Iowa Contractor Licenses

What every contractor should know is that each state has its own take on licensing companies. The state of Iowa, for one, is among the many states that implement strict codes and regulations when it comes to contractors’ licenses. In hopes of helping you get a better understanding of how licensing works in the state, we’ve put together this simple, yet comprehensive article that we try to keep updated and accurate as possible.

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Who Should Apply for a Contractor’s License in the State

Any person or entity that plans on working with construction is required to register with the state’s Department of Labor, if and when the annual earnings amount to $2,000 or more. This includes construction work that involves landscaping, window installation, cable laying, roofing, painting, electrical and plumbing. Learn more about the contractor registration here, and more about the scope here.

Aside from having to register with the state’s Division of Labor, the state of Iowa also requires individual licensing for trade-specific professions such as plumbing, HVAC, refrigeration, hydronics, sheet metal and electrical services. More information about these licenses can be found at the state’s Plumbing & Mechanical Systems Board page and Department of Public Safety page.

Important Note: Contractors who fail to register or renew their registration will be subject to a fine of up to $500. Recurring violations will increase the citation to $5,000.

Who Are Exempted from Applying for a Contractor’s License?

Not all contractors are fortunate enough to land one job after another, and that is why the state of Iowa exempts those who are having a difficult time getting jobs. That being said, any person or entity with less than $2,000 annual earnings from all construction works is not required to register. Homeowners and/or contractors that are doing construction work on their own property are also exempted from registering with the state’s Division of Labor.

Iowa Contractor License Search and Lookup Tools

It is of utmost importance for every homeowner or client to check the credibility of every contractor they might be, or will be dealing with. One can do that with ease by using the state’s public license search tool. It also acts as a good tool for checking any contractors’ licenses status, whether it’s still active or not.

The following links will take you to the different websites where you can check the links for different trades. In parentheses, you can find which specific trade it is relevant for.

Common Contractor Scams to Avoid

Similar to the other types of professions out there, construction jobs have their own fair share of frauds and scams. To help you steer clear of those, here are some of the most common fraudulent acts and scams you need to watch out for.

  • Unlicensed Contractors. Hiring unregistered or unlicensed contractors is a risky business. There are plenty of reasons why they may be unregistered or unlicensed. A few notable reasons would be the lack of necessary skills to finish the job, they may be blacklisted by the state, or they simply don’t want to be monitored by the state due to the intent of carrying out illegal activities. That is why it is highly recommended to hire only registered or licensed contractors.
  • Advance Payments. Contractors asking for advance payments is a common thing in the world of construction building or remodeling, and that is why you as a homeowner should be more vigilant when hiring contractors. Learn at least something about the company the contractor is working for, or better yet, ask for their job history to prove their credibility. Keep in mind that advance payments should not consist of a large chunk of the total cost of the project. 10 to 15% should be more than enough to cover it.
  • Written Contracts. When dealing with contractors, a written contract is a must. This should include the total cost of the project, milestones, and of course the total scope of the project. Without a written contract, shady contractors can and will ask for an extra fees for extra work that wasn’t necessarily part of the deal.

How to Renew a License

For individuals and entities registered as construction contractors in Iowa, they are required by the state to renew their registration annually. Renewal application forms can be downloaded here.

To be a eligible candidate for renewal, one must complete the following requirements:

  • Applicant must have a valid unemployment insurance account number. More information about this requirement can be found here.
  • Applicant must determine the appropriate NAICS code relevant to the business activity they’re engaged in. A table representing the different business activity classifications can be found here. For siding contractors, for instance, the NAICS code is 238170.
  • Must pay the renewal fee of $50 or provide a Fee Exemption Form.
  • Must provide the necessary documents to support requirements such as Worker’s Compensation and Out-of-State Contractor Bond.

Individual licensing in the state requires a different approach on renewal. Before an individual can renew his/her license, he/she must first have an A&A account. The steps for A&A account creation can be found here. Once the individual has his/her account, he/she can then proceed with the license renewal application here.

