Register as a Contractor (2023)

Washington State requires all construction contractors to register with L&I. State law also requires construction contractors to be bonded and insured to protect the public.

Once registered, contractors can bid, advertise, and perform construction work. This can include constructing, remodeling, repairing and demolishing buildings, roads and other real property. If you are a new construction contractor, or thinking about getting registered, watch the Contractor Overview module, to better understand the requirements.

Working without registering as a contractor in Washington carries substantial penalties and fines.

L&I regulates 63 specialties that each require contractor registration. These specialties include roofing, painting, HVAC, tree removal, mobile home set-up, and dozens more.

How to register

To register with L&I as a contractor, you must:

  • Register your business with Department of Revenue.
  • Get a surety bond or an assignment of savings.
  • Purchase a general liability insurance policy.
  • Complete your Application for Contractor Registration.
  • Pay the required application fee of $124.70.

The order you complete these steps can affect how quickly you can complete the registration process.

Getting started

For the fastest and simplest registration process, we recommend this three-step process:

Step 1: Decide on your business structure and name

  • If you are setting up a sole proprietor or partnership, decide on your business name, or if you already have registered your business and have a Uniform Business Identifier (UBI), proceed to step 2.
  • If you are starting a business that is incorporated, such as an LLC or Corporation, you should contact the Secretary of State or a private attorney to incorporate your business.

If you are unsure which business structure you should use, see our guide, Applying for Your Washington Business License: A Step-by-Step Guide (F101-079-000), or visit for in-depth information on starting and structuring your business.

Step 2: Purchase your surety bond and insurance

To register as a contractor, you will need to purchase:

  • A Washington Continuous Contractor Surety Bond in the amount of:
    • $12,000 for general contractors
    • $6,000 for specialty contractors
  • A general liability insurance policy in the amount of:
    • $200,000 in public liability and $50,000 property damage, or
    • $250,000 combined single limit

Your bond and insurance must use your exact business name, and L&I must be listed as a certificate holder for your liability insurance. If you are unsure how to purchase your surety bond and insurance, contact a licensed insurance agent.

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Step 3: Visit your local L&I office

At your , our customer service representatives can help you register your business and complete your application. To avoid unnecessary delays, you will need to have the following:

  1. The business name and business structure you have chosen, or your business registration and UBI number from the Department of Revenue.
  2. An original, completed Application for Contractor Registration (F625-001-000) with notarized signatures, or we can help you complete your application and notarize signatures with any applicants who are present.
  3. Your continuous contractor surety bond or assignment of savings.
  4. Your certificate of general liability insurance.
  5. Your registration fee.

Additional ways to register

You can mail your completed, signed, and notarized Application for Contractor Registration (F625-001-000) to the address below along with:

  • Continuous contractor surety bond or assignment of savings.
  • Certificate of general liability insurance.
  • A check or money order payable to the Department of Labor & Industries.

Mail to:

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

Note: All signatures on your application must be original and notarized. We cannot accept a copy of your application.

Completed applications submitted by mail are currently taking 3-4 weeks after receipt to process and activate your registration. Once your business is registered, it will be listed in our Verify a Contractor, Tradesperson, or Business tool. You will receive a registration card in about 2 weeks.

If any of the required information is missing or incorrect, we will contact you to help complete your registration.


If your business has not had any changes, such as changing partners, a business name or structure change, or changing your specialty, you can renew using one of the options below. If you need to make changes or update your business information, see the instructions below.

Before you complete your renewal, use our Verify a Contractor, Tradesperson, or Business tool to make sure that your:

  • Surety bond or assignment of account and general liability insurance information is up to date.
  • Contractor registration is not suspended.

Renew online

To renew online, you will need the following information:

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  • Your 12-digit Contractor Registration number.
  • Your UBI number.
  • The required fee of $124.70.
    • We accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express credit or debit cards. We also accept E-Check, a one-time withdrawal from your checking account.

Renew by mail

Review the information on the contractor registration renewal card you received in the mail. If your information is correct, and your required documentation is current, mail the renewal card with a check or money order in the amount of $124.70 to:

Department of Labor & Industries
Contractor Registration Section
PO Box 44450
Olympia WA 98504-4450

Renew in person

Bring your renewal card to your nearest . You can pay by cash, check, money order, or credit/debit card.

Change/Update Your Insurance or Bond

If you have a new bonding company/bond amount or a new insurance company or coverage amount since you last renewed, you will need to update your information before you renew. Your bond amount cannot be reduced for 2 years if you switch from a general to a specialty contractor.

