South Carolina general contractor license and insurance requirements

South Carolina general contractor license and insurance requirements

Ashley Henshaw
By Ashley Henshaw
Dec 29, 2023
10 min read

In South Carolina, you can get either 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 the state’s licensing requirements before applying for either type of license.

Jump ahead to learn more about:

How to get a general contractor license in SC

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

Ensure your business operates legally in South Carolina; you may need additional licenses or permits depending on where you’re working. Check with the building license or permit department in the city or county where you work for additional information before you start.

1. Choose a South Carolina general contractor license group

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 JobNet Worth RequirementSurety 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 5Unlimited$250,000$500,000


2. Prepare 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.

3. Submit your application

When your application is complete, you may submit it by mail or fax to the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board.

South Carolina general contractor license requirements

Before applying for a South Carolina contractor’s license, you may need relevant work experience and to pass an exam.

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.

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, to get a roofing license, you must have at least two years of experience installing roofs.

Exam requirements

No matter what classification of commercial contractor you apply for, you need to pass PSI’s South Carolina Business Management and Law for Commercial Contractors exam before submitting your application for licensure. 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 general contractor classifications 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

General contractor insurance requirements in South Carolina

Adequate insurance coverage can help protect your business from accidents, injuries, illness, lawsuits and more. And in some cases, it’s required by law. For example, if you’re doing work for the City of Charleston, general liability insurance and professional liability insurance are required.

If you’re working as a general contractor in South Carolina, you may need to have the following insurance:

Workers’ compensation insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance can help pay for 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 insurance

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 for your business, you may need commercial auto insurance.

General liability insurance

General liability insurance can help cover expenses related to third-party injuries and property damage your business causes. And it may also 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. Note that this is required insurance in Charleston.

Professional liability insurance

Also known as E&O, professional liability insurance can help protect you if a client claims you or your employees made a mistake that caused them harm. To work in Charleston, you need professional liability coverage of at least $1,000,000 per claim and $1,000,000 in aggregate, with a deductible of $20,000. Note that this is required insurance in Charleston.

SC general contractor 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.

General contractor licenses expire October 31 of every even-numbered year. The fee to renew your license is $135.

How to get a residential contractor license in South Carolina

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 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 NEXT can help general contractors and residential contractors in South Carolina

NEXT helps general contractors get the insurance they need to protect their business. Our customized insurance packages are designed to fit your unique needs.

Apply online, review your policy options, purchase coverage and get your certificate of insurance in less than 10 minutes.

If you need help during the process, our licensed, U.S.-based insurance advisors can answer all your questions.

Start a free instant quote with NEXT today.

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Ashley Henshaw
About the author

Ashley Henshaw was a contributing writer at NEXT. She specializes in small business topics, covering everything from insurance and branding to web hosting and cryptocurrency.

Her work has appeared in The Huffington Post, AOL City's Best, Citysearch, USA Today, The San Francisco Chronicle and Livestrong.

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