Texas Contractor License Search

What You Should Know about Hiring a Contractor in Texas

In Texas, over 600,000 licensed contractors across various fields are ready to take on any project at a moment's notice. Hiring an appropriately licensed, bonded, and insured contractor gives you the confidence that a qualified professional will provide your required services and protects you from financial liability from work-related accidents and property damage. Selecting a contractor and verifying their credentials carefully also helps you avoid subpar work, safety hazards, and potential scams while ensuring that your project meets relevant industry standards.

While Texas contractors are primarily regulated at the city level, a few professionals (like plumbers and electricians) require state-issued licenses. Whatever the case, considering the following points before hiring contractors in Texas can help you make the right choice:

Who Is a Contractor in Texas?

Texas contractors are professionals who offer services in exchange for compensation. These services are usually based on written or oral agreements and typically involve improving real property through construction, building, repair, alteration, demolishing, and other similar activities. The licensing and regulation of these contractors is generally handled at the city level by local building departments; however, professionals like electricians, plumbers, and HVACR technicians require state-issued licenses to ply their trade in the Lone Star State. Texas contractors are generally grouped into two main categories:

  • General Contractors: General contractors typically act as the primary point of contact for individuals looking to undertake construction or home improvement projects and help them manage and supervise these projects. Their responsibilities include hiring subcontractors, pulling permits, supervising workers, and ensuring all tasks are completed on time and satisfactorily. Some general contractors also perform available construction work (excluding tasks that require specialty licenses unless they hold these licenses themselves). General contractors in Texas do not need a state-issued license but must comply with local requirements. For example, while Houston has no licensing or registration requirements for general contractors, they must obtain a permit for each job they undertake. On the other hand, general contractors who wish to operate in San Antonio must first register with the city's Development Services Department.

Texas general contractors can be further sub-grouped into three categories based on their areas of specialization:

  • Residential Contractors: These contractors specialize in projects related to single-family homes, multi-family buildings, apartments, condominiums, and other residential structures.
  • Commercial Contractors: These contractors specialize in projects involving commercial property, like office buildings, shopping malls, and hotels.
  • Industrial Contractors: These contractors specialize in large-scale construction projects for industrial facilities, such as factories, power plants, and refineries.
  • Specialty Contractors: Specialty contractors are professionals who focus on specific construction-related trades, like electrical work, plumbing, HVACR system installations, carpentry, roofing, masonry, and painting. They may work as subcontractors to handle particular tasks within larger projects or interact directly with a client for specific (usually small) projects. In addition to complying with local registration requirements, some specialty contractors may also need to obtain a state-issued license before offering their services. These include electricians and HVACR technicians, who must be licensed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR), and plumbers, who must be licensed by the Texas State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE).

How to Search for a Contractor's License in Texas

Contractor regulation in Texas is generally handled locally by individual cities; however, some professionals like plumbers, HVACR contractors, and electricians are licensed at the state level by the State Board of Plumbing Examiners (TSBPE) and Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR).

You can use the Uhire Professional License Search tool to check whether your prospective Texas contractors have been appropriately licensed and have complied with other relevant regulatory requirements. You can also contact your local building department to check the registration status of your prospective contractor and verify state-issued licenses using the TDLR's Active License Data Search portal (for electricians and HVACR contractors) and the TSBPE's Find a License portal (for plumbers). These platforms let you conduct searches based on the contractor's name, location, license type, and number.

Penalty for Hiring a Contractor Without a License in Texas

It is always in your best interest to hire properly licensed contractors, regardless of the scope of your required services. Engaging the services of contractors who are either unlicensed (or failed to register with local regulatory authorities, where applicable) can pose significant risks to your health, safety, and wallet. Some of these risks are as follows:

  • Financial and legal liabilities: Unlicensed and unregistered contractors typically don't carry insurance and bonding. This exposes you to liabilities if accidents and injuries occur during your project or if the contractor reneges on the terms of your contract.
  • Subpar service delivery: The licensing process typically involves the contractor passing a competency test to demonstrate their skill and expertise. By hiring an unlicensed contractor, you risk retaining the services of an unskilled and inexperienced individual, ultimately leading to unsatisfactory services and potential safety hazards.
  • Code violations and sanctions: Contractors that have failed to comply with relevant regulatory requirements cannot obtain necessary permits. Undertaking projects without pulling required permits can lead to fines and other locally-imposed administrative sanctions and even reduce your property's value.

