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Painter license requirements by state: A comprehensive guide

Painter license requirements by state: A comprehensive guide

By Matt Crawford
Feb 1, 2022
14 min read
We know that the average person moves more than 11 times over their lifetime. We also know that when you move, you want to take your business and your painter's insurance with you, wherever you go. That's why we've put together this handy guide to every requirement for painters to be licensed, across all 50 states. Many states require that you show proof of insurance as part of the requirements to receive a painting license, while several states don't require you to have a license at all. Each state has slightly different mandates depending on the type of work you do so it's important to check what's needed in order to successfully operate your painting business. painter license requirements by state


To receive the Alabama Painting and Wall Covering Contractor license, required for any work over $50,000, applicants need to be approved by the state to sit the examination, must also have passed the Alabama Business and Law exam, and must have completed at least three projects and have at least three years of experience. To apply, applicants must call 1-334-272-5030.


The state of Alaska has three levels of painting contractor license:
  • Specialty contractor who can work on commercial and residential structures with limits
  • General contractor excluding residential who can work on commercial buildings and limited residential
  • General contractor with a residential endorsement who can work on unlimited commercial and residential buildings
Only the residential endorsement license has pre-requisite requirements for the license. You must hold business insurance in Alaska. In Alaska, most contractors that perform residential home improvements must be licensed by the Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing.


Arizona requires separate painting business licenses for residential and commercial contractors. Residential painters require one year of experience as a painter under a state recognized contractor, and will then need to write an exam including a business management test. Commercial painters require two years of experience as a painter under a state recognized contractor, and will then need to write an exam including questions specific to commercial projects. The Arizona Registrar of Contractors issues licenses for painters.


Arkansas requires licensing for commercial and residential contractors working on any projects that cost $2,000 or more. All contractors will be required to write and pass the Business and Law exam, and acquire business insurance in Arkansas.


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 had four full years of experience in the last 10 years at a journey level, or as a supervisor, foreman or contractor in the area you’re applying for a license in.


There is no painting license requirement for painters in the state of Colorado, but licenses may be required locally. Proof of business liability insurance is needed.


Contractors must be registered with the Department of Consumer Protection to work on a residential property in the area of home improvement in Connecticut. You will need to show proof of business insurance in Connecticut, and provide reference of your knowledge and skills.


Contractors, including painters, must be licensed in Delaware; however it is for the purposes of revenue only. The license is awarded by the Division of Revenue. To contact them, you can call 1-302-577-8205. An exam must be written to obtain your state painting license.


Painter license requirements in Florida require a general contractor license from the Construction Industry Licensing Board. Applicants must write an exam which includes questions on business and finance, contract administration and project management.


The Georgia Residential Basic Contractor License is required for any project over $2,500. Applicants must be approved by the state to sit the exam and must have 2 years of working experience. Applicants must show a certificate of business insurance in Georgia and must pass the Georgia Business and Law exam.


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 does not license general contractors, including painters, at the state level. Any licensing happens at the local level only. The Licensing Freedom Act, signed in May 2017, may change this, but the report will only be submitted to the governor in July 2018.


Painter license requirements do not exist and painters don't need to be registered as contractors in the state of Illinois.


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


All constructions 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. There is no painting license or exam that is required at the state level; however, painters do require a license at the local level.


Painters that deal with lead paint require a license from the Kansas Department of Health & Environment. They can be contacted at 1-785-296-5606. While some contractors are licensed at the state level in Kansas, painting contractors are licensed at the local level only.


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


Painting contractors in the state of Louisiana require a license. The State Licensing Board for Contractors issues four different types of licenses: commercial, residential, home improvement and mold remediation. Painting licenses fall under the building construction classification. Applicants will be required to submit information about work experience and a financial statement before sitting an exam. For a Louisiana Painting and Coating License, only a Business Law exam is required, but not a trade exam.


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


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. Applicants must meet the financial solvency guidelines of the Home Improvement Commission. Applicants must 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.


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.


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 license is awarded by the Builder’s Unit of the Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs.


Any person who contracts 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 that a painter then 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 must hold a current liability insurance certificate.


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


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.


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.


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


Painters in Nevada must be licensed and hold a Nevada Painting and Decorating Painting License. Applicants must be pre-approved to write 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 10 years, and must submit financial statements and proof of insurance. The state of 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 on all advertisements.

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. All licenses are awarded by the Construction Industries Division of the State of New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department.

New York

New York State does not require painters licenses; however there are requirements at the local government level. Painters in New York City, for example, require a Home Improvement Contractor License which is awarded by the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs. You will need to write an exam and show proof of insurance in order 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 insurance. There are four classes of contractor licenses, depending on the size of the jobs for which you want to be licensed. There is no exam requirement.


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.


In Oklahoma, general contractors and subcontractors who provide general construction services, including painters, are not required to hold a state license.


In Oregon, all contractors who do any form of 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.


The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania does not require most construction contractors to hold a license; however, under the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act, most contractors are required to be registered and to 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 work for a licensed Lead Hazard Control Firm. An eight-hour training course must be completed before a Lead-Safe Remodeler/Renovator license can be applied for.

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 must pass a technical and a business and law exam. Painters of residential properties must be registered, but are not required to take an exam.

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.


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 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.


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, must show at least two full years of work experience and must pass a trade exam and a business and law exam.


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.


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


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 will need to register with the WA Secretary of State and show proof of general liability insurance. There is no coursework or test that 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. Contractor licenses are awarded by the West Virginia Division of Labor.


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


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 up to-date 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


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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