In Ohio, like most other states, if you want to be a professional contractor, you will need to be licensed. The requirements for your license and where you get that license, however, depend on the type of work you do.

Regardless of the work you plan to do or whether you're a handyman or a registered engineer, it's important to know exactly what kind of license you need for specific projects in the city or county where you plan to work.

Commercial Contractors' License in Ohio

In Ohio, contractors need to be licensed by the state only if they work in five specific trades. These commercial contractor licenses are handled by the Ohio Construction Industry Licensing Board for the following trades:

  • Electrical
  • Plumbing
  • HVAC
  • Hydronics
  • Refrigeration

Having a state license does not excuse you from fulfilling additional requirements in a city or county within the state. It's always best to contact the local government to find out what is required, including licenses, inspections and permits for each project.

Applying for a State License

Before you can apply for a state contractor license in Ohio, you need to be 18 years old and a United States citizen or legal alien, and you must have at least five years of experience in your trade unless you're an engineer. Engineers registered in the state need only three years of experience.

You can download an application package from the Ohio Department of Commerce website. The application needs to be printed, filled out and notarized before you mail it to the OCILB along with the $25 application fee.

Provided you pass a state and federal background check and have at least $500,000 in liability coverage, you will be invited to take an examination for your trade. Links to preparation materials for the exams are also provided on the Ohio Department of Commerce website. Of course, the exams are specific to each trade. The Ohio HVAC license exam prep materials are different than the prep materials for plumbing, for example.

Applying for City and County Licenses

Just because you don't need a state license to work as a contractor in other trades doesn't mean the requirements are any less stringent. The purpose of municipal and county licenses and registrations is to ensure that minimum quality standards are upheld in order to protect the public, property owners and the occupants of buildings. For most contractor licenses, you will need five years of experience and must take an exam.

The city of Columbus, for example, requires licenses or registration for the following trades, as do most other community governments in Ohio:

  • General contractor: Contractors constructing any new buildings or working on additions, alterations or repairs to commercial buildings or multifamily dwellings
  • Home improvement contractor: Contractors who repair, remodel, improve, add on or modernize homes with one to three families, including driveways, garages and swimming pools
  • Demolition contractor: Contractors who demolish buildings require a license
  • Journeyperson plumber: Requires a city license to work within the city
  • Sign erector: Requires a license to work within the city
  • Sewer water contractor: Requires a license to work within the city
  • Fire contractor: Contractors working on or installing fire alarm and detection equipment or fire protection systems need to be registered
  • OCILB contractor: Contractors who are licensed by the state as Ohio construction industry licensed contractors must still register with the city if they plan to work in Columbus.

Licensing and registration is determined by the work being done. There is no Ohio handyman license, for example. A handyman usually does a large number of different jobs in small amounts. As with any trade, it is up to you to determine if the job requires a license or not.