Carpenters in Arkansas have several options when it comes to obtaining the proper licensing to legally operate as contractors in the state. The Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board issues licenses for both commercial and residential carpenters and contractors. For residential work, carpenters need to obtain a Home Improvement license that covers their carpentry specialty. This license allows them to perform carpentry work on single-family homes. For commercial work, a Commercial Contractor’s license is required for carpentry projects on commercial buildings.

This guide will cover the various licensing options available to carpenters in Arkansas, including how to obtain new licenses, renew licenses, and transfer out-of-state licenses. We’ll also provide an overview of license bond and insurance requirements carpenters must comply with. Having a thorough understanding of the state’s regulations is crucial for running a successful and legal carpentry business.

Residential Carpentry Licensing

To perform carpentry services on single-family residences in Arkansas, carpenters must obtain a Home Improvement Contractor’s license from the Arkansas Contractors Licensing Board. There are two types of Home Improvement licenses:

  • Limited License – Allows work on projects up to $50,000. Does not require proof of workers’ compensation insurance or a financial statement.
  • Unlimited License – Allows work on projects of any value. Requires proof of workers’ compensation insurance and a financial statement.

The Home Improvement license specifically covers the carpentry classifications of “Carpentry,” “Framing,” “Millwork,” and “Cabinets.” With this license, carpenters can provide a range of carpentry services for single-family residences such as:

  • Framing walls, floors, roofs
  • Installing cabinets, countertops, shelving
  • Building decks, porches, pergolas
  • Constructing additions, sunrooms
  • Installing doors, windows, trim
  • Sanding, refinishing, and repairing woodwork
  • Erecting timber structures
  • Wooden fence and deck construction
  • Custom millwork like mantlepieces, columns, or decorative trims

Essentially, the Home Improvement license allows any carpentry work needed on the interior or exterior of a single-family residence.

Eligibility Requirements

To be approved for a Home Improvement license, the following is required:

  • Proof of Experience – Must show 4 years of experience in the carpentry trade OR 2 years experience plus completion of an approved carpentry education program. Experience must be relevant to the classifications applied for. Applicants need to provide a detailed account of their carpentry experience including types of projects, roles, tools used, and knowledge gained.
  • Business and Law Exam – A standardized exam that tests applicant’s knowledge of business practices and construction legal compliance in Arkansas. Key topics include estimating, contracts, lien laws, consumer protection, and more.
  • Application Fee – $100 for limited license or $150 for unlimited license. This non-refundable fee covers the processing and review of the license application.

Applying for Initial Licensure

Once the eligibility requirements are met, carpenters can apply for their initial Home Improvement license by following these steps:

  1. Complete the license application form in full. Make sure to select the desired carpentry classifications.
  2. Attach proof of experience documents. This may include statements from employers, invoices showing carpentry work completed, building permits, and more.
  3. Pass the business and law exam. Exams are scheduled through a third-party testing company. Study materials are available.
  4. Submit application, proof of experience, exam results, and application fee to the Contractors Board. Processing takes 4-6 weeks.
  5. If approved, contractor will be notified to submit their $10,000 license bond.
  6. After bond is received, the initial license will be issued. Contractors can then legally bid, contract, and perform residential carpentry work covered by their classifications.

Renewing the License

Licenses must be renewed before the expiration date to remain valid. The renewal steps include:

  • Paying the $50 (limited) or $100 (unlimited) renewal fee
  • Providing updated proof of bond and insurance
  • Attesting to any required information like number of employees

As long as the renewal fee is paid and updated documents provided, there is no re-testing or additional proof of experience required. Licenses can be quickly renewed online.

The renewal deadlines are:

  • March 31 for last names starting A-L
  • September 30 for last names starting M-Z

Carpenters should be sure to renew on time each year. Working on an expired license can lead to disciplinary action. There is a 60 day grace period after expiration to renew without penalty.

License Reciprocity

Arkansas offers license reciprocity with Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana for residential contractor’s licenses. This allows carpenters holding current licenses in those states to transfer them to Arkansas through a streamlined application process.

To obtain an Arkansas residential carpentry license by reciprocity, the following is required:

  • Hold a CURRENT valid residential carpentry license from TN, MS, AL, or LA
  • Submit a reciprocity application and pay the $250 fee
  • Provide a copy of the current out-of-state license, bond, and insurance
  • Pass the Arkansas business and law exam

Upon approval, a similar Arkansas residential license will be issued based on the scope of the out-of-state license. For example, if a carpenter holds a residential builders license in Mississippi, they would be granted an Arkansas residential builders license via reciprocity.