New or updated bond

To renew your registration, we must have:

  • Your new surety bond, signed by your bonding agent with the bonding company’s seal.
    • The bond must be the original, uncorrected document, not a photocopy.
    • The name of your business on your bond must be exactly the same as the one on file with L&I.
    • It must reach L&I before the “filing date” shown on the bond.

New or updated insurance

To renew your insurance, we must have:

  • Your new certificate of general liability insurance, for at least $250,000.
  • An electronic confirmation sent to L&I directly from your insurance agent, or an original, uncorrected paper certificate of insurance signed by your insurance agent (not a photocopy). The name of your business on the certificate must be exactly the same as the one on file with L&I.

Bring all required documents and your renewal payment of $124.70 to your , or mail it to:

Department of Labor & Industries
Contractor Registration Section
PO Box 44450
Olympia, WA 98504-4450

Note: Include your registration renewal card with your paperwork. This will help us quickly process your renewal.


We suspend a registration when the registration requirements are not met, such as a bond or insurance cancelling or expiring or an unsatisfied judgment.


When we suspend a registration, we will notify you by both certified and first-class mail within 2 days of the suspension. The letter will tell you what you need to do to reinstate your registration.

You may reinstate your registration online or in person. To reinstate, you must:

  • Provide your 12 character Contractor Registration Number, email address, and phone number.
  • Provide proof that you corrected the issue, such as a new bond or insurance certificate or satisfaction of judgment.
  • Pay the reinstatement fee of $58.90.

Reinstate online

Byreinstating online, your registration will show as active as soon as you make your payment.

Reinstate in person or by mail

You may bring the required documents and payment to your . We accept cash, checks, money orders and credit/debit cards.

You may also mail the required documents and payment (check or money order) to:

Washington Department of Labor & Industries
Contractor Registration Section
PO Box 44450
Olympia WA 98504-4450



After you've registered, you must use your contractor registration number on all your business communications.

By law, when you advertise, solicit bids or offer to perform work, you must always include your contractor registration number. This includes business cards, Yellow Page ads, newspaper ads, internet ads, estimates and bid proposals.

Check-out our contractor marketing cards. Complete the cards with your registration information, print them, and provide a card when submitting a bid. These cards will educate your customer about contractor registration, and help them verify your status and the status of any contractors who may have provided them a bid for work.


Which contractors must be bonded and what must this bond include?

General and specialty contractors must provide a Continuous Contractor’s Surety Bond (F625-003-000). Surety bonds are available through a bonding company or insurance agency. Premiums vary with each company, as do the requirements for being bonded.

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The bond must include the bond number and exact business name.

Are there any alternatives to a bond?

The alternative to a bond is an assigned bank account. An Assignment of Account (F625-008-000) must be on this form (also available at ). You may post the required amount in the form of cash, a certificate of deposit, time deposit, or money market account in a bank, savings and loan association or credit union with a branch in Washington.


Get general proof of liability insurance coverage from your insurance agent.

  • $50,000 property damage policy and $200,000 public liability policy, or
  • $250,000 combined single limit policy.

NOTE: Originals of your bond and insurance will be required to complete your registration.

Model disclosure

You must provide thisModel Disclosure Statement Notice to Customer (F625-030-000) for all residential jobs of $1,000 or more and for commercial projects of $1,000 to $60,000.


Understand your responsibilities for the safety of your employees and sub-contractors.

Additional licensing

Some activities have licensing requirements that are in addition to contractor registration.

Lead-based paint

Contact the Washington State Dept. of Commerce Lead Paint Program at 360-586-5323(LEAD), or visit, before renovating or remodeling activities in pre-1978 residential or child-occupied facilities, to ensure compliance with applicable lead regulations.

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If you will be applying pesticides, contact the Washington State Dept. of Agriculture, Licensing and Recertification Program, at (877) 301-4555 or, to ensure you are in compliance with state and federal pesticide law, or visit


How much more should I ask for as a contractor? ›

A simple rule of thumb would be to ask for a minimum of 15.3% more than if you were a W-2 employee. For example, if you would make $70,000 as a W-2 employee then as a 1099 employee ask for a minimum of $80,170 ($70,000 x 1.153).

How do I prove experience for a contractor's license in Florida? ›

How do I Prove the Experience
  1. Employer name and address.
  2. Dates of employment.
  3. Employer phone number.
  4. Name of qualifying agent for employer and their license number.
  5. Your role within the project.
  6. The dates of the project.
  7. The trade areas involved in the project.
  8. Project name.
May 20, 2019

Does the CSLB check work experience? ›

Applicants for a license with the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) must have at least 4 years of journeyman level work experience in a specific classification (specialty work area) in the last 10 years. Any of the following documents may be requested to verify that experience as part of the application process.

