Ohio general contractor license and insurance requirements

Ohio general contractor license and insurance requirements

Amy Beardsley
By Amy Beardsley
Dec 14, 2023
8 min read

If you’re considering starting a general contracting business in Ohio, there are a few things you need to know. You may need a state or local government license, depending on the type of work you plan to do. Getting licensed requires meeting specific requirements, including minimum levels of work experience and business insurance.

Not sure where to start? You’re in the right place. In our license guide, you’ll find out more about:

General contractor license requirements in Ohio

Ohio doesn’t require any special licenses for minor repair work, such as painting or home improvement projects that cost less than $1,000. More extensive projects require a state or local license.

State license requirements

If you are interested in becoming a licensed contractor who works on commercial construction projects involving HVAC, electrical, plumbing, hydronics or refrigeration, you’ll need to get a statewide license issued by the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board (OCILB). These licenses are also called Master Licenses.

Those applying for statewide general contractor licenses in Ohio will have to meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal alien with proof of residence
  • Work as a tradesperson for at least five years in the same trade as your application, be a registered engineer in the same trade as your application for at least three years or have equivalent years of experience that the board would find acceptable
  • Not have been convicted of a crime or other disqualifying offense
  • Pass your trade examination
  • Have proof of at least $500,000 in general contractor liability insurance
  • Pay a $25 application fee

Once your application has been approved, the board will ask you to complete a background check before sitting for the exam. 

Local contractor license requirements in Ohio

If you won’t be working on any specialized trade projects (HVAC, electrical, plumbing, hydronics or refrigeration) and are planning on running a residential or home improvement contractor business, you can apply for a general license at the local level. 

Different municipalities in Ohio have specific requirements for general contractor licenses. In local jurisdictions, the exact names and types of licenses can vary.

In general, to get a local general contractor license, Ohio cities require you to:

  • Complete your application form
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a U.S. citizen or legal alien with proof of residence
  • Prove at least three years of general contractor experience through W-2s, project permits or the license number of contractors you’ve worked with

There are also more specific requirements by city or local region that you’ll have to meet. 


You don’t need to get a separate license, but you must register as a general contractor in the city of Cleveland. (Plumbers, electricians and HVAC contractors must apply for licenses, though.) You’ll need to meet the general state requirements when you apply, plus the following:

  • Provide proof of liability insurance for a minimum of $200,000
  • If you’re applying as a corporation, include your Articles of Incorporation in your application
  • Provide a surety bond for $25,000 with a power-of-attorney form attached
  • Pay a $150 application fee (renewals are $120 per year)


General contractors operating in the city of Columbus, can apply for licenses, including:

  • General contractor: Projects that involve new builds and alterations, modifications and repairs to commercial and multi-family homes.
  • Home improvement general contractor: Projects that involve repairing, modifying, replacing and upgrading residential homes for one to three families. This license also covers work on driveways, swimming pools and garages.
  • Home improvement limited contractor. Projects with scopes of work, including roofing, siding installation, deck installation, basement waterproofing and more.

For city or municipality qualifications, check with Columbus’ Building and Zoning Services.

You’ll need to meet the general requirements when you apply and:

  • Pass an exam
  • Provide proof of liability insurance for $300,000 for a single person and $500,000 per occurrence.
  • Get a surety bond for $25,000
  • Pay an application fee ranging from $185-$350


In the city of Cincinnati, you’ll need to meet the general requirements when you apply and:

  • Provide a certificate of liability insurance that’s at least $100,000 in coverage 
  • Show a list of registered subcontractors you work with on projects
  • Provide proof of business entity forms if you apply as a business or your Social Security or Tax Identification Number if you apply as an individual
  • Pay a $131.25 application fee

How long does it take to get an Ohio contractor license?

In general, contractor applications can take from 10 days to a few weeks, depending on when board meetings are scheduled and when you can write your exam. General contractors in Cincinnati can pay an additional $208 to fast-track applications for one-day processing.

Insurance requirements for Ohio general contractors

General liability insurance is required both statewide and in local areas to get a contractor license. Contractors in some areas, such as Cincinnati, also need workers’ compensation insurance.

Here’s what these types of policies cover, as well as other common coverage options:

General liability insurance

General liability insurance can help protect your business if there is property damage or any third-party injuries for which your business is held responsible. This type of insurance can help pay for medical treatment or repair and replacement costs for property damage.

Coverage limits vary depending on the municipality, but minimum coverage usually start at $100,000.

Learn more about general liability for contractors.

Workers’ Compensation insurance

In the state of Ohio, all employers with one or more employees must, by law, have workers’ compensation coverage. This policy helps cover medical expenses and lost wages for employees who suffer work-related injuries or illnesses.

Learn more about Workers’ Comp for construction workers.

Tools and Equipment insurance

Tools and equipment insurance protects tools and equipment against damage and theft. Coverage includes power tools, hand tools, and machinery and helps recover the cost of replacing stolen or damaged equipment.

By having this coverage, you can focus on your work without worrying about the financial impact of unexpected losses, ensuring the smooth operation of your business.

Commercial Property insurance

Commercial property insurance in Ohio covers damage or loss to buildings, structures, and other property owned or rented by the contractor. Contractors can recover costs associated with repairing or replacing damaged property, allowing their operations to continue uninterrupted. 

Commercial Auto insurance

In Ohio, it’s mandatory to have insurance to drive any motor vehicle. Minimum required for insurance coverage:

  • $25,000 in bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 in bodily injury per occurrence
  • $25,000 for property damage

Business owners will also need commercial auto insurance coverage for business-owned vehicles. It offers protection if you or your employees are involved in an accident and are injured.

How NEXT helps Ohio general contractors

NEXT Insurance has helped thousands of business owners across the country get the general contractor insurance coverage they need at an affordable price.

In less than ten minutes, you’ll have your insurance coverage and a digital certificate of insurance ready on your mobile device or computer.

Start today and get your free instant quote online.

Do you have projects in a different U.S. state? Visit our summary of general contractor license requirements in every state.

This information has been provided as a service. It is correct and up-to-date to the best of our knowledge; however, it is in no way intended to offer legal advice and you must always consult with local authorities before you make any business decisions. Regulations and requirements may change at any time.

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Amy Beardsley
About the author

Amy Beardsley, insurance expert and contributing writer at NEXT Insurance, is a content marketing writer who specializes in small business coverage. Leveraging her background in the legal field, Amy brings a deep understanding of laws, regulations, and compliance requirements to her work. As a content marketing writer since 2016, she has contributed to publications like Legal & General, Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance, Insurify, and NerdWallet. Her work has also appeared in CNBC, Kiplinger, and US News. When she’s not writing, Amy enjoys playing cards with her family and experimenting with new recipes.

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