General Contractor License

A City of Chicago general contractor license is required to perform most types of building construction, alteration, repair, and demolition work within the City of Chicago. A general contractor must comply with the consumer protection requirements applicable to licensed home repair companies when performing residential work but is not required to obtain a separate home repair license.

General contractor licenses are issued by the Department of Buildings.

Frequently Asked Questions

When is a general contractor license required?

A general contractor license is required before undertaking the following activities for compensation, as an investment, or with the intent to sell or lease real property to others:

  • Preparing or submitting a bid, proposal, or offer to undertake a regulated activity
  • Undertaking, either directly or through others, a regulated activity
  • Hiring or supervising one or more persons carrying out a regulated activity
  • Exercising control over the means, methods, or manner of accomplishing a regulated activity

A “regulated activity” means any type of work that:

  • Requires a permit from the Department of Public Health for sandblasting, grinding, or chemical washing
  • Requires a permit from the Department of Buildings for sewer work
  • Requires a sign permit, building permit, or demolition (wrecking) permit from the Department of Buildings
  • Is exempt from obtaining a building permit under Section 402 of the Chicago Construction Codes Administrative Provisions
  • Is undertaken pursuant to a stormwater management plan required by the Stormwater Management Ordinance

A general contractor license is not required for:

  • An individual or business performing a regulated activity under the supervision and control of a licensed general contractor, such as a subcontractor or employee of a licensed general contractor.
  • An individual or business merely furnishing materials or supplies for use at a construction or demolition site without fabricating them into, or consuming them in the performance of, a regulated activity.
  • A City-licensed board-up company, drain layer, electrical contractor, elevator mechanic contractor, plumbing contractor, or mason contractor and employees of these types of licensed contractors acting within the scope of the license.
  • An Illinois-licensed architect, professional engineer, professional land surveyor, or structural engineer licensed by the State of Illinois acting within the scope of the license.
  • A person who contracts with a licensed general contractor to carry out a regulated activity at the person's property, provided that the contract provides for the licensed general contractor to exercise supervision and control over the regulated activity.
  • A property owner, or employee or agent of the property owner, including a tenant authorized to perform such work, who performs a type of activity at the owner’s property that is not required to obtain a building permit pursuant to Section 14A-4-402 of the Chicago Construction Codes Administrative Provisions.
  • A governmental entity and employees of the governmental entity for work at property owned or controlled by the governmental entity and performed by employees of the governmental entity.

For regulated activities, except excavation work and demolition work, an individual is not required to obtain a general contractor license for work at a property that is the individual’s primary residence if the primary residence is either:

  • A single-family residential building
  • A multiple-family residential building that is no more than three stories in height and contains six or fewer dwelling units

An individual may only claim the primary residence exception for one property during a calendar year.

Who can perform work under a general contractor license?

A general contractor license authorizes permitted construction, demolition, and building rehabilitation work to be performed by the licensed business, its employees, its subcontractors, and its subcontractors’ employees, excluding types of work that require a board-up company license, crane operator license, drain layer contractor license, electrical contractor license, elevator mechanic contractor license, mason contractor license, or plumbing contractor license.

Any entity performing construction, demolition, or building rehabilitation work that is not subject to the supervision and control of the general contractor (for example, a person or business that contracts directly with the owner) must have its own license and be listed on the permit.

Subcontractors that are not required to have a drain layer contractor licenseelectrical contractor licenseelevator mechanic contractor licensemason contractor license, or plumbing contractor license based on the type of work they are performing (for example, a painting subcontractor or HVAC subcontractor) are only required to be listed on the permit if the subcontractor will be responsible for scheduling permit inspections with the Department of Buildings.

Are there different types of general contractor licenses?

Yes, there are five classifications of general contractor licenses:

1.  The value of a project is the fair market value of materials and labor provided by all contractors and subcontractors as part of all concurrent and consecutive regulated activities at the same site.

2. For full insurance requirements, see Section 4-36-090 of the Municipal Code.

License Classification Maximum Project Value 1 Type of Demolition Activity Allowed Minimum Insurance Required 2
Class A General Contractor unlimited ordinary or complex $5 million per occurrence (primary or umbrella)
Class B General Contractor $10 million ordinary or complex $3 million per occurrence (primary or umbrella)
Class C General Contractor $5 million ordinary $1 million per occurrence and $2 million aggregate
Class D General Contractor $2 million ordinary $1 million per occurrence and $2 million aggregate
Class E General Contractor $500,000 none $1 million per occurrence

Who may obtain a general contractor license?

General contractor licenses are issued to businesses, including sole proprietorships.

What is required to obtain a general contractor license?

The following are required as part of a general contractor license application:

  • A completed City of Chicago general contractor license application
  • A statement of financial solvency (in the format that is part of the application)
  • Proof that the applicant is authorized to do business in Illinois (not required for sole proprietors)
  • If the applicant is doing business under an assumed name, an Assumed Name Certificate issued by the County Clerk
  • Proof of insurance in the amount required by the class of license applied for
  • Certification that the insurer is rated B+ or better
  • Copies of government-issued photo identification documents:
    • For an individual (sole proprietor): ID for the applicant and ID for any other individual who signed the application or supporting affidavit
    • For a corporation: ID for the corporation's president, local manager, or local director and ID for any other individual who signed the application or supporting affidavit
    • For a limited liability corporation (LLC): ID for the managing member and ID for any other individual who signed the application or supporting affidavit
    • For a general partnership: ID for the partner(s) primarily responsible for day-to-day management decisions and ID for any other individual who signed the application or supporting affidavit
    • For a limited partnership (LP): ID for the managing partner(s) and ID for any other individual who signed the application or supporting affidavit

How do I apply for a new general contractor license?

Continental Testing Services processes general contractor license applications and renewals on behalf of the Department of Buildings.

Application and renewal forms are available on the Continental Testing Services web site and must be submitted to Continental Testing Services by mail.

How do I renew an existing general contractor license?

Continental Testing Services processes general contractor license renewals on behalf of the Department of Buildings.

Renewal forms are available on the Continental Testing Services web site and must be submitted to Continental Testing Services by mail.

Proof of current insurance must be submitted to Continental Testing Services by mail.

How much does a general contractor license cost?

License Classification License Fee Renewal Fee
Class A $2,000.00 $2,000.00
Class B   $1,000.00 $1,000.00 
Class C $750.00 $750.00
Class D $500.00 $500.00
Class E $300.00 $300.00

How long is a general contractor license valid?

A general contractor license is valid for one year from issuance.

A general contractor license is automatically inactivated if the associated insurance policy expires. Proof that an insurance policy has been renewed must be submitted to Continental Testing Services by mail.

Ordinances and Rules 

Municipal Code of Chicago, Chapter 4-36: Licensing of General Contractors

This information is provided to help you better understand licensing requirements in the City of Chicago. It may not reflect all conditions, limitations, or exceptions that may apply to a particular situation and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. To the extent the information on this page differs from the Municipal Code of Chicago or applicable rules, the ordinance or rule controls. 

Supporting Information Facts