What are the different types of contractors in Virginia?

Renovating the bathroom in your home is very different than remodeling a law office. Both require different skill sets, permit types, and estimated timelines and budgets. Getting the many moving parts of a construction project right often boils down to choosing the correct contractor.

If you’re looking to pursue a construction project in Hampton Roads, Norfolk, or another city in Virginia, here’s what you need to know about the different types of contractors in Virginia. We’ll also reveal an easy three-step process to choose the right contractor for your project. 

Work with a Licensed Contractor 

In the state of Virginia, there are three different types of contractors, but they all share one important similarity: they are licensed contractors in the state. Along with checking a contractor is licensed before working with them, it’s important to understand the type of license they possess and what scope of projects they can complete with their license. 

The scope and project cost a contractor can take on is determined by their license class. This class indicates their specialty, what type of training they’ve had, and the type of work they can manage. In Virginia specifically, there are three contractor classes

Class A Contractor

Class A contractors can take on the largest projects price-wise. Two requirements can classify a contractor as class A, but only one has to be met:

  • In a single contract, a class A contractor can manage $120,000 worth of work or more. This includes performing or managing a construction project. It applies to new projects and removals, repairs, and improvements. 
  • Class A Contractors can also only work on properties where the total construction costs in one twelve-month period is $750,000 or more. 

Often, Class A contractors work on bigger commercial projects or new residential builds.

Class B Contractor

Like Class A contractors, Class B contractors can manage new projects, removals, repairs, and improvements. 

They also have two standards to meet to be classified as class B. Again, only one has to be met:

  • The cost for a single project must range between $10,000 to $120,000. 
  • The total value of all work done in twelve months must fall between $150,000 and $750,000.

Class B contractors may be a good choice for smaller commercial projects or residential repairs, removals, and improvements. 

Class C Contractor

Class C contractors are licensed to perform projects where the project costs fall between $1,000 and $10,000. If the total value of work completed in twelve months must fall below $150,000, they can also be classified as Class C. Similar to Class A and B contractors, only one of these clauses has to be met. Because Class C contractors work with smaller budgets, they often specialize in minor repairs or maintenance work. 

Renovation vs New Build

In almost every city in Virginia, including Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, there are different permits for a new build or a renovation. That’s because these two project types are vastly different and require a different skill set. 

Before hiring a contractor determine if your project is a new build (constructing a new structure on unused land or knocking down an old building to construct a new construct) or a renovation. Renovations include build-outs, remodels, repairs, and maintenance. When looking at contractors, consider those who specialize in your project type. 

Commercial vs Residential

While a recruiter may be great at hiring the best talent for a company, you wouldn’t hire them to be matchmaker who “recruits” a romantic partner, or vice versa. Having a skillset for consumer services, like matchmaking, is very different than for a business setting, like recruiting for corporations. 

Contractors are the same; the person you hire to remodel your home kitchen probably doesn’t have the experience to renovate a healthcare facility. Before selecting a contractor for your project, you first need to define if they are a residential or commercial contractor, as these are two different types of contractors in Virginia. 

A commercial contractor completes construction projects for businesses. These include retail locations, healthcare facilities, and office spaces. It can also include multi-unit living facilities, such as condo complexes or assisted living communities. 

A residential contractor deals with single-family homes. Often, they are more up-to-date with home renovation and interior design trends and specialize in working with individuals or families on new builds or renovation projects. 

Project Type

Deciding if a project is residential or commercial, a renovation or a new build is important, but you should get even more specific when defining your project type. Consider the industry you work in and the unique needs of renovating a site for your industry. 

A hospital, for example, will require a contractor with a different skill set than a restaurant. 

Types of businesses that may need a contractor with experience in their industry include:

As you search for a contractor, make sure they can point to at least two examples of previous projects in the same industry, or a related industry, as your own. You also want to hire a contractor who takes the time to understand your business and your goals; a good contractor is a partner to build the future of your business with. 

Choose the Right Type of Contractor in Virginia

As promised, here’s an easy three-step process to choosing the right contractor in Virginia:

  1. Determine the type of licensed contractor: is it a contractor who specializes in new builds or renovations? A commercial or residential contractor? What type of license do they need?
  2. Ensure they are licensed and provide high-quality work: you can use the state’s license look-up tool and talk to past clients.
  3. Explore past work experience: make sure they have worked on projects similar to yours. To find this out, either look at past project highlights on their website or ask for examples of similar projects. 

As a caveat, this process helps you get to a shortlist of potential contractors. Once you have that list, you should interview each contractor and ask for an estimate and proposal. When reviewing choices, follow the State of Virginia’s consumer guidelines on finding a contractor

Frequently Asked Questions 

What is a Class A contractor in Virginia?

Class A contractors in Virginia work on larger projects. These projects fall above $120,000 for a single project or the contractor completes more than $750,000 of work within twelve months.

What is a Class B contractor in Virginia?

Class B contractors can manage projects where the cost is between $10,000 and $120,000. The price for all work completed in twelve months for Class B contractors falls between $150,000 and $750,000. 

What can a Class C contractor do in VA?

Class C contractors manage small projects, such as repairs and maintenance. These projects must fall between $1,000 and $10,000. All work done in twelve months equals less than $150,000.

JP Carlton

J.P. Carlton

J.P. Carlton is the founder of Carlton Building Services, a Hampton Roads-based construction company.