South Carolina Contractor License

Written by: Will Bond

Last updated:

Due to the sheer number of contractor licenses available in South Carolina, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when it comes to getting qualified. Despite this, it’s essential to be aware of current licensing requirements in order to ensure your business is operating legally.

This South Carolina contractor license article will guide you through the nuances of getting licensed and help you identify and the specific licenses your business may need.

Tip: If you’re planning to work as a general contractor in South Carolina, we recommend forming an LLC. This is an affordable business structure that protects your personal assets against debt and/or lawsuits.

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Who Needs a Contractor License

Most contractors in South Carolina are going to need a statewide license in order to operate legally, with almost all commercial construction work costing more than $10,000 requiring a General or Mechanical Contractor’s license.

Similarly, if your business wants to exclusively offer residential contracting work (i.e., construction, renovation, or repair work on housing that people live in), it will instead need to either obtain a residential or specialty contractor license — depending on the activities it intends to perform.

All of these license types are managed by the South Carolina Contractor License Board (SCCLB) and have strict experience, application, and exam requirements. To help them through this tough licensing process, many of our readers find using reputable online study resources to be invaluable.

Non-Regulated Work

The South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board permits contractors to engage in certain types of work without the need for a specific license and regardless of the construction cost, such as:

  • Asbestos removal
  • Commercial carpet installation
  • Cleaning of ducts, storm drains, tanks, and water sewer lines
  • Landscaping
  • Exterior recreational surfaces (e.g., decking)

However, for some of these activities, a general or mechanical contractor license may be required if a portion of the activity is regulated by the Board and the total construction cost is greater than $10,000.

For example, while you can offer exterior recreational surfaces without a license as it’s not a regulated activity, you would need a General Contractor license to offer Asphalt Paving or Concrete Paving if the construction costs exceed $10,000 (as these activities are regulated).

Note: You can find a complete list of non-regulated contractor activities in the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board’s full documentation available here.

Which License Do You Need?

In South Carolina, there are three main types of contractor licenses that your business may need to obtain depending on the nature of its work.

General and Mechanical Contractor Licenses

You’ll need to obtain a General or Mechanical Contractor’s license if you’re planning to engage in commercial construction projects with a total cost greater than $10,000. This is a statewide license required for any individual or business engaging in specific regulated activities, such as:

  • Building construction
  • Masonry
  • Roofing
  • Concrete and asphalt paving
  • Nonstructural renovation
  • Glass and glazing work

You can find a full list of the activities that you’ll need a general or mechanical contractor license to perform in this publication.

Note: In addition to this statewide general contractor licensing requirement, many cities and counties in South Carolina impose their own local regulations you may need to abide by. For more information on this, see our City and Municipal Licenses section.

Residential Builder Licenses

Alongside this general statewide requirement, contractors looking to work on residential projects are required to obtain the relevant license from the Residential Builders Commission.

For the purposes of this license, a “residential project” refers to any construction, repair, or improvement work carried out on residential buildings or structures with no more than three floors in height and 16 units in any single apartment building.

Note: You can find the answers to many of the common questions about the Residential Builder license in this publication by the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission.

Residential Specialty Contractor Licenses

This type of license is necessary in order to carry out certain specialized construction trades within residential properties where the project’s value exceeds $500. In particular, specialty contractor licenses will be required in order to work in any of the following trades:

  • Vinyl and Aluminum Siding Installation
  • Insulation Installation
  • Roofers
  • Floor Covering Installation
  • Masons
  • Drywall Installation
  • Carpenters
  • Stucco Installation
  • Painters/Wallpapers
  • Solar Panel Installation

It’s worth noting that electrical, HVAC, and plumbing contractors looking to work on residential projects will instead need to obtain licenses specific to these specialties, which involves a separate application process.

You can find more information on the various residential specialty contractor licenses on the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission website.

How to Get a Contractor License in South Carolina

Becoming a general contractor in South Carolina can be a little confusing due to the specific education, experience, and exam requirements you must meet in order to be able to obtain any of the relevant licenses.

While the requirements for each of the different contractor license types can vary, there are certain established steps your business will need to follow, regardless of the license it needs.

We’ve broken down these steps in more detail below:

Step 1: Choose Your Business Structure

Before starting the application process for a contractor license, you’ll first need to decide on the structure of your business. Since this decision will impact your liability, tax obligations, and how you run your business, it’s vital you’re informed about the details of each structure so that you can effectively determine which one is best suited to your needs.

Many contracting businesses in South Carolina, particularly smaller ones, decide to structure themselves as an LLC because it grants them tax flexibility, limited liability protection, and credibility in the eyes of their clients.

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Step 2: Meet the Basic Requirements

After forming your business, you’ll need to confirm that you meet the minimum basic requirements. While the specifics of these requirements will vary depending on the license you are trying to obtain, you’ll generally need to:

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • Be a US citizen or legally reside in the country
  • Have no convictions of a disqualifying offense
  • Demonstrate a certain number of hours of on-the-job training and experience. For example, general and mechanical contractors must be able to prove at least two years of work experience in the classification they’re applying for within the last five years

Step 3: Submit an Application

Once you’ve confirmed that you meet the basic requirements of the license your business needs, the next step is to complete and submit the appropriate application form to the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board along with any associated fees.

This is generally quite straightforward, though you will need to have certain documents on hand, such as:

  • Identifying information for the licensee
  • Identifying information for the Primary Qualifying Person (PQP)
  • Acceptable proof of your work experience
  • A copy of your complete credit report

General and Mechanical Contractors

To be able to carry out commercial construction valued over $10,000, general and mechanical contractors are required to fill out and submit this application form to the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board alongside a $350 license fee.

