South Carolina regulates licensing for painters and painting contractors operating within the state. Navigating these requirements is key for starting a compliant and successful painting business.

This comprehensive guide provides painters and painting contractors with detailed information on licensing regulations in South Carolina. It covers eligibility criteria, the application and renewal process, exams, fees, reciprocity, bonds, insurance, and more. Understanding these requirements is crucial for legally operating a painting business and avoiding violations.

South Carolina Painting Contractor Licensing

What Licenses Are Required?

The type of license painters need in South Carolina depends on the nature of their work:

Commercial Painting

Painters performing commercial painting services costing over $5,000 must obtain a general contractor’s license from the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board. This applies to any commercial painting project where the total value exceeds $5,000, including labor and materials.

Residential Painting

For residential painting projects, painters must register with the state licensing board as Residential Specialty Contractors. They are not required to take an exam for this registration. However, if the total value of a residential painting job exceeds $5,000, the painter must also obtain a $5,000 surety bond.

Licensing Exemptions

Painters are exempt from licensing requirements for:

  • Commercial painting projects under $5,000
  • Residential painting projects under $5,000 (registration still required without exam)

Eligibility Criteria for a Commercial Painting License

To qualify for a commercial general contractor’s license, painters must meet experience and exam requirements:


  • Minimum 2 years (24 months) of experience in the field within the past 5 years

This experience must have been gained as a:

  • Licensed painting contractor
  • Employee of a licensed painting contractor
  • Building construction superintendent, supervisor, or manager


  • Pass technical trade exam
  • Pass business and law exam

The technical exam covers topics like estimating, materials, methods, safety, and equipment. The business and law exam covers licensing laws, insurance, taxes, labor regulations, liens, contracts, and business principles.

New License Application Process

Here are the steps for painters to obtain a new commercial general contractor’s license in South Carolina:

  1. Establish eligibility based on experience and exam requirements
  2. Submit application – Complete the license application form in full and submit to the Contractor’s Licensing Board
  3. Pass required exams – Schedule and pass the technical trade exam and business and law exam
  4. Pay license fees – Fees total $210 ($100 exam, $110 license)
  5. Provide insurance – Submit proof of general liability insurance coverage
  6. Obtain license bond – If project value exceeds $5,000, a $5,000 license bond is required

It takes approximately 4 weeks to process a new license application after all requirements are met. Once approved, the license is mailed to the applicant. Licenses must be displayed at the primary place of business.

License Renewal

Commercial painting contractor’s licenses expire every two years on June 30th of each odd-numbered year.

To renew a license, painters must:

There are currently no continuing education requirements for renewing a commercial painting contractor’s license in South Carolina.

The renewal application can be submitted up to 15 months prior to the expiration date. Renewal applications submitted after June 30th are subject to a $50 late fee per month. Licenses that are not renewed within 6 months of expiration are cancelled. To resume operating, the painter would have to re-apply as a new applicant and meet current exam requirements.

Residential Registration

Painters working on residential projects must register with the South Carolina Contractor’s Licensing Board as Residential Specialty Contractors. This registration allows them to perform residential painting services statewide.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Residential painting experience
  • Valid government-issued ID
  • Social Security Number or Federal Tax ID

Registration Process:

  1. Submit registration application form
  2. Provide ID and SSN/TAX ID
  3. Pay $110 registration fee

Residential painters are not required to take an exam for this registration. However, they must obtain a surety bond if the value of a particular job exceeds $5,000.

Registrations must be renewed every two years by June 30th of each odd-numbered year. The renewal fee is $110 and proof of insurance must be provided. There are no continuing education requirements.

License Exams

Commercial painting contractors must pass two exams to qualify for a general contractor’s license in South Carolina.

Trade Exam

This exam covers core concepts related to commercial and residential painting. Topics include:

  • Estimating methods
  • Materials like paints, coatings, abrasives
  • Surface preparation methods
  • Painting tools, equipment, and techniques
  • Safety protocols
  • Quality control

The trade exam consists of 50 multiple choice questions and applicants have 2 hours to complete it. A score of 70% or higher is required to pass.

