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 There’s a lot of confusing, outdated information out there.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 your Ohio contractor license.
Yes, you do. An Ohio contractor license keeps homeowners safe by preventing scams and unsafe construction. To work on certain jobs, contractors must demonstrate their knowledge, experience, and professionalism.
The short answer is: a license. While having a license is often a legal requirement, it can also make good business sense. Having a license shows customers you have a higher level of training and experience than someone who isn’t licensed.
Knowing that, if you were the customer, which type of contractor would you prefer?
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 an Ohio contractor license? We are too.
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.
First things first. Make sure you meet the requirements for getting a license through the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (OCILB):
If you meet these basic requirements, start gathering your paperwork for the OCILB. You’ll need:
Proof can include:
If you’re a general contractor, you’ll want to contact your local municipal department to get your license.
Before we move on to discuss how to get an Ohio contractor license in specific cities, let's take a minute to point something crucial out.
In most causes, you'll be required to show proof to the state that you have at least $500,000 in general liability insurance.
This type of policy can protect your contracting business against claims involving third-party accidents, property damage, and bills from customer injuries caused by your work.
Without this business insurance coverage, you won't be able to get your Ohio contractor license, so it's worth getting your policy before even applying for your license.
Need help finding the right policy? Compare affordable quotes from top insurers at Simply Business! Just use our free quote comparison tool to see free quotes for general liability insurance policies. If you see a policy you like, just click to get it.
You may need to show proof of business insurance to get your license.
That’s where we come in. Compare free insurance quotes for policies as low as $22.50/month.*Start Here >
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.
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:
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!
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:
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
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:
Include in your application:
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:
Include in your application:
Mail your application materials to:
Contractor Registration City of Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services 111 N Front Street Columbus, Ohio 43215
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.
The state of Ohio keeps a record of licensed contractors on the Department of Commerce website.
We hope this guide answered a few questions you might have about getting your Ohio contractor license. You may also need to register your business, so don't forget to read our guide on business licensing in Ohio too.
Don't forget, if you need more advice on starting your contracting business, you can visit Simply U and check out our latest updates on Starting Your Business.
* Monthly payment calculations (i) do not include initial premium down payment and (ii) may vary by state, insurance provider, and nature of your business. Averages based on January - December 2020 data of 10% of our total policies sold.
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.
This content is for general, informational purposes only and is not intended to provide legal, tax, accounting, or financial advice. Please obtain expert advice from industry specific professionals who may better understand your business’s needs. Read our full disclaimer
*Harborway Insurance policies are underwritten by Spinnaker Insurance Company and reinsured by Munich Re, an A+ (Superior) rated insurance carrier by AM Best. Harborway Insurance is a brand name of Harborway Insurance Agency, LLC, a licensed insurance producer in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. California license #6004217.