Like any industry, there is a fair amount of discrepancy in the skill, experience, and reputability of different general contractors. Simply put, not all building contractors are created equally.

Fortunately, there is a surefire way to weed out the lackluster candidates (and plain old scams) right off the bat. Finding a general contractor with the proper licensing is the first step to your building project’s success. Below is a little more information on the importance of using a properly licensed general contractor.

1. State Licensing Requirements

Licensing requirements for general contractors vary state by state. Each state has its own licensing board that lists its individual requirements. You can view more information about these licensing boards at

2. General Contractor Licenses

Different aspects of a construction project require different types of licensing. It is important to note that while a general contractor is the person that manages and oversees your building project (purchasing materials and hiring subcontractors to help), they do not always personally have the licensing that authorizes them to do all the jobs in a construction project. For this reason, it is important to investigate what types of jobs a general contractor’s license is good for in your state.

3. Additional Licenses

Most states allow general contractors to seek licenses for specific jobs. These jobs include things such as electrical work, plumbing work, and roofing work. To obtain such a license, the contractor must show they are competent in these areas of work.

General contractors that do not have skill or experience in these special areas will have to hire a subcontractor to do this work. Once again, these subcontractors are required to have the special licensing to begin the work.

4. What About Unlicensed Contractors?

If you are planning to build a new home or remodel your existing one, then chances are you will come across at least one unlicensed general contractor in your hunt for the right one. And most of the time this contractor will be just as experienced and highly reviewed as the ones with the proper licensing. What’s up with this?

The fact of the matter is that licensing for general contractors is confusing. Rules vary from state to state. Some cities and counties require additional licensing. Even contractors that are trying to play by the rules can accidently begin work on a project they are unknowingly improperly licensed for. And, on top of that, many cities, counties, and states do not strictly enforce their licensing laws.

Basically, you have to protect yourself. You need to have a firm grasp of your area’s licensing laws and you need to know exactly what licenses your general contractor has. It is wise to stay involved during the entire building process, checking the licensing of each individual subcontractor your general contractor hires.

When it comes down to it, most general contractors at least attempt to have the proper licensing. But mistakes are made and there are more than a handful less-than-honest companies out there. Your best bet is to select a reputable and licensed general contractor (seek recommendations from friends, family, and coworkers) and stay involved with the construction process from start to finish.