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How to Get a Contractor’s License in Ohio

6 minute read.

Getting a contractor’s license in Ohio means you can work onsite, like this contractor working on cement wall.

You’ve been handy for years. You’re the first one your friends call when they need help sawing, hammering, or grouting. Maybe you’ve got a knack for electrical and plumbing work too.

So why not make a career out of it? If you’ve been thinking about becoming a licensed contractor in Ohio, you’ve come to the right place. There’s a lot of confusing, outdated information out there. So we decided to do the research for you.

Learn the steps to take to get a license in the Buckeye State.

Why Do I Need to Become Licensed in Ohio?

Ohio contractor licenses keep homeowners safe by preventing scams and unsafe construction. To work on certain jobs, contractors must demonstrate their knowledge, experience, and professionalism.

Trust us, licenses are worth the time and effort, especially for electricians and plumbers. Here’s why:

  • It opens the door to higher-paying jobs. Without a license, you’re limited to working on smaller handyman projects. But with a license, you can work on specialized contractor work, like plumbing and electrical jobs. If you’re a general contractor, you can work on bigger construction sites that pay more.
  • It shows you’re serious about your work. Getting a license is a big deal. It shows you’ve had training and experience — and you’ll do the job well. People tend to hire contractors they know they can trust, and a license makes you appear credible.
  • It helps protect your business. As a contractor, anything can happen. You could get hurt on the job or get your equipment damaged. Fortunately, most licenses require that you buy business insurance, like general liability and workers’ compensation insurance. These plans protect you financially if there’s a financial loss.

Sold on getting a license? We are too.

Here’s how you can get one quickly and easily.

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

Are you a general contractor? Skip ahead to your local municipal department. General contractors can get their licenses there. But if you’re an electrician, plumber, or HVAC, hydronics, or refrigeration contractor, you’ll get your license from the Ohio Department of Commerce .

Fortunately, the steps are fairly simple. Here’s how.

Basic Requirements for Getting an Ohio Contractor License

First things first. Make sure you meet the requirements for getting a license through the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (OCILB) :

  • You’re at least 18 years old.
  • You’re a U.S. citizen or a legal alien with proof of status.
  • You’ve been a tradesperson working under another licensed tradesperson for at least 5 years OR you’re a registered engineer in Ohio with three years of business experience in the construction industry in your trade.
  • You’ve never been convicted of an offense that could prevent you from getting your license.
  • You’ve passed your license exam.
  • You have at least $500,000 in liability coverage.
  • You’re able to pay a $25 application fee.

If you meet these basic requirements, start gathering your paperwork for the OCILB. You’ll need:

  • A completed and notarized application form .
  • Information about your citizenship status.
  • Proof of having at least $500,000 in liability coverage.
  • Results from your license exam.
  • A $25 application fee made out to “Treasurer, State of Ohio.”
  • Proof of being a tradesperson working under a licensed contractor on projects that required a permit OR proof that you’ve been a registered engineer in Ohio for at least three years. Proof can include:
    • W-2s
    • A permit
    • The license number of the contractor you worked under

If you’re a general contractor, you’ll want to contact your local municipal department to get your license.

Getting a General Contractor’s License in Ohio’s Largest Cities

Every city and county in Ohio handles contractor licensing differently. To help, we’ve broken down the process for Ohio’s largest cities, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus.

Cincinnati

If you work in Cincinnati, you can register with the City of Cincinnati Department of Buildings and Inspections under one of two types of licenses:

  • Home improvement contractor: Choose this option if you repair, remodel, alter, improve, or add additions to private residences in one, two, and three family structures.

  • Building construction contractor: Go with this option if you’re not a home improvement contractor or a specialty contractor (electrical, plumbing, HVAC, hydronic, refrigeration). This might apply to you if you work on new one, two, and three family dwellings, or if you do crane operations, demolition, masonry, or glazing.

To register for your license in Cincinnati, you’ll need:

  • A completed application form .
  • A certificate of liability insurance.
  • Proof of having worker’s compensation insurance.
  • A copy of your state of Ohio license (if you already have one).
  • A check for $130 made out to “City of Cincinnati.”

Once you gather all of your materials, send them to:

Buildings and Inspections Department
Contractor Registration
805 Central Avenue, Suite 500
Cincinnati, Ohio 45202

If you need a quick turnaround, you can pay an extra $208 for same day processing. Nice!

Cleveland

In Cleveland, general contractors need to register with the City of Cleveland Department of Building and Housing before doing any work. This includes plumbers, electricians, and HVAC, demolition, and general contractors.

To register in Cleveland, you’ll need:

  • A completed and notarized application form .
  • A bond form with a minimum coverage of $25,000. If you have multiple bonds, they need to begin and end on the same date.
  • A completed Power-of-Attorney form.
  • A certificate of business insurance with a minimum coverage of $200,000:
  • Bodily injury: $50,000 and $100,000
  • Property damage: $50,000
  • A copy of the Articles of Incorporation with the state seal of Ohio (corporations only).
  • A copy of the sewer builder’s license and demolition bond (for demolition contractors only).
  • Information about authorized agents (if it applies).
  • A $150 application fee.

When you’re ready, send all of your materials to:

City of Cleveland
Department of Building and Housing
601 Lakeside Ave. Room #505
Cleveland, OH 44114

Columbus

In Columbus, contractors apply for licenses through the Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services. The department offers two types of licenses: a home improvement contractor’s license and a general contractor’s license. These licenses have differences in the type of work you’re allowed to do.

Columbus home improvement contractor’s license

To apply for the home improvement contractor’s license , show that:

  • You’re at least 18 years old.
  • You’re a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or an alien authorized to work in the U.S.
  • You have three years of work experience in the construction trades working on one, two, or three family dwellings, or have one year of experience (for a limited license).
  • You’ve passed the ICC accredited exam .

Include in your application:

  • A completed and notarized application form .
  • A non-refundable $185 fee made out to the Columbus City Treasurer.
  • A copy of your passing test results (70% or better).
  • You can mail your application materials to:

City of Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services
111 N Front Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Columbus general contractor’s license

To apply for the general contractor’s license , show that:

  • You’re at least 18 years old.
  • You’re a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident, or an alien authorized to work in the U.S.
  • You have three years of work experience in the construction trades working on one, two, or three family dwellings, or have one year of experience (for a limited license).
  • You’ve passed the ICC accredited exam.

Include in your application:

  • A completed and notarized application form .
  • A non-refundable $350 fee made out to the Columbus City Treasurer.
  • A bond in the amount of $25,000.
  • A certificate for liability insurance with a minimum of $300,000 for damages to a single person and $500,000 for one occurrence.

Mail your application materials to:

Contractor Registration
City of Columbus
Department of Building and Zoning Services
111 N Front Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215

Get Business Insurance

No matter which contractor’s license you’re applying for in Ohio, it’s a good idea to get business insurance early on, including worker’s compensation and general liability insurance. Plus, in many areas, it’s required.

A business insurance plan protects you, your employees, and your property in case there’s a loss. But carrying insurance also speaks volumes to your customers. It shows you’re professional, trustworthy, and take your work seriously.

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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