If you want to start a painting business in Hawaii, you’ll need to obtain a contractor’s license from the state’s Contractors License Board. This license allows you to legally offer painting services in Hawaii.


In Hawaii, anyone who performs painting services for compensation must be licensed by the Contractors License Board. This includes both interior and exterior painting jobs, whether residential, commercial, or industrial.

The relevant license classification is called “Painting and Decorating” (C-33). This allows licensees to offer services like:

  • Interior and exterior painting of all types of buildings and structures
  • Staining decks, fences, and other exterior wood surfaces
  • Applying decorative finishes like faux finishes, glazing, distressing
  • Varnishing and sealing wood surfaces
  • Hanging wallcoverings like wallpaper and murals
  • Taping and finishing drywall
  • Surface preparation like sandblasting, waterblasting, chemical stripping
  • Caulking and sealing around windows, doors, and trim
  • And more

Being properly licensed is crucial for establishing a legitimate painting business in Hawaii. It demonstrates to potential clients that you have met the state’s requirements and helps prevent unqualified contractors from underbidding those who have invested time and money into proper training and licensing.

The Hawaii Contractors License Board handles the licensing, renewal, and enforcement duties for painters and other construction trade contractors under the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Professional and Vocational Licensing (PVL) division.

Contractors who offer painting services without holding an active C-33 license are violating the law and face penalties including fines up to $10,000 per violation. Unlicensed activity complaints can be reported to the Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO).

Requirements for a Hawaii Painting Contractor License

To qualify for a C-33 Painting and Decorating contractor’s license in Hawaii, applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have good character and reputation – this involves a review of credit reports and background checks
  • Have 4 years of documented supervisory experience in painting/decorating within the past 10 years
  • Pass a written exam covering business, law, and the painting trade
  • Submit fingerprints for an additional background check
  • Provide proof of general liability insurance meeting state minimums
  • Provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance meeting state minimums (if applicable)
  • Pay all licensing fees

Documenting Supervisory Experience

The 4 years of required painting/decorating experience must be verified by certificates from past employers, contractors, or coworkers. These certificates should detail your hands-on supervisory role in managing painting projects and crews.

You must also provide a detailed project list documenting all your painting/decorating supervisory experience within the past 10 years. This includes:

  • Start and end dates for each project
  • Descriptions of the work you personally supervised
  • Size and dollar amounts of each project
  • How many workers you supervised
  • Your role/title on each project
  • And more

The Contractors Board will review your certificates and project list closely to ensure you have sufficient experience managing real-world painting jobs before approving your application.

Passing the License Exams

Once approved, you must pass 2 exams within 6 months to obtain your license:

  1. Business and Law Exam: Covers Hawaii contracting laws, labor laws, business organization, estimating, taxation, lien laws, and more. There are 80 questions and you need a 75% score to pass.
  2. Painting Trade Exam: Covers health and safety, surface preparation, application methods, materials, tools, estimating, and other painting-related topics. There are 50 questions and you need a 75% score to pass.

You’ll need to study the approved references and resources for each exam to prepare. Most people take a exam prep course as the tests can be quite difficult.

Submitting the License Application

Follow these steps to submit your Painting and Decorating license application in Hawaii:

  • Download the application forms from the PVL website or request by phone
  • Complete the forms thoroughly and gather all required documents
  • Make copies of everything for your personal records
  • Double check that you’ve included all required items before submitting
  • Send the application package via mail or deliver it in person
  • Applications must be received by the 1st Tuesday of the month for review during the following month’s board meeting
  • Late or incomplete packages will be delayed

It’s highly recommended to consult with an experienced painting contractor or licensing specialist when applying. Having an incomplete application rejected causes major delays and headaches.

Getting things right the first time is key to obtaining your Hawaii painting contractor license as efficiently as possible.

