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Painter license requirements by state: A comprehensive guide

Painter license requirements by state: A comprehensive guide

By Matt Crawford
Jan 30, 2023
21 min read
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Becoming a painting contractor can be a rewarding, profitable path for people who want to get hands-on with their work. But there’s more to it than picking up a paintbrush. 

Painters need to be able to guide their clients through different paint types and color choices. They need to know about the surfaces they’re working on, the kinds of cleaners and toxic substances they’re working with and even about drywalling or industrial painting. All while doing a high-quality job that delights clients.

Depending on your state, you may need to become a licensed painting contractor to bid on jobs or start your own painting business. We've put together this handy guide to every requirement for painters to be licensed across all 50 states. 

These are the main topics we’ll cover include:

  • How to get your painting contractor’s license 
  • Requirements for getting licensed
  • Insurance requirements to protect your business

This list is in alphabetical order and includes links to additional resources.

Alabama

You only need to be licensed in Alabama for work over $50,000. You can apply for a license through the Alabama Licensing Board for General Contractors to work above that threshold.

Future licensees must get the Alabama Painting and Wall Covering contractor license. Applicants need to be approved by the state to sit the examination. Additionally, they must also have passed the Alabama business and law exam. PSI Exams administers both tests. 

You’ll also need to provide a financial statement, proof of experience (three previous projects) and three reference letters. You’ll also need proof of general liability insurance coverage. There is a $300 application fee for general contractors in Alabama and a $150 fee for subcontractors.

Contractors who have held a license in good standing for three years may qualify and apply for reciprocity with Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee.

Alaska

The State of Alaska has three levels of painting contractor license:

  • Specialty contractor. Works on commercial and residential structures with limits
  • General contractor. Works on commercial buildings, excluding residential 
  • General contractor with residential endorsement. Works on unlimited commercial and residential buildings. 

Most contractors who perform residential home improvements must be licensed by the Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing in Alaska. Only the residential endorsement license has pre-requisite requirements. 

You must hold business insurance in Alaska and hold a surety bond. Application fees total $350. 

Arizona

The Arizona Registrar of Contractors issues licenses for painters. They require separate painting business licenses for residential and commercial contractors. 

Residential painters require two years of experience under a state-recognized contractor. They will then need to take a Statutes and Rules exam and a trade exam.

Arizona commercial painters require two years of experience under a state-recognized contractor. They will then need to take an exam including questions specific to commercial projects. 

Both residential and commercial painters will need to file a contractor's bond in the amount required for the license classification. Arizona business insurance is required in some cases; for example, if you have one or more employees, you are required to have workers’ compensation coverage.

Arkansas

Arkansas requires licensing for commercial and residential contractor workers.

Depending on the work, residential painters working on projects that cost $2,000 or more need to apply for a license in Arkansas — either a residential builder or home improvement license. Commercial contractors need a license for $50,000 or more work.

Subcontractors don’t have to be fully licensed if they work with an appropriately licensed contractor. They need to get a registration certificate.

All contractors must provide a balance sheet or financial statement, pass the business and law exam and acquire business insurance in Arkansas. Additionally, commercial contractors need to obtain a $10,000 surety bond.

California

Any contractor, including a painting and decorating contractor, who works on a project that costs $500 or more must be licensed by the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB)

To qualify for a painting license, you must have four full years of experience in the last ten years in the area you're applying. Your experience must be at a journey-level or worked as a supervisor, foreman or contractor. You must also pass the written Law and Business examination and a trade exam.

California painting contractors must have a $15,000 surety bond before getting licensed. If you have employees, you must have proof of workers’ compensation insurance.

If you apply for a license as an LLC, you’ll have different surety bond and liability insurance minimums.

Colorado

There is no painting license requirement at the state level in Colorado, but licenses may be required at the city or county level. 

Generally, proof of business liability insurance is needed. The exact coverage amount varies by license type and location.

Connecticut

Painting contractors don’t need to be licensed in Connecticut, but they must be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection. To work on a residential property, they need to register as a home improvement contractor. 

