Are you thinking about starting your own contracting business in Colorado? Are you concerned about staying above-board with all the rules and regulations surrounding Colorado contractor licensing? Fear not, help is here.
Starting your own contracting business is one of the most exciting times of your career, but it’s also full of research and uncertainty. To help remove some of the doubt or confusion, Levelset put together this guide to Colorado contractor licensing. We want you to understand what you’ll need to work within regulation so you can focus on building your business, not navigating confusing statutes.
For more information on licensing in other states, check out The Ultimate Guide to Contractors License Requirements in Every State.
Table of Contents
Who needs a contractor license in Colorado?
Before we go much further, let’s get the bulk of the business out of the way. Knowing whether you need a license or not will determine how much of this article applies to you.
In Colorado, plumbing and electrical contractors must carry state-issued licenses. These contractors will have to meet certain on-the-job requirements and carry specific insurances. They’ll also have to fill out applications and pass examinations. We’ll dig further into these specifics in a bit.
There are no state-level requirements or licenses for general contractors in Colorado. There isn’t a test that a general contractor can take for a state-wide license.
That said, it doesn’t absolve general contractors from licensing altogether. And all businesses need to register with the state.
Importantly, individual municipalities often have their own requirements for general contracting within their city lines. General contractors without those licenses won’t be able to bid on jobs or pull permits within those cities, so it’s vital that you know what those standards are.
Luckily, we put together a compilation of some resources for you, and we’ll go over them further in this article.
Do you need a license to file a mechanics lien in Colorado?
While navigating licensing requirements may seem confusing, Colorado’s mechanics lien laws are quite simple.
Colorado mechanics lien law does not explicitly require a license to file a lien. So, you could potentially contract for a project that requires a license while being without the necessary license and still have rights to your payments if the customer doesn’t pay.
While that’s good news for your payments, do realize that working unlicensed in a trade or municipality that requires one is never a good idea. There could be liability outside of losing rights to your payments. Many of these municipalities will hit you with criminal charges and hefty fines.
The state of Colorado sees the offense of contracting without as a license is a Class 2 misdemeanor for the first offense. A second offense is a Class 6 felony.
Need to file a lien in Colorado? Make sure you read How to File A Colorado Mechanics Lien – Step By Step Guide To Get You Paid.
Licensing for Colorado electrical contractors
If you plan to work as an electrical contractor in Colorado, you’re going to need a license issued by the state. Licensing is a function of the Colorado Electrical Board. We’ve provided some background to help start your licensing journey.
Types of Colorado electrical licenses
Before you apply for an electrical license, you need to know which licenses you qualify for, and which you might need for your line of work.
There are three main types of electrical licenses:
1. Residential Wireman
- Eligible for working in residential settings only
- Requires 4,000 hours of residential experience
2. Journeyman Electrician
- Requires 8,000 hours of electrical work, 4,000 of which must be in a commercial or industrial setting
- Requires 288 hours of electrical education
3. Master Electrician* (select one of the following criteria):
- Requires 10,000 hours of electrical work, 4,000 of which must be in a commercial or industrial setting
- Experience must include planning, layout, and supervision experience
- Experience must be while holding a Journeyman license
- Hold an electrical engineering degree
- Also show 2,000 hours of practical experience as a registered apprentice
- Hold a community college or trade school degree in electrical construction or related field
- Also show 8,000 hours of practical experience as a Journeyman
If you are planning and laying out electrical projects, you’ll need a Master Electrician’s license. You can carry it, or you can hire a master electrician and work under their license.
*At of time of reporting, information on any testing needed to hold this license is unavailable online or over the phone due to COVID-19 office shutdowns.
Applying for a Colorado electrical contractor license
Applying for a license is pretty straightforward. To apply for your license, you’ll have to fill out the appropriate application online, as well as the Acknowledgment of Responsibility form. You’ll also have to include a $210 non-refundable application fee by credit card or electronic check. The state will also require proof of unemployment and workers’ comp insurance.
