You’re ready to have some home renovations done by a contractor. But does the person you have in mind have the necessary licence? And what about the workers: do they possess the required trade certifications?

Is a contractor’s licence mandatory?

A general or specialized (trade) contractor hired to do residential renovation work must hold a licence from the Régie du bâtiment du Québec (RBQ). The licence number must appear in all of the contractor’s advertising, on his or her business cards, and even on vehicles bearing the company name. Make sure the licence is still valid: you can this in the RBQ licence holders' directory.

Some work done in homes or on their exterior, however, are exempt from this overall requirement—more on that later.

Are competency cards required? It depends on the situation

Owner’s residence
While the work is being done, you may notice that the general contractor has employees who don’t have trade certifications. This is legal as long as the job site is a single-family home or a dwelling unit, the owner is the occupant, and the owner derives no rental or other income from the property.

Income property
On the other hand, if the work is being done on an income (i.e., rental) property or involves expansion of a house, the contractor must employ workers who have competency cards issued by the Commission de la construction du Québec (CCQ).

Electricity, oil and gas
In addition, regardless of whether the job site is the owner’s residence or is a rental unit, electrical work and installation of appliances that run on heating oil or natural gas must always be performed by workers holding the appropriate competency certificates.

General or specialized contractor?

General contractors: organization and co-ordination
Basically, a general contractor can perform a certain number of tasks him- or herself, and entrust others to specialized, or trade, contractors. In other words, he or she can manage all the work on a site, unlike a specialized contractor, who is limited to working within his or her trade.

Specialized contractors may subcontract in certain cases
That said, did you know that a specialized contractor can also rely on a contractor in another trade to carry out related work? For example, a plumber who cuts through walls to install pipes can hire a contractor specialized in finishing work to do the repairs.

You can consult the RBQ website to find out exactly what tasks holders of general contractor and specialized contractor licences are authorized to perform. The site also lists and defines all of the licence subclasses.

When is a licence needed?

Exterior work
Some jobs done outside the home usually will not require a licence if the work doesn’t touch the building itself. Examples include:

  • residential landscaping, for example paving a driveway;
  • installation of a backyard swimming pool; and
  • construction of a deck that is not attached to the house structure.


Whenever plans call for an element to be attached to the house’s structure, a licence is required. And if work done outside involves, for example, electrical or plumbing work, a contractor with the appropriate licence is needed.

Painting and demolition
Painting and demolition work may appear simple, but they still require a licence. In the case of painting, the relevant licence subclass is 9 (Interior Finishing).

Demolition can be done by a general contractor, sitework contractor (Licence Subclass 2.7) or a specialized contractor—as long as the worker is demolishing structures that he or she is authorized to build. For example, a masonry structure contractor is allowed to execute a contract for demolition of an exterior masonry wall.

Pipes and drains
A licence is not needed to unblock pipes or drains, provided that the worker makes no changes to pipes.

Home theatres
A licence isn’t required to install a home theatre system, either. If wiring or accessories involved must pass through a wall or floor, however, or are built in to the structure, a licence in Subclass 17.2 (Intercommunications, Telephone and Surveillance) is needed.

Cabinets and counters
Restoration and transformation of kitchen or other cabinets do not come under the RBQ as long as no structural alterations are performed. Otherwise, a licence in Subclass 12 (Manufactured Cabinets and Counter Tops) may be needed.

A locksmith does not need an RBQ licence to fix a lock, but he or she must have a permit from the Bureau de la sécurité privée (BSP). But if the work will entail alterations to a door, then a licence in Subclass 8 (Doors and Windows) is required.

Other work: no licence needed, but a variety of requirements
A number of other types of work require no licence, including:

  • air or water quality analysis;
  • pest control;
  • preparation of renovation plans;
  • chimney sweeping; and
  • tree cutting.

These types of work, however, may be subject to requirements of associations, corporations, regulatory bodies, etc., or may require competency certification. For example, in landscaping work, mechanical shovel operators and cement finishers must have the appropriate cards. If you’re in doubt, feel free to consult the experts at CAA-Quebec Residential Advisory Services.