This includes anyone who performs home improvement totaling more than $200 for any single contract or more than $1,000 annually. All home improvement contractor registrations expire annually on March 31.

You will need to provide references for your knowledge and skills. Effective July 2022, home improvement contractors must hold a minimum of $20,000 in general liability insurance to be eligible for registration.

Delaware

Contractors, including painters, must be licensed in Delaware; however, it is for revenue only. The Division of Revenue awards the license. Licenses are usually split by resident or non-resident contractors (you do not maintain a business in Delaware.)

Painting contractors will also need to register their business with the Department of Labor, provide proof of workers’ comp insurance (required if you have one or more employees) and unemployment insurance. Non-residential license applicants must also have a surety bond.

Florida

Painter license requirements in Florida require a general contractor license from the Construction Industry Licensing Board. Applicants must pass an exam that includes questions on business and finance, contract administration and project management. They must have four years of experience or a combination of college and experience.

Aside from providing fingerprints and proof of financial stability, applicants are required to attest that they have liability insurance. They also must have workers’ comp insurance if they have employees (or get an exemption) within 30 days of license issuance.

Painter's Insurance


Georgia

The State Licensing Board for Residential and General Contractors regulates contractor licenses in Georgia. A license is required for any project over $2,500. 

The state must approve applicants to sit the exam and have two years of working experience. Applicants must show a certificate of business insurance in Georgia and must pass the Georgia business and law exam.

Hawaii

Painters in Hawaii require Professional and Vocational Licensing from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs

Applicants will require proof of business insurance in Hawaii, specifically worker’s compensation insurance and liability insurance, and must pass an exam on business, law and trade.

Idaho

Idaho does not license general contractors, including painters, at the state level according to their Division of Occupational and Professional Licenses. Any licensing happens at the local level only.

However, painting contractors must still register their business as a Painting/Wall Coverings subcontractor type. They must also provide proof of Idaho business insurance, specifically general liability and workers’ comp coverages.

Illinois

Painter and general contracting license requirements are not supervised at a state level, only in local jurisdictions. Painters also don't need to be registered as contractors in Illinois but will likely need to register with the Department of Revenue for tax purposes.

Check your local regulatory boards for painter license requirements:

Chicago

Aurora

Naperville

Indiana

While some contractors are required to be licensed at a locally in Indiana, only plumbers require licensing at the state level. There is no painter license requirement in Indiana. Learn more about Indiana business owners' requirements.

Iowa

All construction contractors who do more than $2,000 of business per year must be registered and renew their registration annually with the Iowa Division of Labor. No painting license or exam is required at the state level; however, painters require a local license.

Kansas

Painters that deal with lead paint require a license from the Kansas Department of Health & Environment. They can be contacted at 1-785-296-1086. While some contractors are licensed at the state level in Kansas, painting contractors are licensed at the local level only.

Kentucky

Painters do not require a license at the state level in Kentucky. Learn more about occupational licenses and permits in Kentucky.

Louisiana

Painting contractors in the state of Louisiana require a license. The State Licensing Board for Contractors issues four types of licenses - commercial, residential, home improvement and mold remediation. 

Painting licenses fall under commercial building construction classifications. Applicants will be required to submit information about work experience and a financial statement before sitting an exam. 

A business and law exam is required to get a Painting and Flooring license. However, to get the specialty classification of Louisiana Painting and Coating License, a Business Law exam and a closed-book trade exam are required. 

Painting contractor insurance requirements vary depending on the license. The board requires home improvement and residential license applicants to submit proof of insurance in Louisiana before issuing a license.

starting house painting business


Maine

General contractors, including painters, do not require a state license in Maine. To operate a business in Maine, general licenses are dealt with at a town or city level.

Maryland

All contractors who perform home improvement, including painters, in the state of Maryland require a license. 

All applicants must show two years of experience in home improvement, construction or related education. They must meet the financial solvency guidelines of the Home Improvement Commission

Applicants must also submit a certificate of trade name registration and must show proof of liability insurance. Applicants must pass a licensing exam, with licenses issued for a period of two years.

