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North Carolina General Contractor License: How to Apply

August 10, 2023 8 min. read
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Getting a general contractors license is a smart move if you want to secure your financial future in today’s job market. 

This is especially true in North Carolina, where you’ll find good salaries and plenty of chances to grow your career. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, general contractors earn around $36,760. As you gain experience, you can earn even more. 

In this guide, we’ll go over all the critical questions and need-to-know info about getting your general contractor’s license in North Carolina. Make sure you bookmark this page. This way, you can return to this guide if you have any questions.

Do I need a general contractor license in NC?

Yes, general contractors need to be licensed in North Carolina if they’re working on projects valued at $30,000 or more. The North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors oversees general contractor licensing in the state.

A general contractor license lets you legally work on and manage construction projects, bid on contracts, supervise building activities, and ensure compliance with building codes and regulations in the state of North Carolina. 

What can I do without a general contractor license in NC?

If you don’t have a license, you can still do small projects that are valued below $30,000. But here’s something to keep in mind: if you start doing larger contracting work without a valid contractor’s license, you’re breaking the law in North Carolina. 

Without the right license, you open yourself up to fines, penalties, and even criminal charges. 

READ MORE: Contractor vs Handyman: What can you legally do?

How to get a general contractor license in NC

To get your general contractor license and start working, you need to meet all the requirements for the type of license you choose. 

Types of general contractor licenses in NC

In North Carolina, there are three license classifications for general contractors, each with its own scope of work and requirements. The table below lists each one, so you can choose which is right for you. 

License TypesDescription
Building ContractorLicense holders may engage in a wide range of construction and demolition activities, including commercial, industrial, institutional, and residential projects. 

This extends to site work, grading, paving, storm drainage, recreational facilities, and various specialty classifications such as concrete, insulation, interior, marine, masonry, roofing, metal erection, swimming pools, asbestos, and wind turbine construction.
Residential ContractorLicense holders may undertake various residential construction and demolition activities, adhering to the residential building code.

This includes site work, driveways, sidewalks, water and wastewater systems related to residential structures, and specialty classifications such as insulation, interior construction, masonry, roofing, swimming pools, and asbestos work.
Specialty ContractorLicense holders may perform specific construction and demolition tasks for each license they hold. These specialties include: 
• Grading and excavating
• Boring and tunneling
• Communication infrastructure
• Concrete construction
• Electrical
• Field distribution
• Water and sewer lines
• Insulation
• Interior construction
• Marine construction
• Masonry construction
• Railroad construction
• Roofing 
• Metal erection
• Swimming pools
• Asbestos removal 

Note that you must also complete an application for a secondary license that allows you to work on projects up to and over a certain value.

Limitation TypeProject LimitRequirements
Limited LicenseValid for projects up to $500,000 eachYou’ll need to have either $17,000 in working capital, or a net worth of $80,000, or a surety bond worth $175,000.
Intermediate LicenseValid for projects up to $1,000,000 eachYou’ll need to show that you have $75,000 in working capital. You can do this by providing an Agreed-Upon Procedure Report or an audited financial statement. Alternatively, you can get a surety bond worth $500,000.
Unlimited LicenseValid for projects of any sizeYou’ll need to prove that you have $150,000 in working capital through an Agreed-Upon Procedure Report or an audited financial statement. Or, you can get a surety bond worth $1,000,000. 

* The 2020 General Contractor Laws and Regulations document provides guidelines on licensing requirements, classifications, financial limitations, and other essential aspects of general contracting in North Carolina.

NC general contractor license requirements

To be eligible for a general contractor license in North Carolina, you must meet all of the following requirements:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Possess good moral character, as determined by the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors. 
  • Provide evidence of financial stability.
  • Submit the appropriate application and pay the fee. 
  • Pass the examination.

All application forms and other documents can be submitted online or mailed to the following address: 

5400 Creedmoor Rd.
Raleigh, NC
27612

Note that getting your license can take several weeks, depending on the time required for application processing and examination booking. 