How to Register as a Construction Contractor in the State

All individuals that are planning on working on remodeling or building constructions are required to register with the state’s Division of Labor. To learn more about the state’s code and administrative rules, click here.

To register as a construction contractor, click here. To find out what are the required documents, click here.

General Requirements for Construction Contractor Registration

  • Must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Must provide any criminal convictions that are related to the applicant’s professional practice. A full explanation of the incident should also be provided.
  • Must submit the application form with the required fees.
  • Must provide all the information required, including the bond for the applicant to receive his/her registration number from the Division of Labor.
  • Either as a sole proprietor or as an employer, the applicant must provide an Unemployment Insurance Number.
  • The applicant is required to provide proof declaring his/her permanent place of business.
  • The applicant is required to provide proof of his/her public liability insurance with at least $500,000 coverage amount. Click here for more information.
  • Must provide a surety bond amounting to at least $5,000. Click here for more information.

How to Apply for a Contractor’s License in the State

Lister below are the professions, disciplines and trades that require licenses or permits before contractors can legally do construction work within the state of Iowa. Failure to provide a license, permit or certificate will be subject to a citation and potential jail time.

Apprentice Plumbers

Apprentice Plumbers in general are contractors that provide limited plumbing services. Within the state of Iowa however, they are expected to do more than just plumbing. Other trades and services involved include mechanical systems, sheet metal services, hydronic systems contractor and HVAC-refrigeration. Of course, they are required to work under the supervision of more experienced contractors. These are the ones with a Journeyman or a Master Plumber license. Instructions for online application can be found here.

Requirements for the Apprentice License:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Must have graduated from high school or GED equivalent.
  • Must provide any criminal convictions (if applicable) that are related to the applicant’s professional practice. A full explanation of the incident should also be provided.
  • Must submit the completed application form along with the required fees.
  • Must provide certificates or any documents to ascertain the applicant is working under the supervision of a Master or Journeyman Plumber.
  • Must be enrolled in a state-accepted apprentice program. To learn more about registered apprenticeship, click here.

Journey Level Plumbers

Journeyperson or Journeyman Plumbers are those who have a more extensive job scope than that of apprentices. Although they are much more experienced than Apprentice Plumbers, they are still required by the state to work under the supervision of a licensed Master Plumber. The work of Journeyman Plumbers includes installations, repairs and designs in plumbing, mechanical systems, sheet metals, hydronic systems and HVAC-refrigeration.

Requirements for a Journeyman License:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Must provide any criminal convictions (if applicable) that are related to the applicant’s professional practice. A full explanation of the incident should also be provided.
  • Must provide proof of a 4-year experience of related field from the apprenticeship training program.
  • Must submit the completed application form with the required fees.
  • Must provide proof of passing the state’s journeyman examination.

Applying for a Journeyman License:

  • Must be eligible for the exam, together with of $35 per discipline. More information about the exam can be found here.
  • Subsequent instructions will be sent to applicants upon approval. The application process that can last up to 2 weeks.
  • Must provide the required fee of $99 for each examination attempt through Kirkwood.
  • For applicants who passed the examination, proceed to the Post-Examination Licensure Requirements.

Master Level Plumbers

More often than not, Master Plumbers take the role of supervising inadequately experienced plumbers. Naturally, they are also eligible to work with the roles of Journeyman and Apprentice Plumbers, aside from their defined master duties. These duties include installations, repairs and layout designs. More information about the supervision scope can be found here.

Requirements for a Master License:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age.
  • Must provide any criminal convictions (if applicable) that are related to the applicant’s professional practice. A full explanation of the incident should also be provided.
  • Must provide proof of a 2-year work experience as a journeyman.
  • Must submit the completed application form along with the required fees.
  • Must provide proof of passing the state’s journeyman examination

Applying for a Master License:

  • Must be eligible for the exam and pay a fee of $35 per discipline. More information about the exam can be found here.
  • Subsequent instruction will be sent to applicants upon approval. The application process that can last up to 2 weeks.
  • Must provide the required fee of $95 for each examination attempt through Kirkwood.
  • For applicants who passed the examination, proceed to the Post-Examination Licensure Requirements.