Massachusetts

Anyone who supervises construction work in Massachusetts needs to have a license. This includes at least three full years of work experience and passing an exam. 

In addition, you need to register as a home improvement contractor to perform residential contracting on an existing one-to-four-unit primary residence occupied by the owner. However, residential contracting excludes interior painting.

Michigan

All residential and commercial painting contractors in Michigan require a license. Those applying for a Residential Builders License, which includes painting, will be required to write two sets of exams: the business and law exam and the trade exam. 

The Maintenance and Alterations Contractors License also requires an exam, but you must write the exam that is specific to your trade, in this case, painting and decorating. The Builder’s Unit of the Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs awards the license.

Minnesota

Any person contracting directly with a homeowner offering building construction services in more than one skill area requires a building contractor or remodeler license in Minnesota.

Interior painting, exterior finishing painting and drywall painting all fall under different skill areas, so a painter who contracts directly with a homeowner and offers services in more than one of these areas requires a license. 

Commercial painting contractors do not require a license but must be registered. Applicants must pass an exam and hold a business insurance certificate in Minnesota.

Mississippi

The state of Mississippi requires painting and wall covering contractors to be licensed by the Mississippi State Board of Contractors. The state must give pre-approval to allow you to sit the exam. Applicants must pass the trade exam, as well as the business and law management exam. 

Applicants must also submit a financial statement and proof of business insurance in Mississippi, specifically workers' compensation and liability insurance. The industrial painting specialty does not require an exam.

Missouri

Painting contractors do not require a state license in Missouri; however, they may require a license at the local level. Typically, a license is required in towns where the population exceeds 15,000.

Montana

The state of Montana requires all construction contractors and subcontractors who have employees to register with the Department of Labor and Industry. Those without employees may still opt to be registered, but do not need to be.

house painter insurance


Nebraska

Nebraska requires all contractors who do business in counties with populations of 100,000 or more to have a license. Contractors must register with the Nebraska Department of Labor.

Nevada

Painters in Nevada must be licensed and hold a Nevada Painting and Decorating Painting License

Applicants must be pre-approved to take the exam and will need to pass a trade exam and a business and law exam. To qualify for a license, applicants must show four years of experience from the last 15 years, submit financial statements, and have a surety bond and workers’ comp insurance if applicable.

Nevada has a reciprocity agreement with California, Arizona and Utah.

New Hampshire

General construction contractors, including painting contractors, do not need to be licensed in the state of New Hampshire.

New Jersey

Painters in New Jersey fall under the umbrella of home improvement contractors. Painter license requirements include registering with the Division of Consumer Affairs, with the registration renewed annually. 

All registered painters must have a registration badge and must prominently display their registration number in their place of business on all business documents and all advertisements. When registering, painters must provide proof of liability insurance in New Jersey.

New Mexico

Construction contractors need to be licensed in New Mexico, with specific licenses awarded for specific types of work. 

Painter license requirements include two years of work experience. You must pass a business and law exam, as well as a trade exam. The Construction Industries Division of the State of New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department awards all licenses.

New York

New York State does not require painters licenses; however, there are requirements at the local government level. 

For example, painters in New York City require a Home Improvement Contractor License, which the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs awards. You will need to write an exam and show proof of insurance to obtain a license. The license lasts for two years and must then be renewed.

North Carolina

General contractors, including painters, in North Carolina are required to hold a license in order to bid on and work on paint jobs costing $30,000 or more. You must hold a license to hire employees. You are required to take an exam, and the license is awarded by the North Carolina Licensing Board

In addition, any person who deals with lead-based paint must be certified by the Environmental Protection Agency and must take a series of classes to receive the certification.

North Dakota

North Dakota requires all contractors who do work that costs more than $4,000 to be licensed in the state. To apply to be a licensed contractor, you must be registered as a business with the Secretary of State and have proof of North Dakota business insurance. There are four classes of contractor licenses, depending on the size of the jobs you want to be licensed for. There is no exam requirement.