How to Apply for a New C-33 License Step-by-Step

Follow these steps to obtain your initial Painting and Decorating contractor’s license in Hawaii:

  1. Register your business with the Business Registration Division if operating as a company. This establishes you as a legitimate business entity authorized to work in Hawaii.
  2. Complete the license application forms thoroughly. This includes basic contact information, your experience background, the project list documenting your painting experience, and more.
  3. Gather eligibility documents to include with your application, such as:
  • Certificates verifying your years of experience
  • Project list showing your supervisory experience
  • Credit reports for background check
  • Proof of general liability insurance
  • Proof of workers’ compensation insurance (or exemption if sole proprietor)
  • Bond forms if required
  • Tax clearance from Department of Taxation
  • Any other required items
  1. Submit your new license application package by mail or in person by the deadline for the desired Contractors Board meeting date. This deadline is the 1st Tuesday of the month prior. For example, if you wanted your application reviewed at the January board meeting, you would need to submit the complete package by the 1st Tuesday of December.
  2. Take the licensing exams after being approved by the Contractors Board. You must pass both the business/law and the painting trade exams within 6 months of approval. Exams are scheduled through PSI.
  3. Submit your licensing fee payment to the Contractors Board once you’ve passed both required exams. The initial fee is $663 for a 2-year license.
  4. Provide proof of insurance meeting Hawaii’s minimum requirements. This includes general liability and workers’ comp (if applicable). Certificates must be submitted before your license can be issued.
  5. Get fingerprinted for a background check after passing the exams. The Board will provide instructions on completing this process. It’s usually done through fieldprint.
  6. Obtain your license document from the Contractors Board via mail once all requirements are satisfied! This will include your pocket card and wall certificate.

It’s vital to review the Board’s instructions closely and gather all required items before submitting your new license application package. Any missing documents or information will delay processing and approval.

You should also register for and schedule your licensing exams as soon as you’re approved to avoid extra delays. Both exams must be passed to meet the C-33 licensing requirements.

Maintaining Your Hawaii Painting Contractor License

Being approved for a Hawaii Painting and Decorating contractor license is just the first step. You must also take actions to maintain it properly:

Renew On Time

C-33 licenses need to be renewed every 2 years by September 30th on even-numbered years (for example, 2022, 2024, 2026).

Submit your renewal application early to ensure it’s received by the deadline. Requirements include:

  • Renewal application form
  • License renewal fee payment
  • Updated proof of continuous general liability insurance
  • Updated proof of continuous workers’ compensation insurance (if applicable)
  • Tax clearance from Department of Taxation

Failure to renew on time will result in a forfeited license. This means legally you cannot operate until the license is restored by November 30th by paying a late fee.

Make Legal Changes

Inform the Contractors Board anytime you need to make changes to your license like:

  • Adding or removing company partners/officers
  • Changing the company name or ownership %
  • Moving to a new business address
  • Changing your insurance or bond

You’ll need to submit appropriate forms and documentation. Some changes can be made instantly online through your PVL account.

Maintain Insurance

Your general liability policy must stay active at all times and provide at least the minimum coverage required by law. If it lapses, your license can be suspended or revoked.

Operate Ethically

Avoid complaints and disciplinary actions against your license by operating transparently and ethically:

  • Communicate clearly with clients in writing
  • Deliver what you promise
  • Resolve any issues promptly and fairly
  • Maintain your reputation

The Regulated Industries Complaint Office (RICO) investigates reported violations.

How to Renew an Active C-33 License

Follow these guidelines for successfully renewing your active Painting and Decorating contractor’s license every 2 years in Hawaii:

  • Renewal applications are sent by mail 45 days prior to the September 30 deadline. If you don’t receive yours, request a duplicate from the PVL office.
  • Complete the renewal application thoroughly and gather updated versions of all required attachments:
  • Liability insurance certificate
  • Workers’ comp insurance certificate
  • Tax clearance from Department of Taxation
  • Double check that all business information is still accurate, and update anything that may have changed.
  • Submit payment of the $353 renewal fee to the Contractors License Board. This can be done via check, online, or phone.
  • Return the finished renewal application and all documentation by the September 30 deadline. Postmarks are acceptable.
  • You can also renew quickly and easily online through your PVL licensee account up to 90 days before expiration.

If not renewed on time, an active C-33 license will be forfeited as of October 1st meaning you cannot legally operate. However, you then have a 60 day grace period until November 30th to restore the license by submission of renewal materials and paying a $35 late fee.

