How to Become a Home Improvement Contractor

Learn how to become a home improvement contractor. Research the training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in home improvement contracting.

Do I Want to Be a Home Improvement Contractor?

Home improvement contractors restore, update and expand pre-existing residential buildings. Often trained as carpenters, these professionals might then direct other carpenters, laborers or various types of construction workers to accomplish the renovations. Work is often physically demanding, and tasks taking place outdoors must sometimes be accomplished in all sorts of weather conditions. Construction deadlines might cause a certain amount of stress, in addition.

Job Requirements

Carpenters should have a high school diploma and normally learn their skills through a 3-4 year apprenticeship. Contractors typically have considerable experience as a carpenter, as well as a background in business administration. Licenses, permits and registration may be required depending on local regulations. The table below outlines the requirements to become a home improvement contractor.

Common Requirements
Degree Level None required*
Licensure or Certification Licensing requirements vary by state**; voluntary certification programs are available***
Experience May be gained through apprenticeships or on-the-job training*
Key Skills Manual dexterity; good problem-solving skills; stamina to lift, climb and stand for long periods of time*
Technical Skills Know how to use and operate common hand and power tools, how to measure accurately, how to read plans*
Additional Requirements Physical strength*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **State licensing boards, ***National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Step 1: Pursue Career Training

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that many individuals in the construction industry are trained on the job through apprenticeships or through completion of a technical program. Some schools offer semester-long courses specifically designed to prepare students for the home improvement contractor license exam in a particular state.

Alternatively, a career diploma program in home remodeling and repair may allow for independent study in reading construction plans, installing fixtures and remodeling rooms. Programs might also cover business topics such as accounting and marketing.

Step 2: Obtain Licensure or Registration

Depending on local regulations, home improvement contractors may be required to register with their city or state and/or obtain licenses. Requirements vary, and both construction and business licenses may be necessary. Independent contractors must also register as state business taxpayers.

In some states, a candidate must pass a licensing exam on home improvement laws and business and labor laws. In other jurisdictions, individuals might have to acquire a home improvement contractor license plus a home improvement salesperson license or registration in order to negotiate contracts with homeowners. Some states require construction licenses in home improvement.

Step 3: Earn a College Degree

According to the BLS, a college degree and basic business skills are recommended for construction contractors. A bachelor's degree in construction science can provide training in business management and building techniques.

Step 4: Consider Certification

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) offers voluntary certification to those with a minimum of five years of experience in the home improvement industry. The NARI certification exam covers codes, laws, safety standards and industry-specific skills. Certification demonstrates a level of professional knowledge and experience to homeowners.

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