NC general contractor exam

To get your general contractor license in North Carolina, you must write and pass the required examination for your license type. All examinations must be completed with a score of at least 70%.

There is no exam requirement for specialty contractors.

License TypeQuestions + Time AllowedTopics Covered
Building Contractor90 questions
200 minutes
• Concrete
• Site work
• Masonry
• Metals
• Carpentry
• Roofing
• Associated trades
• Business law
• Safety
• Estimating
• Plan reading
• General building code requirements
• One call (utility locating)
• Erosion and sedimentation control
• Licensing
• Liens
• Sports fields
Residential Contractor90 questions
210 minutes
• Site work
• Footings
• Foundations
• Concrete
• Concrete reinforcement
• Masonry
• Carpentry
• Associated construction trades (including energy conservation and drywall)
• Roofing
• Estimating
• Plan reading
• General residential code requirements
• OSHA safety
• Licensing
• Business law
• Special construction zones (wind and coastal)
• Erosion and sedimentation control

Upon approval of your application, you will be notified as to the instructions for scheduling the required examination or examinations. You will receive details from the examination provider concerning the actual date, time, and location to report for the examination or examinations requested.

You can register for the exam here

Find more exam information and registration details here.

How much does a general contractor license in North Carolina cost?

Obtaining a General Contractor license in North Carolina will cost between $154 and $204, assuming you don’t let your license expire. Here’s how the costs breakdown:

Fee TypeCost
Exam Fee$79.00 each
License fees/Renewal fees• Limited: $75.00
• Intermediate: $100.00
• Unlimited: $125.00
Late renewal fee$10 per month past due date

Renewing your NC general contractor license

All licenses must be renewed annually, with licenses expiring on January 1st of each year. 

If your license is not renewed, it will become invalid 60 days after the expiration date. You can find your license expiration date and renew your license in your NCCLiC online license account

Building & Residential Licenses cannot be renewed until the continuing education (CE) requirements have been met. The CE year begins on January 1 and ends on November 30 annually. Classes will not be offered during the month of December. 

Here are the requirements for renewal:

  • Pay the fees. 
  • Complete 8 hours of CE. The 8-hour course requirement includes a mandatory 2-hour course produced by the Board, covering changes in laws and rules and other content applicable to general contracting. 
  • Additionally, 6 hours of elective courses produced by outside providers must be submitted to and approved by the Board.

What happens if my general contractor license expires? 

If your general contractor license expires, it is crucial to stop all work immediately to avoid any penalties and/or fees. Continuing work with an expired license can result in disciplinary actions by the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors and even legal action from the state.

After a license has been invalid for four years, it cannot be renewed and is deemed archived. To obtain a new license, you must fulfill all requirements as a new applicant. Archived license numbers cannot be renewed.

Renew your general contractor license here.

Does NC reciprocate general contractor licenses?

Reciprocity agreements are agreements between states that allow license holders in one state to get a similar license in another state without having to go through the entire licensing process. These agreements make it easier for contractors to work across state lines.

North Carolina does not have full reciprocity with any other state. However, the North Carolina Licensing Board has examination waiver agreements with South Carolina, Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida.

How to start a contracting business in North Carolina

If you’re planning to start your own business in North Carolina, there are additional steps and requirements you’ll need to consider. 

Some key requirements include:

  • Have a general contractor license.
  • Check any business permits that are required to operate in your area.
  • Ensure that you have the appropriate insurance coverage for individual projects or when pulling building permits.

Although there is no insurance requirement for licensing, specific projects or building permits may have insurance requirements.

To learn more about the detailed requirements for starting a contracting business in North Carolina, visit the North Carolina government website and consult with local government agencies for specific requirements in your area. 

Does a general contractor license in NC increase your earning potential?

Yes, getting your general contractor license in North Carolina can significantly increase your earning potential. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, contractors in the U.S. make up to $72,430. As your experience increases, so does your earning potential.

Having your general contractor license demonstrates your expertise and qualifications, which can make you more attractive to clients and help you secure more profitable projects. This ultimately leads to increased earnings and growth opportunities for your business.

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