As part of this application, you’ll need to indicate the classification you’re applying for, which refers to the specific types of activities you plan to perform with this license. Some examples of these classifications include general roofing, concrete, and structural framing.

You’ll also need to select a “group limit”, which determines the maximum financial level at which you’ll be able to undertake projects, as well as the kind of financial documentation you’ll need to provide — either a financial statement or a bond.

Residential Builder

In order to obtain a residential contractor license, you’ll need to submit this application to the South Carolina Residential Builders Commission (SCRBC) along with a $135 application fee. After you pass your licensing exam, you’ll also need to pay an additional $220 for your license to be released.

This application form should be accompanied with proof of one year of experience approved by the Commission, which can be done with copies of W-2s, 1099s, transcripts, certifications, photos, building permits, or inspection reports.

Residential Specialty Contractor

The process is slightly different for residential specialty contractors, who must use this form in order to submit their application to the SCRBC along with a $100 registration fee.

Each applicant will need to pick three classifications in which they want to become registered and include signed letters of reference for each of these supporting at least one year of work experience in these trades within the last five years.

The following trades use specific application forms:

You can find more detailed information on the application process for these different contractor license types using the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board website.

Step 4: Pass a Licensing Exam

In South Carolina, most applicants will be required to pass an exam in order to qualify — these are highly technical and specific to each contractor license type. For example, general and mechanical contractors must pass an exam administered by PSI focusing on both the legal aspect of running a contracting business as well as on trade-specific topics.

Many candidates struggle with these exams as they will often test both their knowledge of the trade and their understanding of South Carolina’s specific regulations and laws. To avoid this, many applicants take advantage of online study guides and preparatory courses in order to get ready for these exams.

Step 5: Satisfy Insurance Requirements

In order to protect both your business and the client in case of accidents and damages, most contractors in South Carolina will need to provide proof of insurance coverage in order to get licensed.

For example, residential builders must attach proof of a surety bond in the amount of $15,000 to their application form. Similarly, residential electrical, HVAC, and plumbing contractors must provide proof of a bond in the amount of $10,000.

Be sure to check the specific insurance prerequisites for the license you’re seeking as well as the surety bond requirements of your local municipality, as these requirements will be unique to each trade and city in South Carolina.

Step 6: Keep Your Contractor License Valid

Once you obtain your license, it’s essential to keep it active. This often involves renewing it every few years, paying associated renewal fees, and meeting continuing education requirements.

For example, most contractor licenses in South Carolina are good for two years (including general, mechanical, and residential licenses). In order to continue to operate legally, you’ll need to submit a renewal application to the South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Congratulations! You’ve now successfully obtained the professional license needed to work as a contractor in South Carolina. However, your licensing journey doesn’t end here, as there are additional licensing requirements your business will need to satisfy in order to operate legally.

Other Licenses You May Need

On top of a statewide general contractor license in South Carolina, there are a number of additional licenses and permits that you may still need, which we’ve broken down in more detail below.

State Business Licenses

In order to operate legally in South Carolina, there are a number of statewide business licenses you’ll likely still need to obtain before you can get up and running.

Because the building materials and services a general contractor provides to their clients as part of a construction project are generally taxable, for example, you’ll likely require a retail license in order to collect and remit sales tax. This can be obtained by submitting a Business Tax Application to the South Carolina Department of Revenue.

Additionally, your general contractor business may require a permit from the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) if it takes on certain types of projects with the potential to put public safety or health at risk.

Note: To better understand your general contractor business’s licensing requirements, check out our South Carolina Business License guide for a more in-depth overview.

City and Municipal Licenses

In addition to these statewide regulations, your business will likely still be required to satisfy some local licensing regulations as many local municipalities in South Carolina often impose their own additional requirements.

For example, all businesses in the city of Charleston are required to get a business license from the Charleston Revenue Collections Division. It’s essential to keep these local rules and regulations in mind when running a contracting business as you can face hefty penalties for performing work without the appropriate license.

Note: You can check the contractor licensing requirements in your city using the South Carolina Municipal Online Directory, and in your county using South Carolina County Directory Pages.

South Carolina Contractor License FAQ

How much work can you do without a contractor license in South Carolina?

Typically, you’ll need a contractor license in order to engage in commercial construction work that’s worth more than $10,000. However, there are certain non-regulated types of work that contracting work (e.g., landscaping and carpet installation) that you won’t need a license in order to perform — regardless of how much the project is valued.

Can an out of state contractor work in South Carolina?

Yes, an out-of-state contractor can work in South Carolina under certain conditions. South Carolina offers contractor license reciprocity with a number of other states, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, Texas, Utah. However, contractors from these states will only be able to work in South Carolina if they’ve passed an approved technical exam in their home state.

Does a handyman need a license in South Carolina?

Depending on the type of work and value of the projects you’ll be engaging in as a handyman, you may need to obtain a South Carolina contractor’s license in order to operate legally. Typically, a general contractor license is needed for commercial construction projects worth more than $10,000, though there are exceptions. To find out more, see our South Carolina Contractor License article.

What is the easiest contractor’s license to get?

In South Carolina, mechanical and general contractor licenses are typically the easiest to obtain as they have slightly less stringent experience and examination requirements. If you’re interested in getting started as a general contractor, be sure to check out our How to Get a General Contractor License article.