Determine the Type of Contractor License You Need
In the State of Tennessee, contracting is defined as “any work performed with an offered price, or bid from the range of: construction, alteration, repair, improvement, movement, demolition, putting up, tearing down, or furnishing labor to install material or equipment; highway, road, railroad, sewer, grading, excavation, pipeline, public utility structure, project development”.
In the following cases licensure to perform such work is mandatory:
- Prime (General) Contractor - if you are bidding or contracting directly with the “owner” of the project.
- Subcontractor – if you are contracting directly with a contractor, but not with the owner, to perform projects when the total cost is $25,000 or more (this amount includes materials, equipment, and labor) for either:
- Electrical, Mechanical, Plumbing, HVAC, and Roofing
- Masonry work for projects over $100,000.
- Construction Management – when the value of the total project is $25,000 or more
In some counties, licenses are required under certain circumstances:
- Home Improvement license - required in the following counties for remodeling projects between $3,000 and $25,000: Bradley, Davidson, Hamilton, Haywood, Knox, Marion, Robertson, Rutherford and Shelby.
- Limited Licensed Electrician (LLE) license - required in some counties not performing electrical inspections for projects less than $25,000.
- Limited Licensed Plumber (LLP) license - required in some counties not performing plumbing inspections, and for projects less than $25,000.
Note: The State of Tennessee does not have a license reciprocity agreement with any other state. There may be a “trade exam” waiver with certain states.
Pass the Examination
Before submitting your application for any of the contractor’s license classifications, you must pass the "Tennessee Business and Law" exam and the respective “Trade” exam that applies to the type of your license. The contracted test vendor responsible for Tennessee contractor exams is PSI Services, LLC. Scores are provided on the day of the exam.
- Business and Law Exam – This is an open book exam and is based upon the reference manual published by The National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) “Contractors Guide to Business, Law and Project Management”. This may be purchased at NASCLA or PSI.
- Trade Exams – This exam is an open book and it is based upon codes and books listed in PSI’s “Candidate Information Bulletin”.
Note: Plumbers need to be pre-approved before sitting for their exams. You can find more details here.
You can sit for the exam in any of the below listed locations:
- Johnson City
You can schedule your exam at the PSI website or by calling (800) 733-9267.
If your business is registered out-of-state contractors you can also sit a trade exam. You can find further information here.
Access Tennessee License Application Forms
General Contractor License/ Home improvement license - you can download and print your contractor’s license application form here.
Fulfill Requirements and Obtain Required Documents
When approved, contractor licenses are assigned a monetary limit, based on the contractor’s working capital and net worth. The limit is a maximum for contracting and bidding on projects.
- Financial Statement – you must provide a current financial statement prepared by a licensed independent Certified Public Accountant (CPA) as required:
- A "reviewed statement” for limits of $1,500,000 or less
- An “audited statement” for limits exceeding $1,500,000
- Letter of Reference - a past client, employer, or codes official must complete the Reference Form included in the application form.
- Insurance - provide proof of General Liability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation
- Felony Conviction Disclosure - If you have a criminal history in any jurisdiction, you must present a disclosure affidavit, providing detailed information for the Board to review. The following is required from you:
- A written explanation that states your age at the time of conviction, a description of the crime, all circumstances that lead to a conviction, and how you have improved yourself since the conviction.
- A copy of the court order, that includes proof of your sentence, the amount of time that you served, your probation time; and the final outcome.
- Proof of your release from probation, with a minimum of one year without new arrests.
- Character reference, provided by a parole officer or pastor.
- Background Report of Tennessee Criminal History from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) and the State in which you were convicted, if you were not convicted in Tennessee.
- If you have resided in the State of Tennessee for less than 5 years, include a report from the state where you previously resided.
- Board Review - A personal interview with the Board is typically waived. However, you will be notified by an “Admission Notice” with the date, time and location if you need to appear at the Board.
Note: Corporations and Limited Liability Companies (LLC) must register with the Tennessee Secretary of State
Alternatively, you can call the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance and request a mailed application form at 1-800-544-7693.
Submit Your Tennessee Contractor License Application
How to fill out your application
Be sure to answer thoroughly all questions in the application form or your application may be declined. List all experience – regardless of the state in which it took place. Resumes may also be attached.
Mail your application to the Board office by the 20th day of the month, prior to the Board meeting when applications are reviewed. The regularly scheduled meetings are as follows:
- January – Nashville
- March – Nashville
- May – Memphis
- July – Nashville
- September – Knoxville or Johnson City
- November – Nashville
Licensing and Application Fees
- General Contractor License/ Home improvement license
- Examination fee - $55
- Two-year license application fee - $250 (non-refundable)
- Limited Licensed Electrician
- License fee (issued for two years) - $50
- Examination Review fee - $57
- Limited Licensed Plumber
- New license fees (issued for 2 years) - $75
- Renewal license fees - $50
- Reinstatement (expired more than 3 months) fees - $75
All fees should be made payable to the State of Tennessee. You can make your payments by check (company, personal, or cashier’s check) or money order only. Keep in mind that the mail delivery takes 5 to 7 business days and overnight mail takes approximately 2 days to be delivered.
If you choose to submit your application by hand, you will be referred to the Cashier’s Office at the Board for Licensing Contractors.
Mail your completed application to:
Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors 500 James Robertson Pkwy. 4th Floor, Davy Crockett Tower Nashville, TN 37243-1150
Note: If you would like to obtain an early review, see the “Hardship” criteria available on the Board’s website. Please note the hardship must be on the part of the owner of the project and not of the contractor.
Obtain Your Contractor License Bond
A surety bond is not a mandatory requirement to obtain a contractor's license. However, an indemnity such as a “Guaranty Agreement” or bond may be required.
A Contractor’s License Bond form can be downloaded here. When filing the form, be sure it has the original signatures and it is the exact format as the Board’s form. Any deviations may lead to your application being rejected.
The Board will determine the amount of the bond based on the financial statement you provide and the monetary limit requested:
- A $500,000 bond amount for a limit less than $1,500,000
- A $1,000,000 bond amount for a limit more than $1,500,000
Note: The bond may only be used instead of a “Guaranty Agreement” and does not waive any other license requirements.
- A bond is mandatory for home improvement contractors. It can also be used by contractors who find themselves in circumstances such as legal conflicts preventing the parent company to present a “Guaranty Agreement” as the indemnity.
- On a local level, some municipalities may require a bond.
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How Long Does the Licensing Process Take?
It takes approximately 4 to 6 weeks to be granted a license.
License Expiration and Renewal
Contractor’s licenses are issued for a period of two years and expire on the last day of the month of issuance.