Texas General Contractor License: Handyman, Residential, Home Improvement

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Interested in doing handyman, home renovator, or similar type of contractor work in Texas, but have no idea where to start?

There are a lot of people in this situation. Available information is usually confusing, so you better pay attention to the source, or you might end up misinformed. If you’re still honing your craft and/or you’re in the process of running your business, you might not have time to look up every detail on government websites.

Luckily for you, we looked into this topic and managed to summarize it in this simple guide. Our tutorial should be more than enough to help you get your Texas contractor license.

Who needs a Texas contractor license?

Depending on the line of work you operate in, you’ll have to meet different licensing requirements as a Texas general contractor. First, you must decide on the category which suits your line of work and figure out whether a contractor’s license is needed and, if it is, how to go about getting one.

No license required

In case you’ve classified yourself as a handyman, general contractor, or builder, count yourself lucky because The State of Texas doesn’t require you to have an official license.

But you might have some additional paperwork to sort through depending on where you’re working — though we’ll cover that in a bit.

License required

You do need a license to operate as a contractor if you belong to one of these roles: plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, and some others. These are just a few of the many tradesmen expected to satisfy certain criteria and get a passing grade on a test. Also, keep in mind that besides the state laws, you might also need to fill out additional paperwork from individual municipalities.

State also demands fire sprinkler installers, well drillers, mold remediators, and corporations (or small groups) installing elevators and escalators to have a license before they can get to work.

Please note that regardless of how you identify yourself, if you offer the type of services that a licensed tradesman offers, you need to obtain a license as well.

Do you need a contractor license to file a mechanics lien in Texas?

According to Texas lien law, a contractor may file a mechanics lien even if he isn’t issued a license. This applies to all tradesmen, regardless of whether the state requires you to have a license or not.

For instance, if you do the work as an electrician but don’t get paid, you’re still within your rights to file a mechanics lien – even if you don’t have the license required by state laws.

With that being said, it’s not a great idea to operate as an unlicensed tradesman in the area of work where licenses are required. You may be penalized for your actions.

Texan general contractor licensing & registration

Getting started as a general contractor in Texas is very simple. The state of Texas doesn’t ask you to obtain a license or set any other requirements for people who wish to operate as a general contractor.

There are still a few procedures involved.

First of all, you are obligated to register your business. Whether you have to do so with the state or county is contingent on your business structure. You’ll have to choose between various corporation types as well: LLC, partnership, corporation, or sole proprietor. The simplest option is to become a sole proprietor, but there are downsides involved – you are financially responsible if your business becomes insolvent.

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

TX builders, home improvement specialists, and handyman services are all set

Aspiring general contractors, handymen, or other kinds of builders in Texas are in luck because, according to state laws, holding a license for these professions isn’t necessary. You don’t have to pass an exam or fill out any paperwork to be a contractor.

In the past, builders involved in home improvement businesses were obligated to register their business with Texas, but that’s no longer the case. If doing various types of building work and being a general contractor is all you want, you shouldn’t run into any problems at the state level.

Even though the state doesn’t obligate you to have a license, there may be other governing bodies that might require you to obtain a license or a permit.

Plumbers, electricians, and other trades need a state-wide Texas contractor license

If you plan on being a contractor who specializes in or offers to do the following jobs in exchange for payment, you must obtain a contractors license in Texas:

  • HVAC services
  • Plumbing
  • Electrical work

Guidelines for obtaining each of these licenses will be provided later in the article.

HVAC Contractor

An individual seeking HVAC contractor licenses in Texas can choose between two types:

  • Class A: The license allows you to handle any HVAC equipment, regardless of size
  • Class B: The license allows you to handle cooling systems that are 25 tons and under, and the upper limit for heating systems is 1.5 million BTUs/hour.

To be eligible for an HVAC license, an individual must be legally adult (18 years or older), have accumulated 48 months of education or work experience, and get a passing grade on the Air Conditioning and Refrigeration licensing exam.

There’s no need to worry about the exam; it’s very easy. If you have basic competency in your craft, you should be able to pass it easily.

