I tweeted recently about passing “my contractor’s exam.” And judging from some of the responses (totally supportive), I felt I needed to clear a few things up. But first — thank you, and oh, you are not following us on Twitter? Here you go  >> @BuildingMoxie.

Maryland State Logo

What Does This Mean?

By passing this test, I am NOT now a card-carrying licensed contractor.  I am not yet recognized by the Maryland Home Improvement Commission (MHIC).  And while passing this test does not mean I can instantly legally do work as a contractor, it also does not mean that I hold any new, special credential.  Simply put — I have only passed a pre-qualification exam.  This test however was one of two (in my eyes) important qualifications for the license in my state. (Below I’ll cover what other states require. And I’ll provide the full list of Maryland requirements in the More Moxie section at the bottom.)

This “licensing” exam does not test skill as a contractor. Rather it tests your knowledge of (construction) business principles (generally) and the laws of Maryland (specifically). It is based solely on the book Business and Project Management for Contractors – Maryland.

What to Expect on the Maryland Exam

And to answer your question — it was a little difficult, at least more difficult than I expected.  I mean – not the funnest read, a little technical at times, and with sections at a time that will never apply to ME . . . ever.  And maybe there, that’s the hardest part of the whole thing . . . simply stringing enough focus together to make it through the book in a somewhat cohesive fashion.Business and Project Management for Contractors Maryland

It is/was an open book test, but the test, the testmakers surely make it tricky.  While there were a few soft toss questions, most required analysis and the piecing together of information across several sections.  My personal recommendation (from hindsight) — read the book thoroughly, yes . . . but know the Code (different from building code) back to front.  (From the book, Appendices A, B, & C, with Appendix C covering the Door to Door Sales Act).


So What Does This Mean for Building Moxie?

So I passed my test (after being pre-qualified based on hands-on trade experience) and I give myself a little pat on the back.  To actually obtain my license, I would now have to apply.  To apply, I would have to fill out an application, including elements that prove my financial solvency. (For me — using my LLC Built on Ideas and Trade Name registered as Building Moxie.). I would then submit proof of insurance (Minimum $50K coverage), as well as make a payment of $100 to the state’s Homeowners Guaranty Fund (and yes, there’s a blog post here). The initial licensing fee is $325, and must be renewed every two years at a cost of $304.61 thereafter.

Quick aside — it always drives me a little nuts when contractors in our state advertise (the MHIC license number must be included in any advertisement) that they are both “Insured and Bonded” (bonding only needed for residential work if requirements for solvency are not met).  If a contractor is licensed, they have, in fact, been insured and bonded.

My scores are good for two years. While I have no immediate plans to activate my license, it was something I just wanted to do.  For me — the clock ticks.


Contractor Licensing Varies from State to State

I have known that licensing varies from state to state, but I decided to ask around and a few friends of our Facebook page (go ahead like it) responded with what was required in their states. What I found basically: the regulations under which home improvements are performed legally, vary widely (like the grand canyon) from state to state, with some variations rolling down even to the municipality level.  Here’s what I got:

States with Minimal Requirements

  • First Barry in Delaware — He pays a $75 (business) licensing fee to the state (no requirements).  He must be licensed in a number of the towns in which he works (along the Delaware shore).  This year he says, he will pay $800 to work in six towns.  Some, he says, require the business license and proof of insurance.
  • In New Jersey, and info provided by friends Design Build Profit — general contractors only need a state-issued New Jersey Home Improvement Contractors license (through Consumer Affairs), which merely consists of a felony background check and a fee. No testing, certifications, or other qualifications required.
  • Missouri contractor Paul Hamtil of the brother team at Hamtil Construction says, “Missouri does not require a license for those working as GCs.  Some municipalities (not all) require a license for a fee of $50-$75. They check liability and work comp certificates.  St. Louis City only requires a business license, no contractor’s license there.”

States with More Stringent Requirements

  • On the other end of the spectrum, painting contractor Chris Haught of RCPainting in Utah says her state has “a strong licensing program that requires continuing education and has a decent enforcement program.”  She then pointed me too this link.
  • Lastly Florida, and in line with the Chris’ info above – Jeremy Parcels of RJM Contractors says, “Excluding handymen (and the gray area there) all other (including those working in specific trades) contractors are required to be licensed.  There are basic requirements and a state exam.” He goes onto say that within this framework, there are three categories of contractors’ licensing: General, Building, and Residential. General contractors are the highest on the food chain and their services are unlimited. Building contractors may construct commercial buildings, single, or multifamily dwellings but nothing higher than three stories. Residential can build, remodel or repair 1, 2, or 3 family residences not more than 2 stories.  In my eyes, certainly a well developed framework.

