Are you considering starting a career in the construction industry in the Sunshine State? Many do, as Florida provides an exciting and prosperous environment for contractors to thrive. In fact, as of 2022, there were a total of 97,706 active licenses in the construction industry in Florida, and the number is projected to grow.
But before you begin breaking ground on new projects, you’ll need to navigate a multitude of administrative and state requirements, with one huge step being obtaining your general contractor license in Florida.
This license is your key to unlocking job opportunities and expanding your business as a general contractor throughout the state. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the process so you can embark on the fast track to becoming a licensed general contractor in Florida.
Do You Need a Contractor License in Florida?
Licensing in Florida occurs at both state and local levels. Statewide work requires a Certified License, while local work necessitates a Registered License. The Construction Industry Licensing Board, under the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, oversees the licensing process.
A Certified License means you can work anywhere in Florida, and you’re tested to meet statewide standards. A Registered License is more local – you’re only cleared to work in specific cities or counties where you get the license. Here’s a more detailed breakdown of the two license options in Florida:
Kinds of Projects
For larger and more complex construction projects, such as multi-story commercial buildings, industrial facilities, major infrastructure developments, and large-scale residential constructions
For smaller-scale residential construction projects that are limited to a specific county or city
Have the opportunity to earn more because they can bid on larger and more lucrative contracts
Can position yourself as an expert in a specific locale
Why Choose This Option?
If you intend to take on larger, more complex projects, this license provides more flexibility in the types of projects you can bid on and undertake
If your focus will primarily be on residential construction or smaller projects
Florida also offers specialty classifications that are designed for contractors with expertise in niche areas of construction, such as irrigation systems, industrial facility modifications, gas lines, and tower repair. These specialized licenses are for individuals or entities seeking to operate legally in these specific fields.
If you’re wondering whether you can operate without a license, we’re here to tell you that it is not advised. Unlicensed contracting in Florida can carry legal and financial risks. The need for a license typically extends to both business owners and their employees engaging in regulated construction activities to ensure safety and compliance with state regulations.
Why Do You Need It?
Obtaining a Florida general contractor license demonstrates to your clients that you have the necessary training, experience, and expertise to undertake the project. Here are some other reasons why you need a general contractor license in FL:
Legal Requirement: The state mandates that anyone performing construction work must hold a valid contractor license. Operating without one can result in legal consequences, including fines and the suspension of your projects.
Consumer Protection: A general contractor license in Florida indicates that you offer a reliable and trustworthy service, demonstrating your competence and financial responsibility to ensure the satisfaction and confidence of your clients.
Competitive Advantage: Holding a valid license sets you apart from unlicensed contractors and can give you a competitive edge in the construction industry. It instills confidence in potential clients and partners that you have the skills and experience to conduct high-quality work.
Access to Projects: Many construction projects, especially government and larger contracts, require contractors to be licensed. Without a Florida general contractor license, you may be ineligible for these lucrative opportunities.
Quality Assurance: Licensing often involves passing exams and meeting experience requirements, indicating that you have the necessary knowledge and skills to perform construction work safely and effectively.
Florida Contractor License Requirements
Here’s a comprehensive look at the requirements for contractors looking to get a license in Florida.
Experience: To qualify for a general contractor license in Florida, you typically need a minimum of 4 years of relevant work experience. Individuals often accrue this experience through employment in the construction industry, working in roles such as construction laborer, carpenter, or project manager. This experience may involve various aspects of constructing, repairing, remodeling, and improving buildings or structures. Many also learn and accumulate experience through apprenticeships or working under the supervision of licensed contractors, which can provide valuable on-the-job training and mentorship.
Education: While formal education isn’t always mandatory, it can be beneficial. Generally, consider relevant coursework in construction, project management, and safety regulations available at community colleges, technical schools, or online. While it is not mandatory, you may consider getting a Bachelor’s or Associate’s degree in construction management or civil engineering. You can also enhance your qualifications with certifications from organizations like the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC), National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), or Construction Management Association of America (CMAA).