But if your license remains lapsed after November 30th, you’ll have to retake the exams and reapply as if brand new. This can cause major disruptions to your established painting business.

So be sure to renew on time every 2 years! Mark your calendar well in advance to avoid accidentally letting it expire. Setting a reminder every September is wise.

Reciprocity for Out-of-State Painting Contractors

Does Hawaii offer license reciprocity with other states for painting and decorating contractors?

Unfortunately, the answer is no. Hawaii does not have any reciprocity agreements with other states when it comes to contractor licensing.

This means if you hold a current painting contractor license in another state, it is not valid for legally performing painting jobs in Hawaii.

To offer painting services within Hawaii state lines, you must apply for and obtain a Hawaii-issued Painting and Decorating (C-33) license specifically by meeting all of Hawaii’s eligibility requirements.

This includes documenting 4 years of professional painting experience, passing Hawaii’s licensing exams, getting a background check, providing insurance certificates, and paying fees to the Contractors Board.

There are no exemptions from these requirements if you already have an out-of-state painting license. Previous exam results also cannot be transferred.

However, properly licensed painting experience from another state can count toward’s Hawaii 4 year experience requirement. You just have to provide detailed certificates and project lists to document it sufficiently.

The Contractors Board will review your experience background and determine if it meets the standards for a Hawaii license. But ultimately you have to start from scratch and work through the full application process.

Surety Bond Requirements for Licensing

Does obtaining a Painting and Decorating (C-33) contractor’s license in Hawaii require getting a surety bond?

The answer is typically no – a surety bond is usually not mandated just to get an initial C-33 painting license issued.

However, the Hawaii Contractors License Board reserves the right to require any applicant or existing licensee to file and maintain a surety bond if the Board deems it necessary to protect the public.

Requiring a bond is decided on a case-by-case basis after reviewing an applicant’s personal history, financial resources, experience, and other relevant factors.

If the Board does mandate a bond, you’ll need to acquire one from an authorized surety company in the amount specified by the Board. Proof of this bond must be provided before your new license can be issued or an existing license renewed.

Failure to obtain or maintain a required bond will result in disciplinary action against your painting contractor license in Hawaii.

So while a surety bond is generally not needed, you may be required to get one at the Board’s discretion as either an applicant or current licensee. Check any application notifications to see if one has been mandated for you specifically.

Insurance Requirements for Licensed Painting Contractors

Maintaining adequate insurance coverage is key to retaining an active C-33 Painting and Decorating contractor license in Hawaii.

At minimum, painting contractors must carry:

  • General Liability Insurance: Minimum $100,000 per occurrence and $300,000 aggregate for bodily injury and property damage. This protects against claims from clients or the public.
  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance: Required for licensees with employees. Sole proprietors and partnerships without employees can request an exemption. But workers’ comp is mandatory if you have W-2 workers. This covers medical care and lost wages for job-related injuries.

You must have current certificates of insurance documenting coverage that meets or exceeds Hawaii’s requirements before a new license can be issued.

And when renewing your license, you must provide updated certificates proving your policies are still active and in effect. Any lapse in insurance can result in disciplinary action.

Your insurer can submit new certificates electronically via the PVL online service for faster processing. But paper copies are still accepted if included with mailed applications.

Make sure to communicate with your agent and get updated certificates well in advance of submitting any licensing paperwork to the Contractors Board.

Having adequate general liability and workers’ compensation coverage at all times is mandatory for legitimately maintaining your painting business license. Don’t let it lapse!


Obtaining a Painting and Decorating contractor’s license is mandatory for starting a professional painting company in Hawaii that performs jobs for compensation.

Make sure to:

  • Document your 4 years of professional supervisory experience in detail
  • Study and pass the rigorous licensing exams
  • Submit a 100% complete new license application package with all requirements
  • Maintain active liability insurance and workers’ comp
  • Renew your C-33 license properly every 2 years

Following the licensing process shows clients you are a legitimate qualified contractor they can trust. It’s a critical investment for building a successful local painting business that complies with Hawaii’s legal requirements.

Painting without the proper license can lead to fines and jeopardize your reputation. Being a licensed Painting and Decorating contractor gives your Hawaii painting company credibility plus the green light to operate legally.