Business and Law Exam

This exam covers business principles and South Carolina laws related to contractor licensing. Topics include:

  • Licensing procedures
  • Insurance requirements
  • Lien laws
  • Tax laws
  • Labor regulations
  • Contracts
  • Business structures
  • Accounting
  • HR and employee management

There are 50 multiple choice questions with a 2 hour time limit. A minimum score of 70% is required to pass.

Exam fees are $100 each. Applicants have 3 attempts to pass each exam before re-applying as a new candidate. Exams can be scheduled through PSI Exams Online after being approved by the licensing board.

Reciprocity Licensing

South Carolina offers reciprocity licensing to painters already licensed in certain other states. This allows them to transfer their license instead of completing South Carolina’s exam requirements.

Reciprocity is available to painters holding current and active licenses from:

  • Alabama
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • City of Reading, Pennsylvania

To obtain a South Carolina license through reciprocity, painters must:

  • Hold an active license from a recognized state
  • Complete and submit a reciprocity application
  • Pay $110 reciprocity fee
  • Provide proof of liability insurance
  • Provide state license verification from originating state

The reciprocity application process takes approximately 2-3 weeks after submitting all required documentation. Once approved, the painter will be issued a South Carolina license.

Surety Bonds

Residential painters must obtain a $5,000 surety bond if the total value of a particular painting project exceeds $5,000. This bond must be maintained for at least 2 years after substantial completion of the project.

Surety bonds are not required for commercial painting projects over $5,000 – only the general contractor’s license is required in those cases.

Surety bonds can be obtained from authorized bonding companies and agents. They provide financial protection to homeowners if the painter fails to properly complete the work outlined in the contract. Some key requirements of surety bonds for painters include:

  • Bond value must be $5,000
  • Principal named on bond must match painting business name
  • Bond must remain active for 2 years after project completion
  • Homeowner may file claim against bond for contractor violations

Bond claims are handled by the bonding company according to the terms outlined in the bond. If a claim is paid, the painter must reimburse the bonding company.

Insurance Requirements

Licensed painting contractors must carry general liability insurance to satisfy South Carolina’s requirements. Exact policy limits depend on the nature of the work:

Commercial Painting Projects

  • $300,000 per occurrence
  • $600,000 aggregate policy limit

Residential Painting Projects

  • $100,000 per occurrence
  • $300,000 aggregate policy limit

All policies must also include workers’ compensation coverage aligned with South Carolina laws.

Painters must provide proof of active insurance coverage at the following times:

  • Initial license application
  • License renewal applications
  • Upon request by the licensing board

Applications cannot be approved without submitting valid proof of insurance. Policies must be maintained at all times – any lapse in coverage can lead to disciplinary actions against the painter’s license.

Disciplinary Actions

The Contractor’s Licensing Board has the authority to take disciplinary actions against painting contractors who violate regulations. Common violations include:

  • Allowing insurance coverage to lapse
  • Failure to maintain license bond when required
  • Operating with an expired license
  • Failure to satisfy judgments or liens
  • Engaging in unlicensed or fraudulent activity

Disciplinary actions may consist of fines, probation, suspension, or permanent license revocation. Having a license revoked requires painters to wait 1-2 years before reapplying depending on the severity of the violations.

It’s crucial for painting contractors to closely follow all South Carolina licensing laws and regulations to avoid disciplinary proceedings. Ensuring proper licensure, insurance coverage, and bond compliance makes it less likely painters will incur violations during the course of business.


This comprehensive guide covers everything painters need to know about contractor licensing in South Carolina. Key takeaways include:

  • Commercial painters need a general contractor’s license for jobs over $5,000
  • Residential painters need registration plus bond for jobs over $5,000
  • Licenses require experience, exams, fees, and insurance
  • Renewals are needed every 2 years with no continuing education
  • Reciprocity is offered for licenses from certain states
  • Surety bonds and liability insurance required in certain situations
  • Violations can result in disciplinary action against a license

Understanding these licensing requirements is vital for legally starting and operating a painting business in South Carolina. Following this guide ensures painting contractors apply for and maintain proper credentials, bonds, and insurance. This helps create a fully licensed and code-compliant painting contractor business.