Once your application is complete, it’s just a standard waiting game. But you can check the status of your application by logging into the contractor portal.
Keep in mind that once you have your license, you’ll also have to register with the State as an Electrical Contractor. It requires an additional $210 registration fee and paperwork.
Licensing for Colorado plumbing contractors
Plumbing contractors must hold valid, state-issued licenses to work in the State of Colorado. Plumbing licensing falls under the auspices of the Colorado State Plumbing Board. This section will break down the requirements.
Types of plumbing licenses
Along with an apprenticeship, there are three types of plumbing licenses. Each has its own on-the-job time requirements to meet.
1. Residential Plumber
Must verify two years (3,400 hours) of practical plumbing experience.
2. Journeyman Plumber
Must verify four years (6,800 hours) of practical plumbing experience.
3. Master Plumber
Must verify five years (8,500 hours) of practical plumbing experience.
To run a plumbing contracting business, you must either hold a Master Plumber’s license or employ someone who has one.
Applying for a Colorado plumbing contractor license
Colorado does its best to streamline the application process by allowing you to complete it all online. You’ll have to create a login for the contractor portal, but once you do, you can fill out the appropriate application.
Similar to the electrical license process, you’ll have to prove you carry the appropriate workers’ comp and unemployment insurance. Once you submit your application, your Affidavit of Experience, the Acknowledgement of Responsibility, and the $210 fee, you’ll wait to hear back about your exam.
Once you receive your license, or hire a master plumber, you’ll also need to apply for a Plumbing Contractor License, complete with an additional $210 fee and paperwork.
Colorado contracting licenses by city
Even though you might not need a state-issued license to operate a general contracting business, there are many municipalities in Colorado that require you to hold a license or register your business with the local authorities.
The following is a breakdown of some of the most populated areas in Colorado with these types of regulations.
Contracting in Aurora, Colorado
Contractors working anywhere in Aurora need to obtain a license with the city’s Building Division. State-licensed plumbers and electrical contractors need to register so the city has their licenses on file.
All licensing, regardless of trades, uses this application for license. As far as trades go, here are just a handful of the individual licenses available:
- Commercial Building Contractors
- Residential Building Contractor
- Mechanical Systems Contractor
- Roofing Contractor
- Demolition Contractor
- Remodeling Contractor
- Fire Sprinkler Contractor
License application fees are $136.
Electricians and plumbers need to supply both the Master’s and Contractor’s licenses from the state.
Contracting in Boulder, Colorado
Any contractor working in Boulder, Colorado, will have to apply for a license with the city’s Planning and Development department. Fire alarm and sprinkler contractors will have to file through the city’s Fire Department.
Boulder follows the International Code Council’s classification system for General Contractors:
- Class A: Entitles the licensee to contract for the construction, alteration, wrecking, or repair of any type or size of building or structure permitted in the City of Boulder.
- Requires Class A Contractors certificate issued by the International Code Council (ICC)
- Class B: Entitles the licensee to contract for the construction, alteration, wrecking, or repair of all commercial buildings up to two stories and residential buildings or structures in the City of Boulder.
- Requires Class B Contractors certificate issued by the International Code Council (ICC)
- Class C: Entitles the licensee to contract for the construction of any detached one- and two-family dwelling units or townhomes and their accessory structures not more than two stories in height.
- Requires Class C Contractors certificate issued by the International Code Council (ICC)
Electricians and plumbers applying for licensing in Boulder must supply their state-issued Master’s and Contractor’s licenses.
Some of the specialty trade classifications include:
- Certified Arborist and Tree Contractor
- Right of Way Contractor
- Mechanical Contractor (including four sub-tiers for specific work)
Other than fire contractors, all contractors use the City of Boulder Planning and Development Services application. Fees range from $460 for a Class A GC’s license to $63.50 for Mechanical Contractors specializing in Boilers and Water Heaters.
