The license requirements for contractors are pretty strict in the state of West Virginia, which is why we have put this extensive article together to help you get a better understanding of the regulation, to ensure that your home improvement projects are carried out legally, whether you’re a homeowner or aspiring contractor.
If you’re a homeowner, make sure that you’re also getting quotes from competing contractors. This can easily be done simply by filling out the form below, and we’ll match you with the 4 most relevant contractors in your area who can then reach out to hear more about your project before providing you with the quotes. There’s no obligation to sign with any of them, and it’s free, so nothing for you to lose.
West Virginia Contractor’s License Board
The Contractor Licensing Board, under the state of West Virginia’s Division of Labor, handles the issuance of contractor licenses, as well as the regulation of contractors in the state. This board was established in the state in response to the crafting of the WV Code §21-11, which is part of the State Code, in 1991 by the West Virginia Legislature.
The state’s Division of Labor itself also handles plumbing licenses, although licenses of plumbing contractors are under the jurisdiction of the Contractor Licensing Board.
To contact the Division for all license-related concerns, you may send an email to Licensing@wv.gov or fax using this number: (304) 558-5174. You can also call them at (304) 558-7890. If you want to personally drop by, their office is located at 1900 Kanawha Boulevard East, State Capitol Complex – Building 3, Room 200 Charleston, WV 25305.
Out-of-state corporations may also do contracting work in the state, provided that they obtain their Certificate of Authority that is issued by the Secretary of State of West Virginia. You can contact the Secretary of State’s office by calling (304) 558-8000, emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by going directly to the headquarters at Building 1, Room W-139 1900 Kanawha Blvd. East Charleston, WV 25305 if you represent an out-of-state corporation that wants to be licensed.
All contractors that have construction projects that cost $2,500 or more in terms of the total contract, including the cost of materials and labor, are required to be licensed in West Virginia. If the contract is less than that amount, only the West Virginia State Tax Business License is required to be obtained by the contractor. You can learn more about the State Tax Business License, including how to apply for one, through https://labor.wv.gov/Licensing/Contractor_License/Documents/contractor-forms/04%20-%20WV%20TAX%20and%20SOS%20APPLICATION%20and%20INSTRUCTIONS%20FOR%20BUSINESS%20STARTUP.pdf.
West Virginia also classifies construction managers that primarily oversee a construction project, as well as those who act as consultants for such projects, to be licensed as contractors if they will be charging a professional fee for their services.
For electricians that are need to be licensed, applications are handled by the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s Office, or WVSFMO. To contact them, call their office at (304) 558-2191 or fax them at (304) 558-2537. You may also direct your inquiries to the State Fire Commission, Office of the State Fire Marshal at 1207 Quarrier St., 2nd Floor, Charleston, WV 25301. Note that licenses for electrical contractors are under the Division of Labor of West Virginia and not the Fire Marshal’s Office and that the WVSFMO also issues temporary electrician licenses.
Contractor License Classifications
Contractors, in general, are those who are permitted to construct, add, alter, demolish, improve, subtract from, or move different structures, highways, buildings, roads, railroads, etc. in connection to a construction or development project that costs a minimum of $2,500 (see reference). However, not all those who do construction work can be considered by the state as a contractor and are required to be licensed. Exceptions are:
- Those who deliver construction materials and other supplies to any construction project, but they are not the ones who fabricate or use these materials
- Those who do construction work on properties under their name, which are being used or leased as residential or commercial property
- Professionals who primarily focus on selling real estate, as well as appraisals, maintenance, and management of these properties, who do what can be considered as contracting work but only in connection to their profession in the real estate trade
- Operators doing pest control work who are licensed via West Virginia’s Code, specifically through its section seven, article sixteen-a, chapter nineteen provisions, if they will not be conducting structural repairs that cost more than $1,000 in any building
- Sole proprietors, partnerships, or corporations that primarily prepare or craft construction blueprints, plans, and other specifications and have a registered architect and/or engineer that is licensed by the state and work full-time for them
West Virginia’s Licensing Board has several classifications available for contractors applying to be licensed at the state level. These classifications are:
- Electrical Contractor – works with different kinds of electrical equipment that transmit, generate, and use electrical energy. It covers the installation, assembly, alteration, repair, and maintenance of these equipment
- General Building Contractor – focuses on either the supervision of construction projects or is part of those who do the construction of these structures, where people, animals, movable properties, or chattels will be stored or sheltered. The construction projects must involve at least two contractors that belong to any license classification.
