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This article contains what we believe to be the most up to date information on contractor licenses for North Carolina. The state has a lot of requirements for people wanting to do home improvement work in the state, which you can read about below, no matter if you’re a homeowner or contractor.
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North Carolina Licensing Board
Established in 1925, the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors has the sole authority in the state to issue contractors’ licenses to qualified individuals who have completed all their requirements and successfully passed the examinations. It was established as a response to the Public Laws, specifically to Chapter 318 that focuses on the welfare of the public and safeguarding in terms of health, life, and property.
The office of the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors is located at 5400 Creedmoor Road, Raleigh, NC 27612. They can be contacted through phone at (919) 571-4183 and via fax at (919) 571-4703. Their office also has post office box (P.O. box) with the following address: Post Office Box 17187, Raleigh, NC 27619.
The North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors handles contractors’ licenses of electricians and plumbers. Their office is found at 1200 Front St., Suite 105, P. O. Box 18727, Raleigh, NC 27619 and you can also reach them by phone at (919) 733-9042 and through fax at (800) 691-8399.
How to Get a Contractor’s License and the Advantages of Getting One
Contractors in North Carolina that have projects with a value of $30,000 or more are required to first get a general contractor license before they can bid on and proceed with the said project. This license permits a contractor to work on various construction projects in the state, such as industrial and commercial buildings and residences, specialty projects, highways, and public utilities, among others.
The first step to get a contractor license in North Carolina is to determine what kind of contractor license is applicable for you. Only those who are 18 years old and above are allowed to apply for one.
Afterwards, you need to fill-out the appropriate application forms, depending on the type of license that you are applying for.
Together with your filled-out application forms, you may need to submit notarized reference letters proving that you are a qualified contractor, depending on the contractor license you are applying for, and these should not be written more than six months ago and must also be signed by the reference provider. You must also pass documents showing your financial capability and other relevant financial information.
Applicants have the option of acquiring a contractor license surety bond in lieu of a contractor’s net worth or working capital in case they are unable to fulfill that requirement. The required bond amount is dependent on the type of license you are applying for and must be continuous. The listed obligee of the bond should be the State of North Carolina.
The appropriate licensing board will then review your application and you will need to schedule an exam to the contracted testing board once it has been approved.
Acquiring a contractor’s license in North Carolina is a legal requirement for contractors with high-value projects and you might be charged with a Class 2 misdemeanor if you work on such a project without first obtaining a license. It is also important that all the information you included is accurate to avoid being charged for fraud or having your license suspended if you were already able to acquire one.
The Importance of Hiring a Contractor with a License
Homeowners who are building their homes might think that they will get to save some money if they will just get a contractor without a license as long as they seem to have the skills. Unfortunately, doing so is a hit-or-miss – they might be lucky to get someone skilled but they might also have the misfortune of dealing with someone who just pretends to have the skills.
For peace of mind, it is always better to hire someone that has a contractor’s license valid in North Carolina. Acquiring that license means that the contractor is highly qualified for the project and that they are familiar with the laws and regulations of the state that is related to the project.
Hiring a fully-licensed contractor also minimizes risks and costly mistakes in the project, since the contractor is proven to be knowledgeable on what to do and possesses the right skills to build a house without compromising its safety standards.
While homeowners in North Carolina are allowed to build their own homes as long as the land is under their name and that particular home will be lived on by the homeowner and his or her family, it is still better to let the experts handle.
Contractor License Classifications
Three types of contractor’s license are available in North Carolina and these are:
- Limited license for projects that have estimated values of $500,000 or less, with the contractor required to have a minimum of $17,000 required working capital,
- Intermediate license for those that exceed $500,000 but are not more than $1,000,000 worth and with a $75,000 minimum working capital, and
- Unlimited license that offers no restrictions in terms of the value of the project but the contractor must have a minimum working capital of $150,000.
The North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors will only issue a valid license for the following classifications of general contractors:
- Public utilities contractors
- Building contractors, including private and public buildings
- Specialty contractors
- Highway contractors
An Unclassified license type is also available in North Carolina for general contractors who wish to be licensed for all of the above classifications.
You need to select the proper classification for your general contractor’s license, specifically highway contractor, residential contractor, specialty contractor, building contractor, and public utilities contractor, when applying for it. Applicants of contractors’ licenses are also required to choose a Responsible Managing Individual (known as RMI) connected to the company that would take the exam relevant to the classification, should you be unable to personally attend the examination.
Once you have identified the appropriate license that you need to apply for, you need to fill out the application form that can be found here: https://nclbgc.org/forms. It should only be printed on a plain white paper with a weight of 20lb. or 24lb. and only using black ink. Also ensure that your application form has been signed in front of a Notary Public. You will also need to submit three notarized reference letters.
Place all forms and requirements in a single envelope measuring 9 ½” x 12 ½” or more. You can either mail your license application packet to their P.O. box or deliver it personally to the office of the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors in Raleigh. Make sure that all the information and requirements you submitted are correct if handing out your application personally, since this will not be reviewed once you file it.
