South Carolina Contractor Licenses

South Carolina has very strict license requirements for contractors, and this article seeks to provide accurate information on the topic for both homeowners and pros. We regularly revisit this page for accuracy, but please do not hesitate to reach out should you discover something inaccurate.

How to Get a Contractor’s License in South Carolina

To become a licensed contractor in the state of South Carolina you have to comply with the requirements of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR).

The state issues different types of contractor’s licenses for residential and commercial contractors, and has different requirements for each license.

Residential contractor’s licenses and specialty contractor’s licenses are issued by the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission.

General contractor’s licenses and mechanical contractor’s licenses are issued by the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board.

To apply for a South Carolina contractor license you’ll have to submit the following basic requirements.

  • Completed application form
  • License fee
  • Technical exam score sheet or Certificate of Licensure from qualifying states
  • Business Management and Law exam score sheet
  • Surety bond or financial statements showing your net worth
  • Proof of work experience

Why do I Need a Contractor’s License in South Carolina?

In South Carolina, all businesses and individuals working on general building projects that cost more than $5,000 (for labor and materials combined) are required to have a valid contractor’s license. This includes repairs, remodels, renovations, demolitions and new construction projects.

For specialized tradesmen, a residential specialty contractor’s license is required for all residential work over $200, or a mechanical contractor’s license for commercial work over $5,000. Examples of specialty contractors are electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians.

As a licensed contractor, you can freely advertise your business and services online or through traditional means without having to worry about getting caught doing something illegal. Operating without a valid contractor’s license is a misdemeanor in South Carolina.

In order to get a building permit from the city or county, you’ll also need a valid contractor’s license. Otherwise, you’ll have to ask the homeowner or another licensed contractor to pull the permit for you, which many are unwilling to do because they will be liable in case something goes wrong with the project.

Your contractor license also proves to your customers that you have all the technical knowledge and experience required to complete the project successfully, which increases your chances of getting good contracts that pay well for quality work. It’s going to be more difficult to make a decent living as a contractor when you’re limited to competing with other unlicensed contractors who typically bid the lowest prices on jobs.

In cases where a client refuses to pay for work you have done, a licensed contractor can go through the legal system to collect or sue for non-payment. Working without a valid license, or on tasks not covered by your contractor’s license, means there is no assurance that your client will honor your contract.

Why Hire Someone With the Right Licenses

Most construction and building projects cost a lot of time and money, which means you’ll want to hire someone who will do the work correctly and according to code.

While bids from unlicensed contractors will probably look like great deals at first, you have no assurance that you’ll get the job done correctly or according to code.

When you hire licensed contractors, you’re dealing with someone who knows what they’re doing and are fully bonded and insured in case something goes wrong. An unlicensed contractor can easily be just another fly by night operation that will just take your money and run without ever completing the project.

South Carolina Contractor’s License Search & Lookup

Before signing any contracts, you can check if a building company or contractor has a valid and current license by going to the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation website and clicking Lookup A Licensee.

You can also enter the following URL in your browser to go directly to the South Carolina License Lookup page:

https://verify.llronline.com/LicLookup/LookupMain.aspx

Select Residential Builders or Contractors – Commercial from the drop-down menu, then click Select.

Enter your contractor’s name and license number, then click Find to display their records. This shows you whether a contractor’s license is current and active.

Your contractor’s license search may also return other results, all of which are listed below:

ACTIVE: Licensee is current and properly licensed to work and pull permits in the state of SC.

APPROVED: Applicant/Licensee is in final stages of becoming ACTIVE.

PENDING: License has not been issued, cannot do work over $200.00.

INACTIVE: Licensee cannot work until license is in an active status.

LAPSED: This license is lapsed/cancelled; the licensee cannot perform any work over $200.00

SUSPENDED: The license has been suspended by the board until further notice. No work or permits can be pulled during this time.

Cease and Desist: The license has been issued a Cease and Desist order by the board. No work can be performed or permits can be pulled at this time in excess of $200.00.

License Classifications

South Carolina has two main types of contractor’s licenses – residential and commercial licenses.

Residential Contractors

Residential contractors can work on all residential construction projects for buildings and structures not more than three stories and apartment units with no more than 16 units.

A residential builder’s license allows you to manage residential construction projects such as new constructions, renovations, repairs and remodels.

A residential specialty contractor’s license allows skilled tradesmen to work on specific tasks for homeowners, property owners and other licensed contractors.