- General Engineering Contractor – can work on projects that are considered as private or public works, including flood control, drainage and irrigation systems, electrical generation systems and facilities, highways, airports, railroads, pipelines for various substances, refineries, piers, and many others
- Heating, Ventilating, and Cooling (HVAC) Contractor – applicable to both commercial and residential structures, this contractor can work on a variety of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems and equipment in terms of their installation, repair and maintenance, or modification
- Multifamily Contractor – limited to working on residential dwellings that house multiple families. They can construct, improve, repair, or alter these structures
- Piping Contractor – through the use of different connecting methods, such as weld and solvent weld, thread, or mechanical means, this contractor can work on piping systems of air, chemical, gasoline, power plants, process, and other similar piping systems
- Plumbing Contractor – can install, extend, modify, or maintain plumbing equipment, accessories, and appliances, piping related to plumbing systems, and water supply systems inside or near public and private buildings and structures. Plumbing contractors are also allowed to install gas piping, chilled water piping for processes involving refrigeration, as well as comfort cooling, hot water piping for standpipes and heating in buildings
- Residential Contractor – limited to working on real estate property that were purposely built as residential dwellings, including their construction, alteration, repairs, and maintenance works,
- Specialty Contractor – any contractor that does not fall into any of the other contractor classifications available in West Virginia but does specialty contracting
To lookup electrical licenses in West Virginia visit the fire marshal’s website.
Aside from electrical contractors, electricians are also required to be licensed in West Virginia. These electricians are generally classified as:
- Apprentice Electrician – considered as helpers and must only work when supervised by either a licensed journeyman or master electrician
- Specialty Electrician – includes the HVAC electrician (can work on wirings not exceeding 600 V that belong to heating, air conditioning, and plumbing equipment), electric sign electrician (limited to the installation, repair, and maintenance of electric sign wirings that are electrically isolated from an adjacent building’s wiring system), single family dwelling electrician (works on wirings and other electrical equipment in a single family residence), low voltage electrician (focuses on fire and burglar alarms and other low voltage wirings that do not exceed 80 V), and elevator electrician (can work on wirings connected to elevators, particularly in terms of installing and conducting repairs and maintenance work on elevator wirings that are electrically isolated from that of the building’s wiring system)
- Journeyman Electrician – can install electrical wires, equipment, conduits, fixtures, appliances, and other apparatus, as long as it is done under the supervision and guidance of a master electrician. Designing electrical systems is prohibited for a journeyman electrician.
- Master Electrician – able to work on electrical wirings, calculate electrical load demands of any structure, and read electrical designs, drawings, and plans.
To lookup plumbing licenses in West Virginia visit the website of the Division of Labor.
Plumbers are also required to obtain their respective licenses in Virginia if their contracts are more than $1,000 in cost. Their licenses have the following classifications:
- Plumber in Training – those who are interested in the trade or have some basic knowledge of plumbing. They are also required to be mentored by a master or journeyman plumber holding a valid license in West Virginia. The plumber in training must have a plumbing experience of not more than 8,000 hours
- Journeyman Plumber – has accumulated more than 8,000 hours’ worth of plumbing experience and is fully capable of teaching and overseeing a plumber in training
- Master Plumber – with a minimum total plumbing experience of 12,000 hours, he or she is qualified to guide and manage both journeyman plumbers and plumbers in training. A master plumber is also permitted to create plumbing systems himself or herself
Certain conditions do not require plumbers to be licensed when working on projects involving plumbing work, and these are:
- If the person is employed in a retail appliance store and the plumbing work is done only incidentally, such as when installing or repairing appliances with plumbing systems
- When the work is done in their own residences or that of an immediate family member’s
- If HVAC units are being installed and incidental work involving plumbing systems is required
- When plumbing work is done in any establishment or business as part of your duty of being employed by a utility company
- In certain facilities, namely natural gas, industrial, and manufacturing facilities, as well as coal-processing facilities and where coal is being actively mined
How to Get a Contractor’s License and the Advantages of Getting One
Applicants for any contractor’s license, including electrician and plumber licenses, are required to be at least 18 years old prior to the filing of their application. Before they can be issued their respective licenses, they are required to pass the state’s Business and Law exam (for contractors) and their respective trade exams. However, a few license classifications do not require applicants to take the exams.