Is it better to be in contract or salary? ›

Although contract work usually offers higher wages, you can earn benefits and paid time off as a full-time employee. Stability: Full-time work provides financial stability, while contract work may offer a higher earning potential over a shorter period of time.

What should you not say to a contractor? ›

Seven Things to Never Say to a Contractor
  • Never Tell a Contractor They are the Only One Bidding on the Job. ...
  • Don't Tell a Contractor Your Budget. ...
  • Never Ask a Contractor for a Discount if You Pay Upfront. ...
  • Don't Tell a Contractor That You Aren't in A Hurry. ...
  • Do Not Let a Contractor Choose the Materials.
Oct 10, 2017

What is the penalty for working without a contractor's license in Florida? ›

In Florida, unlicensed contracting is generally charged as a first degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 1 year in jail or 12 months of probation, and a $1,000.00 fine.

Can I get in trouble for hiring an unlicensed contractor in Florida? ›

Yes, knowingly hiring an unlicensed contractor in Florida is illegal and may create civil liability and other punishment, especially if you are in the construction industry as a general contractor or developer.

How do I get a contractor's license in Florida with no experience? ›

Here are six ways you can get a contractor license without experience:
  1. Partner with a responsible managing officer (RMO) or responsible managing employee (RME) ...
  2. Get a grandfathered contractor license. ...
  3. Get a waiver from the licensing board. ...
  4. Create a company with a licensed contractor. ...
  5. Gain experience. ...
  6. Take training courses.
May 17, 2021

How far back does CSLB background check go? ›

For rehabilitation evaluation, pursuant to the California Code of Regulations §869, CSLB is generally looking for three (3) years to have passed after a misdemeanor conviction and seven (7) years to have passed after a felony conviction, without further violations of law.

How hard is the California Contractors license exam? ›

There are about 80 to 125 questions on the trade, on average. In order to pass the law test you are required to answer 73% of the questions correctly. You will be informed at the test site about the exact percentage of correct answers needed to pass each trade examination.

What happens if you fail CSLB exam? ›

What if I fail the Law and Business and/or Trade examination? If you fail the Law and Business examination and/or your trade examination, you must pay a $100 fee each time you are rescheduled. You are given 18 months to pass the examinations.

How do I sell myself professionally? ›

Here are some skills to learn when selling yourself.
  1. Be confident. Let's just call it what it is. ...
  2. Be persistent. We're not done with the clichés. ...
  3. Don't be boring. ...
  4. Offer a solution. ...
  5. Stop with the resume speak. ...
  6. Work on your non-verbal communication. ...
  7. Be positive.
Sep 30, 2022

Can I pay myself as a contractor in my company? ›

Yes you can! Sometimes a director has skills or knowledge the business can use. The company can engage a sole-trader consultant who has the skills a company needs. If you're a director of a company there are other ways you can pay yourself as well.

How do I accept money as an independent contractor? ›

5 Easy Payment Methods for Independent Contractors
  1. Paper Check. If you have a traditional or manual payroll system, you may feel most comfortable using traditional paper checks to pay your freelancers. ...
  2. Direct Deposit. ...
  3. Online Payment Systems. ...
  4. Wire Transfer. ...
  5. Freelance Job Sites.

Why do contractors get paid so much? ›

For starters, contractors generally earn a higher wage per day than their employed counterparts, since companies will often pay an inflated fee to gain sporadic access to specialised skills.

What are the disadvantages of working as a contractor? ›

Disadvantages to Contract Employment

While contract employees make a higher wage than full-time employees in the same role, contract workers are not eligible for any benefits from their employer. This can mean forgoing health insurance, 401k contributions, paid time-off, parental leave, disability benefits, and more.

Is being a contractor stressful? ›

Between long hours, tough deadlines, a short-staffed crew and project uncertainty, working in the contracting business sure comes with its fair share of stressors. While it's impossible to eliminate it completely, there are some practices you can adopt to help reduce your overall daily level stress level.

How do I protect myself as an independent contractor? ›

Get general/professional liability insurance.

Hiscox is a good place to start if you are a new business. Some clients may even require proof of insurance prior to executing your contract.

Can I walk away from a job as a contractor? ›

A contractor might be entitled to walk off the job if they're going unpaid, but it typically isn't the best option to compel payment.