A National Standard?

In doing a quick search across Google — you’ll find a frequent call for a national standard.  It’s prominently voiced (as reported) here.   In this same article, you’ll find what looks like accurate national stats on licensing.  Here, maybe if you’d like to try to figure it out yourself, plus a list of the governing boards with contacts.


Again thanks for your support & thanks for reading. If you are licensed in a state and you are not listed here, please feel to drop your info in the comments section below. ~jb

More Moxie

Maryland’s site is pretty informative, and while I wanted to include the state recommended reading list, no time. Wanna get your license in MD? Start here: http://www.dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic/

Here is the “semi-full” list of Maryland state requirements: http://www.dllr.state.md.us/license/mhic/mhicapply.shtml#req.  I list the ones below that apply across all possible forms of “incorporation”.

  • All applicants must take and pass the licensing exam before they can apply for a license.
  • Applicants for a contractor’s license must provide proof of at least two years of experience in home improvement work, construction and/or related education.
  • Applicants must provide proof of financial solvency based on the scope and size of their business in relation to total assets, liabilities, credit rating and net worth.
  • Proof of current $50,000 liability insurance filed with the application for licensure.

28 thoughts on “Building Moxie Archive: For Pros Only: Home Improvement Commission License Exam (Maryland – General Contractors) :: Building Moxie Takes a Test and Passes

  1. Great post! I guess I missed your announcement. Congrats on the exam!

    By the way, in PA the Home Improvement Contractor license requires a $90 fee per year and information, including driver’s license for all owners. You must certify that each owner and the company has not been charged with felony, theft, consumer fraud, filed bankruptcy or been accused in last 10 years of home improvement violation.

  2. JB, Thanks for clearing that up! I did assume you had completed all the requirements for the license. Sheesh, that’s a lot of hoops. I guess I should be grateful that MO does not have a similar program? I’ve always believed that we should, though, to help legitimize those who are truly committed to being professional. It’s crazy but not surprising to me how much this varies from state to state… Angie may be on to something… but that’s an uphill battle to overhaul the system.

    Congrats again on your pre-certification and all the best in your future endeavors!

  3. Congrats again JB & nice explanation. The one catch with listing Licensed & Insured is it lets everyone know you supposedly are insured (they still should check). In many customers minds if they don’t see those words, well the automatic assumption is that they aren’t.

    Alabama has a similar test for both residential “Homebuilders board” & another one for Commercial “General Contractors board”. No insurance requirement on the residential side and the licenses are only required if you do projects valued at 10K & 50K respectively.

  4. Licensing, registration, etc.: what a motley, nutty, inconsistent mix. Congrats on doing the right thing, JB, and on having the patience to wade through the muck.
    (unlicensed editor)

  5. I missed your announcement on Twitter as well…. but CONGRATS!!! *cue the streamers*

    I know when I took my test to become a certified interior designer here in California it was trickier than the NCIDQ. I think I read more than I ever wanted to know about grey water to last a lifetime and it will never come into my work, either. That being said, I’m glad I took the test to prove my worth…. unlike some “designers” who insist on not taking the test but want to be called a designer anyway. */side rant*

    Congrats, bro!

  6. Congrats. That is quite a feat. I admire your tenacity and cheery spirit about all of this. You certainly have moxie! Big smooches (in an unlicensed way of course).

  7. First of all one last congratulations to you! Secondly I like the article promotion of state contractor’s licensing requirements increases consumer awareness. Consumers need to know the law for their well being and their safety. The NAHB and licensed contractors can all help each other by continuing to get the word out. It is more than just the knowledge and the license that are important the liability insurances and bonds that we are required to carry safeguard consumers unlicensed contractors inevitably cost the home owner and all us tax payers money. Great post my friend!

  8. Congrats, again, my twitter friend :-) and great post showing the differences between state’s contractor licenses. Bottom line: know before you go (get a contractor).

  9. wow… it seems like in PA the requirements are a little more lenient but the penalties are much harsher. If I remember correctly and while all that stuff about felonies holds true, you can reapply after only six months from a h.i. related violation. (don’t hold me on that — probably missed that question.) and thanks for your congrats Amy — you certainly have been one of our biggest supporters. g’day!

  10. disclaimer :: this post was written specifically for you, Bill. and again thanks for the congrats. Know before you go! and I just hope this can help someone else out there.