Be aware that hiring an unlicensed or inappropriately licensed individual for electrical work in Texas is considered a Class C misdemeanor that carries a statutory penalty of up to $500 in fines. Contractors who offer their services without appropriate state licensing or compliance with applicable local regulatory requirements also face statutory penalties and administrative sanctions.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge in Texas?

You can expect to pay an average of $50 - $90 per hour when hiring specialty contractors in Texas. However, the exact cost of engaging these professionals depends on factors like the type of contractor being hired, their level of experience, and the labor intensity of the job.

Average hourly rates for several kinds of specialty contractors in Texas are provided in the table below (note that actual rates may vary based on your location and the contractor's reputation):

$65 - $105
$70 - $120
HVACR Technicians
$65 - $100
$50 - $75
$40 - $60
$50 - $100
Flooring Contractors
$40 - $85
$45 - $85
$50 - $95
$70 - $185
Interior Designers
$60 - $150
Excavation Contractors
$70 - $155
Concrete Contractors
$45 - $85
$40 - $80
Appliance Repair Technicians
$45 - $90
$50 - $95
Cleaning Services
$40 - $100
$50 - $150

When undertaking construction, building, and major home remodeling or repair projects, hiring a general contractor to manage your project saves you the time and stress of dealing with multiple subcontractors, vendors, and laborers. General contractors in Texas typically charge 10 to 20 percent of the project's total cost for their services. Actual fees are usually calculated using the following pricing models:

  • Lump Sum Pricing: Here, the contractor offers a fixed price for agreed-upon services (they typically include a markup when preparing their estimates to cover unforeseen incidents). This pricing model is preferred for projects with a clear scope and well-defined timeline.
  • Cost Plus Pricing: Here, the contractor bills for work as it is done and charges a separate, pre-determined amount for their services. This model is preferred for projects with an unclear scope and timeline. However, you should consider setting a maximum price cap to avoid overall costs ballooning out of control.

The average cost of construction, building, and major home remodeling projects in Texas typically ranges from $90 - $145 per square foot, with overall costs dependent on variables like the following:

  • The project's scope
  • Your location
  • Accessibility to the project site and site conditions
  • The experience, expertise, and reputation of involved contractors
  • Materials costs
  • Contractor fees
  • The urgency of the project
  • Permit costs, labor fees, and other related expenses

Tips for Hiring a Contractor in Texas

Hiring skilled, experienced, and reliable contractors ensures that your construction, building, and home remodeling or repair project is executed successfully and satisfactorily. Therefore, whether undertaking a large project or planning minor repairs and improvements, follow the tips provided below to ensure you select the right contractor for the job:

  • Get a clear idea of your project. This includes determining the kinds of contractors needed to execute it.
  • Get and compare bids from several contractors (at least two or three).
  • Contact your local building department to confirm whether your preferred contractors have complied with all applicable regulatory requirements. If your project requires electricians, HVACR contractors, or plumbers, you can verify that they have valid state-issued licenses online via the TDLR's Active License Data Search portal (for electricians and HVACR contractors) and the TSBPE's Find a License portal (for plumbers).
  • Always request and check references.
  • Confirm that your contractors are adequately insured and bonded.
  • Make sure you get a written contract before any work starts. This contract should describe the work to be done, materials, a projected timeline, total cost, a payment schedule, and the contractor's obligation to pull all required permits.
  • Always review any documents you are asked to sign before doing so.
  • Limit down payments to a maximum of 30 percent of the project's total cost. Never pay the full project cost upfront, and do not let payments get ahead of the work.
  • Avoid cash payments.
  • Keep all project-related paperwork carefully organized and at hand.