Contractor’s License Application
West Virginia contractors’ license applicants, no matter the classification, follow the same application process and use the same application forms. To be licensed as a contractor, you need to do the following:
- Accomplish the application form found at https://labor.wv.gov/Licensing/Contractor_License/Documents/contractor-forms/CONTRACTOR%20LICENSE%20APPLICATION-AFFIDAVIT%202017%20filable.pdf, making sure that you completely fill out the form and indicate the type of contractor license you are applying for
- Schedule your exams with Prov. You can check out https://labor.wv.gov/Licensing/Contractor_License/Documents/contractor-forms/REVISED%20WVCLB_CIB%202018.07.01.pdf for information regarding the examination
- Provide your Business Registration Tax Number, Certificate of Authority (if applicable) and either an Unemployment Compensation or Worker’s Compensation Certificate.
- An affidavit of your current wage bond status. If you will be working on a single family dwelling, you are not required to provide a wage bond for the project. You are also exempted from this if you or a parent company’s subsidiary have been in business doing contracting work for more than five years in another state or have assets worth $100,000 or more
- Submit your most up-to-date Letter of Good Standing
Wage bonds required for your license will depend on four weeks’ worth of your gross payroll amount. You can get more information about the required wage bonds, as well as determine the amount using the sample computation, at https://labor.wv.gov/Licensing/Contractor_License/Documents/contractor-forms/UPDATED%20INSTRUCTIONS%20FOR%20WAGE%20BOND%20PACKETS%202017.pdf.
You must also pay the application fee of $90 but only in check, money order, cashier’s check, or certified check. It should be made payable to the ‘West Virginia Contractor Licensing Board.’ The separate examination fee will depend on the contractor’s license you are applying for. It costs $51.95 for every type of exam you will be taking.
Contractor licenses will expire exactly a year after the issuance date.
Electrician License Application
All applicants for the different electrical license classifications are required to use this form for their application: https://firemarshal.wv.gov/Divisions/Fire%20Services/Documents/Licensing/ELECTRICAL%20EXAM%20APPLICATION.pdf. The work experience requirements will depend on the type of license you are applying for:
- Apprentice Electrician – no work experience is required but you need to be at least 18 years old when filing your application
- Specialty Electrician – must have a minimum work experience of 2 years or 4,000 hours in the field that you want to be licensed in as a specialty electrician. The Board can consider your taking an educational course that is both related to the trade and is Board-approved as one year’s worth of experience
- Journeyman Electrician – must provide certification that he or she has completed either an apprenticeship program, which is U.S. Department of Labor-approved, or a vocational course that has a minimum of 1,080 hours and has been approved by the state’s Department of Education, or present evidence that he or she has worked hands-on in the electrical trade for a minimum of 4 years or 8,000 hours
- Master Electrician – must present evidence of having hands-on experience in the electrical trade for 5 years at minimum, or at least 10,000 hours. This work experience must consist of work in above ground structural wiring in residential, industrial, and commercial settings
The examination fees must be paid in check or money order only and payable to ‘WVSFMO’. All electrician license exams cost $25, except for the apprentice electrician examination that costs $10. The license costs $50 for all classifications and will expire annually every June 30.
If you are applying for a temporary electrician license, which allows you to work as an electrician while waiting for the next examination date for the electrician’s license, you must fill out the forms found at https://firemarshal.wv.gov/Divisions/Fire%20Services/Documents/Licensing/2017%20TEMPORARY%20LICENSE%20APPLICATION.pdf. It costs $50 for the temporary journeyman and master electrician licenses, which are only valid for 90 days, and $25 for the temporary apprentice license valid for 180 days. Note that this license is only issued once.
The requirements for the temporary license vary depending on the classification you are applying for:
- Temporary Apprentice License – evidence that the applicant is enrolled in or has completed either a formal apprenticeship program that is approved by the U.S. Department of Labor or a vocational program on the electrical trade (minimum of 1,080 hours) that has been approved by the state
- Temporary Journeyman Electrician License – has the same requirement with the temporary apprentice license, with the addition of the applicant having a work experience of a minimum of 4 years
- Temporary Master Electrician License – similar in requirement with the temporary journeyman electrician license, but is instead required to have more than 5 years of work experience
Plumber License Application
The application form for the plumber license can be found here: https://labor.wv.gov/Licensing/Plumber_License/Documents/plumber-forms/PLUMBER%20APPLICATION%2009012018.pdf. This form must be used by all plumber license applicants, regardless of classification.