Contracting in Colorado Springs, Colorado
If you’re working in the Colorado Springs/Pikes Peak area, there’s good news: You can handle most of your licensing needs with one authority. The Pikes Peak Regional Building Department manages the licensing for contractors working in Colorado Springs and many of the surrounding municipalities.
Pikes Peak Regional Building Department offers licensing for building, mechanical, and fire contractors. There are 13 different licenses for building contractors under which general contractors can find a suitable designation.
To receive a license, you’ll need to submit an application through the Pikes Peak Regional Building Department. You’ll also have to pass an ICC test and pay a license fee between $75 and $200. You’ll have to renew your license for that amount each year.
Contracting in Denver, Colorado
Denver has the most stringent requirements for licensing contractors in the state. Not only does it subscribe to the ICC method of contractor licensing and examination, but it also adds another step to the process.
Before contractors in the Denver area can get a license, they (or someone they employ) must hold a Denver supervisor’s certificate issued by the city’s Community Planning and Development division. This license is to certify that the person applying for it has actual hands-on experience in the applicable trade.
Denver supervisor certificate
There are several types of supervisor’s certificates, including:
- Electrical (including Access Control and Electrical Signal)
- Fire Protection
- Specialty Class D (Includes Signs, Roofing, Green Roofs, Tenant Finish, Drywall, Insulation, Framing, Antennas, and more)
Colorado electrical or plumbing license holders are exempt from the supervisor’s certificate requirements, but they still have to register with Community Planning and Development.
Types of general contracting licenses in Denver, Colorado
General contractors have several classes to apply for, each with its own requirements and stipulations.
General Contractor Class A
- Erect, add to, alter, demolish, or repair any building or structure
- Requires 7 years in building construction Field Engineer or General/Lead Superintendent in a commercial setting
- A B.S. or B.A. in Structural Engineering or Architecture counts for up to 3 years of experience
- A Project Management or Construction Management Degree counts for up to 1 year of experience
- Must pass ICC Exam #F11
Building Contractor Class B
- Erect, add to, alter, or repair any building or structure classified less than a high rise
- Requires 4 years in building construction fieldwork as a Field Engineer or General Superintendent in a commercial setting
- A B.S. or B.A. in Structural Engineering or Architecture counts for up to 2 years of experience
- Project Management experience or a Construction Management Degree counts for up to 1 year of experience
- Must pass ICC Exam #F12
Building Contractor B2
- Erect, add to, alter, or repair any building or structure with the highest floor level or occupiable roof at a height of 30 feet or less
- Requires four years in building construction fieldwork as a Field Engineer or General Superintendent on commercial buildings at a height of less than 30 feet
- A B.S. or B.A. in Structural Engineering or Architecture counts for up to 2 years of experience
- Project Management experience or a Construction Management degree counts for up to 1 year of experience
- Must pass ICC Exam #F12
Residential Contractor Class C
- Erect, add to, alter, or repair one and two-family dwellings and attached single-unit dwellings
- Requires 2 years in building construction fieldwork as a journeyman carpenter or construction foreman showing hands-on experience in the construction of single-family or two-family dwellings in all of the following areas: foundation, framing, and roofing.
- Up to 1 year of building construction design work can count for an equal amount of fieldwork.
- Must pass ICC Exam #F13
Note: Any of the experience used for these contracting exams needs to be within the last 10 years.
Denver license application
To apply for a license, you’ll have to create a login for the contractor portal and fill out your application online or mail it in.
You will have to submit notarized letters of experience with project dates, addresses, and supervisor signatures.
You’ll also need to supply an Affidavit of Lawful Presence proving you’re a legal US resident.
Application fees vary depending on the license. The time frame for review is 7 to 10 days for online applications and 14 days for mail-in. Payment isn’t due until your application is approved. After you receive notice of your approval, you can schedule your exam.
