How to Become a Contractor in Texas – Get a Texas Contractor License

They say that everything is bigger in Texas – and that includes contractor salaries in the Lone Star State. Contractors in TX make an average of $114,500 annually, which is 23% higher than the national average. 

If you’re wondering how to become a contractor in Texas, the process depends on which contracting license you want. Electrician and HVAC contractors will need to apply for licensure with the state, while general contractors need to follow their city’s contractor policies. Generally speaking, most contractors will need to hold insurance, complete an application/registration, and pay a fee to work in Texas.  

Do You Need a Contractor License in Texas?

Those bidding on and contracting electrical or HVAC work in Texas are required to hold a contractor license issued by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. If you are working under a licensed contractor in your field, you may be exempt from the state requirement, but be sure to check if your city requires any journeyman-level licensure to work. 

As for general contractors, requirements depend on which city you’re working in. Most major Texas cities, such as Dallas and Austin, require contractors to register with the city. Others, like Houston, don’t require any form of licensure and issue permits on a case-by-case basis.

Contractor Duties in Texas

When someone says they are a “contractor”, their work could span many different areas. 

  • General contractors work with the site owner, hiring, scheduling, and managing subcontractors.
  • Electrical contractors are in charge of running wires through the house/project, installing electrical equipment, and setting up the electrical service box.
  • Plumbing contractors can install backflow preventers, drains, and septic systems, as well as control water supply lines throughout a project.
  • HVAC contractors work in all things heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, and sometimes refrigeration (HVAC-R).
  • Specialty contractors can cover a wide ray of areas from sprinkler systems to concrete and beyond.

State-Wide Contractor Licenses in TX

Electrician and HVAC contractors must be licensed by the state to work in Texas. These are 2 distinct applications – outlined below – but they all follow a similar procedure.

  1. Meet the work experience requirements
  2. Apply for your trade examination with the state
  3. Take and pass the exam
  4. Pay all fees
  5. Receive your trade contractor license

Electrician Contractor Licenses in TX

Electrical contractors can design, install, erect, repair, or alter electrical wires and conductors. Texas offers Electrical Contractor, Electrical Sign Contractor, and Residential Appliance Installation Contractor Licenses.

To become an electrical contractor, you must either be a master electrician or employ a master electrician to oversee this work. 

To first become a master electrician, you must have been a licensed TX journeyman electrician for 2 years, showing that you have at least 12,000 hours of on-the-job training. You’ll then complete the application, sit for the exam, and receive your master license when you pass the exam.

TX electrical contractors must hold business liability insurance of $300,000 per occurrence, $600,000 aggregate total, and $300,000 aggregate for products. They must also have Worker’s Comp, a certificate of authority to self-insure, or a statement saying they’ve selected not to have Worker’s Comp.

The application can be downloaded and submitted by mail with a $110 application fee. 

Renewal information can be found here.

HVAC Contractor Licenses in TX

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning contractors install, maintain, and repair these types of systems. There are two types of licenses available: Class A and Class B. 

Class A is unrestricted, whereas contractors with Class B Licenses can only work on cooling systems of 25 tons or less or heating systems of 1.5 million BTUs or less.

There are also endorsements you can add to your license. These include the Environmental Air Conditioning, Commercial Refrigeration, and the Process Cooling or Heating endorsements.

To be eligible to apply for an HVAC Contractor License, you’ll need to have:

  • 48 months or more of practical HVAC experience under an HVAC contractor OR
  • Held a Technician Certification for 1 year and have 36 months or more of experience under an HVAC contractor

There are some exceptions to the work requirements listed above. You may be exempt if you:

  • Have a degree, diploma, or certification in HVAC or mechanical engineering
  • Are a licensed engineer
  • Have military HVAC training
  • Are employed by an industrial operation that does heating and cooling work for the operation

If you meet or are exempt from the work experience requirements above, you can apply for your HVAC Contractor License from the state via mail. If approved, you’ll receive instructions on how to take your HVAC state exam.

After passing the exam, you’ll need to submit a Certificate of Insurance. Minimum insurance requirements can be found on this page. Once everything is received, you’ll have your license.

For information on renewing an HVAC Contractor License, see here.

Houston, TX Contractor Licenses

The city of Houston houses more than 2 million Texans. While it is the largest city in Texas, it does not have the most complicated regulations for contractors. In fact, there are no general contractor licenses or registration processes in Houston. 

If you want to work as a contractor in Houston, your request for permits will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. You’ll need to make sure your business follows the Houston New Business Guide and you can use the Houston Project Planner to analyze what you’ll need for each contracted project you take on. 

Austin, TX Contractor Licenses

Austin, on the other hand, requires contractors to register with the city before beginning to work. You can register as a general, electrical, mechanical, plumbing, irrigation, or fire line contractor. 

You can register online in a few easy steps. First, you’ll need to make an Austin Build + Connect account after selecting “Register or update Registration”. Next, follow the prompts and provide all necessary information for your application to be reviewed. You’ll also need to gather the correct permits for each of your projects.

Dallas, TX Contractor Licenses

Like Austin, Dallas also requires general contractors to register with the city. Registrations renew annually and you’ll have to pay a fee for your initial application and each renewal.

Contractor Salaries in Texas

Contractor salaries depend on your specialization, where you’re working, and the projects you undertake. Contractors also have plenty of options to earn overtime pay during the year.

Here are the average salaries for general contractors, as per Indeed, for the three largest cities in Texas. 

  • Houston, TX: $89,500
  • Austin, TX: $110,800
  • Dallas, TX: $200,800

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