Washington Contractor License Guide

Do I need a Washington contractor license?

Any contractor in the state of Washington who engages in construction activity is required to be licensed and insured with the Department of Labor and Industries. Chapter 18.27 of the Washington State Legislature outlines all rules and regulations for construction contractors. Knowing whether your license is classified under general or specialty contracting will help your licensing journey.

“General contractor” refers to someone who can participate in a broad range of construction work whereas “specialty contractor” refers to someone who can only work in their particular specialty. A general contractor can hire subcontractors while a specialty contractor cannot.

Each of of the 63 different contractor specialties, requires its own registration. These specialties include, but are not limited to:

  • Drywall

  • Concrete

  • Painting

  • Landscaping

  • Well draining

  • Tree removal

For a full list of contractor specialties, click here. If you work with asbestos, boilers, electrical, elevators, mobile home installation, or plumbing, you must complete additional education, examination, and licensing requirements before registering with the Department of Labor and Industries.

How to get registered and licensed as a contractor in Washington

To become a licensed contractor, you must complete the following.

Step 1: Register your business with Department of Revenue

Use the Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for Your Washington Business License to determine which business structure is best for you. For example, you might choose to be a sole proprietor, a profit corporation, or a general partnership.

Step 2: Purchase a surety bond

A surety bond is a contract between three parties: the obligee, the principal, and the surety. You (the principal) must file a Washington contractor bond with the Department of Labor and Industries (the obligee) to ensure no harm will come from your business practices. SuretyBonds.com can walk you through the bonding process. Call 1 (800) 308-4358 to speak with a professional today!

General contractors must file a $12,000 continuous general contractor license bond while specialty contractors file a $6,000 continuous specialty contractor license bond. To be accepted, your bond must use your exact business name and be filed within 30 days of its effective date.

Step 3: Purchase general liability insurance

Contractors must purchase a general liability insurance policy consisting of either $200,000 in public liability and $50,000 property damage or $250,000 in a combined single limit. Contact a licensed insurance agent to purchase these policies. The Department of Labor and Industries must be listed as a certificate holder.

Step 4: Complete the Application for Construction Contractor Registration

This application must include original, notarized signatures. Along with the application, original copies of the surety bonds and insurance policy must be submitted. There is a $117.90 application fee. A check or money order should be made payable to the Department of Labor & Industries.

You can complete the registration process in person by visiting any Department of Labor and Industries office or by mailing your application paperwork to:

Contractor Registration
P.O. Box 44450
Olympia, WA 98504-4450

Once registered, you’ll receive a registration card. You can also contact the IRS for an employer identification number.

Additional surety bond requirements for Washington contractors

If you work as a contractor in fire sprinkler systems, electrical/telecommunications, plumbing, or farm labor, you must file a bond specific to your work activity. Check with your local city, county, or utilities district to see if they require additional bonding specific to your work location.

Fire Sprinkler Systems Contractor Bond

There are five levels of fire sprinkler contractors, and each level requires a matching surety bond. It is important to know which category you fall into so you can obtain the correct bond.

  • Level 1 fire sprinkler contractors work on the installation of sprinkler systems for single- or dual-family-occupied residential structures and their dedicated underground fire service mains. Additionally, any Level 1 contractor is required to have at least one employee certified as their Certificate of Competency Holder. Level 1 fire sprinkler contractors should post a $6,000 surety bond.

  • Level 2 fire sprinkler contractors inherit the same regulations as Level 1, but they can also work on installations in any structure up to a four-story structure. A $6,000 Level 2 Fire Sprinkler System Contractor Bond is required.

  • Level 3 fire sprinkler contractors inherit the same regulations as Levels 1 and 2 but can work on the installation of sprinkler systems on any kind of structure. Any Level 3 fire sprinkler contractor is required to post a $10,000 Level 3 Fire Sprinkler System Contractor Bond.

  • Level U fire sprinkler contractors may work only on the underground installation of the dedicated fire protection sprinkler system supply main for any type of structure and must have at least one employee certified as a Certificate of Competency Holder. Any Level U fire sprinkler contractor is required to post a $10,000 Level U Fire Sprinkler System Contractor Bond.

  • Level I&T fire sprinkler contractors can inspect and test work of wet and/or dry pipe fire protection sprinkler systems. Every contractor who either inspects or tests must secure a certificate of competence. A $6,000 Level I&T Fire Sprinkler System Contractor Bond is required for any level I&T fire sprinkler contractor.

The Washington Fire Protection Bureau Licensing and Certification Programs mandates these bonds, and the Washington State Legislature lists the general provisions for a fire sprinkler contractor.