Age: All applicants must be at least 18 years old to apply for a Florida general contractor license, regardless of their specific license category.
Business Entity Registration: In Florida, establishing a business entity is a necessary step toward obtaining a general contractor license. An individual must register their business with the Florida Department of State, which serves to legally recognize the business and ensure compliance with state regulations. This legal recognition is a prerequisite for license eligibility, as the license is typically associated with the business entity rather than just the individual.
Contractor License Types in FL
To acquire a general contractor license in Florida, you must apply through the Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board. Florida offers a diverse range of contractor licenses designed to suit specific areas of expertise.
Let’s delve deeper into these license types with more detailed explanations:
Division I Contractor Classifications
Division I contractor classifications encompass licenses for general, building, and residential contractors, each with distinct scopes of work.
General Contractor: General contractor work encompasses constructing, repairing, altering, remodeling, and improving various types of structures and buildings. They bear the responsibility for the construction or alteration of critical structural components in buildings.
Building Contractor: Building contractors specialize in the construction, repair, remodeling, and improvement of commercial and residential buildings that do not exceed three stories in height. Their responsibilities include structural components and site work within the location of the specific building.
Residential Contractor: Residential contractors focus on the construction, remodeling, and improvement of one, two, or three-family residences that do not exceed two habitable stories.
Division II Contractor Classifications
Division II contractor classifications pertain to specialized fields within the construction industry, offering licenses for professionals in niche areas such as roofing, air conditioning, plumbing, and more.
Sheet Metal Contractor License: This license authorizes the fabrication, erection, installation, and maintenance of metal work.
Roofing Contractor License: Roofing contractors are qualified to install, maintain, repair, alter, extend, and design various roofing, waterproofing, and coating systems.
Air Conditioning Class A Contractor License: Class A contractors are experts in central air-conditioning, refrigeration, heating, and ventilating systems, including ductwork.
Mechanical Contractor License: Mechanical contractors manage air distribution systems, boiler systems, pressure vessel systems, and other related equipment.
Commercial Pool/Spa Contractor License: These contractors specialize in the construction, repair, and servicing of public and private swimming pools and hot tubs/spas.
Residential Pool/Spa Contractor License: This license covers the installation, repair, and replacement of equipment for residential-only pools and spas.
Servicing Pool/Spa Contractor License: Servicing contractors are responsible for the repair and replacement of existing equipment, excluding filter changes.
Plumbing Contractor License: This license authorizes contractors to install, repair, alter, extend, and design plumbing systems.
Underground Utility and Excavation Contractor License: These contractors oversee the installation and repair of infrastructure on public and private properties, involving techniques like directional drilling, auger boring, and trenchless technologies.
Solar Contractor License: Solar contractors are qualified to install, alter, and replace solar panels for various applications, including solar water heating systems, swimming pool solar heating systems, and photovoltaic systems.
Pollutant Storage System Contractor License: This license permits contractors to install and maintain pollutant storage tanks.
Marine Contractor License: Marine contractors specialize in the construction of marine structures, including docks, piers, boat ramps, and more.
Specialty contractor classifications in Florida are designated for professionals with expertise in particular areas of construction that require distinct skills and knowledge beyond general building practices.
These include the installation of complex irrigation systems, alterations to industrial facilities, setting up gas lines, and conducting repairs on tall structures like towers.
Structure Specialty Contractor License: Contractors in this niche install, replace, adjust, and repair concrete, steel, masonry, carpentry, roofing, siding, foundations, bridges, and tunnels.
Irrigation Specialty Contractor License: Contractors in this category install, maintain, repair, manage, and monitor irrigation systems.
Industrial Facility Specialty Contractor License: These contractors modify uninhabitable industrial structures for energy, gas, and chemical production.
Gas Line Specialty Contractor License: This license covers the alteration and modification of natural gas transmission and distribution systems.
Tower Specialty Contractor License: Tower specialists focus on repairing and altering uninhabitable towers used for various purposes, such as communications, energy, water, and utilities.
