How to Become a Contractor in Illinois – and get an Illinois Contractor License

Contractors can bid on individual projects, manage large construction plans, and hire others to work under them. In Chicago, you could make an average of $96,200 as a contractor, increasing your salary to six figures over time.  

Unlike most other states, Illinois does not issue state-wide licensing for contractors. Instead, you’ll need to get licensed in your state or municipality. To give you an idea of the process, we’ve broken down contractor licensing in Chicago, Springfield, and Peoria below.

Do You Need a Contractor License in Illinois?

Completing contractor work without a license in Illinois can result in substantial fines or even imprisonment. You should comply with your city’s licensing regulations before completing any contracting work in the area. 

A contractor in Illinois is defined as anyone who is permitted by law to engage in construction. Construction can include building, altering, reconstructing, fixing, renovating, maintaining, adding to or taking away from, or decorating a structure, among other things. 

Becoming a Contractor in Illinois

To become a contractor, you’ll need to meet your city’s licensing requirements. Generally speaking, you will go through the following steps. 

  1. Gain experience in your field, being supervised by a licensed contractor wherever possible
  2. Take the official exam for your trade
  3. Apply for licensure or registration within your city
  4. Pay applicable fees and show proof of experience, insurance, ID, etc.
  5. Once approved, receive your license

Types of IL Contractor Licenses

While each city will offer a menu of licenses, these are the most commonly offered contractor licenses in Illinois:

  • General Contractors can do limited or unlimited work on residences and commercial structures. 
  • Electrical Contractors design, install, remove, fix, and maintain electrical systems.
  • HVAC Contractors work with heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, as well as refrigeration (HVAC-R).
  • Plumbing Contractors fix, maintain, install, and replace pipes.
  • Demolition Contractors specialize in the safe dismantling of structures.
  • Specialty Contractors can take on many forms, working with things like roofing, signs, gas, wind protection, and more.

Contractor Licenses in Chicago, IL

Chicago offers a long list of contractor license options. These include:

  • General Contractor License
  • Brick Masonry Contractor License
  • Concrete Masonry Contractor License
  • Elevator Mechanic Contractor License
  • Plumbing Contractor License
  • Private Alarm Contractor License

To apply for your initial General Contractor License in the Windy City – or any other contractor license – you’ll need to apply for the examination through Continental Testing Services, Inc. 

There are 5 general contractor license classes to choose from:

  • Class A: no contract limits, $2,000 annual license fee
  • Class B: $10,000,000 contract limit, $1,000 annual license fee
  • Class C: $5,000,000 contract limit, $750 annual license fee
  • Class D: $2,000,000 contract limit, $500 annual license fee
  • Class E: $500,000 contract limit, $300 annual license fee

Application Process

Chicago’s licensing process is a bit different because you need to apply directly to the examination vendor. To apply for the examination through Chicago’s Continental Testing Services, you’ll:

  • Complete the application
  • Include the Social Security Number of the applicant and all listed parties (page 2)
  • Include a Certificate of Insurance listing the city as insured (page 4)
    • Include your A.M. Best Rating of B+ or higher
  • Submit a Certificate of Good Standing if applying as an LLC
  • Include a government-issued photo ID
  • Pay the application fee
  • Mail the completed application to:

City of Chicago

General Contractor License

P.O. Box 388249

Chicago, IL 60638-8249

  • Mail any changes/updates to the application within 14 days to the City of Chicago

Applications are processed 14 days after receipt. If approved, you’ll receive directions on how to take the General Contractor Exam. After passing the exam, you’ll receive your license. 

Renewals

Licenses should be renewed annually online. For instructions on how to renew, see here. 

Contractor Licenses in Springfield, IL

Springfield is the second-largest city in Illinois. You can apply for your contractor’s license in Springfield in the following categories:

Mechanical Contractor Licenses are most similar to the General Contractor Licenses of other cities, although they may still differ slightly. 

Mechanical Contractor License Requirements

To get your Mechanical Contractor License, you’ll need to do the following. 

  1. Decide between the Residential (limited) License or the Commercial (unlimited) license. 
    1. For a Residential License, you’ll need 5+ years of verifiable practical experience
    2. For the Commercial License, you’ll need 7+ years of verifiable practical experience
  2. Take and pass the appropriate International Code Council (ICC), National Standard test
    1. Scheduling instructions are listed here
  3. Complete and submit the license application

Application Process

The application for a Mechanical Contractor License is fairly straightforward. On it, you will need to submit:

  • A description of your work experience
  • 3 references

Once you receive your license, you’ll have to register as a mechanical contractor in Springfield. To do so, you will complete the registration application, showing proof of:

  • A $5,000 surety bond
  • A Certificate of Insurance covering the amounts on part IV of the application
  • The $70 fee for both your registration and license

Contractor Licenses in Peoria, IL

Peoria’s regulation of contractors is split into east and west of the city. 

West Peoria does not offer licensing information on its website. Instead, it states that interested parties should contact the Accounts Receivable Department for more information on how to obtain a Contractor License. You can reach this department at 309-494-8588 or in person at City Hall, 419 Fulton Street, Room 111.

East Peoria, on the other hand, requires contractors to be registered with the city before working. They offer the following contractor licenses:

  • Building
  • Demo
  • Electrical
  • Fire technician
  • Plumbing
  • Sewer
  • Sign

The East Peoria Contractor Registration is very straightforward and completed online. You’ll need to provide insurance information as well as a copy of your state license, if applicable. 

Contractor Salaries in Illinois

The average base pay for contractors in Illinois is roughly $71,000 – lower than the national average. Salaries in cities like Chicago, on the other hand, are higher at $96,000+. 

Contractors have a lot of leeway in their salaries. Payments range greatly depending on the type of contracting work you are completing, where you’re working, and your years of experience. With effort, time, and experience, general contractors in Illinois can work their way up to a six-figure salary.

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