After passing the exam, download this application form, fill it out and send it with the $115 license fee to the following address:

Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation

PO Box 12157

Austin, TX 78711-2157

To obtain a license, you’ll also have to prove that you’ve secured a general liability policy for your HVAC business; The required dollar amount for coverage starts from $100,000. The exact amount will depend on the license class that you chose.

Plumbing Contractor

There are four different types of plumbing licenses you could apply for, including:

  • Tradesman Plumber-Limited
  • Journeyman
  • Master
  • Plumbing Inspector

Each license has specific requirements that need to be met. All license types require an individual to be a US citizen (or national), have accumulated 4,000+ hours of experience, and have relevant educational credentials.

Understanding the specifics and requirements of each license is very useful. Click here to read more about various license types.

Once you make sure that you satisfy all the criteria to obtain a license, you should prepare for a relevant exam. As an individual, you must register to apply for your particular exam here.

After passing an exam, you can proceed to obtain a plumbing contractor license by applying online.

Electrician

As an electrician, you have to register with the Licensing Board that issues HVAC licenses to obtain a license. There are too many electrician licenses to discuss in detail, so let’s focus on the most important one, which comes right after you’re done apprenticing: the Journeyman Electrician license.

The prerequisites for this license are:

  • Being a legal adult (18 years or older).
  • Having a minimum of 8,000 hours of practical training on the job under the master electrician’s supervision.
  • Passing the relevant licensing examination.

When applying, you’ll be required to provide proof of your experience; Once you’ve proven your track record, you should receive a postcard with guidelines on where and how to participate in your Texas Electrician licensing exam.

Once you’ve finished the exam and secured a passing grade, download this application form and address it (as well as 30$ fee) to:

Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation

PO Box 12157

Austin, TX 78711-2157

Water Well Driller Contractor

In order to become a licensed water well driller, you must have a minimum of 2 years of work experience, which was accumulated while being supervised by a licensed expert water well driller. There’s also a requirement to have a specific amount of qualifying installations under your belt. The exact number depends on the license class and endorsement that you’re aiming for.

Once all the requirements have been met, it is required to complete the license application form and send it over to the TDLR (Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation). In your submission, you should also include a $215 application fee.

You may need to apply for licensing and permits within your city

One way in which Texas is unlike other US states is that you may be subject to local laws, depending on the city that you work in. These local requirements are very different from each other, so it is recommended to research the county or city laws regarding your business. You might need to obtain additional licenses.

Although the State of Texas doesn’t require general contractors to have a license, you might still be obligated to get one by your local municipality. Research the laws regarding general contractor licenses in your city.

Every city has different rules. We’ve summarized the relevant rules for big cities in Texas:

Austin

Individuals who choose to do contracting work in Austin are required by local laws to register themselves as general contractors. Also, they must acquire a project-based permit, which can be issued by the City of Austin Development Service Department. This is the information that is required for registration:

  • Area of work: Commercial Usage (for three-story buildings or higher) or Residential Usage (for smaller buildings)
  • The address of the project
  • Building permit numerals
  • In-depth overview of the project

Dallas

According to local laws, contractors in Dallas must apply for a contractor registration, depending on which license type they’re aspiring to obtain. Contractors must pay a $120 initial fee to register and pay it upon renewal every year.

Houston

The city of Houston doesn’t expressly require general contractors or businessmen to have a license. In Houston, permits are issued for every job individually and the fees depend on how much money the property is worth. If a property is priced under $150,000, the state will charge $40.86 for the initial $7,000 and, for each additional $1,000 of worth, pay an extra $4.66. You can probably better understand this structure if you take a look at the permit fee schedule. The Houston Permitting Center has built a project planner, a tool that is very useful in figuring out the exact fee you’ll have to pay.

San Antonio

To do paid work as a general contractor in San Antonio, you must first classify the type of services you offer. There’s a home improvement contractor type that is perfect for people who do minor repair work. Alternatively, if you’re planning to take on more elaborate construction jobs, you can get a residential building contractor license. The first step in the application process is submitting the files on the City of San Antonio’s Developmental Service Department website and participating in a background check. If you are only offering non-structural work services, you still have to register and classify yourself as a Home Improvement Contractor. The Initial registration fee is $150, which you’ll also have to pay every time you renew. If you plan on offering services that involve making structural changes to a home, make sure to register as a Home Builder Contractor and pay the relevant $170 fee.