Electrical Contractor Classifications
Electrical contractor classifications encompass a wide range of licenses for professionals working in the electrical trade, whether it’s dealing with alarm systems, electrical wiring, lighting maintenance, or utility line construction.
Alarm System Contractor: These contractors install and design alarm systems for both commercial and residential purposes.
Electrical Contractor: Electrical contractors conduct business in the electrical trade, working with electrical wiring, fixtures, appliances, and conduits.
Lighting Maintenance Specialty Electrical Contractor: This specialty covers commercial and residential replacement and repair of lighting fixtures.
Residential Electrical Contractor: This certification includes altering and replacing electrical wiring, fixtures, appliances, raceways, and conduits.
Utility Line Electrical Contractor: Utility line electrical contractors work on the transmission and distribution of electrical circuits and substation construction.
Steps to Get a General Contractor License in Florida
Acquiring a general contractor license in Florida is a structured process that involves several key steps and requirements:
Choose License Type
Begin by deciding whether you need a Certified License, which permits statewide work, or a Registered License, designed for work within specific local jurisdictions.
Select the Division
Choose the appropriate contractor division that matches your area of expertise. You can opt for Division I, which includes general, building, or residential contractors, or Division II, specializing in niche fields.
To ensure a complete and compliant application for your general contractor license in Florida, you must submit the necessary documentation, which includes:
Proof of Financial Responsibility: Include a credit report demonstrating a minimum 660 FICO score. If your credit score falls below this threshold, you’ll need to furnish a Florida surety bond or a letter of credit.
Liability Insurance: Provide proof of liability insurance. The specific requirements for liability insurance can vary depending on your specific contractor license category and the scope of work you plan to undertake, but typically, contractors in Florida are required to have liability insurance coverage that meets certain minimum limits and provides protection in case of accidents, property damage, or injuries related to their work.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance: If you currently employ or plan to hire workers, you must obtain workers’ compensation insurance. Specifics are provided within the application.
Apply for the License
Next, you will need to obtain the required license application form from the Construction Industry Licensing Board. After completing the form, you will need to submit it along with any necessary documentation and fees.
Be sure to check the board’s guidelines for submission methods, which could include online submission, mailing, or in-person delivery. Additionally, make sure to review the specific requirements and supporting documents needed for your application to ensure a smooth and successful process.
When submitting your application for a general contractor license in Florida, fill out the application carefully using ink. Make sure to include all the necessary documents and the required fees with your submission. The fees should be paid via personal or cashier’s checks made out to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. Once you have gathered your completed application, all supporting documents, and the appropriate fees, send them to the specified address of the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation.
Submit your fingerprints electronically using approved vendors. Ensure you do this at least five days before sending your license application to allow for processing. To find the approved vendors for electronic fingerprint submission in Florida, you should visit the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) website.
Take the Exam
For exam preparation, first, determine whether your chosen division requires the Division I or II examination or if you’re pursuing a Pool Contractor license with a separate exam process administered by Professional Testing. To ensure a smooth exam process, pay examination fees; stay updated on test dates and register well in advance; find out the locations where the exams are held; and review retake policies in case you do not pass the exam initially, as these policies may include waiting periods and associated fees.
To find detailed information about exam dates and locations for obtaining a general contractor license in Florida, you can search for your specific exam details on the Florida Department of Business & Professional Regulation’s official website. This portal allows you to search for exam dates, times, and locations specific to your application. The results also display any exam results if they have been received by the DBPR. Please note that you’ll need to enter personal identification details, such as your SSN or Tax Number, to access this information.
General Contractor License Cost in Florida
The cost of obtaining a general contractor license in Florida can vary depending on several factors, including the type of license, the license category, and other associated expenses.
Here is a breakdown of potential costs:
License Application Fees: If you are applying for a certified license between May 1 of an even year and Aug. 31 of an odd year, it will cost $249. If you’re applying between Sept. 1 of an odd year and April 30 of an even year, it will cost $149. Similarly, if you are applying for a registered license between May 1 of an odd year and Aug. 31 of an odd year, it will cost $309. If you are applying between Sept. 1 and April 30 of an odd year, it will cost $209.