Disconnect/Reconnect Plumbing Technician Specialty

This is a sub-license that is incorporated under the plumbing license. The scope mainly involves installation and repairs of a fixture or appliance shutoff valve connected to any component or a fixture. This also includes the disconnection and reconnection of water or sewer piping of an existing appliance or fixture. More information can be found here.

Requirements for a Specialty License:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must provide any criminal convictions (if applicable) that are related to the applicant’s professional practice. A full explanation of the incident should also be provided.
  • Must pay the specialty license fee that can be seen here.
  • Must provide any proof that would ascertain applicant of having completed the required industry training related to the field of discipline, or a degree in Service Technician Associate, or any state-approved training with equivalent standards.
  • Submit completed application form.

Hearth Systems Specialty License

Recognized by the state as a sub-license under the HVAC discipline, Hearth Systems Specialists are eligible to work with the installation of solid fuel appliances and gas burners that provide flames with the decoration intent. This license also includes work involving gas log sets, fireplace inserts, venting systems, freestanding stoves, and log lighters.

Requirements for a Specialty License:

  • Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Must provide any criminal convictions (if applicable) that are related to the applicant’s professional practice. A full explanation of the incident should also be provided.
  • Submit the completed application form, together with the specialty license fee that can be seen here.
  • Must acquire a valid certificate from the NFI (National Fireplace Institute) or from an equivalent authority within the state.

Residential Electrician License

This license allows the holder to perform electrical work on a residence building that does not consist 4 or more living units. The duties of Residential Electricians include repairs and installations of apparatus, electrical wiring, and other electrical-related equipment.

A more detailed information regarding qualifications and fees can be found here.

The application form can be downloaded from here.

Unclassified Electrician License

Unclassified Electricians are basically electricians that have no intention of going through the Apprentice Training Program, but wish to help and assist licensed electricians. That being said, the job scope of Unclassified Electricians is mostly to assist licensed electricians with repairs, alterations and installations of apparatus, electrical wiring and equipment.

You can see the requirements for this type of license using this matrix chart, and it also includes the other electrical classifications.

Apprentice Electrician

The scope of Apprentice Electricians’ is quite similar to that of unclassified electricians, except they undergo the Apprentice Training Program. The scope of apprentices’ work is basically to assist a license-holding electrician in alterations, installations and repairs of electrical wiring, apparatus, and other electrical equipment.

Here is a matrix chart that provides a good and simple representation of the general requirements for each discipline.

More detailed information regarding qualifications and fees can be found here.

The application form can be downloaded here.

Journeyman Electrician

Journeyman Electricians are also known as the backbone of the electrical industry. They are given the authority to work on alterations, repairs and installations of electrical wiring and other electrical equipment. They are also qualified to supervise inexperienced electricians, including apprentices and the unclassified.

Requirements for a Journeyman Class A License:

  • Must have completed the Apprentice Training Program.
  • Must pass the state-provided written examination with a score of no less than 75%.
  • Must have 4 years of work experience as an apprentice.
  • Submit a completed application form with the required fees.
  • Obtaining this through the availability of license reciprocity programs is possible for this type of license for certain states.

Requirements for a Journeyman Class B License:

  • Must have at least 16,000 hours of work experience, and 8,000 hours of it must have been accumulated after the 1st of January 1998. In addition, proof that is acceptable by the board is required.
  • Submit a completed application form with the required fees.
  • Must comply with the administrative rules under 661 – 502.4 (103).

Click here for more detailed information regarding the procedures, requirements and fees.

The application form can be downloaded from here.