The reciprocity program allows carpenters to bypass some of Arkansas’ experience and testing requirements by transferring an equivalent license from another state. This can save significant time and duplication of efforts.

Commercial Carpentry Licensing

Carpenters must obtain a Commercial Contractor’s license from the Contractors Board to perform any carpentry work on commercial sites and multi-family residential buildings with 5 or more units. This includes work such as:

  • Framing walls, roofs for commercial buildings
  • Building and installing counters, cabinets, shelves for businesses
  • Custom millwork like doors, trims, beams for office spaces
  • Erecting large timber structures
  • Commercial wood fence construction

A commercial license covers unlimited size projects. There is no separate classification for each carpentry specialty. As long as the work falls under the broad category of “carpentry,” it can be performed under this license.

Eligibility Requirements

The eligibility criteria to obtain a Commercial Contractor’s license are similar to the residential license, but with a higher experience threshold:

  • Proof of Experience – Must show 5 years of experience in the carpentry trade OR 2 years experience plus completion of an approved carpentry education program
  • Business and Law Exam – Same standardized exam as the residential license focusing on business practices and legal compliance.
  • Application Fee – $450 non-refundable fee paid upon applying.

Initial Application Process

Below are the steps carpenters take to apply for their initial commercial license:

  1. Complete the commercial license application including sections on experience and business history.
  2. Attach detailed proof of experience documents as described in the residential licensing section.
  3. Pass the business and law exam.
  4. Submit application, proof of experience, exam results, and $450 fee.
  5. If approved, contractor will be notified to submit their $10,000 license bond.
  6. After bond is received, the commercial license will be issued.

Renewing the Commercial License

Commercial Carpenter licenses must be renewed before expiration to remain valid. Renewal steps include:

  • Paying the $400 renewal fee
  • Providing updated proof of bond and insurance
  • Submitting any other required documentation

There are no continuing education or re-testing requirements to renew. Licenses can be quickly renewed online as long as all information is up to date.

The renewal deadlines mirror the residential licenses:

  • March 31 for last names starting A-L
  • September 30 for last names starting M-Z

License Bonds

All contractors licensed in Arkansas must carry a $10,000 license bond. This bond helps protect customers financially in the event a contractor fails to fulfill their contractual duties or causes damages. If a customer wins a judgement against a contractor, they can make a claim to collect against the bond.

The Contractor’s Licensing Board must be named as the obligee on the bond. Upon applying for an initial license, contractors will be required to submit proof of obtaining the bond after initial approval but before the license is issued. The bond must then be maintained and renewed along with the license each year.

If the bond is cancelled or not renewed, the contractor’s license will automatically be placed on inactive status. They will be prohibited from operating or bidding on new jobs until the bond is reactivated.

License bonds are available from most surety companies and insurance agents for an annual premium. It provides an extra layer of accountability for contractors working in Arkansas.

Insurance Requirements

Maintaining adequate insurance coverage is also crucial for compliance with state licensing regulations. At a minimum, contractors must carry:

Commercial General Liability Insurance

  • Minimum $500,000 per occurrence
  • Must cover bodily injury, property damage, and completed operations
  • Proof must be provided upon applying for license and at each renewal

Workers Compensation Insurance

  • Required for contractors with employees
  • Must meet state mandated coverage minimums
  • Proof required for unlimited residential and all commercial licenses

Having active insurance helps protect the contractor’s own business and satisfies state requirements. If policies expire or are cancelled, the license will be suspended until current proof of insurance is provided. Failing to maintain insurance can also lead to disciplinary action.

Additional Licensing Information

Beyond the licenses covered in this guide, the Arkansas Contracting Licensing Board oversees several other specialty contractor’s licenses. A few key ones carpenters may need to consider are:

Home Improvement Specialty License – For residential remodeling jobs under $2,000. Lower barriers to entry but very limited scope.

Residential Roofer Registration – Required in addition to the Home Improvement license for roofing jobs over $2,000.

Subcontractor Registration – Can be held instead of full license if working under properly licensed contractor.

Carpenters should evaluate the full scope of services they plan to offer and obtain all required licenses accordingly. The Contractors Board website provides additional details on these specialty licenses and their specific classifications.


Following Arkansas’ licensing regulations allows carpenters to legally provide services while protecting their customers. A Home Improvement license is needed for most residential carpentry work while a Commercial Contractor’s license covers projects on commercial buildings.

Key steps include showing proof of experience, passing exams, paying fees, and maintaining bonds and insurance. Reciprocity is available to make transferring out-of-state licenses simpler. Ensuring full compliance with the state’s requirements helps set up carpenters for success without any violations of contracting laws.