Examination Fee: The examination fee for Division I or II contractors, excluding Pool Contractors, is an additional cost. These fees range from $215 to $375.
Insurance Costs: To meet the insurance requirements, you will need to purchase liability insurance and, if applicable, workers’ compensation insurance. For a small residential contractor, liability insurance may cost between $500 to $2,000 annually. However, for larger commercial contractors engaged in riskier projects, the annual premiums can range from $3,000 to $10,000 or more. In Florida, workers’ compensation insurance may cost approximately $1,500 to $5,000 per year for a small contracting business with a few employees. For larger construction companies with a more extensive workforce or involved in high-risk activities, the costs can range from $10,000 to $50,000 or higher annually.
Surety Bond Premium: If your credit score falls below the specified threshold, you may be required to obtain a surety bond. The bond amount will depend on your license category, and the premium for the bond can vary based on your creditworthiness. On average, surety bond premiums typically range from 0.7% to 5% of the bond amount. For example, if you’re required to obtain a $50,000 surety bond and your credit score is excellent, you might qualify for a lower interest rate. Your bond premium might be around $350 to $2,500 a year.
Preparation Course Fees: Many individuals choose to enroll in contractor license preparation courses to help them pass the required examination. The cost of these courses can vary around a few hundred dollars.
How Long Does It Take to Get a General Contractor License in FL?
Obtaining a general contractor license in Florida is a multi-step process that takes several months to over a year. It starts with meeting eligibility criteria, exam preparation, and scheduling. After passing the exam, the application process involves document submission, fingerprinting, insurance, and fees. The license is usually issued within several weeks after approval.
How to Renew Your Contractor License in Florida
Renewing your contractor license in Florida is a key step to maintaining your status as a licensed professional. Here’s a guide on how to renew your general contractor license in Florida:
Keep Track of Your Renewal Date: Your contractor license in Florida is typically valid for a two-year period. Make sure you are aware of your license’s expiration date well in advance. The expiration date is printed on your license.
Complete Continuing Education: Many Florida contractor licenses require completing 14 hours of continuing education (CE) courses as a part of the renewal process.
Gather Required Documentation: Prior to renewing, collect all the necessary documents and information you’ll need for the renewal application. This may include proof of CE completion, insurance certificates, and other relevant paperwork.
Submit Your Renewal Application: Renewal applications can typically be submitted online through the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation’s website. Ensure you fill out the application accurately and provide all required information.
Pay the Renewal Fee: During the application renewal process, you will be required to pay a fee ranging from $105 to $130. This renewal fee must be paid to ensure your application is processed.
Background Check and Fingerprinting: Some licenses may require a background check and fingerprinting during the renewal process.
Verification of Insurance: Verify and update your insurance information to ensure it meets the requirements for your license category.
Wait for Processing: After you’ve submitted your renewal application, it will be processed by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation. This can take several weeks, so submit your renewal well in advance of the expiration date to allow for processing time.
Receive Your Renewed License: If your application is approved, you’ll receive your renewed contractor license. Ensure that you keep a copy of your renewed license on hand and display it as required when conducting business. If your license application is denied, you can typically appeal the decision, address the outlined issues, and resubmit your application for reconsideration.
The journey to obtaining a general contractor license in Florida is a rigorous one, but it opens doors to a world of opportunities in the thriving construction sector. It’s a testament to your dedication and expertise, allowing you to partake in diverse and exciting projects across the state.
Content CreatorMartha Pierson is a marketing strategist and business development expert based in Glendale, California. As a content creator for the Finturf blog, Martha shares her vast knowledge and experience with readers to help them build and sustain successful businesses. Her articles offer practical tips and actionable advice that entrepreneurs can implement immediately to achieve their goals. Martha also provides insightful analysis of current trends across different industries and offers expert guidance on how businesses can adapt to changing market conditions.