License classifications specify what type of work you are qualified and licensed to perform.

You can get a residential specialty contractor’s license for the following classifications or specializations:

  • Plumber
  • Electrician
  • HVAC technician

You can also become a registered residential specialty contractor in up to three of the following classifications:

  • Vinyl or aluminum siding
  • Floor covering
  • Carpenter
  • Insulation installer
  • Masonry
  • Stucco Installer
  • Roofer
  • Drywall installer
  • Painter or wall paper
  • Solar panel installer

Commercial Contractors

General contractors and mechanical contractors are the two main types of commercial contractors and are allowed to work on commercial projects worth over $5,000. The size of the project is only limited by you or your company’s technical qualifications and the size of your surety bond or net worth.

General Contractors

You can have multiple classifications covered under your general contractor’s license for other specialized trades that you or your company are qualified to do, such as concrete work, roofing and structural framing.

The general contractor’s license is also given to general engineering contractors who have the highly specialized knowledge and skill required to build roads, highways, bridges, water pipelines and sewer lines.

Here are the different classifications a general contractor’s license can have in South Carolina:

Building Classifications

  • Building General Contractor

Highway Classifications

Public Utilities Classifications

  • Pipelines
  • Water and sewer lines
  • Water and sewer plants

Specialty Contractor License Classifications

  • Boring and tunneling
  • Concrete
  • Interior renovation
  • Marine
  • Masonry
  • Pre-engineered metal buildings
  • Railroad lines
  • General roofing
  • Specialty roofing
  • Structural framing
  • Structural shapes
  • Swimming pools
  • Wood frame structures
  • Public utility electrical
  • Boiler installation
  • Glass and glazing

Mechanical Contractors

A mechanical contractor’s license is required for commercial projects that require specialized trades not covered by a general contractor’s license.

Listed below are the different mechanical contractor’s license classifications you can apply for in South Carolina:

  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • Heating
  • Air Conditioning
  • Refrigeration
  • Lightning Protection Systems
  • Pressure and Process Piping
  • Packaged Equipment

South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board

All contractor licenses in South Carolina are issued by either the Residential Builders Commission, which deals with residential contractors, or the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board, which handles commercial contractors. Both licensing boards are part of the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Each board has their own requirements for issuing contractor’s licenses. It also handles license applications, renewals and investigates complaints against contractors.

To get in touch with the board check the contact information listed below. You can also download application forms and apply for your contractor’s license online through their respective websites.

Residential Builders Commission

Website: https://www.llr.sc.gov/POL/ResidentialBuilders/

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (803) 896-4696

Address: 110 Centerview Drive

PO Box 11329

Columbia, SC 29211-1329

South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board

Website: http://www.llr.state.sc.us/POL/Contractors/

Email: [email protected]

Phone: (803) 896-4686

Address: 110 Centerview Drive

PO Box 11329

Columbia, SC 29211-1329

Electrical Contractor

Electricians in South Carolina are required to have either a Residential Electrical License or a Mechanical Contractor’s License.

To apply for a Residential Electrical License, submit the following to the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission.

  • Completed application form
  • Application processing fee
  • Proof of at least 1 year work experience
  • Surety bond for jobs worth over $5,000
  • Technical Exam score sheet
  • Business Management and Law exam score sheet

To work on commercial projects worth over $5,000, you’ll need a Mechanical Contractor’s License with an electrical classification issued by the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board. You will also need at least 2 years of work experience within the last 5 years. Financial statements showing your net worth or a surety bond are also required for all mechanical contractors.

The technical exam can be waived if you’ve already passed the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC) Master Electrical Exam.

Licensed electrical contractors from the following states can also apply for a mechanical contractor’s license by waiver instead of taking the technical exam.

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah

South Carolina does not have exam waiver agreements with any states for residential electrical licenses.

You can look up South Carolina residential electrical licenses by going to the following website and selecting Electrical as the License Type:

https://verify.llronline.com/LicLookup/Resbu/Resbu.aspx?div=46

Plumbing Contractor

Contractors specializing in plumbing can apply for either a Residential Plumbing License or a Mechanical Contractor’s one with a plumbing classification.

To apply for a Residential Plumbing License are required to submit the following to the Residential Builders Commission:

  • Completed application form
  • Application processing fee
  • Proof of at least 1 year work experience
  • Surety bond for jobs worth over $5,000
  • Technical Exam score sheet
  • Business Management and Law exam score sheet

To apply for a Mechanical Contractor’s License with a plumbing classification, you will also need at least 2 years of work experience and financial statements that can prove your net worth.

