Painting contractors in North Carolina are required to hold a state license issued by the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors (NCLBGC) in order to bid on or work on paint jobs costing $30,000 or more. This comprehensive guide will provide painters and painting contractors with extensive details on all licensing and insurance requirements, application processes, fees, reciprocity, bond and financial requirements, renewals, and more in North Carolina.

Becoming a Licensed Painting Contractor in North Carolina

To become a licensed painting contractor in North Carolina, you must meet certain eligibility criteria and complete the licensing application process through the NCLBGC. Here are the detailed steps:

Eligibility Requirements

The NCLBGC has set forth eligibility requirements that all painting contractor license applicants must meet. Specific requirements include:

  • Minimum Age – Applicants must be at least 18 years old.
  • Good Moral Character – Applicants must demonstrate good moral character and submit 3-5 reference letters with their application attesting to their reputation. References should be from individuals familiar with the applicant’s business experience.
  • Financial Responsibility – Applicants must meet minimum financial requirements based on the type of license they are applying for (see details in the next section). This is documented by submitting an audit, agreed-upon procedures report, or surety bond.
  • Exams – Applicants must pass the required classification and business/law exams (or provide proof of acceptable exam waivers through reciprocity).

Applicants must certify that they meet these requirements when submitting the new license application. Documentation, such as proof of age, reference letters, financial statements, and exam results will be required as part of the application process.

License Classifications, Limitations, and Requirements

There are several license classifications, limitations, and associated requirements that painting contractors should understand when applying for a North Carolina license:

License Classifications

Applicants must select one of the following license classifications most appropriate for their business:

  • Building – This classification covers all building construction and demolition activities, including commercial, industrial, institutional, and all types of residential projects. This is the typical classification held by most painting contractors.
  • Residential – This classification covers construction of residential buildings required to meet the North Carolina residential building code. It also includes ancillary site work, driveways, sidewalks, etc. around residential structures.
  • Highway – This classification covers highway construction like paving, grading, culverts, and guard rails. It does not apply to most painting contractors.
  • Public Utilities – This classification covers public water, sewer, and other utility systems. It does not apply to most painting contractors.

License Limitations

Applicants must also select one of the following license limitations, which determines the maximum value of projects that can be completed under the contractor license:

  • Limited – Can complete individual projects up to $750,000
  • Intermediate – Can complete individual projects up to $1,500,000
  • Unlimited – No limit on project value

New painting contractors often start with a Limited license and upgrade as their business grows. The license limitation ultimately dictates the minimum financial requirements too.

Minimum Financial Requirements

To qualify for each license limitation, the following minimum financial requirements must be met:

| Limitation | Minimum Financial Requirement |
| Limited | $17,000 Working Capital OR $80,000 Net Worth OR $175,000 Surety Bond |
| Intermediate | $75,000 Working Capital OR $500,000 Surety Bond |
| Unlimited | $150,000 Working Capital OR $1,000,000 Surety Bond |

Working capital is calculated as total current assets minus total current liabilities. An audit or agreed-upon procedures report prepared by a CPA must be submitted along with the application to demonstrate compliance with the minimum financial requirements.

Alternatively, a surety bond issued by an authorized surety company meeting the minimum requirements can be provided in lieu of demonstrating working capital or net worth. The surety bond must be maintained as long as the contractor holds the license or until the working capital/net worth requirements are met.

Applicants should carefully consider the license limitation and associated financial requirements when applying. A financial statement or surety bond demonstrating compliance is required.

Exam Requirements

To become licensed, the applicant or a qualifying individual on behalf of the applicant must pass certain exams:

  • Classification Exam – This exam covers technical knowledge specific to the license classification the applicant selected. For painting contractors, this would cover topics relevant to building or residential painting.
  • Business and Law Exam – This exam covers North Carolina construction laws, rules, regulations, and business practices. It must be passed by all applicants.

Some exams may be waived through exam reciprocity explained later in this guide. All required exams must be completed prior to the license being approved and issued.

Submitting the License Application

Once the eligibility criteria has been reviewed and the applicant is ready to move forward, the next step is submitting the proper application forms and documentation through the NCLBGC website. Here is an overview of the process:

  1. Visit the NCLBGC website and complete the new license application online. All required fields and information must be completed.
  2. Upload any required supplementary documentation, such as:
  • Audit or agreed-upon procedures financial statement
  • Surety bond
  • Reference letters
  • Exam reciprocity waiver forms (if applicable)
  1. Pay the new license application fee. This is $75 for a limited license, $100 for intermediate, and $150 for unlimited. Payment can be made online.
  2. Once the application is processed and approved, the applicant will receive an exam eligibility letter from the NCLBGC by email. This letter provides instructions on registering and scheduling the required exams.
  3. The applicant or license qualifier must then pass the classification and business/law exams (or provide proof of waivers through reciprocity).
  4. After passing all required exams, the application will be presented for approval at the next NCLBGC Board meeting, which occur twice per month.
  5. If approved by the Board, the painting contractor license will be issued within 2-3 weeks.

The entire new license application and approval process typically takes 4-6 weeks from the time the application is submitted. Applicants should follow up promptly if they have not received exam eligibility letters or license status updates within the expected timeframes.

Renewing a Painting Contractor License in North Carolina

Painting contractor licenses in North Carolina must be renewed annually by December 31st to remain active and in good standing for the next calendar year. Key renewal requirements include:

License Renewal Fees

The annual license renewal fee is $50. This must be paid online through the contractor’s NCLBGC license account during renewal.

