Not sure how to get your Oklahoma contractor’s license? We have the step-by-step here.
So you want to start a contracting business in Oklahoma? Before the business cards are printed and the contracts signed, you need to get a few legal matters sorted. If your shoulders tensed and your brow furrowed when you read the word “legal,” take a deep breath. We’re going to walk you through what you need to know about your Oklahoma contractor’s license.
Why Do I Need an Oklahoma Contractor’s License?
What’s the deal with this Oklahoma contractor’s license, anyway? Why can’t you just act on your business idea when you feel like it?
Oklahoma has licensure laws so that Joe Shmoe can’t set up shop selling plumbing services to your grandma when he actually has no idea what he’s doing. A great contractor can make a world of difference for a homeowner, and a terrible contractor can bring a world of hurt.
Unprepared contractors who do lousy work also tarnish the reputation of contractors as a whole. Therefore, business licenses are a win-win for everyone involved. Customers use state databases to find reputable contractors, and business owners are held to the same standards. Licensing also gives contractors lien rights that may allow them to seek unpaid compensation.
Another business protection that most states require is business insurance. Just like you have car insurance in case there’s an accident, general liability insurance protects you if there’s costly property damage or injury. The average claim for property damage is $30,000, and having business insurance makes sure that it doesn’t all come directly from your bank account.
Get Insured in Under 10 Minutes
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Steps to Get a General Contractor License in Oklahoma
Now that we’ve covered a crash course in licensure laws and why they’re so important, let’s get into how to get a general contractor license in Oklahoma.
General contractors vs. specialty contractors
If you plan on being a general contractor in Oklahoma, I have good news - there are no license requirements for you.
Wait, wait, wait! Don’t leave yet, because your job here isn’t over yet. Just because Oklahoma doesn’t require general contractors to get a license or register their business, doesn’t mean there aren’t things you need.
First of all, what does Oklahoma consider as “general” contracting? These are your handyman jobs or general building and remodeling tasks, such as:
- House framing
- Fence installation
There are, however, licenses for specialty skills like:
This means that even if your business is 99% general contracting, but 1% of the time you also do some electrical tasks, you need to get your electrical license. Even a little bit of professional specialty work requires a license.
Now let’s talk about insurance. Since general contractors don’t need to be licensed or registered with the state, you technically don’t have general liability insurance requirements. The harsh reality, though, is that state license laws (or lack thereof) don’t automatically prevent you from having accidents.
Here are a few very real effects of getting business insurance, even though the state isn’t asking you to:
- Land more clients, since homeowners will want to work with an insured contractor
- Avoid going bankrupt from fees if a customer files a lawsuit because of damages
- Get reimbursed for stolen tools when you have contents coverage
A single slip up that leads to injury, property damage that sets off the wrong customer, or stolen piece of equipment can derail a small business. Going out on your own as a contractor takes a lot of guts, but it also requires some responsibility to prioritize preparation.
This is also a great time to let you know that if you have employees, whether you’re a general or specialty contractor, you’ll need to adhere to state laws. This usually includes worker’s compensation insurance and/or unemployment insurance.
General requirements for licensure
If you’re a specialty contractor, whether most of the time or a little of the time, this section is for you. We won’t add in all the detailed requirements for each type and class of specialty contractor licenses in the state of Oklahoma, but these are some requirements to expect:
Business registration. Sole proprietors or two people who agree to create a business together don’t need to register their business. However, if you want to set up an LLC, you need to register your business with the state.
Experience or education. Different specialties and levels of licenses have varying experience or education requirements.
Passing an exam. The exam for each specialty will vary, but licensure requires passing an exam. You’ll need to pass the exam before you can submit an application.
General liability insurance. Having business insurance coverage is required for some license specialties, such as roofing and plumbing. The amount of coverage needed varies by specialty.
Worker’s compensation insurance. If you have employees, you need worker’s compensation insurance. You’ll also need to set up an unemployment tax account.
Bond. If you leave a project unfinished, your unhappy customer may reach out to the state for compensation. Some licenses require bonds to make sure that your business can pay for these obligations. For example, plumbing contractors are required to submit proof of a $5,000 Corporate Surety Bond.
Application and fee. Each contracting specialty has its own application, which gathers information about you and your business. Along with your form and supporting documents, you’ll have to pay a licensing and application fee.
Special steps for electricians
If you want to start an electrician business in Oklahoma, you’ll need to meet education, experience, and exam standards. The state has outlined the career path to follow here.
Oklahoma has three steps to becoming an electrical contractor:
- Electrical Apprentice
- Electrical Journeyman
- Electrical Contractor
Then, within the “electrical contractor” category, there are three license types:
- Unlimited Electrical Contractor
- Residential Electrical Contractor
- Limited Electrical Contractor
The license you can apply for depends on your hours of experience in different roles, as well as your formal education. For example, Unlimited Electrical Contractors can work on any type of project, as long as they have 12,000 hours of verifiable experience in electrical construction work across three categories.
Special steps for plumbers
Plumbing is another contracting specialty that requires licensure. When you’re applying for your electrical contractor license, you’ll need to pass two exams:
Plumbing Business and Law Exam. This test covers topics such as lien laws, plumbing regulations, and worker’s compensation rules.
Oklahoma Plumbing Exam. Ready to put your technical knowledge to the test? You’ll need to show plumbing competence to get your license.
If you’re applying for a journeyman exam, you’ll need three years of experience being employed by a licensed plumber. Contractor license applicants need three years of experience plus an additional year. Fortunately, a Career Tech diploma can count for two years of experience for contractor applicants.
Special steps for roofers
Working high atop roofs is risky business, so roofing contractors in Oklahoma have higher insurance requirements. There’s a minimum $500,000 general liability coverage requirement for contractors, and $1,000,000 coverage is needed to work on commercial projects. The application fee for a commercial roofing contractor is $230, while a residential roofer only needs to pay $75 to submit their license form.
If you still have some Oklahoma contractor license questions unanswered, check out the Oklahoma Construction Industries Board website.
If you still need to get general liability and worker’s comp insurance before you can apply, get a contractor’s insurance quote to ensure you’re covered.
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