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General Contractor

South Carolina general contractor license and insurance requirements

Kim Mercado image
By Kim Mercado
Jul 7, 2021 min read

If you’re a contractor working in South Carolina, there are two types of licenses you can get: a general contractor license, or a residential contractor license.

You'll need a general contractor license from the South Carolina Contractor's Licensing Board to work on most residential, commercial and industrial construction projects over $5,000, although there are a few exceptions.

If you plan to work only on residential projects, you don't need a general contractor license, but you'll need a license from the Residential Builders Commission.

The application process is similar for both, but you need to meet South Carolina's licensing requirements before applying for either type of license.

In this article, we'll cover:

  • South Carolina general contractor license requirements
  • How to apply for a South Carolina general contractor license
  • South Carolina residential contractor license requirements
  • How to apply for a South Carolina residential contractor license
  • South Carolina general contractor insurance requirements 

South Carolina general contractor license requirements

Before you can apply for a South Carolina contractor's license, you need to have some relevant work experience, pass an exam and you may need to register your business with the state.

Work experience

In South Carolina, you need at least two years of commercial work experience within the last five years in each contractor classification you're applying for. So, if you want to get a roofing license, you must have at least two years of experience installing roofs.

Exam requirements

There are different types of commercial contractor classifications in South Carolina, depending on the kind of work you'll be doing.

No matter what classification you're applying for, you need to pass PSI's South Carolina Business Management and Law for Commercial Contractors exam. And you may also need to pass a technical exam.

These are the general contractor classifications that require applicants to pass both exams:

  • Limited building
  • Unlimited building
  • Asphalt paving
  • Concrete paving
  • Boiler installation
  • Concrete
  • General roofing
  • Specialty roofing
  • Glass & glazing
  • Grading
  • Marine
  • Pipelines
  • Pre-engineered metal buildings
  • Public utility electrical
  • Structural framing
  • Swimming pools
  • Water & sewer lines
  • Water sewer plants
  • Wood frame structure

These are the general contractor classifications that only require the business management and law exam. You won’t need to complete a technical exam.

  • Boring & tunneling
  • Highway incidental
  • Railroad
  • Interior renovation
  • Masonry
  • Structural shape

Registering your business

If your business is a corporation, LLC, limited partnership or limited liability partnership, you must register it with the state. If you're a sole proprietor or have a general partnership, you don't need to register.

How to apply for a South Carolina general contractor license

Once you've met all the requirements for obtaining a license, the application process is pretty straightforward. But it's important that you provide all the necessary information. Otherwise, your application might be delayed.

Here's what you'll need:

  • Initial application
  • PSI exam reports
  • Financial statements or surety bond
  • License fee of $175 or $350, depending on when you apply
  • A copy of your business certificate if your business is registered as a corporation, partnership or LLC with the Secretary of State's office (optional)

South Carolina contractor's license groups

When you submit your application, you'll need to choose a license group. Your license group determines the size of projects you can bid on and the surety bond or financial statement requirements you need to meet. There are five license groups in South Carolina.

Group Number

$ Limit Per Job

Net Worth Requirement

Surety Bond Requirement

Group 1

$50,000

$10,000

$20,000

Group 2

$200,000

$40,000

$80,000

Group 3

$500,000

$100,000

$200,000

Group 4

$1,500,000

$175,000

$350,000

Group 5

Unlimited

$250,000

$500,000

Financial statement requirements

If you opt to provide financial statements instead of a surety bond with your application, here's what you need to submit.

  • License groups 1 and 2. Owner-prepared financial statements with an affidavit of accuracy.
  • License groups 3 and 4. Financial statements prepared by a licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or licensed public account (PA).
  • License group 5. Financial statements audited by a CPA or PA.

Submitting your application

When your application is complete, you may submit it by mail or fax to the South Carolina Contractor's Licensing Board at the address or fax number on the application.