Contracting in Fort Collins, Colorado
Like most other municipalities in Colorado, Fort Collins mandates that contractors working within the limits hold a valid license with the city. Fort Collins also mandates that contractor applicants hold or hire someone who holds a supervisor’s certificate. Licensing goes through the City of Fort Collins Building Services.
General contractor licenses in Fort Collins
There are 14 classes of General Contractor licenses available in Fort Collins, each with its own stipulations, requirements, and projects allowed:
- Class A
- Authorized to construct, demolish, or deconstruct any building
- Class A (DR)
- Authorized to add additions to and/or make repairs and/or restore structural damage to any building
- Class B
- Authorized to construct, demolish, or deconstruct any building or structure up to 5 stories
- Class B (DR)
- Authorized to add additions to and/or make repairs and/or restore structural damage to any building up to 5 stories
- Class C1
- Authorized to construct or demolish any building or structure under 20,000 square feet in floor area and up to 3 stories
- Class C1 (DR)
- Authorized to add additions to and/or make repairs or restore structural damage to any building or structure under 20,000 square feet in floor area and/or 3 stories
- Class C2
- Authorized to construct or demolish any building or structure classified by the building code as Type V construction and a Group R or a Group U, Division 1 occupancy up to 3 stories
- Class C2 (DR)
- Authorized to make repairs or restoration to structural damage to any building or structure classified by the building code as Type V construction and Group R or Group U, Division 1 occupancy up to 3 stories
- Class D1 (Residential Only)
- Authorized to construct, demolish or deconstruct any building or structure classified by the building code as a Group R, Division 3 occupancy housing not more than two dwellings
- Class D2 (Residential Only)
- Authorized to construct, demolish or deconstruct residential garages or additions of Group U, Division 1 occupancies up to 1,000 square feet
- Class D (DR)
- Authorized to add additions to and/or make repairs or restoration to structural damage to any building or structure regulated under the building code as a Group R, Division 3 occupancy
- Class E (Residential)
- Authorized to perform any nonstructural alteration work to any residential building or structure regulated under the International Residential Code, including single-family, duplexes, and townhomes
- Class E (Commercial)
- Authorized to perform any nonstructural alteration work to any building or structure
- Class MM (Miscellaneous and Minor Structures)
- Authorized to construct, demolish or deconstruct detached structures such as shelters, storage sheds, playhouses, greenhouses, gazebos, unenclosed structures such as open carports, patio covers, open porches, and decks
Fort Collins specialty contractors
Fort Collins also requires specialized trades to carry a license. To qualify, an applicant needs to show proof of three completed projects in a supervisory role (as well as the supervisor certificate).
Some of the specialties include:
- Fire Alarm
- Fire Sprinkler
- Gas Piping
- Repair/ Replacement
- Pitched Roofs
- Pitched and Flat Roofs
- Wood Frame Construction
Fort Collins license application
The process for applying for a license in Fort Collins includes filling out an application with Building Services.
You’ll have to attach an Employee Affidavit, an Immigration Affidavit, City of Fort Collins Sales and Use tax certificate, your ICC exam certificate (once you pass), your general liability and workers’ comp details, and three project completions.
The fee for most applications is $75, but plumbers must pay a $200 biennial registration fee. Also, license-exempt contractors must pay the same as plumbers.
Getting paid as a contractor in Colorado
Regardless of the licensing statutes and rules where you work, there’s one thing for sure state-wide: Colorado contractors have to focus on managing positive cash flow to grow their businesses. Negative cash flow is the shovel that digs a hole from which you can’t get out.
The best way to improve your cash flow is by protecting your payments. Colorado contractors, subs, and suppliers should be sending preliminary notices on every project.
They also need to keep an eye on important deadlines, like the four-month mark after the last furnishing to file a mechanics lien. Or that they must supply a Notice of Intent to Lien 10 days before filing a lien.
Paying attention to these details will ensure you have the right to a mechanics lien if a customer’s slow payments start to affect your cash flow.