Interior

How to Get a Handyman License: Steps and Requirements by State

Obtaining a handyman license may be a necessary step for those who want to start a successful and legally compliant handyman business.
How to Get a Handyman License

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For an aspiring handyman, obtaining a license is an important part of launching a business in the world of home repairs and improvements. Although handyman license requirements vary from state to state, a license can help legitimize a prospective business owner’s expertise, ensure adherence to local regulations, and instill confidence in prospective clients. That way, clients will know exactly who to call for home repairs when needed.

To navigate this process efficiently, it’s crucial for an entrepreneur to be prepared. Those exploring how to become a handyman will want to review the step-by-step process of getting the appropriate home improvement license to become one of the best handyman services in their area.

MATERIALS AND DOCUMENTS NEEDED

Depending on the state or local jurisdiction, a person applying for a handyman license so they can offer home maintenance services may need to present some or all of the following documents and materials. Certain states may require items that are not included on this list, so individuals will want to confirm local requirements.

  • A completed license application
  • Proof of identity
  • Proof of handyman insurance, including general liability and property damage insurance, and bonding
  • Proof of workers’ compensation insurance (for businesses with employees)
  • Proof of relevant work experience
  • Passing scores from any necessary trade exams the state requires
  • Business financial statements

Is a handyman license required?

How to Get a Handyman License
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Whether a handyman license is required depends on the nature of the work and where the handyman business plans to operate. Generally, minor jobs or projects that fall under a certain cost threshold can often be undertaken by those without a handyman certification or license, but that dollar amount can vary greatly from state to state. Some states also require becoming a licensed contractor or obtaining a construction license before a person can legally operate as a handyman business.

Jeremy Lesher, co-owner and product manager of Louisville, Kentucky–based foundation repair specialist company Bluegrass Foundation Repair, advises that entrepreneurs familiarize themselves with local laws and regulations related to operating a handyman business prior to applying for a license.

“Licensing requirements can vary significantly, so it’s important to research and comply with the regulations specific to your area,” Lesher says. “If you’re unsure about the licensing requirements or legal aspects of starting a handyman business, it’s always a good idea to consult with professionals such as lawyers or business advisers who specialize in small businesses. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation and location.”

Shlomo Cherniak, owner of Baltimore, Maryland–based handyman business Cherniak Handyman Services, notes that depending on the services offered, a handyman business owner may need additional licenses or certifications.

“For example, if you plan to do electrical or plumbing work, you may need to obtain

the appropriate licenses or certifications in those trades,” explains Cherniak. “In addition to licenses, you may also need to obtain permits for certain types of work. Permits are typically required for larger projects or those that involve structural changes.”

Tips for How to Get a Handyman License

  • Research state and local contractor license requirements, as they can vary significantly.
  • Complete any required training or apprenticeship programs to meet eligibility criteria for licensing exams.
  • Ensure adequate experience in the offered services, as practical knowledge is often tested.
  • Stay organized and maintain detailed records of training, experience, and any certifications to streamline the application process.

STEP 1: Check your state’s licensing requirements for handyman contractors.

Each state has licensing requirements for people who wish to offer home improvement services. Entrepreneurs will want to keep in mind that in many states, handymen are categorized as general contractors, so regulations applicable to that profession would also apply to someone offering handyman services.

Additionally, some states may require a background check before issuing a license, so entrepreneurs with a criminal record or other background check concerns may wish to look into these specific requirements prior to applying.

Here’s a brief overview of what may be required to obtain a license for local handyman services.

StateHandyman License Requirements
AlabamaNo state license needed for general maintenance and repair; contractor license required for projects over $50,000 or for electrical, plumbing, and mechanical work.
AlaskaHandymen must be licensed for work up to $10,000 and hold general liability and property damage insurance.
ArizonaContractor license needed for projects over $1,000, except for minor jobs under the handyman exemption (unless a building permit is required).
ArkansasHome Improvement License required for specialty work over $2,000; for larger projects, other contractor licenses are needed, along with workers’ compensation insurance and a financial statement.
CaliforniaNo specific license for small jobs under $500. General contractor license required for jobs over $500, with 4 years of experience, insurance, a $15,000 bond, and a passing score on a state trade and law exam.
ColoradoNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
ConnecticutNo state license for handymen; home improvement contractors making permanent changes must register with the Department of Consumer Protection.
DelawareGeneral contractors need a business license for projects over $50,000.
FloridaNo state license required for minor nonstructural work; general contractor license needed for structural work, along with 4 years of experience, liability and workers’ compensation insurance, and passing an exam.
GeorgiaResidential-Basic Contractor license required for projects over $2,500, along with 2 years of experience, passing trade and business exams, and proof of insurance.
HawaiiLicense required for jobs over $1,000 or needing a building permit; need to pass trade and business exams, have 4 years of experience, and show proof of insurance.
IdahoNo contractor licensing requirements, but must register with the Idaho Contractors Board.
IllinoisNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
IndianaNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
IowaNo state license required, but contractors earning over $2,000 per year must register with the Iowa Division of Labor.
KansasNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
KentuckyNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
LouisianaState license required for home improvement or residential projects over $7,500; requires passing a trade exam, a business and law exam, and proof of insurance. Registration is needed for projects between $7,500 and $75,000.
MaineNo state licensing required, but local regulations may apply.
MarylandHandymen need a Home Improvement license, which requires 2 years of experience, insurance, and passing a business and law exam.
MassachusettsNo state license for small home improvement jobs; Home Improvement Contractor registration required, and a Construction Supervisor License (CSL) for structural work, requiring 3 years of experience and passing an exam.
MichiganNo specific handyman license needed; however, jobs like carpentry, concrete work, painting, and tiling require a Maintenance and Alteration Contractor License, necessitating 60 hours of education and an exam.
MinnesotaResidential Remodeler License required for handymen making over $15,000 per year on existing structures, needing an exam and proof of insurance; no license needed for single specialty services.
MississippiLicense not required for jobs under $10,000; Residential Remodeling license needed for larger jobs, requiring passing trade and business exams and showing insurance.
MissouriNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
MontanaNo license required, but if a handyman has employees, they must register with the Department of Labor and Industry and provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance.
NebraskaNo state license, but handymen must register with the Nebraska Department of Labor.
NevadaContractor license required for work over $1,000 or work that needs a building permit. Must have 4 years of experience, pass trade and business exams, and show proof of insurance.
New HampshireNo state license for handyman contractors, except for electrical, plumbing, or asbestos work.
New JerseyHandymen must register as home improvement contractors and show proof of general liability coverage.
New MexicoHandyman certificate required for minor work up to $7,200 a year; contractor license required for larger jobs, which involves proof of experience, passing exams, a bond, and insurance.
New YorkNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
North CarolinaNo state license needed unless project value exceeds $30,000, which requires a general contractor license with financial requirements and an exam.
North DakotaContractor license required for jobs over $4,000, with different classes based on job size.
OhioNo state handyman license, but specialty contractor licenses needed for electrical, HVAC, and other specialized work, requiring background check, exams, and liability insurance.
OklahomaNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
OregonLicense required for jobs over $1,000, which involves a pre-license training, a test, and proof of insurance.
PennsylvaniaNo state license, but handymen doing over $5,000 of home improvement work must register with the Attorney General’s Office.
Rhode IslandNo license needed, but registration required for construction, alteration, remodeling, or repair at residential properties.
South CarolinaNo license for Residential Specialty Contractors, but handymen must register with the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation for certain work types.
South DakotaNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
TennesseeNo state license needed for jobs under $25,000; home improvement license required for remodeling jobs between $3,000 and $24,999, involving exams and insurance proof.
TexasNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
UtahHandyman exemption for projects under $3,000. For projects between $1,000 and $3,000, handymen must file an exemption affirmation and show liability insurance. Contractor license is needed for projects over $3,000.
VermontNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.
VirginiaContractors license required for projects over $1,000, with three license classes depending on project value; pre-license education and experience required for some classes.
WashingtonNo state license for handymen, but handymen must register with the Department of Labor and Industries for specialty contractors. Requires a bond and liability insurance for minor work under $2,000.
West VirginiaContractor license required for residential work over $5,000 or commercial work over $25,000. Requires an exam and workers’ compensation insurance if a handyman has employees.
WisconsinWisconsin Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license required, which involves a 12-hour course.
WyomingNo state license required, but local regulations may apply.

STEP 2: Look into the exam requirements and make sure any required training is up to date.

Some states require handyman contractors to take a specific exam that tests their knowledge and competency in various aspects of handyman work. This could range from general building principles to specialized skills in areas such as electrical or plumbing, depending on the nature of the license.

Entrepreneurs will want to research the specific exam components for the license they intend to get, which may include topics covered, format, and scoring criteria. Additionally, handyman business owners will want to stay current with any state-required training. This may involve completing certain courses or accumulating a set number of hours of hands-on experience.

How to Get a Handyman License
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STEP 3: If necessary, sign up for an exam through the state board of contractors.

Depending on a handyman’s location, passing a state-sanctioned exam may be a required step for a handyman to get a professional license. They may need to register for the exam through the state’s board of contractors or the equivalent regulatory body. This typically involves completing an application that verifies eligibility, which may include proof of experience, training, and any preliminary certifications.

Once the application is approved, a handyman can choose a testing date that works with their schedule. They’ll want to keep in mind that some states require a fee for taking the exam, so they’ll need to be prepared for this expense.

STEP 4: Prepare for the exam by studying code books and other recommended resources.

Reviewing relevant code books and other materials recommended by the state’s board of contractors can help a handyman tremendously in preparing for the upcoming exam. These code books detail the standards and regulations for various trades such as construction, electrical work, and plumbing.

In addition to code books, boards often suggest supplemental resources, such as study guides, online tutorials, and practice exams, which can offer insights into the exam format and question types. Joining local study groups or forums can also be beneficial for entrepreneurs when it comes to exchanging knowledge and tips with peers.

STEP 5: Take the test and apply for the handyman license.

Following extensive preparation, a handyman can take their state-required exam. Assuming they pass, the individual must then submit a formal application for a handyman license to their state governing body with proof of their passing score, along with any other required documentation.

How to Get a Handyman License
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STEP 6: Determine whether you will operate as a sole proprietor or a limited liability company.

Making an informed decision about legal business structure is a critical step for an aspiring handyman, and there’s the choice between operating as a sole proprietor or forming a limited liability company (LLC).

Operating as a sole proprietor is often simpler and requires less paperwork, making it a popular choice for individuals starting on their own. However, this structure offers no personal liability protection, meaning a handyman’s personal assets could be at risk in the event of a business dispute or debt.

An LLC, while more complex to set up and manage, provides valuable liability protection, safeguarding the individual’s personal assets from business liabilities. Additionally, an LLC can offer tax benefits and enhance the business’s credibility in the eyes of clients and suppliers. If they choose, entrepreneurs can opt to work with one of the best LLC services, such as LegalZoom or Northwest Registered Agent, to help them set up their LLC.


Ultimately, this decision will be based on the aspiring handyman’s assessment of their business risks, financial situation, and long-term goals. It’s advisable that a handyman consult with a legal or financial adviser to make the best decision for their specific circumstances.

STEP 7: Obtain the insurance coverage required by the state.

Different states have varying insurance requirements for handyman contractors, which typically include general liability insurance and, in some cases, workers’ compensation if the handyman has employees. General liability insurance protects both the handyman and their clients in the event of accidents, injuries, or damages that may occur at a jobsite, while workers’ compensation covers any job-related injuries that an employee might suffer.

Aspiring business owners will want to research and understand their state’s specific handyman insurance requirements. Obtaining the appropriate insurance from one of the best handyman insurance companies (such as NEXT or Thimble) not only fulfills legal requirements but also shows clients that the handyman is committed to safeguarding their interests. Additionally, having the correct insurance in place protects the handyman from potentially crippling financial liabilities that could arise from unforeseen circumstances on the job.


From understanding the necessity of a license and the choice of business structure to preparing for and passing the required exam and securing the appropriate insurance, a handyman will realize that each step is crucial in building a solid foundation for offering handyman services.