Is Your Contractor Insured and Bonded as Required by Texas Statutes?

The insurance requirements for Texas contractors typically depend on the type of license they hold and the jurisdiction they intend to operate in. For example, Houston does not specify any insurance requirements for contractors within its jurisdiction. On the other hand, contractors in San Antonio who wish to offer home improvement services must carry liability insurance of at least $300,000 per occurrence for property damage and bodily injury and $300,000 aggregate for products and completed operations. Likewise, state-licensed contractors must carry liability insurance coverage (each licensing agency determines minimum limits).

Ensuring that the contractors you hire are adequately insured and bonded safeguards you from financial and legal liabilities if bodily injuries, property damage, and other similar unplanned incidents occur during or as a direct result of your project. While insurance and bonding offer similar protection, they serve different purposes. Bonds protect you from losses if your contractor doesn't complete the job as agreed. On the other hand, insurance covers both the contractor and you, eliminating out-of-pocket expenses for injuries, property damage, and other work-related adverse situations.

Always ask prospective contractors for proof of their insurance and bond coverage before making a commitment. It is also a good idea to contact their insurance and bond provider to check whether their coverage limits will be sufficient for the scope of your project.

You can direct questions concerning the mandatory insurance and bond requirements for contractors in your area to your local building department.

Top Home Improvement Scams in Texas

When planning home remodeling and improvement projects in Texas, there is always the possibility of encountering an unscrupulous contractor looking to exploit you. It is estimated that 3 out of 10,000 Texan homeowners fall victim to a home improvement scam yearly; more than half of these victims lose as much as $2,200 to these scammers. So, the first step to protect yourself from home improvement scams is to spot signs of an unscrupulous contractor. Some common red flags to look out for include the following:

  • Unsolicited offers of home improvement services
  • Unbelievably low rates
  • Pressure or scare tactics to rush decision-making
  • Demands for cash payment
  • Insistence on upfront payment
  • Reluctance to provide verifiable references, proof of licensing, or written contracts

To prevent falling victim to a Texas home improvement scam, follow these precautions when hiring a contractor:

  • Be wary of contractors who show up uninvited to your home.
  • Always compare bids from several contractors.
  • Contact your local building department to determine a contractor's regulatory requirements. Confirm that the contractor has complied with them.
  • Request references and check them.
  • Insist on a written contract and review it thoroughly before signing (ensure it has no blank spaces or unclear terms).
  • Do not pay the full project cost upfront, and limit down payments to no more than 30% of the total cost.
  • Avoid cash payments and request receipts for any payments made.
  • Only make the final payment when the project is completed to your satisfaction.
  • Do not sign a certificate of completion until all aspects of the project, including post-work cleanup, are finished per the contract terms.
  • Be wary of contractors offering financing options.

How to Report Fraudulent Texas Contractors

You can report matters involving unscrupulous and fraudulent Texas contractors and seek redress for grievances with different agencies, including the following:

The Texas Attorney General's Office

You can report fraudulent contractors, home improvement scams, and unfair or deceitful business practices to the Texas Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division online by calling its hotline at (800) 621-0508 or by filling out and submitting a consumer complaint form to:

Office of the Attorney General
Consumer Protection Division
P.O. Box 12548
Austin, TX 78711-2548

The Better Business Bureau (BBB)

Your local Better Business Bureau chapter can assist you in seeking redress from fraudulent contractors in Texas. Reporting fraudulent contractors to this organization also helps alert fellow consumers to the contractor's activities and prevents them from falling victim to their scams.

Local Police Departments

If a contractor threatens or steals from you, you should promptly report the incident to your local police department.

Justice Courts

You can seek monetary compensation and personal remedies from Texas contractors that fail to provide agreed-upon services or do a subpar job by filing a small claims case against them in a Justice Court. However, before taking this step, you should attempt to resolve the matter with the contractor or report the issue to the state's Attorney General's Office. Notice that only disputes worth up to $20,000 can be filed as small claims. Also, while you can represent yourself in small claims cases, you must pay a filing fee (your location and the amount in dispute determine this fee).