With its snow-capped mountains alongside beautiful rolling landscapes, it’s no wonder you may be living or planning to move to Washington State. As a contractor in WA, you’ll be able to work within your specialty while making an average salary that is 7% higher than the national average.
To become a contractor in Washington, you’ll need to register as a contractor with the state. This includes registering your business, having the correct bond and insurance, paying a fee, and completing an application. If you’re looking to get a specialty contractor license, you’ll also have to meet the experience requirements for your specialty.
Let’s break the process down further.
Do You Need a Contractor License in Washington?
Washington requires all contractors to be registered to complete any construction work in the state. Construction work includes building, remodeling, demolishing, and repairing buildings, properties, or roads.
Washington registers two types of construction contractors: general contractors and specialty contractors. If you fail to register as a contractor, you may face extensive fines and penalties.
How to Become a General Contractor in WA
General contractors do most kinds of construction work. They also hire subcontractors – usually within a specialty – to help them complete certain projects.
To become a general contractor in Washington, you’ll need to:
- Register your business with the Department of Revenue. If you are a WA domestic Corp, Partnership, Liability Company, or LLC, you will need to apply for a business license before registering your business. Use this guide for further help when forming your WA business.
- Have a surety bond of $12,000 or an assignment of savings
- Have general liability insurance of $200,000 in public coverage and $50,000 in property damage OR $250,000 combined single limit
- Pay the $124.70 registration fee
- Complete the application for general contractor registration and hand it in at a local Labor & Industries office or mail it to:
P.O. Box 44450
Olympia, WA 98504-4450
Once you have everything listed above, you can begin your application for general contractor registration in Washington.
Follow all listed instructions including submitting proof of your bond/savings, insurance, and business registration information. All principal parties (owners, members, partners, and corporate officers) will need to include their Social Security number as well as complete the Affidavit of Signature section.
The application must be completed and signed in front of a notary. More information on the application process can be found here.
Applications received by mail will take 3-4 weeks to process. You will receive your registration card about two weeks after processing. If any information is missing, you will be notified.
Before renewing your General Contractor Registration in Washington, you’ll need to use the WA Verify a Contractor, Tradesperson, or Business Tool to make sure your insurance and registration are up to date.
Once you’ve confirmed this, you can renew online, renew by mail once you receive a contractor registration renewal card in the post, or renew in person at one of the local offices. You’ll need to pay a $124.70 renewal fee.
How to Become a Specialty Contractor in WA
Specialty contractors are limited to performing construction work only in their field of expertise. They cannot hire subcontractors, but they may work as a subcontractor themselves under a licensed general contractor.
Types of WA Specialty Contractors
There are 63 specialties offered for contractor licenses. Some of the most popular specialty contractor licenses are for demolitions and salvage, masonry, electrical work, fencing, fire protection, handyman, HVAC, plumbing, and roofing. See here for a full list of all 63 specialties.
Before registering as a specialty contractor in WA, most specialty contractors will need to have a license or certification in their field. These are discussed further below.
Specialty contractors will follow the same registration process as general contractors in WA, although the bond requirement is different. Specialty contractors will need a Washington Continuous Contractor Surety Bond of $6,000.
The renewal process for Specialty Contractor Registration is also the same as that for General Contractor Registration.
Requirements for Specialty Contractors in WA
If you’re a plumbing, electrical, elevator, mobile home installing, boiler, or asbestos specialty contractor, you’ll have additional licensing requirements to fulfill to become a registered contractor in your field.
Plumbing Contractors in WA
Plumbing contractors work with potable water building supply, fixtures, drainage and vent pipes, accessories, water heaters, and more. They must complete the Washington State Plumber Certification Program before registering as a specialty contractor.
To complete this program, you’ll start as a plumber trainee, working your way up to being a journey-level plumber. After more than 8,000 hours of experience, you can complete the program. If you plan to be a residential, pump & irrigation, or backflow plumber see here for additional work experience requirements.
Electrical Contractors in WA
Electrical contractors must first become licensed master electricians or administrators in the state or employ one.
To become a master electrician or administrator, you will start as an electrical trainee, then become a journeyman or specialty electrician, followed by taking the exam for your master or administrator license. You should be a journeyman electrician for 2-4 full years before taking these exams.
Elevator Contractors in WA
Elevator contractors employ licensed elevator mechanics and bid on elevator contracts. You do not have to have your Elevator Mechanic’s License from the state unless you plan to work on the elevators yourself.
Mobile Home Installer Contractors in WA
Those constructing, assembling, or connecting mobile homes to utilities need a Mobile Home Installer Contractor Certification. You will need to submit an application for certification, pay all fees, complete the course, and pass an exam to be certified.
Once certified, you can apply for your contractor registration.
Boiler Contractors in WA
Boiler contractors must first get their “work card”, which allows them to inspect boiler systems in Washington. You’ll need to complete the application, pass the National Board and WA State Boiler exams, and pay the fee to get your work card.
Asbestos Contractors in WA
If you plan to be a certified asbestos worker or contractor, you’ll need to have your Asbestos Supervisor Certification or employ someone who does. After completing this state-approved 5-day, 40-hour course, you’ll receive your certification.
To take this course, you will need at least 1,600 hours of verifiable experience. This certification is renewed every year and requires you to complete an 8-hour refresher course before renewing.
After you have or employ someone who has this certification, you can apply for your Asbestos Contractor Certification after registering as a contractor. Application instructions can be found at the bottom of this page.