Is it normal to pay a contractor half up front? ›

The exact deposit amount contractors ask for upfront varies and is especially dependent on the size of the project. For relatively small jobs, like a $16,000 bathroom remodel, contractors may ask for a 50% deposit. For large jobs, like a $100,000 full-home renovation, a 10%–20% deposit is more typical.

Can I sue an unlicensed contractor in Florida? ›

Unlicensed contractors can be liable for punitive damages, criminal penalties, and even the homeowner's attorney fees for being an unlicensed contractor. In Florida, you can file a lawsuit against your unlicensed contractor for breach of contract or even construction defect.

What can a handyman legally do in Florida without a license? ›

Handymen and handywomen in Florida do not need a license if they are only providing basic services and performing minor repairs. However, a general contractor license is required if your work will become a finished part of the structure and the project totals more than $500.

Can a handyman install a toilet in Florida? ›

To replace faucets, sink drain pipes, and toilets you will need a Plumbing Contractors License. This license has a trade and business exam.

Can you paint without a license in Florida? ›

Yes, you do need a contractor's license to be a professional painter in Florida across the state, however, if you are a registered contractor, you can work at the local level around you without the state license.

Can a contractor work under someone else's license Florida? ›

F.S. §489.127(4) adds that licensed contractors may not allow their license to be used by another,46 nor apply for a permit for a project for which he or she does not have a contract, the latter covering those not infrequent situations in which contractors “rent out” their licenses.

Do subcontractors need a license in Florida? ›

If you only want to work in a localized area, you can get by with a registered license. These licenses are provided by the Florida Construction Industry Licensing Board, and they apply to both general contractors and sub trades. There are several different applications to choose from, including: Air conditioning.

What is the easiest contractors license to get in Florida? ›

The easiest to go with would be a Residential Contractor license, mainly because there are fewer questions on the exam. However, it has the same process as General and Building, and the experience is still the same for all three.

Do independent contractors need a license in Florida? ›

In Florida, any business selling merchandise or services must purchase a local business license, including one-person companies and home-based businesses. In some states, such as Alaska and Washington, laws require all independent contractors to register business licenses.

How hard is it to get a contractors license in Florida? ›

Florida Contractor License Requirements

Submit proof of a credit score of a 660 or higher. You can purchase a surety bond if your credit score is lower. Scan an electronic fingerprint. Provide proof of liability and workers' compensation insurance.

Can a felon get a contractors license in CA? ›

2. Can I acquire a California contractor's license if I have a criminal record? Maybe. The CSLB may generally grant licenses to applicants with a criminal conviction within the past seven years, as long as the offense is not substantially related to the qualifications, functions, or duties of being a contractor.

Can a felon be a general Contractor in NC? ›

An individual is still able to obtain a Contractor license, even having a felony on their record.

How long does a felony show up on a background check in California? ›

In California, criminal convictions can only be reported for seven years. Under California civil code (The Investigative Consumer Reporting Agencies Act), any misdemeanors, complaints, indictments, arrests, and convictions older than that cannot be reported on background checks.

How many times can I take the CSLB test? ›

You have 18 months after CSLB determines that your application is acceptable to pass the exams. During that time, you may take the exam an unlimited number of times, though you must wait three weeks between taking and retaking an exam, and there is a $60 fee each time you reschedule an exam.

What is a passing score for the CSLB exam? ›

Each exam is approximately two hours and thirty minutes long. You need to answer 72% of the questions correctly to pass the law.

Is the California Contractors exam open book? ›

The California contractor licensing exam is a four-choice multiple-choice closed-book examination.

How long does it take for CSLB to approve application? ›

There are different factors that affect the processing time of the application but in general it takes anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks. Errors in the application process can delay this time considerably.

What happens if you work without a contractors license in California? ›

Those who are caught contracting without a license likely will have to appear before a Superior Court judge to answer to misdemeanor charges that can carry a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine, as well as an administrative fine of $200 to $15,000.

How do you sell yourself in 30 seconds examples? ›

How to sell yourself in 30 seconds and leave people wanting more
  1. Know exactly what you want to achieve. ...
  2. Bullet point it. ...
  3. Tell a story. ...
  4. Eliminate jargon. ...
  5. Make sure it invites conversation. ...
  6. Time yourself. ...
  7. Record yourself on video. ...
  8. Pitch it to your friends and colleagues.
Dec 26, 2015

Is it OK to pay a contractor in cash? ›

While it's not illegal to pay your independent contractors in cash, it might end up being more hassle for you. That's because if your company is audited by the IRS, you have to be able to prove that there wasn't a suspicious reason for paying your workforce in cash.

