How to Become a Contractor in Pennsylvania – PA Contractor License

Pennsylvania offers both rolling green pastures and bustling city life. With something for everyone, you can become a contractor in PA and create the life you’ve envisioned. 

To work as a contractor in PA, you’ll need to be licensed by the state and/or by your municipality. The state offers registration for home improvement contractors and certification for asbestos and lead removal contractors, while most of PA’s 2,562 municipalities offer licensure for other types of contractor work. 

To give you an idea of how to become a contractor in Pennsylvania, we’ve broken down the state requirements as well as the licensing procedures for those working in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Harrisburg.

Do You Need a Contractor License in Pennsylvania?

Since the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act passed in 2009, most home improvement contractors have been required to register with the PA Attorney General’s Office to work. 

Federal law also requires asbestos and lead removal contractors to be certified by the state of PA’s Certification, Accreditation, and Licensing Division. 

As for most other general and specialty contractors, the Commonwealth of PA has no state-wide licensure requirements, but you will need to either be licensed and/or registered in the city you plan to work in. 

Home Improvement Contractors in PA

As per the PA Attorney General, a home improvement contractor is defined as any person who owns and operates a home improvement business or who agrees to do any home improvement. New construction does not count as home improvement.

Exceptions also include small contractors who do less than $5,000 of work in a year or large retailers who do more than $50 million of work in a year. 

The Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act requires all home improvement contractors to register with the state and to prove they have the minimum insurance required for residential contracting work. 

The Registration Process

You can register as a home improvement contractor with the state online or via mail.

During your application:

  • Do not leave any space blank – write N/A if not applicable
  • Use blue or black ink, if mailing the application
  • Include your business name and details
  • Check all circles regarding background checks
  • List the Social Security Numbers and information of all invested parties (owners, partners, officers, shareholders, etc.)
  • Include all information for other licenses or registrations you or your business holds
  • Provide your insurance information
  • Pay a $50 non-refundable application fee

Asbestos and Lead Contractors in PA

If you or your company works to remove asbestos or lead in Pennsylvania, you will need a certification for each area. These certifications are part of federal mandates, which means your city may also have additional requirements.

Information and the application process for Asbestos Contractor Certification can be found here.

Information and the application process for Lead Contractor Certification can be found here.

Philadelphia Contractor Licenses

On top of registering with the PA Office of the Attorney General, anyone doing work that involves construction, demolition, or repair is required to get a Contractor License in Philly. 

You do not need this license if you 1) require a specialized license OR 2) your business only works on 1- or 2-family homes. Specialized licenses are available for complete demolition, electrical, fire suppression, and plumbing contractors.

Philly Contractor License Application Process

You can apply for your Philly Contractor License online or in-person via appointment.

To apply for this license, you’ll need to provide:

  • A Certificate of Insurance covering $500,000 per occurrence
  • Automobile liability insurance covering $300,000
  • Worker’s Comp covering $100,000 per accident $100,000 per employee, and a $500,000 policy limit
  • Proof that all supervisors responsible for your projects have completed a safety training course
  • A $20 application fee 

Once your application is reviewed and approved, you’ll receive a notice with instructions on how to pay the remaining $103 license fee. 

Renewal information and more details on the application process can be found here.

Pittsburgh Contractor Licenses

Pittsburgh also requires its general contractors to hold a Contractor License with the city. This includes those working under commercial building permits, constructing 1- or 2-family homes, residential renovators, and those working with demolition permits. Depending on your work, you may also need the state-wide Home Improvement Contractor Registration with the state.

The city also offers a specialized Sign Contractor License.

Pittsburgh Contractor License Application Process

You’ll need to download your application or complete it online. Have the following paperwork ready:

  • A copy of your photo ID
  • Proof of general liability insurance with blanket coverage
  • Proof of Worker’s Comp or an affidavit saying you have no employees
  • A Tax Compliance Letter from the Finance Department
  • Your payment

Harrisburg Contractor Licenses 

Unlike Philly and Pittsburgh, Harrisburg does not have its own contractor license. Instead, it requires contractors to receive their Business Privilege and Mercantile License with the city. These licenses are overseen by the Bureau of Licensing, Taxation, and Central Support. 

If you are completing any home improvement, you’ll also need to be registered with the state as a Home Improvement Contractor.

Business License Application Process

To apply for this license, your business will need to be officially registered and have a Federal Tax ID number. 

You can complete the application and mail it or take it to the Bureau’s office at:

10 N. 2nd Street

Suite 305A

Harrisburg, PA 17101

Be sure to include all fees listed on the application. 

Contractor Salaries in Pennsylvania

As per Indeed, general contractors in the U.S. get paid an average of $93,144. Starting salaries in some states could be as low as $49,000, while top-earners in others can make $176,000+. 

With so many contractor specializations available, the salary ranges greatly. In Pennsylvania, your salary will depend on where you are working, the type of contracting work you’re taking on, and your experience level. 

Below are the average salaries for general contractors in the three largest PA cities. Keep in mind that these averages do not ring true for everyone, as you can truly increase your contractor salary potential with time and effort.

  • Philadelphia, PA: $60,580
  • Pittsburgh, PA: $101,270
  • Harrisburg, PA: $40,600

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