Upon approval of your application, the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors will send you an examination eligibility letter through mail. Contact the testing vendor in North Carolina, which is PSI services, to schedule your exam by calling them at 1-800-733-9267 or through their website at https://candidate.psiexams.com. You will also need to pay $100 for the examination fee and an application fee that will depend on the type of license you are applying for.
The North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors will then review your completed exam to determine if you have passed or failed. You only have two chances of passing the exam and should you fail the second time, you need to apply again and resubmit all the forms and requirements and pay the required fees.
Regardless of when you applied for and obtained your contractor’s license, the ones issued in North Carolina will expire every December 31st. But as a reminder, the license board will send renewal forms for those holding valid licenses sometime around the middle of October. If you did not get your renewal form, you should contact their office. You can only renew your license within 60 days after it expires.
In case your general contractor’s license has not been renewed for 4 years, you will not be able to renew it anymore and will instead have to re-apply for a new one.
The application fees for a general contractor’s license is $75 for a Limited license, $100 for an Intermediate license, and $125 for an Unlimited license. Optional bonds for a general contractor’s license are $350,000 for a Limited license, $1,000,000 for an Intermediate license, and $2,000,000 for an Unlimited license.
Electrical contractors who wish to work on projects in North Carolina are required to acquire an electrical contractor’s license before taking on any project. Like the general contractor’s license, you can also choose from Limited, Intermediate, and Unlimited electrical contractor’s license. North Carolina’s State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors also issue restricted electrical contractor’s license, specifically:
- Fire Alarm/ Low voltage
- Swimming pool bonding
- Single-family detached residences
- Groundwater pump
- Electric sign
- Plumbing and heating
An applicant should work under a North Carolina licensed electrician to be able to have his or her work experience credited. The electrical contractor’s licenses in the state have different required work hours that an applicant should have rendered prior to his or her application. 2000 hours of work is credited as one year’s worth of experience and undergoing approved training programs and vocational trainings are also counted as 80% of the working time.
The board also requires applicants to submit statements of bonding ability, specifically for Intermediate license and Unlimited license applications. The applicant’s bond ability must be more than $50,000 for the Intermediate license and more than $130,000 for the Unlimited license.
The application form for the license is found in the North Carolina State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors Candidate Handbook but you can also print out the relevant forms found here: https://www.ncbeec.org/need-a-form/. You can also call or proceed to the office of the State Board of Examiners of Electrical Contractors to personally request the form. Together with the other requirements, including two signed references of good character and proof of work experience signed by an employer, pay for your application and examination fee, which is $90 regardless of classification, and submit your application to their office through mail.
Schedule your examination with PSI services, which is the board’s contracted testing firm, through phone or via this website: https://candidate.psiexams.com/ssl_login.jsp. Reference materials will be provided at the testing site.
Applicants of a plumbing contractor license in North Carolina must first have a total of 2 years or 4,000 hours full-time experience (on-site) in terms of installing and/or designing heating and plumbing systems. Even work that does not require a license is counted as experience.
Since the contractor’s license for plumbers falls under North Carolina’s electrical contractor’s license, all the steps for applying for a plumbing contractor’s license and its requirements are generally the same as that of the electrical contractor’s license. You should also contact the same license board for your contractor license application.
Being issued a plumbing contractor’s license allows a contractor to work in a residential, commercial, institutional, or industrial building that involves the installation of apparatus, appurtenances, fixtures, and pipe systems for its water supply, as well as direct sewage and waste from these buildings.
A roofing contractor’s license is required for contractors that will handle various roofing projects regardless of experience. In North Carolina, roofing includes the installation, as well as the repair, of roofs and even decks. This is applicable for commercial, residential, institutional, and industrial structures and involving materials such as flashings, various metal coverings, gutters and downspouts, wood shakes, bituminous waterproofing, asbestos, composition shingles, cement, single ply and built-up roofing, sheet metal valleys, protective and reflective roof and deck coatings, gravel stops, and many others.
Acquiring a roofing contractor’s license in North Carolina involves the same process and requirements as that of a general contractor’s license, since it also falls under that classification.
NC Contractor License Lookup
To determine if a general contractor, including a roofing contractor, is fully qualified to work on a project in North Carolina, clients can check out the database of licensed general contractors through the website of the North Carolina Licensing Board at http://www.nclbgc.net/lic_fr.html or call them at (919) 571-4183.
When trying to lookup licenses of fire sprinkler, heating (HVAC), and plumbing contractors, you can check out https://onlineweb.nclicensing.org/lookup/licenselookup.aspx or call (919) 875-3612.
The database of licensed electricians can be found at http://lookup.ncbeec.org/ and you can also confirm the license of an electrical contractor by calling (919) 733-9042.