Ohio

The Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board only requires specific trades to obtain contractor licenses, and painters are not included in the requirement. However, home improvement and general contractors in Ohio must be licensed or registered at the local level, with specific requirements depending on the city.

Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, general contractors and subcontractors who provide general construction services, including painters, are not required to hold a state license. Counties, towns and cities may have local license requirements in addition to state requirements.

Oregon

In Oregon, all contractors who do any construction work to improve a property, including painters, require a state license. To obtain a license, you must complete training and take an exam. You must provide proof of general liability and worker’s compensation insurance when you apply. The license will be valid for two years.

Pennsylvania

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not require most construction contractors to hold a license; however, under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, most contractors must be registered and hold current business insurance in Pennsylvania.

Registered contractors must display their registration number on all contracts, advertisements and other business documents. Any contractors, including painters, who work with lead removal must be licensed by the state from the PA Department of Labor and Industry.

Rhode Island

Contractors who repair, build or remodel one to four-family residential buildings in Rhode Island must register with the Contractor’s Registration and Licensing Board. Only utility traders require a license at the state level. 

Any painter who works on a pre-1978 home must obtain their Lead Renovator license by taking an eight-hour training course. Painters must also work for a licensed Lead Renovation Firms. Painting business owners must renew their firm’s Lead Renovation license every five years after completing a four-hour refresher course.

South Carolina

General contractors in South Carolina only require a license when performing commercial construction work costing more than $5,000. For this license, applicants must have at least two years of work experience within the last five years and pass a technical, and business and law exam.

Painters of residential properties must be registered as a Residential Specialty Contractor but are not required to take an exam. If painters perform work that exceeds $5,000, they must obtain a surety bond

South Dakota

There are no painter license requirements in South Dakota as there is no painter license. General construction contractors in the state are licensed at the local government level.

painter license requirements by state

Tennessee

Painters in Tennessee require a state Home Improvement license for any remodeling on existing residential homes for jobs costing between $3,000 and $25,000. 

Any jobs of $25,000 or more require a contractor’s license. Applicants must show proof of worker’s compensation and general liability insurance and show financial responsibility. For a contractor’s license, applicants must write a trade exam.

Texas

Texas has no painter license requirement on a state level; however, you may require a local license to operate your painting business in a specific city.

Utah

A Construction Contractor license is required for general painting in the state of Utah. The license is awarded by the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing

Applicants must provide proof of worker’s compensation and liability insurance, show at least two full years of work experience, and pass a trade exam and a business and law exam.

Vermont

General contractors and home improvement contractors in Vermont are not licensed at the state level but may need to be licensed at the local level. There are state licenses for lead abatement, so painters who work with lead paint will require this license.

Virginia

Virginia's painting and wall-covering contractors require a state license from the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation. There are Class A and Class B contractor licenses depending on years of experience and worth. Since March 2016, all applicants require pre-approval from the department before sitting for their trade exam.

Washington

General and specialty contractors are required to be licensed in Washington State. This includes contractors in the specialty of painting and wall covering. 

To register as a contractor, you must register with the WA Secretary of State and show proof of general liability insurance. No coursework or test is required.

West Virginia

A contractor license is required in West Virginia for almost all work on projects costing more than $1,000; however, painting is considered an untested specialty in West Virginia. The West Virginia Division of Labor awards contractor licenses.

Wisconsin

Wisconsin does not require a license for painters. The only contractors that require licenses are dwelling contractors, electricians, plumbers and HVAC technicians. Building contractors require registration only.

Wyoming

Painters are not required to be licensed at the state level in Wyoming. All contractors, other than electrical, are licensed at the local level. 

We're providing all of this information as a service. It is correct and updated to the best of our knowledge, but it is not meant to be taken as legal advice and you should always consult with local authorities before making any business decisions. Regulations are subject to change at any time.

Painter license requirements by state: A comprehensive guide

END

About the author
Matt Crawford leads NEXT's content team. He's a small business insurance specialist and has worked with business owners throughout his career as a community journalist and content marketer. You can find him at one of his many favorite local restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area when he's not at work.
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