Electrical/Telecommunication Contractor Bond

In order to get your license as an electrical/telecommunication contractor, you must post a $4,000 Electrical/Telecommunications Contractor Bond as required by the Department of Labor and Industries. Visit the Department of Labor & Industries Electrical Licensing & Certification page for the full list of application requirements.

Continuous Plumbing Contractor Bond

The Department of Labor and Industries requires that plumbing contractors post a $6,000 Continuous Plumbing Contractor Bond as part of the licensing application steps. Visit the Department of Labor and Industries New Plumbing Licensing Requirements page for a full list of application steps.

Farm Labor Contractor Bond

The Department of Labor and Industries requires that plumbing contractors post Farm Labor Contractor Bond as part of the licensing application steps. A farm labor contractor bond expires annually on December 31; for this reason, the bond amount and cost of bond will vary. Visit the Department of Labor and Industries Farm Labor Contractor Licensing page for the full application steps to become a licensed farm labor contractor.

Location-Specific Bonds

Clark County District 1 Electrical Contractor Performance Bond

You can purchase a $5,000 Clark County District 1 Electrical Contractor Performance Bond as part of your agreement to work in the district.

Lakehaven Utility District Sewer Service Contractor Bond

Before becoming authorized as a sewer service contractor in the Lakehaven Utility District, you must submit an Authorized Sewer Service Contractor Application. Once this has been approved, the Lakehaven Utility District requires that a $10,000 Lakehaven Utility District Sewer Service Contractor Bond be posted. Visit our Washington contractorbonds.com site for a full list of application steps and information.

City of Redmond Side Sewer Contractor Bond

If you are a side sewer contractor in Redmond, Washington, you must post a $5,000 City of Redmond Side Sewer Contractor Bond as part of the Side Sewer Contractor Roster Application to obtain a permit. This bond can be purchased for a multi-year term with a 25% discount.

City of Seattle Side Sewer Contractor Bond

In order to obtain a side sewer permit in Seattle, you must post a $30,000 City of Seattle Side Sewer Contractor Bond.

Additional licensing information for Washington contractor licenses

Location-Specific Business License

Some cities require a business license before you can conduct business or work within the city limits. If you work in Vancouver, Olympia, Spokane, or Kennewick, complete an application for a business license.

Contractor registration number

After you have registered with the Department of Labor and Industries, you will receive a contractor registration number. Whenever you advertise or communicate with customers, you are required by law to show your contractor registration number so consumers can verify your legal status.

Model Disclosure Statement Notice to Customer

For residential jobs costing more than $1,000 and commercial jobs costing between $1,000 and $60,000, you are required to provide a Model Disclosure Statement Notice to Customer.

Requirements for lead-based paint and pesticides

If your job includes working with pre-1978 residential or child-occupied facilities, contact the Washington State Dept. of Commerce Lead Paint Program at 360-586-5323 to guarantee you are correctly following lead regulations.

If your job includes applying pesticides, contact the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture, Licensing and Recertification Program at (877) 301-4555 to establish compliance with pesticide law.

How do I renew my Washington contractor license?

A contractor license lasts for two years. When it is time to renew your bond, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Verify information is up to date

Make sure your surety bond, insurance policy, and contractor registration are up-to-date and not suspended. Visit the Department of Labor and Industries website and use the Verify a Contractor, Tradesperson or Business tool to complete this step.

Step 2 (Optional): Change or update your bond and insurance

If you changed your bond amount or changed bond companies, you must submit the new bond with the name of your business exactly as it appears on file with the Department of Labor and Industries. The new bond should be submitted to the Department of Labor and Industries before the filing date listed on the bond.

If you changed insurance policies or coverage amount, you must also submit your new general liability insurance certificate. Your insurance agent will need to send an electronic confirmation to the Department of Labor and Industries or sign the original, uncorrected paper certificate of insurance.

Step 3: Renew online or in person

If you changed your bond or liability insurance, you can renew your license by taking your paperwork and $117.90 renewal fee to any Labor and Industries Office or mailing it in. Check for locations here.

You can renew online with your 12-digit contractor registration number, UBI number, and payment of the $117.90 renewal fee. Acceptable forms of payment include MasterCard, Visa, E-Check, Discover, and American Express credit or debit cards or a one-time checking account withdrawal.

Similar to the original application process, you can renew via mail by sending your renewal card and $117.90 renewal fee to:

Department of Labor & Industries
Contractor Registration Section
P.O. Box 44450
Olympia WA 98504-4450

Need a Surety Bond?

If you’re a Washington contractor in search of a surety bond, call 1 (800) 308-4358 to talk to a SuretyBonds.com surety professional or get a free, no-obligation quote.

Sign Up for Surety News!