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General Contractor

Washington general contractor license and insurance requirements

Matt Crawford image
By Matt Crawford
Jan 20, 2021 min read

If you’re planning to start a self-employed venture or lead a small business as a general contractor, you’ll need to hold a Washington state general contractor license. Once you do, you’ll be registered in Washington’s verified contractor platform, where customers will be able to find and hire you for projects. 

Licensed general contractors in Washington can perform most types of construction work, including remodeling, repairing and demolition. However, the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries requires additional licensing and exams for speciality contract work such as plumbing, electrical, asbestos and a few other areas.

In this article, we’ll go over: 

  • Washington general contractor requirements
  • How to get a general contractor licence in Washington
  • Insurance for general contractors in Washington

Washington state contractors license requirements

There are several steps you will need to take to obtain your Washington contractor license. 

  1. First, you will need to determine the structure of your business (sole proprietor, LLC, partnership or corporation).
  2. You’ll also need to choose a business name and get a Uniform Business Identifier.
  3. Once you have taken those steps, you can apply for your Washington Business License.
  4. You’ll also need to pay a fee for licensing and registering your business:
  • $180+ for corporation or partnerships
  • $19-$24 for sole proprietors
  • $113.40 registration fee for two years

Next, you have to purchase a surety bond, the amount of which is based on the type of license you’re applying for, and general liability insurance. This will protect your business in the case of property damage. 

You will need to be covered for:

  • At least $200,000 in public liability and $50,000 in property damage 
  • OR a $250,000 combined single limit 

Keep in mind, your bond and insurance must use your exact business name, and the Labor & Industries department must be listed as a certificate holder on your liability insurance. 

A licensed Next Insurance agent who specializes in small business policies can help you get a quote in just a few minutes, as well as answer any questions you might have.

Once you complete those steps, you can submit your application to your local Labor & Industries office, which can also notarize your documents. 

Washington contractor license types

The most important step in getting your Washington state contractor license is to determine which type of license you will need. 

General Contractors are defined as able to perform or supervise multiple building trades or crafts. They can also hire subcontractors within multiple specialities. The surety bond for general contractors is $12,000.

Specialty Contractors can only perform work in their registered speciality and they can’t hire subcontractors. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries has 63 specialties that require registration and will require exams. The surety bond for specialty contractors is $6,000. 

Required paperwork for obtaining a contractor license in Washington

In order to avoid hiccups in the process, here is a quick checklist of the paperwork you need before you go to your Labor & Industries office for notarization: 

  • Your business registration
  • Proof of your surety bond
  • Your Social Security Number, Federal Employee ID Number and/or Unified Business Identifier
  • Proof of your general liability insurance. You can get this instantly when you purchase coverage with Next Insurance with our digital certificate of insurance
  • A business mailing address. P.O. boxes are not accepted.
  • If you’ve ever been a registered contractor before, you’ll need to disclose any past registration info. This includes past business names and registration numbers.
  • If you plan on hiring employees, you’ll need proof of workers’ compensation insurance

How long does it take to get a Washington contractor license?

If you have all of the above paperwork prepared when you go to the Labor & Industries office for notarization, the process to get your contractor license shouldn’t take very long. Expect to activate your registration about three to five days after receipt of your application. 

Once you are registered, your business will be listed in the Labor & Industries verified database and you will receive a registration card within two weeks. 

Insurance requirements for Washington general contractors

You will need general liability insurance to get your Washington general contractor license. Workers’ compensation is required by law if you have employees, and you’ll also need commercial auto insurance if you plan on driving for business purposes. 

General Liability insurance for Washington contractors

In addition to being a requirement, having general liability insurance is just a good idea for your business. General liability can protect you from expenses if someone other than you or an employee is hurt, as well as help pay for damage to someone else’s property, in the event your business is held responsible.

For example, if a customer trips over your toolbox and twists their ankle, general liability can help pay for medical treatment and related costs. If you accidentally knock over a railing post while working on a front porch, you can be covered for that property damage as well. 

Workers’ Compensation for Washington contractors

If you hire employees or subcontractors, you are also required by state law to have workers’ compensation. It is also a good idea to have it even if you’re a sole proprietor. 

Workers’ comp is a safety net that can help pay for costs associated with workplace injuries. Workers’ compensation can cover medical expenses and lost wages up to your policy limit if you or an employee are hurt on the job. It can also shield you from liability after an accident. 

Commercial Auto insurance for general contractors

Any vehicles owned or used by your contracting business should be covered with commercial auto insurance

If you or your employees are involved in an accident, it can provide coverage for emergency care, medical bills, property damage, vehicle damage and legal fees. 

Hired and non-owned auto insurance provides coverage if your employees occasionally use a personal vehicle or if you sometimes rent vehicles for work.

How Next Insurance works with general contractors in Washington

Next Insurance is 100% dedicated to helping self-employed construction professionals and small businesses get the right business insurance at an affordable price. 

You can get a quote, purchase coverage and access the certificate of insurance you need for your Washington contractor license in a few minutes with our easy online process.

If you have any questions, our licensed, U.S.-based insurance advisors are standing by to help. 

Get your instant quote today. 

Matt Crawford image
By Matt Crawford
Matt Crawford is Associate Content Director at Next Insurance and a small business insurance specialist.
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