South Carolina contractor's license reciprocity

Are you applying for a South Carolina specialty contractor's license that requires a technical exam? If you've already passed the exam in another state, check if that state has a reciprocity agreement with South Carolina. You don't have to retake the exam if your license is in good standing. Instead, you can provide a letter of verification or examination waiver from that state's licensing board.

However, you must meet all other South Carolina general contractor requirements, including passing the PSI business management and law exam.

Additional requirements

While getting your license is an important step in making sure your business is operating legally in South Carolina, you may need additional licenses or permits depending on where you're working. So, it's important to check with the building license or permit department in the city or county where your construction project is taking place for additional information before you get started.

Renewing your South Carolina general contractor license

General contractor licenses expire October 31 of every even-numbered year. The fee to renew your license is $135. Check South Carolina’s licensing department website for the most up-to-date fees and information.

South Carolina residential contractor license requirements

Before you can apply for a residential contractor license, you need to work for at least one year under the supervision of someone who already has a license in the trade you're applying for (e.g., home builder, HVAC, plumbing, etc.).

When you have the necessary work experience, you must apply with the Residential Builders Commission to take a two-part exam administered by PSI. Part one is a technical exam, and part two is the South Carolina Business Management and Law exam. 

When you pass, you can submit your application to receive your license.

How to apply for a South Carolina residential contractor license

If you have the required work experience and you've passed the exam, you can complete an application. Submit it with the appropriate documentation and fees to the Residential Building Commission. The exact requirements may vary slightly based on the type of license you're applying for, but in general, here's what you need.

  • Application form for the appropriate trade
  • Supporting documents, if required
  • Check or money order for the licensing fee
  • Copy of your driver's license, state-issued photo ID or passport
  • Copy of your social security card
  • Surety bond in the appropriate amount
    • Residential builder: $15,000
    • Licensed residential specialty contractor: $10,000
    • Registered residential specialty contractor: $5,000
  • Background check from the state law enforcement division

There’s good news if you're a current South Carolina commercial mechanical contractor in the required field (e.g., HVAC, plumbing, etc.) or have a master license from the Municipal Association of South Carolina. You may be able to obtain some residential licenses without completing the exam.

South Carolina general contractor insurance requirements

Having adequate insurance coverage can help protect your business from accidents, injuries, illness, lawsuits and more. And in some cases, it's required by law. If you're working as a general contractor in South Carolina, you may need to have the following types of insurance:

  • Workers' Compensation. Workers' compensation insurance helps pay medical bills and lost wages when an employee experiences a work-related illness or injury. In South Carolina, most businesses with four or more employees are required to maintain workers' comp coverage.

  • Commercial Auto. To drive legally in the state, you must have auto insurance. Usually, your personal vehicle’s policy doesn't cover you when you're driving for work. If you have vehicles and equipment you use in your business, you need commercial auto insurance.

City of Charleston

Certain cities and counties may have additional insurance requirements, so it's a good idea to check before you get started. For example, if you're doing work for the City of Charleston, you'll also need the following types of insurance:

  • General liability. General liability insurance helps protect you from third-party injuries and property damage your business causes. And it can help pay for legal and court fees if someone files a lawsuit against you. Charleston requires $1,000,000 per occurrence and $2,000,000 in aggregate.

  • Professional liability. Also known as E&O, professional liability insurance helps protect you if a client claims you or your employees made a mistake that caused them harm. You need at least $1,000,000 per claim and $1,000,000 in aggregate with a deductible of $20,000.

How NEXT helps protect general contractors in South Carolina

At NEXT, we specialize in helping general contractors like you get the insurance they need to protect their businesses. Our customized insurance packages are designed to fit your unique business needs, so you have just the right amount of insurance — never too little or too much.

With our online application process, you can review your policy options, purchase coverage and get your certificate of insurance in less than 10 minutes. And if you need help during the process, our licensed, U.S.-based insurance advisors can answer all your questions.

Get started with a free instant quote today.

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

Kim Mercado image
By Kim Mercado
Kim Mercado is the managing editor of NEXT's small business blog.
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