How to Get Your General Contractor’s License in Tennessee

Disclaimer Note: The content in is blog is just for informational purposes ONLY. We ARE NOT licensed, certified, or a party/entity to provide licensing. Please refer to your state’s board on current processes for where and how to get your license.

For active, driven, and enthusiastic people, there’s no better work than that of a general contractor. In addition to the hands-on construction work you may engage in, you also get the satisfaction of seeing a wide array of projects through to completion.

If you happen to live and work in the state of Tennessee, you’ll probably be required to obtain a license in order to become a general contractor. All bidding and work done by any contractor in the state must be licensed once a project exceeds $25,000 in cost.

At OnePointe Solutions, over the years, we have worked side by side with general contractors across the country and even internationally to provide exceptional service and high quality solutions. Through our partnerships, we’ve designed and manufactured water treatment labs, classrooms cabinets, custom workbenches for warehouses, as well as plastic laminate cabinets, epoxy tops and more!

Job Description: General Contractor

General contractors engage in an exciting, active, and ever-changing workplace. As a general contractor, you can expect to spend your time supervising projects and overseeing the behind-the-scenes work that many don’t consider when they think about construction.

There are two primary settings for general contractors when it comes to their job. The first mode of work revolves around paperwork and clerical duties.

When a project first begins, a contractor will be required to consider the needs of the client. In addition to reviewing existing structures and drafting plans, a general contractor will also have to engage in price negotiations.

During this initial phase, general contractors can expect to fulfill the following duties:

  • Meeting with construction estimators to discuss the probable cost of a proposed project
  • Discussing the most cost-effective way to solve the problems at hand
  • Engaging in negotiations with subcontractors and material suppliers
  • Creating, reviewing, and revising drafts and plans

After this, a general contractor will move into the more active phase of the project. In this capacity, general contractors become project overseers.

Along in this phase, general contractors will reach out to us to purchase furniture for their projects. For this guide, let’s say the project was for a breakroom.

In this case we would design and manufacture standard and custom laminate cabinets for storage of food and supplies. They look great in any setting, cost-effective and we carry a variety of colors, brands and finishes.

To see some of our plastic laminate offerings, view our brochures below:

For countertops, we would provide either solid surface, maple block, stainless steel, granite or quartz countertops depending on the specifications of the job. These options compliment the casework beautifully, make a statement, and are easy to maintain with being in a medium to high traffic environment. All together, these pieces create the ideal breakroom for any business.

At OnePointe Solutions, for virtually any project or job, we can help.

There is still some clerical work for this position, but it mostly revolves around staying on top of job site conditions.

Some of the main responsibilities of a general contractor during construction are:

  • Managing and ensuring the safety of all workers
  • Providing proper proof of liability and personal insurance for all workers
  • Ensuring and approving the quality of a project
  • Providing guidance to on-site workers
  • Scheduling workers in accordance with weather, routines, and completion status

Special Skills & Qualifications

With so many responsibilities, general contractors need to be multi-talented individuals. Great general contractors can work under pressure.

The ability to calmly handle multiple problems at once is a major benefit to any prospective general contractor. An outgoing personality will aid in negotiations with workers, businesses, and material suppliers.

These personal traits are also bolstered by the requisite skills needed by any general contractor. If you’re looking at becoming a general contractor, you should start polishing up on the following areas of expertise:

  • Understanding and knowing all safety requirements for workers and buildings
  • Handling multiple schedules at once
  • Knowing how to read, draft, and understand blueprints and plans
  • Understanding common construction jargon
  • In-depth insight into current trends in both construction and functional needs
  • Financial literacy

Qualifications to Become a General Contractor in Tennessee

In comparison to other states, it’s fairly easy to obtain a general contractor license in Tennessee. Individuals will need to meet certain requirements, but it is not essential to have any specific degree or background.

However, it is worth noting that there are two primary tiers of general contractors in Tennessee. The first tier is that of a Home Improvement Contractor.

This license only entitles you to work on smaller projects; you cannot work on any project exceeding $25,000 in cost.

In many cases, this license also prohibits you from working on HVAC and electrical systems.

The second tier of licensing in Tennessee will allow work on any project, and it is further broken into three distinct categories.

  • Prime (General) Contractor licenses allow you to work directly with clients; in legal terms, you are entitled to work directly with the owner of the property. Obtaining this license entitles you to perform all necessary work on any project, including small-scale endeavors.
  • Subcontractor licenses are similarly limited. You can work directly with a contractor, though you do not necessarily work for or with the owner of the property.
  • Construction Management licenses are more general. These are required for projects exceeding $25,000 in cost.


