Becoming a licensed carpenter in Tennessee provides credibility and opportunities to grow your business. This comprehensive guide outlines everything you need to know about licensing, testing, insurance, reciprocity, and continuing education to legally operate as a carpenter in Tennessee.


Carpenters in Tennessee are required to have a license for certain types and sizes of jobs. The Tennessee Board for Licensing Contractors issues licenses for residential and commercial carpenters and contractors.

There are a few types of licenses available for carpenters:

  • Home Improvement License – Required for remodeling work on existing residential homes between $3,000 – $24,999. This license is required in Bradley, Davidson, Hamilton, Haywood, Knox, Marion, Robertson, Rutherford, and Shelby counties.
  • Contractor License – Required for all residential and commercial carpentry jobs valued at $25,000 or more. This license is required statewide.
  • BC-A/r Restricted Residential License – Allows work on residential projects up to $125,000. This is an easier license to obtain for residential carpenters.

The process for obtaining these licenses includes meeting eligibility requirements, passing exams, providing a financial statement, and more.

License Requirements

To become a licensed carpenter in Tennessee, you must meet the Board’s requirements and qualify for the license type matching the scope of work you plan to perform.


The main eligibility requirements are:

  • U.S. Citizenship – The business owner must be a U.S. citizen or legally authorized to work in the U.S.
  • Business Entity – File with the TN Secretary of State as a sole proprietorship, corporation, LLC, or partnership.
  • Experience – Applicants must document relevant carpentry experience. Two years is recommended for a contractor license.
  • Exams – Pass the Business and Law exam. Pass the Carpentry trade exam for a contractor license. Exams cost $55 each.
  • Financial Statement – Provide a CPA-prepared financial statement demonstrating financial responsibility.
  • Insurance – Have general liability insurance and workers’ compensation coverage.
  • Fees – Pay licensing fees. Initial contractor license fee is $250. Renewals are $200.

Application Process

Follow these steps to obtain your carpenter’s license in Tennessee:

  1. Determine license type – Home improvement, contractor, or BC-A/r based on your scope of work.
  2. File business formation documents – Register your business entity with the TN Secretary of State.
  3. Pass required exams – Schedule exams with PSI. Study materials are available.
  4. Obtain CPA financial statement – Demonstrate financial responsibility on a compiled statement.
  5. Get required insurance plans – Have general liability and workers’ comp policies.
  6. Complete license application – Fill out the form and include information on business, owners, experience, etc.
  7. Submit application and fees – Pay $250 initial licensing fee. Allow 4-6 weeks for processing.
  8. Interview if required – Applicants with complaint or conviction history must interview.
  9. Fulfill conditions – Make corrections if the Board has any conditions for approval.
  10. Receive contractor license – You will receive your license if approved. Now you can legally contract jobs in Tennessee.

License Renewal

Carpenter licenses in Tennessee must be renewed every two years. Follow these steps:

  • Complete 6 hours of continuing education – Only required for contractor licenses, not home improvement. Course providers are available.
  • Update your license information – Submit any changes in business structure, insurance, financials, etc.
  • Pay renewal fee – $200 renewal fee for contractor licenses. Home improvement is $70.
  • Receive renewed license – You will receive a new license certificate by mail. Renew promptly to maintain active status.


Tennessee has license reciprocity agreements with AL, AR, GA, LA, MS, NC, OH, SC, WV, and NASCLA. This allows carpenters licensed in those states to waive the trade exam when applying for a Tennessee contractor license. However, you must still take the Business and Law exam.

To get a Tennessee license through reciprocity:

  • Verify that your home state has a current reciprocity agreement.
  • Request license verification from your home state to submit with your application.
  • Apply and meet all TN licensing requirements except the trade exam.
  • Reference the reciprocity agreement when registering for only the Business and Law exam.
  • Pay a $250 application fee.
  • Allow 4-6 weeks for license approval.

Bond Requirements

Licensed carpenter contractors in Tennessee are required to obtain a $10,000 license bond when their license is approved. The surety bond must remain valid for the entire licensing period. It provides financial protection for consumers in the event the contractor causes damages or fails to fulfill their contract.

Home improvement contractors must provide a $10,000 bond in qualifying counties. The BC-A/r restricted license requires a $5,000 bond.

Insurance Requirements

Licensed carpenters must carry active insurance to operate legally in Tennessee:

  • General Liability Insurance – Minimum $300,000 coverage is required. This protects against property damage, bodily injury, etc. caused by the contractor.
  • Workers’ Compensation – Required for contractors with 5 or more full time employees. This provides wage and medical benefits to employees injured on the job. Sole proprietors and partnerships with no employees can waive this with an exemption form.

Insurance must remain current. Renewals must be submitted to the State prior to expiration. Non-compliance will result in license suspension.


Obtaining a carpenter’s license in Tennessee requires preparation, but provides credibility. Be sure to determine the appropriate license type, meet eligibility criteria, pass exams, and maintain insurance and bonds. Renew promptly every two years. Reciprocity agreements allow qualified carpenters licensed in other states to bypass Tennessee’s trade exam. Follow the Board’s requirements carefully to begin legally operating your carpentry business in Tennessee.