Wondering what steps to take to start your general contracting or handyman business in Washington? We’ve got you covered.
The idea of starting your own business comes with a whole host of emotions. You’re excited about the possibilities, proud you’re finally taking the step, and likely overwhelmed or confused about the legal side of things. Never fear, Simply Business is here. We’ve scoured the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries website to bring you a simple, how-to guide for becoming a general contractor in Washington.
If you’ve ever taken an exam and paid a fee to get a driver’s license, then the Washington contractor’s license process won’t be completely foreign.
Business licenses make sure that contractors in the state are knowledgeable and reputable. Licensure requires passing an exam and sometimes has experience standards as well.
On the other hand, business registration doesn’t have experience or exam requirements. It’s simply a way for the state to keep track of whose operating a business so that contractors can be held responsible for their actions (or inaction).
Business insurance protects the business owner and their personal assets. Even with precautions, property damage or bodily injury can happen on a job site. Having general liability insurance prevents you from having to pay those damages out of pocket, and it’s also required by the state.
If you decide to skip a few steps and start operating a business without the required license, registration, or insurance, you could be in for fines or charges. After receiving your license or registration from the state of Washington, you’ll be listed on their database of contractors for potential customers to use.
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Being organized makes the registration and licensure process much more manageable. Let’s break down how to become a general contractor in Washington into small steps.
Every state handles contractor licensing differently, and in Washington, general contractors don’t need to apply for a license. Instead, general contractors are required to register. If, however, you’ll be working on the specialty skills listed below, you’ll need to pass an exam.
If you’re a general contractor, you only need to register. General contracting covers:
We’ll go over registration requirements and process in a moment.
If you’re a specialty contractor, you must meet education and exam standards to become licensed. There are 63 specialties and project types that you may need to be licensed to perform. The main license categories that have education and exam steps are:
If you have any questions about whether the work you’re planning on doing requires licensure or not, contact your local L&I office or the Contractor Information line at 1-800-647-0982. For this guide, we’ll be focusing on general contractor registration.
The registration application itself is straightforward, but you do need to take care of a few things before applying. Here’s what you need to send in along with your registration application:
You’re in the home stretch of getting your Washington general contractor registration. After gathering your documents, you need to fill out an application and have it notarized. You can either have the application notarized separately, or visit your local L&I office to fill out the forms and apply in person.
If you don’t submit your forms in person at the L&I office, you’ll mail your application, supporting documents, and a check, money order, or cash payment of \$117.90 to:
P.O. BOX 44450
Olympia, WA 98504-4450
You’ll need to keep your general contractor registration up to date by renewing every year. If none of your business information has changed, including your bond or insurance, you can simply renew online or via mail. Any changes to your business or coverage will need to be documented, and the renewal fee is \$117.90.
If you still have some Washington contractor’s license questions unanswered, check out the state’s Labor and Industries 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. We also have a guide on How to Start a Handyman Business.
I'm a freelance writer who has always had an interest in entrepreneurship, starting way back with lemonade stands. These days I write to help business owners with their everyday challenges and choices. When I'm not typing away, you'll find me eating pizza, volunteering at the animal shelter, or taking too many pictures of my cats.
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