Master Electrician

Master Electricians are electricians that have enough experience, training, and technical knowledge of what goes on around the electrical industry. They are qualified to design, layout, alter, repair and install apparatus, electrical wiring, and other electrical equipment. They are qualified to supervise any other electricians that are under the master level, including journeyman electricians, apprentices, and the unclassified ones.

Requirements for a Master Class A Licensure:

  • Must be a licensed Journeyman Electrician or Residential Electrician to be a viable candidate for application.
  • Must have at least 2,000 hours of work experience as a Journeyman Electrician or Residential Electrician with proof that is acceptable by the board.
  • Must pass a board-approved examination with a score of 75% or higher.
  • Must comply with the administrative rules under 661 – 502.4 (103).
  • Submit a completed application form with the required fees.

Alternative Requirements for a Master Class A License:

  • Must be a licensed Special Electrician and provide a residential endorsement.
  • Must have at least 4,000 hours of verified work experience.
  • Must pass a board-approved examination with a score of 75% or higher.
  • Must comply with the administrative rules under 661 – 502.4 (103).
  • Submit a completed application form with the required fees.

Requirements for a Master Class B License:

  • Must have at least 16,000 hours of work experience as a Master Electrician and 8,000 hours of it must have been accumulated after the 1st of January 1998.
  • Must comply with the administrative rules under 661 – 502.4 (103).
  • Submit a completed application form with the required fees.

Click here for more detailed information regarding the procedures, requirements and fees.

The application form can be downloaded from here.

Other Licenses and Certificates Offered by the Iowa Department of Public Safety

Other Licenses and Certificates Offered by the Iowa Department of Public Health

Lead Professional Certification

Lead is a well-known and highly toxic ingredient that has been used in a lot of paint, and thus control of its use is necessary. The certificate applies to most contractors that will in any fashion interfere or interact with paint on any facility, including renovation contractors, remodelers, do0r and window installers, maintenance workers, painters, rental property owners, plumbers and even electricians. The online application can be found here.

For more detailed information about lead and its certification, click here, or you can contact them with the address and phone number provided below.

Iowa Department of Public Health Information:

Lucas State Office Building

321 E. 12th Street

Des Moines, IA 50319-0075

(515)-281-7689

Asbestos Abatement

As you may well know, asbestos is a common ingredient in construction materials. It is widely used in asphalt, pipes, floor tiles, concrete, vinyl materials, asbestos siding and more. Although asbestos may prove helpful to building structures as a fire retardant, exposure to it however can potentially cause serious health problems. That is why the state of Iowa regulates the use of asbestos and its removal. To help protect construction workers and others who are involved with the said mineral.

For any questions or inquiries, you can contact the Division of Labor using the address and phone number provided below, or you can click here.

Iowa Division of Labor Contact Information:

Asbestos Abatement

1000 East Grand Avenue

Des Moines, IA 50319

(515)-281-6175, asbestos@iwd.iowa.gov

Asbestos Permit Application

Any business entity that encapsulates or removes asbestos is required to apply for a permit. A business entity basically refers to firms, corporations, partnership and sole proprietorship. A permit can be obtained from the state’s Division of Labor, as long as the requirements are met.

If the encapsulation or removal of asbestos is done within their own facilities, a permit is not required. The application form can be downloaded here.

Asbestos License Application

A contractor working on any building construction that involves asbestos material is required to apply for a license. The contractor may be exempted from obtaining a license if he or she is employed by someone who is legally exempted by the state.

There are different types of asbestos licenses in the state. Depending on the job description and/or work environment, the contractor will have to apply for the right type of license from the list below. The application form can be downloaded from the state’s Division of Labor’s official website.

  • Asbestos Worker License

Training Requirement: The applicant must complete an initial 4-day training program and provide a certificate of the latest refresher training.

Application Fee: $20.00

  • Supervisor/Contractor License

Training Requirement: The applicant must complete an initial 5-day training program and provide a certificate of the latest refresher training.