  11. a subtle but effective point at the end Leah. and I have had this discussion a handful of times recently, promoting the business is all but on hold until I know for sure when and what I am going to do with this. as always — I love it when you pop in! hope all is well. Tomorrow a little from Barry on why we need some reg. of contractors…. a little scariness uncovered on a job this week.

  12. your congratulatory smooches have unlimited authority around here. thanks A and thanks for comment y’day! I’ll see if my man Jesse gets back. he wants to do it again.

  13. Sean — I am so glad you jumped on. Thanks for telling us a little bit about Alabama. and very good point to my “it bugs me” – I guess I am just privy to that knowledge… and yes — it’d be interesting to look at the history of the law here specifically (though I probably should know it) — and yeah you never know because there is that disparity state to state. Never assume always check as we like to say. Thanks for your congrats and hope things have been better down your way. ~jb

  14. as you suggested on the side, and I do think the underlying motivation is to see who is “truly committed”. In fact — the first section in this book is called “Why Businesses Fail” (or something to that sort). I guess I really haven’t thought about it too much – because it is what I know. In the end it is a business decision more than anything and for me — the time isn’t exactly right, but in taking the test — total cost around $120 — it gives me something to fall back on (if that makes sense) and the confidence to know that I can in fact meet the requirements. Paul thanks for taking the time to provide your info and my apologies again for initially spelling your name incorrectly. We have a Lin Toe (@SLSConstruction) and a Ham Till < assume that's how you pronounce. great day my friend. ~jb

  15. Jeremy thank YOU for the assist. I mean this post (and I am always one for pull back the curtain) was less I hope about me promoting myself (actually I’d tell you not to hire me . . . to do certain things) as it was about — progress, setting the record straight, and subtly saying — hey there is a huge gap — but as a consumer, there are laws in place to HELP PROTECT YOU. Learn them.

    Now I’ll toot my horn a bit — I mean — I like where we are with this blog… get to help educate (I hope) both segments. << now that's me just babbling. thanks for the congrats Jeremy and for your comment.

  16. I mean — I’d love it if there was an (an easily accessible/affordable/widely recognized) cert that displays my construction knowledge. This was as I said more of a business exam — interesting too to point out that though it tests project management skill — my time in the field as construction manager was wholly ignored in the process. though it did make me feel good that I met the hands-on minimum and I do think that element is very, very important to anyone that can write a contract for home improvements.

    thank ya sis! and good to rock with you.

    Just gotta idea – want do a designer cert. rant? and maybe in it, you can explain NCIDQ. *furrowed eyebrow* your thoughts, comments and posts are always welcome. *hearts*

  17. Congrats man! Never new how the laws varied from state to state! Glad to see your well on your way to being a fully licensed contractor…Heard the test is pretty intense! You must be a smart man:)

  18. thanks Eric… as Jeremy describes above FLA for sure sounds tough. Mine not too bad. not a total slam dunk… but passable if you read the book — which I did… it in this case just kinda gives me a little job insurance. and the misses and I was JUST talking long term plans last night. great weekend my friend! ~jb

  19. Sean, good to read your point here on “it lets everyone know you supposedly are insured” . Interesting that in the years I have been selling remodeling work, I can count on 2 hands the number of people who have asked if we are insured. I can count on one hand those who have requested a certificate. Also, I know for a fact that some contractors have been dropping work comp to save money through the economic downturn. Too many people take for granted that contractors are operating on the up and up.

  20. In Texas, there is no state license to be a gc. Builders USED to be required to “register” with the state, but that was discontinued in 2009. Certain areas of home building/remodeling need to be licensed, such as A/C, plumbing, electrical, architects, etc. I was required to get a Home Repair License for work done in the City of Dallas (consists of filling out a form, writing a check), but most of the cities in the area don’t require anything.

    Honestly, I think it is pretty strange that there aren’t more requirements.

    Great article, Jb –

  21. thanks Audrey — I will say that the requirements for “trades” workers seems pretty consistent. Also most it seems do require at least, as you mentioned, a business license as a matter of well — “knowing who you are.” And I guess for the most part I think it is the way it is here because of our high density of aging housing stock < but that's just a guess. I am not 100% certain on this, but I think builders are required only to have a registration/biz license — no testing there. And thanks for chiming in. Happy Sunday. ~jb

  22. This was very informative…..Where can I get the book Business and project management for contractors ?

  23. Hi JB,

    Is the NASCLA manual the only book that you needed to pass the exam in MD, or are there others that I need to get?


  24. John I am sorry it has been so long, I am drawing a blank. Can’t remember if there was convergence between the 2 exams. Maybe someone else might stumble along one day and have a comment. Otherwise best of luck. ~jb

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