Qualifier Renewal Verification

All license qualifiers (those who passed the licensing exams associated with the license) must verify their continued involvement and association with the licensed entity at renewal.

This is done electronically through their online NCLBGC qualifier account. Qualifiers will log in and check a box to renew their verification. Licensees can also send emails through their account to notify qualifiers to complete this process.

Continuing Education

For licenses held in the Building or Residential classifications, the primary qualifier must complete 8 hours of continuing education (CE) between January 1st-November 30th each year.

This must include 2 mandatory hours on North Carolina construction law offered exclusively by the NCLBGC. The remaining 6 hours are electives and can be taken through any NCLBGC-approved CE provider.

Courses can be taken online or in classroom settings. All completed CE will automatically upload to the qualifier’s online account. CE is reported by the provider, so copies of certificates do not need to be sent to the NCLBGC.

Financial Responsibility

Licensees must also demonstrate continued financial responsibility at renewal through one of the following:

  • Provide an updated audit or agreed-upon procedures financial statement
  • Maintain the original surety bond amount on file
  • Submit an online statement attesting there is no material change since the last financial documentation submitted

Once all renewal requirements are completed – fees, qualifier verification, CE, and financial responsibility – the painting contractor license can be renewed online through the contractor’s NCLBGC account.

Reciprocity for Out-of-State Painting Contractors

While North Carolina does not have full reciprocal licensing agreements with other states, they do offer some exam waivers to make obtaining a NC painting contractor license easier for certain applicants.

Exam Waiver Options

The NCLBGC provides the following exam waiver options:

  • Contractors licensed in SC, TN, LA, GA, MS, AL or FL can request an exam waiver for the NC Classification exam. However, the NC Business and Law exam must still be taken and passed.
  • Contractors who previously passed the NASCLA Accredited Examination can also request a waiver for the NC Classification exam only. The NASCLA exam is administered separately through that organization.

Applying for Reciprocity

To apply for exam reciprocity in North Carolina:

  1. Request the Out-of-State Examination Waiver Form from the NCLBGC or download it from the website.
  2. Have your home state licensing board complete and submit the waiver form directly to the NCLBGC. Some states may charge a processing fee.
  3. Once received, the NCLBGC will approve eligible exam waivers and notify you of any exams still required.
  4. Submit your completed NC license application, documentation, and exam waiver form together. All other application requirements still apply.
  5. Upon approval, pass the NC Business and Law exam to complete the application process.

While exam waivers provide partial reciprocity, applicants must still complete the full NC application process to become licensed. All license limitations, classifications, financial responsibility requirements, and fees apply.

Bond Requirements for Licensed Painting Contractors

Licensed painting contractors in North Carolina are not required by the NCLBGC to obtain license bonds. However, surety bonds can be used to meet the minimum financial requirements for a license instead of demonstrating working capital or net worth.

Surety Bond Minimum Requirements

If pursuing the surety bond option, bonds must be issued by an authorized surety company licensed to operate in North Carolina. Minimum bond amount requirements are:

  • Limited License – $175,000
  • Intermediate License – $500,000
  • Unlimited License – $1,000,000

Maintaining the Bond

The surety bond must be maintained continuously throughout the period the contractor holds the license. This is required until the contractor can demonstrate meeting the minimum working capital or net worth requirements instead.

If the bond is cancelled, written notification must be provided to the NCLBGC within 30 days by both the surety company and contractor. Failure to maintain the required bond or acquire replacement coverage is grounds for license suspension.

Surety bonds are a solid option for new painting contractors or those who do not yet meet the working capital requirements to satisfy the financial responsibility criteria for licensing.

Insurance Requirements for Painting Contractors

While North Carolina does not mandate specific insurance coverages to obtain or renew a painting contractor license, adequate insurance is crucial for risk management and mitigation.

Recommended Types of Insurance

The NCLBGC advises all painting contractors carry sufficient insurance to protect their business. Recommended insurance policies include:

General Liability Insurance

  • Covers third-party property damage and bodily injury claims
  • Provides legal defense costs
  • Required amounts range from $500,000 to $2 million

Workers’ Compensation

  • Provides coverage for employees injured on the job
  • Required in NC if you have 3 or more employees

Business Auto Insurance

  • Covers vehicles used for business purposes
  • Needed if driving between job sites or hauling tools and materials

Builder’s Risk Insurance

  • Provides coverage for damage to a construction project itself
    -Recommended for large painting jobs

Project-Specific Requirements

Painting contractors should also be aware that specific construction projects often dictate certain insurance requirements that must be met. For example:

  • An owner or general contractor hiring a painting subcontractor may require them to carry a minimum level of general liability coverage such as $1 million.
  • Lenders financing a construction project may require all contractors involved carry a minimum amount of general liability and other coverages.
  • Building permits often require proof of both general liability and workers’ compensation before being issued.

Checking client insurance requirements and building permit conditions is an important step in evaluating any new painting job or contract. Being properly insured is key to operating legally and protecting your business from liability.


Becoming a licensed painting contractor in North Carolina requires submitting an application to the NCLBGC demonstrating eligibility, financial responsibility, passing examinations, and meeting classification requirements. Active licenses must be renewed annually by the end of December each year. While reciprocity is limited for out-of-state contractors, exam waivers do offer a condensed application option. Bonding is not required but can substitute for the working capital requirements. All painting contractors are advised to carry appropriate general liability insurance, auto coverage, and explore project-specific policies such as builders risk insurance. Use this detailed guide to help successfully navigate the licensing and insurance landscape for painters and painting contractors in North Carolina.