Painting contractors work to apply protective and decorative coatings in residential and commercial settings. In order to operate as a painting contractor in Virginia, you must obtain the appropriate state-issued license. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the requirements and process for becoming a licensed painter and painting contractor in Virginia.

Requirements for Licensure

To become a licensed painting contractor in Virginia, there are several key requirements you must meet:

  • Establish a business entity: Painting contractor licenses are issued to business entities, not individuals. You must first establish your business as a sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company, or corporation. Sole proprietors can operate under their real name or a fictitious trade name. Partnerships, corporations, and LLCs must register their legal business name with the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) and operate under that name.
  • Select your contractor class: There are three license classes in Virginia – Class A, Class B, and Class C. Each class sets limits on the total value of contracts and projects you can perform over a 12 month period:
    • Class A: No limit on contract value
    • Class B: Limited to contracts under $120,000, with total value under $750,000 per year
    • Class C: Limited to contracts under $10,000, with total value under $150,000 per year
    Choosing the appropriate class depends on your experience level and the size of contracts you plan to take on. Those with 5+ years of experience often qualify for a Class A license. Review the monetary limits and eligibility criteria carefully when selecting your license class.
  • Meet experience requirements: The amount of hands-on experience required depends on your license class:
    • Class A: 5 years of practical experience in the painting and wallcovering field
    • Class B: 3 years of experience
    • Class C: 2 years of experience
    This experience must be relevant to the painting specialty and can include activities like surface preparation, installation of wallcoverings, application of protective and decorative coatings, and more. Evidence of this experience must be demonstrated on your application.
  • Designate a Qualified Individual: Your business must designate an employee or member of responsible management as the Qualified Individual (QI). This person must meet experience requirements and hold any required licenses or certifications for the painting specialty. The QI will also need to pass required technical exams.
  • Pass exams: For Class A and B licenses, your designated employee must pass the General, Virginia, and Advanced business exam portions. Class C license applicants only need to pass the trade exam portion related specifically to painting and wallcovering technical knowledge. All exams are administered by PSI Exams.
  • Carry required insurance and bonds: All licensed contractors in Virginia must carry a license bond, plus general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. The minimum amounts required are based on your license class.
  • Complete pre-licensure education: An approved 8-hour pre-licensure education course must be completed before applying for your license. This focuses on core business topics and regulations. It must be completed by your designated employee or a member of responsible management.
  • Submit your application: Once you meet all requirements, you must fill out and submit the Form A501-27LIC application along with all documentation and fees to the Virginia DPOR.
  • Pass technical exams: In addition to the business exams, your appointed Qualified Individual must pass the required technical exam that demonstrates competence in the painting and wallcovering specialty.
  • Obtain local licenses: Make sure to register for any required local professional licenses, permits, or certifications within the city or county where your business is located.

Meeting these requirements fully establishes your eligibility and qualifications for a painting contractor license. DPOR will review your application and issue your license certificate upon approval. Proper preparation is key as you will need to submit documented evidence of business registration, experience, insurance policies, and bond requirements.

How to Obtain a New Painting Contractor License

Follow these key steps to obtain your new painting contractor license in Virginia:

1. Establish Your Business

  • Select your business structure – sole proprietor, partnership, LLC, or corporation.
  • Register your business name with the Virginia SCC if required. Sole proprietors can use a fictitious trade name by filing a certificate with the circuit court.
  • Draft your business plan detailing your company’s services, operations, and financing.
  • Draft your safety program, risk management procedures, and standard operating procedures. Having strong written policies is key.
  • Obtain your federal EIN and state tax numbers.
  • Set up your bookkeeping system and business bank account.
  • Make sure to comply with all other legal requirements to establish your painting business.

2. Choose Your Contractor Class

  • Select Class A, B, or C based on the size of contracts you expect to perform.
  • Carefully review the monetary limits and experience requirements per class.
  • Class A has the highest limits and requirements, while Class C has the lowest.
  • Match your class to your experience level and the scale of jobs you wish to complete.

3. Designate Your Qualified Individual

  • Appoint an experienced, competent painter as your Qualified Individual (QI).
  • The QI must have the years of experience required for your license class.
  • They must hold any certifications or licenses required for the painting specialty.
  • Make sure they can pass the required painting contractor exam in Virginia.
  • If you cannot personally act as QI, you must designate a qualified employee.

4. Complete Pre-Licensure Education

  • Take an approved 8-hour pre-licensure course on business fundamentals and regulations.
  • Many providers offer in-person or online classes.
  • Your designated employee or a member of management must complete the course.
  • Keep your course completion certificate to submit with your license application.

5. Submit Your License Application

  • Fill out Form A501-27LIC with all required information.
  • Submit supporting documentation: SCC registration, EIN letter, business plan, safety program, liability insurance certificate, license bond form, financial statement, experience verification, pre-licensure course certificate, etc.
  • Pay the $270 application fee. Class A applicants must also pay the $1,500 recovery fund fee.
  • Submit the full application package to DPOR for processing and review.

6. Pass Required Exams

  • Schedule exam portions with PSI Exams – your QI must pass the painting contractor exam at minimum.
  • Sit for additional Class A/B business exam portions if required for your license.
  • Review exam bulletins to prepare and pass each required exam portion.

7. Obtain Local Licenses

  • Contact your local county and/or city government office.
  • Apply and pay fees for any required professional licenses, permits, or certifications.
  • Some common examples include a business license, tradesman license, or lead renovator certification.

8. Meet Insurance Requirements

  • Obtain a general liability insurance policy that meets the minimum limits for your class.
  • Obtain workers’ compensation coverage or file for an exemption if eligible.
  • Obtain your license bond from an authorized surety in the correct amount for your class.
  • Submit certificates and bond with your license application as proof of coverage.

