Are you thinking of becoming a general contractor in Connecticut?
Maybe you want to specialize in residential properties, or maybe you’re interested in building up some of the many office buildings that are coming to Stamford or Hartford. Whether you’re interested in home improvement projects or want to take on bigger projects, you’re definitely interested in turning your talents into a money-making business.
There’s just one thing standing in your way: a Connecticut contractor’s license.
The Benefits of a Connecticut Contractor’s License
Considering that you need a Connecticut contractor’s license if you’re doing more than $1000 of yearly contracting work or more than $200 for a single job, chances are you probably already qualify to get one.
But if you’re already doing contracting work without a license, it might seem like you don’t really need one right away. After all, what’s the harm in not having your license, especially if your customers already know and are fine working with you?
Think about it this perspective: If you don’t have a contractor’s license, you’re really undermining your ability to make serious money. While you might be able to get away with doing one-off projects, customers that need high-end homes built or want to develop massive office spaces probably won’t want to work with an unlicensed contractor. The reasons why won’t be particularly surprising:
- Customers want to work with someone who’s been vetted by the state
- Being licensed makes you appear more dependable and trustworthy
- It allows you to take out business insurance, which offers more protection to the customer
- It also allows you to take out the necessary permits and licenses you may need for a project
In fact, consider it from the perspective of how you look for subcontractors. You’re not looking for a random person off the street. Instead, you want to hire someone who’s just as good as you are. A contractor’s license does a great job of showing that you know your stuff - and that gives your customers greater peace of mind.
Hopefully that convinces you why you need to get a contractor’s license in Connecticut. But that still leaves us with one question:
How exactly do you go about getting that license?
Getting a Connecticut Contractor’s License: A Step-By-Step Guide
Confession: Figuring out which license you need in Connecticut isn’t easy. It’s a funny state that doesn’t offer just one general contractor’s license; instead, depending on the type of work you’re doing, you may need multiple licenses. There’s a license for home improvement projects, a license for electricians, a license for plumbing…it’s enough to make your head spin!
Fortunately, we’ve waded through all the confusion to list out the exact licenses that Connecticut offers, and which one you might need to apply for depending on your specialty.
Major Contractor: Connecticut likes to be a little different from other states by using the term “major contractor” to specify contractors who are classified to work on residential, commercial, and institutional projects. Examples of these projects include:
- Multi-unit condo buildings
- Healthcare facilities
- Office buildings
A major contractor is also licensed to work on smaller residential projects, so if you’re planning on doing both commercial and residential work, this license is probably your best bet.
Here’s how to apply:
- Download and fill out the Major Contractor Registration Application Form
- Get one reference letter from a bank or financial institution
- Get another reference letter from a supplier or subcontractor you’ve worked with
- Provide three (3) reference letters from people who are familiar with your contracting skills, whether it’s a former employer or a client.
- Provide proof that you have general liability coverage.
- Additional information based on your company’s legal structure.
- Additional information on any contracting projects you’re currently working on or have worked on in the past five (5) years.
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Once you’ve collected all of this documentation, submit your form - along with a check for $500 - to the address on your application. Don’t want to mail it in? You can also submit your application online here.
Once approved, your Major Contractor license is only good for one year, at which point you’ll need to renew. The easiest way is to renew online; if you want to renew by mail, you’ll need to send the following information to [email protected]:
- Your name
- Your license type (Major Contractor)
- Your license number
- Your email address
Minor Contractor: Connecticut defines a “minor contractor” as someone who specializes in single family residential homes and small multi-family units (think duplexes). While there’s no minor contractor license, you’ll need to register as a New Home Construction Contractor and/or a Home Improvement Contractor. Let’s break it down so you know which specific type of registration you might need for your next residential project:
New Home Construction: If you’re building a home in Connecticut, you need this registration (some exceptions: you’re building your own home, you’re subcontracting for someone who’s already licensed, and/or the project in total is less than $3500). The process is pretty straightforward - just download the registration application, sign it in front of a notary, and then mail the completed application to the address listed on the second-to-last page. It usually takes about three weeks for you to receive your registration, at which point you can start building.
Don’t forget that you need to provide a copy of your New Home Construction certificate to a customer before you can take on a project!
Once you register as a New Home Construction Contractor, your registration will last for two years, at which point you’ll need to renew. All New Home Construction registrations expire on September 30th of every odd-numbered year (2017, 2019, 2021, etc.) The fee to renew is $720; click here to view renewal info.
Home Improvement Construction: Thinking of getting into home remodeling or landscaping? Then you’ll definitely need to register as a Home Improvement contractor. This registration is necessary for any contractor who’s working with a customer to make changes to a residential building. “Changes” here can be pretty vague, so here are a couple of examples of what Connecticut means by changing a home:
- Adding an addition
- Remodeling a bedroom or bathroom
- Repaving the driveway
- Landscaping the yard
- Installing a swimming pool
- Adding a new door to an existing garage
- Adding a new porch
- Installing new windows
Basically, if you’re making any changes to a customer’s home, it’s best to have register as a Home Improvement contractor. More specifically, you’re legally required to register as a Home Improvement contractor if you’re working on a project that’s worth more than $200, or you’re making improvements that total $1000 or more within a one-year period.
The process for getting your Home Improvement certificate is similar to the New Home Construction certificate. You can download the registration application here. Make sure you sign it in front of a notary, attorney, or justice of the peace. Finally, mail the completed application to the address listed on the first page of the application. You should expect to get your registration within three to four weeks.
The fee for registering as a Home Improvement contractor is $220, which is payable by check or credit card. You can also apply online for your certificate here. Remember, don’t start work before you get this certificate!
Once you register as a Home Improvement contractor, your registration will last for one year, at which point you’ll need to renew. All Home Improvement registrations expire on November 30th of every year. The fee to renew is $220; click here to view renewal info.
Wondering if you need both certificates? Let’s say you’re working on a project where you’re building a new home, so you already have your New Home Construction certificate. You complete the project within three months, but the owner contacts you after six months to let you know what they want to add on a balcony to the master bedroom. Even though you already have a New Home Construction certificate, you’ll need to register for a Home Improvement certificate, as it’s considered a separate project.
It can get pretty confusing, so when it doubt, you may want to consider just having both certificates anyway. Besides, it’ll expand your ability to take on different types of projects!
Do You Need to Take an Exam to Get Your Contractor’s License?
Many states legally require contractors to take the National Business and Law exam to get their contractor’s license. Wondering if Connecticut is one of them?
The answer is no - unless you’re an electrician, a plumber, or an HVAC technician. These trades are required to go through more intensive examination and review. If you’re interested in being an electric contractor, click here to learn more about Connecticut’s exam requirements. For contractors interested in plumbing and pipefitting, click here for more information.
Even though you don’t have to take an exam to become registered as a contractor in Connecticut, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t study up on your legal requirements and best practices. Luckily, Connecticut has already compiled this information for you, including:
- Requirements for getting a contractor’s license
- Contract requirements for working with customers
- Building codes and permits you need to know
- Important home improvement/construction laws
- How to handle payments and pricing
- Dealing with special environmental issues
- And more
Once licensed, don’t forget to run a contractors insurance quote to ensure you’re covered.
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