How much can you pay an independent contractor without 1099? ›

Complete Form 1099-NEC, Nonemployee Compensation

Businesses that pay more than $600 per year to an independent contractor must complete Form 1099-NEC and provide copies to both the IRS and the freelancer by the specified annual deadline.

What is the most tax efficient way to pay yourself? ›

The most tax-efficient way to pay yourself as a business owner is a combination of a salary and dividends. This will allow you to deduct the salary from your business's income and pay taxes on it. If you are not paying yourself a salary, you will have to pay taxes on the profit of your business.

How does IRS know independent contractor? ›

The IRS had in the past used a 20-factor test to determine whether a worker was an employee or a contractor. However, the organization has since moved away from that test and now looks at just three broad factors—behavioral control, financial control, and the relationship of the parties.

How much taxes do I pay on 1099 income? ›

By contrast, 1099 workers need to account for these taxes on their own. The self-employment tax rate for 2022 is 15.3 percent of your net earnings (12.4% percent Social Security tax plus 2.9 percent Medicare tax).

How much will I owe in taxes as a 1099? ›

When you work on a 1099 contract basis, the IRS considers you to be self-employed. That means that in addition to income tax, you'll need to pay self-employment tax. As of 2022, the self-employment tax is 15.3% of the first $147,000 in net profits, plus 2.9% of anything earned over that amount.

How do I ask for a salary increase as a contractor? ›

Once you've asked yourself the hard questions and you're sure a rate increase is feasible, touch base with your recruiter as soon as possible. Let them know you would like an increase, and explain the reasoning behind why it is deserved. Timing is important here, right from the start.

What percentage should a contractor get? ›

Average General Contractor Rates

General contractors charge at about 10 to 20 percent of the total construction project cost. For even larger projects, you might pay closer to the 25 percent mark for professional construction services.

How much should you give a contractor up front? ›

The exact deposit amount contractors ask for upfront varies and is especially dependent on the size of the project. For relatively small jobs, like a $16,000 bathroom remodel, contractors may ask for a 50% deposit. For large jobs, like a $100,000 full-home renovation, a 10%–20% deposit is more typical.

What is the normal markup for a general contractor? ›

Markups vary from one contractor to the next and possibly from one project to the next. But as a general guide, the typical markup on materials will be between 7.5 and 10%. However, some contractors will mark up materials as much as 20 percent, according to the Corporate Finance Institute.

Can you negotiate your salary as a contractor? ›

Without a fixed, full-time salary, independent contractors have greater freedom to negotiate how much they are paid — as well as when and how they get paid. Depending on your negotiating abilities, this can become either a pro or a con.

How much more should I charge as an independent contractor? ›

You can hire independent contractors for less cost long-term; however, they charge higher hourly rates to compensate for their self-employment taxes. 6 A general rule of thumb is that hourly contractor rates are 50% to 70% more than what you would pay a permanent employee.

What is a reasonable pay rise? ›

A 3% annual pay increase tends to be considered generous – even when inflation is higher than this. This general rule should not put you off asking for more money, however, if you think you are being underpaid.

Do contractors charge for estimates? ›

Estimates are usually free for small, simple jobs like painting a bathroom. A contractor will charge for an estimate for complicated, big projects that involve detailed designs and multiple plan revisions, such as building an addition to your home.

How many contractor quotes should I get? ›

After having met the contractor, if you are comfortable with him and the price seems reasonable, then, one estimate might be all you need. However, if you are getting bids from contractors you have no experience with then it is a good idea to get three bids.

Why do contractors charge so much? ›

They have overhead. Advertising, sales commission, job supervision (which isn't usually a job cost), office expenses (even if they work out of their home), insurance, accounting and legal fees, licenses, taxes, employee expenses, and their own salary are just a few of their overhead expenses.

Should I pay a contractor 50% upfront? ›

As the homeowner who is commissioning the project, it's reasonable to withhold at least 10% as your final payment. Avoid paying in full upfront, and definitely avoid paying anything before the contractor has evaluated the project in person.

How do I protect myself when hiring a contractor? ›

Protect Yourself When Hiring a Contractor
  1. Get Proof of Bonding, Licenses, and Insurance. ...
  2. Don't Base Your Decision Solely on Price. ...
  3. Ask for References. ...
  4. Avoid Paying Too Much Upfront. ...
  5. Secure a Written Contract. ...
  6. Be Wary of Pressure and Scare Tactics. ...
  7. Consider Hiring Specialized Pros for Additional Guidance. ...
  8. Go With Your Gut.
Sep 7, 2021


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