What is a licensed contractor?

Licensed contractors have the experience and training necessary to obtain a state contractor's license. In the State of North Carolina, a contractor must go through rigorous testing and qualifying to obtain a license. Other qualifications for state licensing include passing a background check, proven financial competency, and more. These steps are put into place to protect you, the consumer.

Do I really need to use a licensed contractor to build my home or complete my home renovation projects?

It depends. If your home is located in North Carolina and you don't want to hire a licensed contractor, the total cost for the work cannot exceed $30,000 and it cannot include any of the following:

  • Air and heating work
  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing
If any of these criteria pertain to your home renovations, you will need to hire a licensed contractor to perform the work. Many unlicensed contractors will ignore this rule and try to create a work-around so they can get your job, even if it means breaking the law. This is not a good business practice and you want to steer clear from anyone who offers to do this work without a contractor's license.

Also beware of contractors who offer to split the job into parts so the total will not exceed $30,000 at once. This practice has become so common that many cities and the state have caught on to it. While this may work out OK for the homeowner at first, they may be left with bigger problems down the road.

Why use a licensed contractor when I can have an unlicensed contractor do the work for less?

There is a reason contractors must go through rigorous testing and meet certain criteria in order to obtain their NC license. The state does this to protect your interests. Not every home renovation job is going to be flawless. There may be situations that arise where you and your contractor just cannot come to an agreement on something, these things happen. An unlicensed contractor can just walk away from the situation, leaving you with an unfinished job and the task of hiring someone else to pick up where they left off. A licensed contractor will work to rectify the situation, rather than risk losing his license. Choosing a licensed contractor offers you the peace of mind of knowing that things will be done correctly, and if a situation does arise, it will be handled professionally.

How will I know if I need permits pulled for the renovation work being done in my home?

If you use a NC licensed contractor, you can rest assured that if a permit is necessary-a permit will be pulled. A licensed contractor will not only pull the needed permits, but also will schedule inspections to make sure everything is finalized with the city before he turns over the completed job to you. For your information, any renovation job over $5,000 or involving any electrical, plumbing, air, heating, or structural work will need a permit.

Why can't I have the renovation work done without a permit? Who is going to know?

Here's the thing: If you have work done by a licensed and professional contractor here in NC, he or she is not going to want to jeopardize their state license by completing unpermitted work. If you hire an unlicensed contractor, they will not be able to pull permits at all. This may seem fine at the moment, but having work done on your home without pulling a required permit will come back to haunt you later on.

First, if a permit is required for your home renovations, it is illegal to complete the work without one. Secondly, work that is done without a permit will not have been inspected by a certified inspector who works on your behalf to make sure the work is not only done correctly, but does not pose any safety or life-threatening issues. Lastly, when it comes time to sell your home, potential buyers will need to be notified of any unpermitted work done to the home. You may be tempted not to disclose this information, but it is illegal not to. Besides, most buyers will have a home inspector look for things like unpermitted renovations before they purchase a home. If the home inspector knows his job, he will be able to tell just by looking up property records which permits were pulled and for what. Most of this information is public record and is quite easy to obtain.

What other benefits are there to using a licensed contractor over a non-licensed contractor?

  • Licensed contractors in North Carolina meet or exceed state requirements in order to become licensed in the first place.
  • The NC State Licensing Board holds licensed contractors accountable for all the work they do.
  • Licensed contractors have liability and worker's compensation insurance. This will protect you, the homeowner, in the event someone is injured or damage is done while performing the renovations in your home.
  • Only licensed contractors can obtain permits. Unlicensed contractors cannot.
  • If anything goes wrong with your home renovations, the state has a recovery/reimbursement fund that will cover homeowners who used licensed contractors to do the work.

How can I find a licensed contractor? Better yet, how can I check if a contractor is licensed in the State of North Carolina?

Thanks to the internet, finding this information has never been easier. The North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors has an official website where you can find out this information. Just go to www.nclbgc.net to look up any contractor information you need.