Application Fee: $50.00

  • Asbestos Project Designer

Training Requirement: The applicant must complete an initial 3-day training program and provide a certificate of the latest refresher training.

Application Fee: $50.00

  • Management Planner

Training Requirement: The applicant must complete a 2-day training on management planning and a 3-day training program on inspection. He or she must also provide a certificate of the latest refresher training.

Application Fee: $20.00

  • Inspector

Training Requirement: The applicant must complete an initial 3-day training program on inspection and provide a certificate of the latest refresher training.

Application Fee: $20.00

Iowa Plumbing & Mechanical Systems Board

The Plumbing & Mechanical Systems Board has the authority to license and regulate professionals within the state’s jurisdiction. Protection of the public interest is the board’s primary responsibility. Complaints are a method of informing the board about a licensee’s malicious actions. A uniform complaint procedure assures consistency in processing complaints, confidentiality, efficiency and accountability.

Persons calling with a specific complaint will be asked to file a written complaint. If the person chooses to file a complaint, a complaint form will be mailed to them. The office accepts only written complaints.

Plumbing and Mechanical Systems Board office
321 E 12th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075
Phone: 1-866-280-1521
FAX: 515-281-6114

Iowa License Reciprocity

The state of Iowa recognizes and has several license reciprocity programs, but only for a number of specific professions. Applicants must also pass a state-provided examination with a score of at least 75%. Moreover, an applicant must have held their license for at least a year without it having expired,  been revoked or suspended.

NOTE: Applicants who have taken the state-sponsored examination and failed will not qualify for a license reciprocation.

Iowa Class A Journeyman Electrical License:

Master Electrical License:

  • Arkansas
  • Minnesota
  • Montana
  • North Dakota

Electrical Contractor License:

  • Nebraska,
  • South Dakota

Journeyman and Master Plumbing License:

  • South Dakota

Biggest Cities in Iowa and their Regulations

Des Moines

Although Des Moines is the city where state licenses are being issued, it does have its own regulations in regards to permits and licenses, to which some of them are listed below. Requirements and codes concerning these permits can be found here.

  • Building Permit
  • Demolition Permit
  • Plumbing Permit
  • Electrical Permit
  • Mechanical Permit

For more information regarding these permits, you can go to the official website’s page or get in contact with the city’s Permit and Development Center whose contact information is provided below.

Permit and Development Center

602 Robert D. Ray Drive

Des Moines, Iowa 50309

(515)-283-4200

Cedar Rapids

Cedar Rapids is one of the cities of Iowa that require state-issued licenses such as electrical, mechanical and plumbing. But aside from those licenses, construction projects may still require permits that are issued by the city. For the full list of permits issued by the city, click here.

You can direct your questions or inquiries with the address and phone number provided below.

Development Services Department

City Services Center, 500 15th Ave SW

(319)-286-5780

Developmentservices@cedar-rapids.org

Davenport

If you’re planning on working on building constructions within the city limits of Davenport, chances are you will be required to apply for a permit. For the licenses, the city requires state-issued licenses as discussed earlier in the article. Complete information about the permits can be found here.

  • Electrical
  • Mechanical
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC
  • Demolition
  • Building Improvements
  • Alarm Systems

For any information, questions or inquiries, you can reach them with the city’s contact information provided below.

Davenport Public Works

1200 E 46th St

Davenport, IA 52807

(563)-326-7923

contactus@ci.davenport.ia.us

Sioux City

As with the other larger cities in the state of Iowa, the city of Sioux has its own regulations when it comes to permits. The application for licensed trades can be found here. For building permits, application can be found here. If you want to learn more about permits from other trades and services, go to the city’s official site.

You can ask your questions or inquire any of your concerns with the contact information provided below.

City Clerk Office

405 6th Street

P.O. Box 447 Sioux City, IA

(712)-279-6313 or (712)-279-6310