses to choose from:
- Certified – Allows you to work anywhere in the state
- Registered – Restricts you to working in specific Florida jurisdictions
Licenses are issued by the Department of Business and Professional Regulation. To apply, you must be 18 years of age or older, have a Social Security or taxpayer identification number, have at least four years of painting experience or training (or a combination of the two), and be financially stable.
Before you apply for a Florida general contractor license, you must pass a three-part exam covering business and finance, project management, and contract administration.
After you have passed the required test, you must:
- Complete a background check
- Provide your employment history
- Provide FICO credit report and score
- Provide a certificate of insurance
- Submit other financial or legal documents (if applicable)
Florida general contractor licenses need to be renewed every two years. You must complete 14 hours of approved continuing education to renew.
A basic general contractor license is necessary for painters who perform work that costs $2,500 or more. The State Licensing Board issues licenses, and you must be 21 or over to apply. You must also meet the minimum work experience and education requirements set by the board.
To apply for a general contractor license in Georgia, you need to:
- Pass a trade exam (if applicable)
- Submit documents detailing your education and/or work experience
- Provide a certificate of insurance for your General Liability coverage
- Buy a surety bond
Your license must be renewed by June 30th in even-numbered years.
In Hawaii, painters must obtain a Professional and Vocational License from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs for projects exceeding $2,500. License prerequisites include providing proof of workers’ compensation and general liability insurance, a surety bond, passing a business, law, and trade exam, possessing a minimum of 4 years of work experience in the past decade, and presenting a CPA-signed financial statement.
In Idaho, painting contractors don’t need a state license but must register their business for projects over $2,000. This registration requires proof of general liability insurance and workers’ compensation for employees. Licensing occurs at the local level only.
In Illinois, there are no state licensing or registration requirements to be a painting contractor. However, it’s crucial to consult local municipalities for any specific working requirements they might have. Always ensure compliance with any localized guidelines or regulations pertaining to painting contractors to operate legally within different regions of the state.
In Indiana, painters don’t need a state license or registration. However, some local areas may have their own requirements. Always check local stipulations before working.
In Kansas, only painters handling lead paint need a state license. All others seek licensing locally through city or county requirements.
In Kentucky, no state-level painting license is needed. However, local registration or licensing may be required; always check city or county requirements before working.
In Massachusetts, while supervising construction mandates licensing, involving three years of experience and an exam, painting work does not require a license. Nonetheless, painters must register their business with the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation. Additionally, undertaking residential contracting on a one-to-four-unit owner-occupied residence necessitates registration as a home improvement contractor, excluding interior painting.
In Minnesota, commercial painters don’t need a license but must register. However, painters contracting directly with homeowners, offering services in multiple skill areas—like interior, exterior, or drywall painting—require a building contractor or remodeler license. Acquiring this necessitates passing an exam and holding general liability insurance. If employing others, workers’ compensation insurance is also essential.
In Michigan, painters must obtain a license from the Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs. For residential and commercial work, a Residential Builders License, encompassing painting, is needed, requiring both business and law, and trade exams. Alternatively, a Maintenance and Alterations Contractors License, specific to painting and decorating, is available, also requiring a trade exam. This license additionally mandates a 60-hour pre-licensing course. The Builder’s Unit oversees these licensing processes.
There is no painter license at the state level in Ohio. The Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board only issues general contractor licenses to specific trades, and painters are not part of this requirement.
However, general and home improvement contractors, including painters, may need a local license to work in Ohio counties and cities. Painter and decorating contractor license requirements differ between cities, but you will typically need to:
- Pass a trade exam
- Provide proof of General Liability insurance
- Buy a surety bond
- Submit applicable financial or legal paperwork
Check with your local licensing board for painter license requirements and renewals in your area.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not issue statewide licenses for most contractors. However, you will need to register with the Attorney General’s Office under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act if you make more than $5,000 per year doing home improvement work.
To register as a painter in Pennsylvania, you need to provide details about your business and proof of your General Liability insurance. Your registration must be renewed every two years.
Painter licenses from the state of Texas are not required. However, you may need a local license or permit to work in some cities. All Texas businesses must have a business license to operate.
Local licensing requirements will vary, but you may need to pass a background check, show proof of insurance, and provide project details.
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