All general contractor applicants in Tennessee are required to pass at least one exam. The business and law exam must be taken and passed to obtain any type of contractor license.

In addition to this exam, applicants will need to take trade exams. These tests cover topics such as construction safety, methods, and practice.

Each building class in Tennessee has its own trade exam; the exam must be passed to work on the specific type of building. Some exams also cover and are required for working on different utilities, such as plumbing and electrical systems.


While experience is not required, it will give you an edge and help you obtain a license. All applications for contractor licenses include a section for listing your personal work experience.

Being able to demonstrate past involvement in projects, regardless of their size, demonstrates your personal ability to handle the common challenges presented to a general contractor.

Tennessee General Contractor Licensing Fee Overview

In general, a basic single class general contractor license will cost $310–$360. This includes the cost of exams and the required application fee.

The total cost breaks down as follows:

  • Business and Law Exam: $55
  • Trade Exam: $55 per test
  • New License Application Fee: $250
  • License Renewal Fee: $200

In addition to these costs, you will also need to obtain proof of insurance for yourself and your workers. When your application is submitted, the relevant proof of insurance papers must be included.

Average Tennessee General Contractor Salary & Benefits

The annual pay and benefits of a general contractor in Tennessee depend heavily upon the scope of work provided and their employment status. Self-employed contractors may make more during lucrative years, though they may face shortages and benefits issues when construction is not as popular.

On average, a general contractor in Tennessee can expect a salary of $27,000–$110,000 or more per year!

The Path to Become a General Contractor in Tennessee

With all of this information in mind, let’s review the basic steps to becoming a licensed general contractor in Tennessee.

1. Determine Your Field of Work

Before you can begin your journey, you’ll need to determine what sort of work you’ll want to do. Unless your free time and budget allow for you to take all of the trade exams, knowing which trade you want to specialize in.

There are six trade exams; each entitles you to work on different structures, systems, and projects.

  • General (BC) allows you to work and bid on any project. However, depending on your location, you may be limited when working with utilities or HVAC.
  • Residential (BC-A) licenses only entitle you to work on residential structures. Under Tennessee law, this is classified as any domestic structure with less than three stories.
  • Limited Residential (BC-A/r) grants the same permissions as a BC-A license but limits your work to single-family dwellings. Moreover, you are not allowed to work on any project with a value exceeding $125,000.
  • Commercial (BC-B) licenses enable you to work on all commercial buildings. The primary focus for this category of licensing is repair, improvement, and remodeling.
  • Small Commercial (BC-b(sm)) licenses are similar to BC-B. You can work on commercial structures, but you are limited to projects of $750,000 or less.
  • Industrial (BC-C) licenses are extremely specialized. Under this classification, you can only work on industrial structures, such as power plants. These are big-ticket items, though the availability of work in this field is often limited.

2. Take the Exams

After figuring out which line of work you prefer to specialize in, you need to take and pass both exams. Information about scheduling, taking, and passing the exams can be found on the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance’s website.

3. Obtain Proof of Insurance

To cover any future issues, general contractors must obtain proof of liability and personal insurance for themselves and any workers in their care. Exact requirements are listed on the state’s website.

In general, larger projects require more insurance. If you plan on employing workers, you will also need to provide proof of worker’s compensation coverage for each employee.

4. (Optional) Register Your Business

Unless you plan on exclusively dealing with subcontractors, you will likely need to register your general contracting work as a business. This allows for you to employ workers.

If you’re interested in starting a general contracting business, check out our guide below:

5. Submit Application

Once all of the documentation is gathered and complete, you can submit your application. This can be done by mail or online.

Regardless of the method you choose, you will need to include your $200–$250 application fee. If you are mailing your application, you can send it to:

Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors
500 James Robertson Pkwy.
Nashville, TN 37243

After you have done this, allow the licensing board 4–6 weeks to review and (hopefully) approve your application!

Need Help with Your Project?

If you’re a general contractor in Tennessee or another state in the U.S., we can bring the best products and solutions to you. If you need plastic laminate cabinets for a facility, replacement stainless steel tops for a remodel or help with a lab design, we can make a solution for you.

We work with you to make your vision a reality and ensure it fits within your budget. Give us a call at 866-222-7494 to speak with a project specialist today!

Questions? Concerns? Want to start today? Get in touch. 866.612.7312

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