Aside from the submission of documentary requirements, such as W-2s, employment records, pay stubs, and other supporting documents, the Board only requires applicants to meet the minimum work experience and pass the necessary examinations to be issued a license:
- Plumber in Training – can work on plumbing projects or do plumbing work only when directly managed by either a journeyman plumber or master plumber with a valid license. Applicants for this license are not required to take any examination
- Journeyman Plumber – must have more than 8,000 hours’ worth of experience in plumbing work
- Master Plumber – required to have a minimum plumbing work experience of 12,000 hours
The application fee for the plumber in training license is $50, while it costs $75 for the journeyman plumber and master plumber licenses. Payments accepted are only those payable to the ‘West Virginia Division of Labor’ in money order, certified check, or cashier’s check.
Advantages of Having a License
Any unlicensed contractor who is caught doing contracting work in West Virginia will be subjected to penalties, as mandated by their laws. Those who would be caught may need to present themselves in a hearing if they cannot afford to pay the penalties and if they are convicted, they will still be required to pay the necessary fines, which range from $200 to $1,000 for the first offense, either a fine of $500 to $5000 or jailtime that does not exceed six months for the second offence, and either a $1000 to $5000 fine or jailtime from 30 days to a year for the third offence. The administrative penalty of not more than $200 per day of violation may also apply.
Simply put, you are breaking the law if you do not get yourself licensed prior to doing contracting work. To save yourself from all these consequences, make sure to get licensed.
Also, having a contractor’s license proves your skills and knowledge when it comes to the trade. This allows you to charge higher rates to your clients. Clients, in turn, are more inclined to use the services of licensed contractors because they know that they will get what they pay for, so they are willing to pay higher rates.
The Importance of Hiring a Contractor with a License
Hiring a licensed contractor will not only save you from any headache but, contrary to popular belief, it will also let you save money in the long run. This is because unlicensed contractors are more likely to do shoddy work, given that there is no proof that they really are skilled enough to do a good job on any project. Any work they complete may only look good for a short time before problems will eventually arise. When this happens, you will again need to shell out money to make the necessary repairs to your property. Licensed contractors, on the other hand, are proven to have the needed knowledge and skills, so the projects they do will likely last a long time, even decades.
West Virginia Contractor License Search & Lookup
You may check if a contractor has the necessary license to work anywhere in West Virginia by using their online database, which can be found at http://www.wvlabor.com/new_searches/contractor_search_new.cfm. You can also use this database to manually search for contractors. If you have inquiries about specific contractors who are licensed in West Virginia, you can also call the Board directly at (304) 558-7890.
For electrician licenses, you may use the database of the State Fire Marshal, which can be found at https://firemarshal.wv.gov/Pages/licenseesearch.aspx. However, this database is only updated every four weeks, so for a more accurate search, you can call their Regulatory and Licensing Section at this number: 304-558-2191, with extension number 53219.
Licenses of plumbers may be checked at the Division of Labor’s website at http://www.wvlabor.com/new_searches/plumber_search.cfm. This website also has the database in table format, which you can use to manually search for a licensed plumber.
The different cities of West Virginia, including its biggest ones, such as Charleston, Huntington, Parkersburg, Morgantown, Wheeling, Fairmont, and Beckley, generally follow the state’s regulations when it comes to issuing construction-related licenses. However, they may also have their own regulations before a licensed contractor can work in their city.
City of Charleston
Licensed contractors who want work in the city of Charleston are required to be registered first in the city. This applies to General, Specialty (including Sign), Electrical, HVAC, and Plumbing contractors, as well as Sub-Contractors.