Applicants who have already passed the Municipal Association of South Carolina Master Plumber Exam are no longer required to take the technical exam.

Licensed plumbing contractors from the following states can also apply for a mechanical contractor’s license by waiver instead of taking the technical exam.

South Carolina does not have a license reciprocity or exam waiver agreement with any other states for residential plumbing licenses.

You can look up South Carolina residential plumbing licenses by going to the following website and selecting Plumbing as the License Type:

https://verify.llronline.com/LicLookup/Resbu/Resbu.aspx?div=46

HVAC

HVAC contractors, falling under the specialty category, also need to have a license with at least 1 year of experience under the supervision of a contractor carrying the corresponding license, or otherwise the Master Heating & Air.

The commission requires the correct filing of an application, along with the payment for that application. You also need to be able to show proof of the acclaimed experience and pass the relevant exam that is offered by PSI. For work exceeding $5,000 a bond is required to ensure it.

A mechanical contractor specializing in HVAC will have their exam requirement waived, or if the applicant carries the Master Heating & Air license.

The applicable page with more information can be found here. You can lookup HVAC licenses using this database.

Roofing Contractors

To become a registered roofer in South Carolina, you need to have a Residential Specialty Contractor License. This license does not require passing a technical or business management exam.

To apply for a Residential Specialty Contractor License, you’ll need to submit the following requirements to the Residential Builders Commission:

  • Completed application form
  • Application processing fee
  • Proof of at least 1 year work experience
  • Surety bond for jobs worth over $5,000

You can register up to 3 different classifications covered under your license, as long as you can show proof of work experience in each trade.

The different classifications covered by the specialty classification are:

For commercial roofing work, you will need a general contractor’s license that includes general roofing or specialty roofing as a classification.

You can look up South Carolina residential specialty contractor licenses by going to the South Carolina License Lookup page and selecting Specialty as the License Type.

South Carolina General Contractor’s License

General contractors working on commercial construction projects, as well as on structures over 3 stories high or with more than 16 apartment units, are required to have a general contractor’s license.

Aside from homes and commercial spaces, licensed general contractors can also have additional classifications to work on roads, bridges, as well as water and sewer pipelines. Such contractors are also often referred to as general engineering contractors.

To apply for a general contractor’s license, you will need to submit the following requirements to the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board:

  • Completed application form
  • Application processing fee
  • Proof of at least 2 years work experience
  • Financial statement or surety bond
  • Technical Exam score sheet
  • Business Management and Law exam score sheet

General contractor’s licenses have group limitations which determines the size of the project a contractor can bid and work on. To qualify for higher limits, the contractor has to pass the PSI or NASCLA unlimited building exam and also satisfy the net worth or surety bond requirements.

You can lookup South Carolina general contractor’s licenses online by going to the following page:

https://verify.llronline.com/LicLookup/Contractors/Contractor.aspx?div=69

Asbestos Abatement

Asbestos is a material that was commonly used in large quantities in things such as asbestos siding, and given the natural reputation that precedes it is not surprising to find out that handling this substance is regulated in the state.

The license is provided by the DHEC, and costs $100 per license allowing applicants to work with asbestos abatement.

Whether you’re involved in air sampling, inspection, management, design, supervision, abatement or anything else related to the material, you will be required to obtain the license.

The licenses, in addition, are only valid for a year before renewal will need to happen.

City of Columbia

In South Carolina’s capital, residential builders and general contractors are required to have a state contractor’s license and a local business license to be able to apply for a building permit.

You can download the City of Columbia business license application by visiting the following website:

https://www.columbiasc.net/business-licensing/new

Applications and payments for the business license can be made at the Business Licensing office:

1339 Main Street

Columbia, SC 29201

Phone: 803 545 3345

Electricians, plumbers, gas line installers and mechanical contractors can also apply for a City Qualification Card to be able to work in their specialized trades. You will still need to provide a valid South Carolina contractor’s license during the application process.

You can download the Qualification Card Application Form from the Permit Application page.

http://dev.columbiasc.gov/development-inspections/residential/permit-applications

Charleston

The City of Charleston requires contractors and subcontractors to have a South Carolina contractor’s license and a business license issued by the city.