North Carolina Contractor License Requirements Per County
North Carolina also requires applicants to pay a bond cost, which is a certain percentage of the full amount of the bond that you are required to pay to get bonded, that is no matter if you live in Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Durham, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville, Cary, Wilmington or any other city in the state.
This percentage depends on their personal credit score, with a lower bond rate the higher the applicant’s credit score is. This typically ranges from 1% to 3% of the actual bond amount.
All 100 counties of North Carolina have the same requirements and application processes when it comes to applying for specific contractor’s licenses, as these licenses are state-regulated. However, some counties differ in terms of the amount of surety bond required, depending on the license.
The required surety bond in Greensboro depends on the type of license being applied for. Contractor applicants that will take on house moving, demolition, and grading are required to have a surety bond of $5,000, while those applying for plumbing, electrical, heating, mechanical, air conditioning, concrete, HVAC, and refrigeration contractor licenses must have a surety bond of $2,000.
A $2500 surety bond is required for applicants of heating and electrical contractors’ licenses. On the other hand, the surety bond for bridge, sidewalk, and street contractors’ licenses is $20,000.
You can also check the contractors’ licenses on the North Carolina database of the different license boards, regardless of county, since they keep the records of all North Carolina licensees.
North Carolina Contractor’s License Reciprocity
Various states across the USA have contractor’s license reciprocity agreements with other states and North Carolina is no exception to that. Contractor reciprocity allows a licensed contractor in specific states to acquire a contractor’s license in North Carolina without the need to take the written examinations required by the state.
These contractors will only need to apply for and fulfill the requirements to possibly acquire a contractor license in North Carolina that is of an equivalent classification or the same classification if applicable, without having to take the technical exams. While the reciprocity agreements generally exempt a valid contractor license holder from taking the technical exams issued by the partner state, this does not mean that the contractor will automatically be granted a valid license in the other state as long as they submit their application. The respective contractor license boards of the state will still have to review the applications under this agreement and approve or deny a contractor’s license application at their discretion.
The reciprocity program between states is also dependent on the type of contractor’s license issued to an applicant.
North Carolina has a general contractor’s license reciprocity agreement with only two states, namely Tennessee and South Carolina. Those holding valid general contractors’ licenses in the said states will no longer need to take the examination in North Carolina but they will still need to submit an application form, pay the necessary fees, and make sure that their qualifications in any of the two states are the same or equivalent to the qualifications of licensed general contractors in North Carolina. Most importantly, they need to submit a copy of their general contractors’ licenses from Tennessee and/or South Carolina that has been certified as a valid copy by those states’ licensing boards.
Unlike that of the general contractor’s license, North Carolina has more electrical contractor’s license reciprocity agreements with various states. In particular, 10 other states have electrical contractor license reciprocity agreements with it. However, each of these 10 states has specific license reciprocity agreements with North Carolina and the board may issue the equivalent contractor license to qualified applicants. In particular:
- Holders of valid Unlimited electrical contractor license issued by the Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio, and West Virginia electrical contractor license boards may be issued Unlimited electrical contractor licenses and vice versa,
- Contractors are eligible for a Fire Alarm/Low Voltage contractor license in North Carolina if they have a valid Low Voltage-Telecommunication, Low Voltage-Alarm, Low Voltage-General, or Low Voltage-Unrestricted license from Georgia and vice versa,
- Mechanical contractors licensed by the South Carolina board with a Group # 2 or Group # 3 electrical contractor license can acquire a Limited electrical contractor license in North Carolina without taking the exam, but those holding a Group # 4 or Group # 5 license must still take an exam related to the business practices and laws and rules in North Carolina but they can be issued a Limited, Intermediate, or Unlimited electrical contractor license. On the other hand, a Limited electrical contractor license holder of North Carolina can acquire a Group # 1 or Group # 2 electrical contractor license in South Carolina, an Intermediate electrical contractor license holder is eligible for a Group # 3 or Group # 4 electrical contractor license, and an Unlimited electrical contractor license holder can apply for a Group # 3, Group # 4, or Group # 5 electrical contractor license,
- A contractor holding a Master Electrician license issued by the license board of Texas is eligible to apply for an Unlimited electrical contractor license in North Carolina, and vice versa.
- Contractor applicants from Virginia must also take an exam on the business practices, rules, and laws of North Carolina when it comes to electrical contracting before they can apply for a Limited or Intermediate electrical contractor license if they have a Class B electrical contractor license and a Limited, Intermediate, or Unlimited electrical contractor license if they have been issued a Class A electrical contractor license. North Carolina Intermediate electrical contractor and Unlimited electrical contractor license holders are eligible to apply for a Class A or Class B license in Virginia.
Holders of valid North Carolina electrical contractor licenses must first contact the respective electrical contractor license boards of the state where they are applying for a license to request for application packets from those said states.
There is no license reciprocity agreement with another state for holders of a valid plumbing contractor license issued by the North Carolina license board.
Only South Carolina has a roofing contractor reciprocity agreement with North Carolina.