To be registered in Charleston, you need to pay the $90 annual registration fee and you must also submit the following:
- Fully accomplished application form, a sample of which can be seen at https://www.charlestonwv.gov/sites/default/files/documents/2018-01/2016%20CONTRACTORS%20LICENCE%20APP%20AND%20INSTRUCTIONS.pdf
- Your latest Certificate of Liability Insurance, which indicates the ‘City of Charleston’ as its certificate holder
- Either a worker’s compensation insurance (c/o Brickstreet Insurance) or an exemption letter issued by the state’s Insurance Commissioners Office
- Copy of the state-issued contractor’s license, which must be valid. If you are a licensed Master Electrician, you must also present a copy of your license
City of Fairmont
For contractors to be able to work in the city of Fairmont, they must apply for a City of Fairmont Business License. Remember to submit a copy of your West Virginia-issued valid contractor license when applying for it. This license costs $90.
City of Huntington
The city of Huntington also requires contractors to have valid licenses that were issued at the state-level, as well as a Municipal Business License. To acquire this business license, which costs $90, copies of the following should be submitted:
- Certificate of Liability Insurance, which must show that the coverage of the General Liability Insurance is more than $300,000 or $600,000 and that the certificate holder is the ‘City of Huntington P.O. Box 1659 Huntington, WV 25717
- Your valid West Virginia Contractor License
- Your Business Registration Certificate issued by the State Tax Department of West Virginia
Aside from those copies, you also need to file your Business and Tax Return, or B & O, and provide a list of the names of all the subcontractors hired for the project, as well as their contact information, before you can be issued a permit.
City of Parkersburg
While the city of Parkersburg may seem lax when it comes to allowing West Virginia-licensed contractors to work in the city, as it allows any contractor who meets the bidding requirements to bid on any project, they do have much more stringent requirements when dealing with housing projects. This is because these projects may only be done by contractors that are certified by the city. In order to be a City Certified Contractor, you must contact the Housing Inspector of Parkersburg.
City of Morgantown
If you are a licensed contractor or electrician who wants to do contracting work in the city of Morgantown, you are required to have a Municipal Business License prior to doing so. To get this license, you need to fill out the form found at https://www.morgantownwv.gov/DocumentCenter/View/2041/Contractor-Application-for-Municipal-Business-License—Effective-July-1-2018-PDF and pay the necessary fees, which are $90 for the contractor license and $20 for the electrician license. Remember to include your contractor’s or electrician’s license when you submit your form.
City of Wheeling
Like the other major cities of West Virginia, the city of Wheeling also requires contractors, who are licensed at the state-level, to have a business license issued by the city before doing any contracting work. They also need to pay the B&O tax, which must be per project that costs more than $5,000.
Subcontractors, even if they are hired by licensed contractors who have obtained the necessary licenses and permits in Wheeling, are also required to get their own business licenses and pay the required B&O taxes.
City of Beckley
The City of Beckley also mandates that contractors who will work on projects within the city must register their business first to be able to pay the B & O tax, which is required for all contractors in the city. The registration form, together with the welcome packet for contractors, can be found at https://www.beckley.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/06/New-Contractor-Packet.pdf.
Contractor’s License Reciprocity
License reciprocity agreements exist between the state of West Virginia and other states. However, not all licenses issued by the state are covered by these agreements. Found below is the list of states that have reciprocity agreements with West Virginia:
- Virginia – only for licensed Master Electricians and Journeyman Electricians
- Ohio – for Master Electricians and those under the Plumbing Classification. The agreement also covers the Business and Law exam
- North Carolina – only for Master Electricians and also includes the Business and Law exam
- Kentucky – valid for Master and Journeyman Electricians only
- Maryland – only the Master Electrician license is covered
- Alabama – applies only to HVAC contractors
The Contractor Licensing Board of West Virginia also has a license reciprocity agreement with the State Fire Marshal’s office, which only covers the Master Electrician license.
If your license was issued in Alabama, North Carolina, and Ohio, you may get the license reciprocity application forms for West Virginia at https://labor.wv.gov/Licensing/Contractor_License/Pages/Reciprocity-Agreements.aspx.
These reciprocity agreements are basically shortcuts – they allow you to get the same type or classification of license in another state if your license was issued in a state it is reciprocal with, minus the hassle of fulfilling all the requirements required to have it. Most of the time, the examination requirement is waived for applicants who will apply for the contractor license using the license reciprocity method.
This means that if you are licensed as a Master Electrician in Kentucky, you may obtain the same type of license in West Virginia much faster and easier, since you do not need to submit all of the requirements of West Virginia for this license and are also not required to take the state-level exam anymore.
Before using this method to obtain your license, make sure to contact the state’s licensing board for its specific requirements.