If you’ve classified yourself as a residential building contractor and are applying for a license, you must also provide a certificate of liability insurance.

Other Cities

There are many more cities in The State of Texas. Here’s what you should do in order to find licensing information for your city:

  • Check out the Texas Municipal League’s City website.
  • Scroll through and click on the Texas city where you’re working. You’ll be taken to that city’s government website.
  • Scroll down and open the relevant government website of the city where you operate in;
  • Search for “contractor license requirements”.

Every individual website is different in its own way; each one will need an individual approach to find the information you’re after. However, it is better to spend some time on a website to ensure that your contracting business abides by the laws.

People who aim to get a general contractor license in Texas may be confused by the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration website, but if you know what you’re looking for, it can be quite easy.

Contractors in Texas should count themselves lucky because the state doesn’t always require a license from them. Even if that’s the case for your business, there are still some factors you must take into account when you’re planning to start a new contracting business.

Insurance and bond requirements to get your license

Regardless of license requirements in your city, still pay attention to insurance requirements that local laws might regulate. Some areas in Texas will ask you to have general liability insurance coverage, while others might demand you to have insurance coverage and construction bond.

Share any questions that might arise in the comments section.

As soon as you get your license, make sure to run a contractor’s insurance quote to double-check that you have the coverage.

Getting your business license

In order to get started as a general contractor in Texas, you’ll have to get a business license, just as you would with any other type of small business. Throughout this endeavor, you’ll have to decide what business structure you want to go with (sole proprietor, partnership, etc.), get a Tax ID to fulfill your tax responsibilities as a business, and secure the insurance coverage state-mandated permits.

Small business registration usually happens in the local county clerk’s office.

Texas contractor licensing penalties

If a license is required in Texas, that requirement should not be taken lightly. Both governing bodies, TDLR and TSBPE, take unlicensed contracting issues seriously and won’t hesitate to impose fines and legal charges if you’re found not to have the required licenses.

Regardless of your occupation, doing paid work without having proper licenses is a Class C misdemeanor, which is punishable by jail time. The governing bodies can also financially penalize you.

How to Use Your Texas Handyman License to Get a Job

Regardless of your licensing status, Texas is ripe with work opportunities for handymen. A lot of local governments will declare job openings on their respective websites. The city of Austin, for example, is frequently looking for posts electricians on their official website. The easiest way is to distinguish yourself as an apprentice and ask for your mentor’s help in finding a job.

As an unlicensed handyman, your best bet for finding work is to get on Yelp and Angie’s List and maintain a good reputation on those platforms.

Is My Out-of-State License Valid in Texas?

If your license isn’t issued by a Texas governing body, you can still use it to verify your qualifications and prove your fitness for a job. If your line of work expects you to pass an exam to get a license, your license might turn out to be useful in other places as well.

Plumbing

For plumbers with out-of-state licenses, Texas may or may not grant an equivalent license. It considers every case individually. A plumbing license issued by Texas can be used in some states, depending on where you wish to work.

Electrical

Licensed Master Electricians from North Carolina and Louisiana can use their license in Texas as well. Licensed Journeyman Electricians from Arkansas, Idaho, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Wyoming can also operate in their line of work using the license from the aforementioned states.

HVAC

Individuals from Georgia and South Carolina holding HVAC licenses can benefit from reciprocity with Texas.

How Often Do I Need to Renew My Handyman License in Texas?

In Texas, tradesmen are required to renew their licenses every year through the Texas Department of Licensing and Registration website online. The necessary forms are available on their website. Plumbing Licenses use the same principle for renewals and can be renewed online as well.

Order a duplicate license if you’ve lost the one you hold.

When you’ve handled every licensing issue and make money with your trade, you should outsource some scheduling and invoicing tasks.