You can apply for a new Charleston city business license by visiting the page listed below:

http://www.charleston-sc.gov/index.aspx?NID=134

With a state contractor’s card and city business license, you can apply for building permits through the Permit Center located at the following address:

2 George Street

Charleston, SC 29401

Phone: 843 724 3711

City of North Charleston

In North Charleston, contractors are required to have a state contractor’s license and a local business license.

You can download the business license application form by visiting the following page:

http://www.northcharleston.org/Business/Business-in-North-Charleston/Business-Licenses.aspx

You can submit your application and pay for your North Charleston business license by visiting the city’s One Stop Shop at the following address:

2500 City Hall Lane 3rd Floor

North Charleston, SC 29406

Phone: 843 740 2632

You can also visit the North Charleston license lookup page to check the validity of a business license.

https://permit.charlestoncounty.org/License/Default.aspx?UserName=CAPRenewal&CAP=1

Licensed contractors can apply for building permits by visiting the North Charleston Permits page.

http://www.northcharleston.org/Business/Construction-and-Development/Permits.aspx

Rock Hill

Rock Hill requires all contractors working in the city to have a valid South Carolina contractor’s license and a local business license.

You can find all the information you’ll need to apply for a Rock Hill business license and application forms from the Rock Hill Business Licensing page:

http://www.cityofrockhill.com/departments/planning-and-development/open-for-business/business-licensing

The city also requires contractors and subcontractors to submit their information and photo identification via the New Contractor Application Form:

http://www.cityofrockhill.com/home/showdocument?id=10767

To apply for a building permit in the city of Rock Hill, visit the Permit Application Center’s website:

http://www.cityofrockhill.com/departments/planning-and-development/permit-application-center

You can also visit their offices in City Hall at the following address:

155 Johnston St. Room 300

Rock Hill, SC 29730

Phone: 803 329 5590

Greenville

Contractors working in Greenville, South Carolina are required to have a South Carolina contractor’s license and a Contractor Business License. In addition, non-resident contractors are also required to submit a Nonresident Contractors Adjustment each time they work on a new contract or project in the city of Greenville.

You can download the application forms from the city’s Business Licenses page:

https://www.greenvillesc.gov/340/Business-Licenses

You can also visit their offices in City Hall at the following address:

206 S Main St. 4th Floor

Greenville, SC 29601

Phone: 864 467 4505

To obtain building permits, you can submit an online application or download the forms via the Greenville Building Permits page:

https://www.greenvillesc.gov/656/Building-Permits

Myrtle Beach

Contractors in Myrtle Beach are required to pay an annual license tax for the privilege of doing business in the city, as well as being in possession of the relevant state-regulated licenses.

They’re also required to have a business license which needs to be registered and renewed in a timely manner, before expiring.

The relevant office can be contacted at 843-918-1200 with additional questions.

South Carolina Contractor’s License Reciprocity

If you have a contractor’s license issued by a state that has a reciprocity agreement with South Carolina, the technical exam will no longer be required when you apply for a South Carolina contractor’s license. You still have to satisfy all the other  requirements – including the Business Management and Law Exam.

Check the information below to find out whether your out-of-state contractor’s license is eligible for an exam waiver.

Residential Builders

The South Carolina Residential Builders Commission has license reciprocity agreements with the following states:

You can also submit your NASCLA or national building exam transcript instead of taking the PSI SC Residential Builders exam.

General contractors with current and active South Carolina state licenses are also no longer required to pass technical building exam to apply for a Residential Builders License.

Residential Specialty Contractors

South Carolina does not have any reciprocity agreements with other states for Residential Specialty Contractor Licenses, which includes electrical, plumbing and HVAC.

General Contractors

The South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board has reciprocity agreements with the following states:

Your current out-of-state general contractor’s license must also have the same classifications as the South Carolina license you are applying for to qualify for an exam waiver. Download the application form here to see a complete list of eligible license classifications.

NASCLA exam transcripts are also accepted by the State Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board as a substitute for the PSI technical exam.

Mechanical Contractors

Mechanical contractors can also apply for an exam waiver if their license was issued by the following states:

South Carolina has different exam waiver agreements with each state and only selected trade classifications are accepted by the SC Contractor’s Licensing Board for each partner state.

For a more detailed list of eligible classifications, download the application form here.

The board also accepts Master Electrician, Master Plumber and Master Mechanical trade certifications issued by the Municipal Association of South Carolina (MASC).