With few Washington handyman license requirements and a large number of single-family homes, “The Evergreen State” is a true paradise for starting a handyman business. If you have experience in painting, roofing, flooring, home repairs, water damage restoration, drain cleaning, or other residential work, you may be able to make a lot of money in Washington as a handyman.
In this state, the traditional lines between a handyman and a general contractor are blurred. There aren’t many limitations you have to worry about, so as you develop more experience, it’s relatively simple to take on larger and more complex jobs. Outside of plumbing, electrical work, and a few other specializations, you don’t need a different license to expand your services.
This guide can help you learn how to get a handyman license in Washington. It also covers what you need to do to register a new handyman business in the state.
Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice. You should consult your local regulations and a qualified attorney for legal advice.
Do You Need a License to be a Handyman in Washington?
Washington state doesn’t distinguish handyman contractors from other construction contractors. There are no handyman licensing requirements in Washington or requirements for general contractors to be certified.
That said, certain specialties such as plumbers and electricians must hold a valid license. Handyman businesses in Washington cannot perform any type of plumbing work, electrical tasks, asbestos removal, boiler installation or maintenance, elevator installation or maintenance, or installation related to mobile homes.
Even though you don’t need to have a specific license to run a handyman business, you do need to register as a contractor. All professionals looking to perform construction, remodeling, installation, demolition, and repair work must register with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries.
Is There a Specific Handyman License in Washington?
Handymen and most other types of construction contractors don’t have to worry about obtaining a specific license to work. Registration is a must, however. When registering, you have two options: specialty contractor registration or general contractor registration. What are the differences?
A specialty contractor is only allowed to focus on one area of work. Washington State divides specializations into 63 different categories, including masonry, HVAC, drain cleaning, welding, painting, roofing, closet installation, and many others. If you choose this option, you can make as much money as you want, but only perform a narrow type of work.
One of the specializations is HM, or handyman. If you choose this specialization, you have more freedom to offer a wide range of services (e.g., painting, repairing garage doors, fixing closets, etc.) but you’re limited in a few ways:
- You can only perform work yourself (i.e., no employees)
- The jobs are limited to residential repairs and maintenance
- The total cost of the job and materials can’t exceed $2,000
- You can’t handle tasks that require a building permit
If you register as a general contractor, you need to post a larger bond, but you also receive many benefits:
- General contractors can perform work that involves any specialization (outside of electrical and plumbing)
- You can hire subcontractors
- Your team can handle both residential and commercial work
- There is no dollar limit to jobs
Many handyman businesses in Washington choose the general contractor route because of the freedom it offers. If you’re just getting started and prefer working alone, you may try registering as a handyman specialty contract for a while until you see what types of work you prefer.
Washington Handyman License Requirements
Before you can operate your handyman business in Washington, you need to take a few steps:
- Get a business license: Choose a business structure (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, etc.) and contact the Department of Revenue to register your new business and apply for a business license. This provides you with a Uniform Business Identifier number.
- Obtain a bond: Handyman businesses always need a Washington Continuous Contractor Surety Bond. The bond requirements are $6,000 for specialty contractors and $12,000 for general contractors.
- Show proof of general liability insurance: You have to show proof of the appropriate general liability insurance coverage before registering as a contractor. The Department of L&I has to appear as the beneficiary or certificate holder for the insurance policy.
- Fill out the registration form: You must complete the Application for Contractor Registration and have it notarized. The nearest L&I office can help you fill out the application if you want assistance.
For helpful information about getting a business license and tax ID in Washington State, check out our detailed Washington general contractor’s license guide.
It’s important to reiterate that handymen are not allowed to work with plumbing or electrical systems, even for minor residential repairs, unless they meet the appropriate license and certification requirements. This article about home remodeling tasks can help you tell the difference between basic handyman work and jobs that require advanced certification.
If you want to expand your services into these areas, there are different types of plumbing certification and electrician licenses available in Washington. The requirements depend on whether you want to perform residential or commercial work and generally involve several years of apprenticeship under certified plumbers. Washington has generous educational allowances, even permitting people 16 years of age and up to get started with their training.
Contractors in Washington are required to have a general liability insurance policy. The liability insurance should have coverage of $250,000 combined single limit or $50,000 for property damage and $200,000 for public liability.
All businesses with employees must also provide workers’ compensation insurance or coverage. Washington offers state-funded workers’ comp options, or you can look for your own business insurance for comprehensive coverage.
The state’s commercial auto insurance minimums are $25,000 bodily injury per person, $50,000 bodily injury per accident, $10,000 property damage per accident, $10,000 personal injury protection and $10,000 underinsured property damage coverage. This is known as a 25/50/10 policy.
Use the tool below to request a free commercial insurance quote from our partners.
Washington Handyman Licensing and Registration Fees
Registering as a contractor or handyman in Washington costs $117.90. You can easily pay the registration fee alongside your application at the nearest L&I office.
If you’re mailing the application, submit a check or money order instead. Make the check payable to the Department of Labor & Industries. Send all of the documentation and your registration payment to the following address:
P.O. Box 44450
Olympia, WA 98504-4450
Handyman Training and Certification Programs
Washington doesn’t offer any certificates for general contractors, but there are many educational opportunities to become proficient in home remodeling and repair tasks. These include university courses in construction management and trade school courses for HVAC, carpentry, construction, welding, and similar areas.
If you want to expand your work services into areas such as asbestos removal or home inspection, you can become certified for these specialties. Getting a license requires appropriate education and on-the-job training before taking the exam. For home inspectors, the license requirements are completion of 120 hours of state-approved instruction, 40 hours of fieldwork, and a passing score (70%) on the full exam.
Specific certifications or memberships, such as obtaining a home inspector certificate or joining The Association of Certified Handyman Professionals, can lend credibility to your business. It is also essential to understand fundamental business principles, which you can gain through an online training program.
Handyman License Washington FAQ
What Happens If I Do Not Have the Right License?
Operating a handyman business or another construction business without contractor registration is a gross misdemeanor. This can result in fines of $1,000–$5,000. Every job in this condition is treated as a separate misdemeanor, also subject to additional fines and penalties. Even advertising your services without being registered is a violation.
Performing electrical work without the appropriate electrician’s license results in penalties of $1,000 for the first offense, $2,000 for the second, $3,000 for the third, and $10,000 every time after that. Serious violations may even result in double the penalty.
2. How Long Is My Washington Handyman License Valid?
It’s necessary to review your contractor registration once a year. Renewal costs $117.90. Unless the information has changed (such as changing from specialty to general contractor) you can pay the renewal fee online using your contractor registration number, UBI number, and credit card.
3. Who Can I Contact If I Have Questions?
For any questions about registering as a handyman contractor, contact the Department of Labor & Industries at (800) 647-0982 or (360) 902-5226. You can also send an email to [email protected] for assistance.
Washington state has countless cities with over 100,000 residents, including Tacoma, Spokane, and Seattle. The state has almost 3.2 million homes just waiting for repairs and handyman work. Those are a lot of opportunities for handymen to make money.
The average handyman in Washington state makes about $33,000 a year, with many handymen bringing in over $30 an hour for the base pay rate. If home improvement appeals to you, a Washington handyman license can get you started on the road to business ownership and contracting.
For More License and Career Guides
To find out how to become a Handyman in another state, start here.
For information on other trades in Washington, click on a link below to learn more about the licensing requirements: