Licensing for Concrete Contractors
When starting out on your own as a concrete contractor, there’s a lot you’ll need to get organized. Among the most important steps you’ll need to take is finding out if your state or province requires you to get licensed or otherwise registered. This process may include a test, paperwork, and even require you to show that you have a certain minimum amount of experience. Staying on top of this process is essential to the successful functioning of your business.
Licensing vs. Registration
Requirements for contractors are generally handled at a provincial level in Canada or a state level in the US. Sometimes, it even falls to a more local level of government like a county or city. That means that laws are going to vary widely depending on where you live. We’re not going to try to do deal with every possibility here. Instead, we’ll just talk about the most general levels of requirements.
There are three basic categories that the requirements fall into:
A specific license as a concrete contractor is required in some jurisdictions. In these cases, the license allows work just in this specific field. The tests that you will take to get this license focus specifically on this area. In some cases, the requirements may be different if you do residential projects as opposed to commercial projects. You might only be required to be licensed if you’re going to be doing commercial projects or projects over a certain dollar amount.
A general contractor license is required in other places. There may not be a license that focuses specifically on concrete work, but you could still be required to pass a test and show general construction knowledge.
Registration as a contractor is a requirement in still others places – usually those that don’t require a license. No exams are associated with registration. However, it still allows government authorities to track who is performing projects in the industry to be able to offer at least a minimal way of tracking responsibility.
Why Bother With Licensing and Registration?
At times, the amount of paperwork, fees, and hassle we go through seem like ways for the government just to suck up our time and money, and make itself appear useful. However, at least the idea behind them is a good one.
The primary reason for licensing contractors is to make sure they meet at least certain minimum standards to do the work. Ultimately, it is a form of consumer protection. It should protect the client from unscrupulous individuals claiming they know what they’re doing.
A subsection of this has to do with insurance. Almost every jurisdiction requires that a candidate for licensing or registration present proof of insurance. In turn, the insurance policy only covers you once you get the license or registration. On the one hand, this protects clients in case something goes wrong with your work. But it also protects you as a contractor. In addition to covering you if there is a problem with your work or if you damage something in the course of your work, It also provides for coverage if there is an accident that causes injury to a client, passerby, employee or even yourself.
Being licensed or registered can therefore be a marketing tool for you, too. Most prospective clients are going to want to be sure that you know what you’re doing. Being able to advertise with a contractor number gives the assurance needed that you meet at least the basic requirements and are insured.
How to Get Licensed or Registered as a Contractor
As we mentioned above, each state or province, and sometimes county or city, has its own requirements for a contractor license.
The name of the office you need to contact varies. It be something like “Board of Contractors” or simply be a part of a “Licenses and Inspections” division.. Sometimes it is relatively easy to find with an internet search. But we’ve also seen offices that don’t necessarily have great websites. The best ones provide all the information you need in an easy-to-find manner, you can quickly download the application, and everything is up-to-date. Some others don’t quite have it figured out yet, or maybe just haven’t gotten around to updating. So it can be helpful to contact your state’s main information line and ask who you should talk to.
Registration usually is just a matter of submitting a form and some supporting documentation such as proof that you’re insured.
Licensing starts in the same way, but there are additional steps. Be sure to read all the information carefully. The general process is to fill out an application and send it in (with a check to cover fees), then receive approval to sign up for a test. When you pass, you’ll receive your license card.
And don’t forget that check! Yes, there are fees for the process. The amount can vary widely; we’ve seen some as low as $25 and as high as $300. If there is testing, that’s usually an added fee. But be sure to pay attention to the instructions so that you can make the check out to the right agency and submit it with the right forms. Otherwise you’ll become lost in a bureaucratic mess.
Both registration and licensing are temporary so you’ll have to be sure to renew them regularly. From what we’ve seen, they are generally valid for one to three years. The expiration date is often a “standard” date – for instance, in some states all licenses will expire on June 30 of even-numbered years, no matter when you got the license.
If your physical and email addresses have stayed the same, you’ll usually receive a reminder. So it’s important to keep your information up to date with the appropriate authorities.
As far as we know, renewal is always just a matter of submitting a new form and fee. We haven’t seen cases where you have to take any tests again.
Permits are an entirely separate issue and it’s important not to confuse them with a contractor license or registration. We only bring this up because some people who are only beginning to look into the field, or potential clients, may not understand the distinction.
A permit is an authorization to perform a specific project, while a license is a permission to work at all.
The process for obtaining a permit is almost always handled at the local level – a city or town. It addresses the nature of the work to be done and makes sure it meets all elements of the local building code. While some smaller projects may not require a permit, it’s important to know the requirements where you’ll be working. It’s generally your responsibility as the contractor to make sure you have all relevant permits for construction before work commences.
It’s important to stay on the right side of the law and make sure you’re compliant with any regulations calling for licensing or registration as a contractor. By checking with your state or province, you can find out what’s required in your area. Keeping up to date with these requirements will protect you from fines and help show your future clients that you’re qualified to work for them!