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Contractor’s Licenses in Illinois: A Step-By-Step Guide

5 minute read.

Getting a contractor's license in Illinois lets you work on larger projects, like this contractor mixing cement.

Want to get your contractor’s license in Illinois but not sure where to start?

There’s a lot of information to sort through, especially online. Plus, every state handles licensing differently. So if you used to work in a neighboring state, you’ll need to follow a different process in Illinois.

Feeling confused? You’re not alone. It can be tough to sort through the forms and paperwork. To help, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide for getting your license in Illinois and Chicago. Check it out and let us know your questions in the comments section.

Why Do I Need to Become Licensed in Illinois?

Getting a “stamp of approval” is good practice and the law. Most cities and counties in Illinois require contractors to carry licenses before they can do work, but it depends on where you live. If you’re unsure, check with your local municipal department first.

So you want to obey the law. But, there are a lot of other good reasons to get a license too. Here are a few:

  • You’ll score jobs that pay more. Chances are, you can handle smaller projects, like painting trims, installing appliances, and caulking bathrooms. But a license opens the doors to bigger, more complicated jobs… and higher pay.
  • You’ll appear credible and professional. Getting a license is a great way for new customers to find you. You’ll appear in online lists with other licensed contractors. And, your license will make you appear trustworthy, safe, and credible.
  • You’ll protect your business in big ways. What would you do if your equipment got damaged or if an employee got injured? Fortunately, most licenses require you to get business insurance, like general liability insurance and workers’ compensation. These plans protect you if there’s an unexpected loss.

Think getting a contractor’s license is a good idea? We do! Now, here are the steps you need to take to get one.

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Getting a Contractor License in Illinois: What You Need to Know

It’s not as overwhelming as you might think. For some licenses, you’ll go to the Illinois Department of Public Health. But, for the majority of contractor’s licenses, you’ll head to your local municipal department.

We’ll break it down for you.

General Requirements for Licensure

Head over to the Illinois Department of Public Health if you’re a contractor who works with:

  • Irrigation
  • Plumbing
  • Removal of asbestos
  • Removal of lead

They can help you secure your license. For everyone else, start the licensing process by:

Then, you’ll go to your local department to get an Illinois contractor’s license there. We can’t break down the process for every city and county in Illinois. But, since it’s the biggest city in the state, we’ll talk about how licensing works in Chicago.

Getting a Contractor’s License in Chicago

If you live and work in the Windy City, you can get your business license through the City of Chicago Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Department . It’s a fairly simple process, but it does take some time. Next, apply for your contractor’s license with the City of Chicago Department of Buildings . In your application, you need to include:

  • A completed application form .
  • A description of the work you plan to do.
  • Information about your business and its structure.
  • Proof that you’re financially stable.
  • Proof you have business insurance.
  • The type of license classification you’re applying for. Chicago offers:
    • Class A license: no limitation to the value for any single project
    • Class B license: not allowed to work on projects that are more than $10,000,000
    • Class C license: not allowed to work on projects that are more than $5,000,000
    • Class D license: not allowed to work on projects that are more than $2,000,000
    • Class E license: not allowed to work on projects that are more than $500,000
  • A licensing fee for your particular license classification.

The City of Chicago Department of Buildings also offers additional licenses for contractors who manage electrical work, plumbing, masonry, cranes, and private alarms. If you have questions about what licenses you need, call 1-800-359-1313 or email [email protected]

Get Business Insurance

Not ready to get your contractor’s license today? Explore getting business insurance first. Buying a top-notch insurance plan is one of the first steps toward becoming official. General liability insurance and worker’s compensation will protect you, your employees, and your property, like vehicles and equipment, in the event of a loss or injury. Plus, it makes you appear professional and official in the eyes of your customers.

Emily Thompson

Written By

Emily Thompson
I earned a B.A. in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin at Madison (go Bucky). After realizing my first job might involve carrying a police scanner at 2 am in pursuit of “newsworthy” crimes, I decided I was better suited for freelance blogging and marketing writing. Since 2010, I’ve owned my freelance writing business, EST Creative. When I’m not penning, doodling ideas, or chatting with clients, you’ll find me hiking with my husband, baby boy, and 2 mischievous mutts.

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