Once your application is approved, DPOR will issue your painting contractor license. It allows you to offer painting, wallcovering, and coating services legally in Virginia. Your license must be renewed every two years.

How to Renew Your Painting Contractor License

To renew your painting contractor license in Virginia:

  • Submit the $270 renewal fee to DPOR within 30 days before your expiration date.
  • After 30 days, the $405 reinstatement fee applies if you renew late. Avoid this by renewing on time.
  • Continuously maintain the required insurance policies and license bond amounts.
  • Submit any remedial education certificates if DPOR ordered you to complete coursework.
  • Submit an updated license bond form if you need to change bond companies or amounts.
  • File any address, company name, QI, or contact information changes as needed.
  • Renew before your expiration date to avoid disruption to your business operations. You cannot legally perform contracting services with an expired license.
  • Consider adding employees as Qualified Individuals or applying for additional specialty classifications at renewal if needed.

There are currently no continuing education requirements for painting contractors in Virginia. Renewal only involves submitting your fee and keeping licenses, insurance, and bonds current.

Reciprocity in Virginia

Virginia has limited license reciprocity agreements for painting and decorating contractors with a few select states:

  • Alabama, Maryland, and North Carolina painting licenses have some reciprocity. You may still need to pass Virginia-specific exams.

To get a Virginia painting contractor license through reciprocity:

  • Verify that your home state has reciprocity with Virginia and that your license is current and in good standing.
  • Request certification of your active license from your home state licensing board.
  • Review exam requirements and sit for any Virginia licensing exams needed through PSI Exams.
  • Compile all application materials – application, business documents, surety bond form, insurance certificates, financial statements, etc.
  • Complete and submit the full Form A501-27LIC application with the $270 fee.
  • The process otherwise mimics obtaining a new license, but DPOR can waive exams covered by your home state license through reciprocity.

Processing time is 4-6 weeks. You cannot perform contracting work in Virginia until your application is approved. Plan accordingly as reciprocity approval is not immediate.

Bonding Requirements

All licensed painting contractors in Virginia must carry a contractor license surety bond that will pay damages awarded by court judgments:

  • Class C licenses: $10,000 bond
  • Class B licenses: $12,500 bond
  • Class A licenses: $15,000 bond

Class A and B applicants may submit an audited financial statement certified by a CPA instead of the bond.

The surety bond must be issued by an insurer authorized to transact surety insurance in Virginia. It provides consumer protection if you fail to meet your contractual obligations. The bond must remain continuously in effect to retain your license.

Insurance Requirements

Painting contractors must carry other insurance in addition to their surety bond:

  • Workers’ Compensation Insurance:
    • Minimum of $100,000 per incident for Class C
    • $250,000 for Class B
    • $400,000 for Class A
    • Sole proprietors and executive officers can waive workers’ compensation by filing an exemption
  • General Liability Insurance:
    • Minimum of $100,000 per occurrence
    • $300,000 aggregate for all license classes

Having adequate insurance helps protect your business from substantial liability associated with accidents, property damage, or other incidents. Discuss your specific needs with your insurance agent when obtaining quotes.

You must submit your proof of insurance – ACORD certificate of liability, workers’ compensation certificate, letter of exemption, etc. – with your initial license application or renewal to demonstrate you meet Virginia’s insurance requirements. Insurance certificates must list the State of Virginia as a certificate holder.

Pre-License Education Providers

All contractor license applicants in Virginia must take an approved 8-hour pre-licensure education course on business fundamentals and regulations. DPOR has approved numerous course providers that offer this mandatory class:

  • Many providers offer live classes at locations throughout Virginia. This allows you to complete the requirement in-person.
  • Online pre-licensure classes are also available from various approved providers. This offers more flexibility in your schedule.
  • Some providers also offer correspondence/home study courses. However, these self-paced options may take longer to complete.

When selecting your pre-license education provider, check that they are currently approved by DPOR. Compare costs, class formats, schedules, and locations to find the best option for your needs. A current list of approved providers is available on the DPOR website.

Exam Details

Painting contractor license applicants and designated Qualified Individuals must pass some required exams which are administered by PSI Exams.

Painting and Wallcovering Trade Exam

  • 50 multiple choice questions
  • 120 minute time limit
  • Covers areas like surface preparation, materials, tools, safety, wallcoverings, estimating
  • Passing score is 70% (this is 35/50 correct)
  • Your Qualified Individual must pass this exam at a minimum

Designated Employee Class A/B Exam

  • 98 total questions
  • 208 minute time limit
  • Covers the General, Virginia, and Advanced business topics
  • Passing score is 70% overall and for each section
  • Required for Class A/B painting contractor applicants

Exam fees paid directly to PSI Exams are:

  • $40 per exam portion
  • $85 for the full Designated Employee A/B exam

PSI administers exams daily by computer at testing centers in Virginia, with some locations available out-of-state.


Becoming a licensed painting contractor in Virginia allows you to legally and safely operate a painting business working on residential, commercial, and industrial projects. You must meet experience requirements, pass required exams, carry a license bond and adequate insurance, register your business entity, document your qualifications, and submit the complete painting contractor application to DPOR.

Key steps include selecting your license class based on project size, appointing your Qualified Individual, passing the painting and wallcovering exam, obtaining general liability insurance and your license bond, completing pre-licensure education, submitting your license application with fees, and meeting any local licensing requirements.

Renewals are needed every two years to maintain your license in good standing. Virginia has reciprocity for some out-of-state licenses as well. With preparation and understanding of Virginia’s regulations, you can successfully obtain your painting contractor license and operate your painting company legally.