Carpentry is a skilled trade that involves the construction, installation, and repair of buildings, infrastructure, and other structures made of wood, metal, concrete and other materials. Carpenters are essential to the construction industry in Wisconsin. They work on residential, commercial and public works projects doing framing, siding, flooring, roofing, cabinetry, drywall, and finish work.

If you want to legally work as a carpenter and operate a carpentry business in Wisconsin, you need to obtain the proper state licensing and insurance. This article provides an overview of the license and insurance requirements for carpenters in Wisconsin.

Licensed Carpenters in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, carpenters are required to hold a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license to perform carpentry services on residential, commercial or public works projects valued at $1,000 or more. This license is issued by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS).

To qualify for a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license in Wisconsin, carpenters must:

  • Complete a state-approved 12-hour pre-licensure course for dwelling contractor qualifiers within one year prior to applying
  • Pass the state dwelling contractor qualifier exam
  • Submit a completed application, application fee, license fee, and proof of insurance to DSPS
  • Maintain minimum insurance coverage (detailed below)

The initial application fee is $15. The license fee is $30. Licenses must be renewed every two years before the expiration date. The renewal fee is $67.

Eligibility Requirements

To be eligible for a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license in Wisconsin, applicants must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a Social Security Number
  • Not have any felony convictions related to the trade in the last 5 years
  • Not have any outstanding tax delinquency with the Wisconsin Department of Revenue

Applicants must also show proof of:

  • Liability insurance coverage
  • Workers’ compensation insurance or exemption
  • Unemployment insurance compliance

How to Apply

Follow these steps to obtain a new Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license in Wisconsin:

  1. Complete a 12-hour initial qualifier course approved by DSPS. Courses must have been completed within one year prior to applying.
  2. Pass the dwelling contractor qualifier exam administered by DSPS. The exam covers topics like construction laws, codes, contracts, liability and risk management.
  3. Submit a completed Application for Dwelling Contractor Qualifier Certification (Form #3097) to DSPS.
  4. Submit the $15 application fee and $30 license fee using the Trades Credentialing Payment Form (Form #3073). Fees are non-refundable.
  5. Provide proof of general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance or exemption.
  6. Pass a background check. Felony convictions related to the trade in the last 5 years may disqualify an applicant.

It takes about 3-4 weeks to process complete dwelling contractor qualifier license applications. Licenses can be verified on the DSPS License Lookup site.

License Renewal

Dwelling Contractor Qualifier licenses in Wisconsin must be renewed every two years. To renew, carpenters must:

  • Complete at least 12 hours of approved continuing education courses
  • Pay the $67 renewal fee
  • Submit proof of current general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance or exemption

At least 4 of the 12 required continuing education hours must focus on construction laws, codes, contracts, liability and risk management. Licensed carpenters can check their CE hours and renew online through the Wisconsin Electronic Safety and Licensing System (eSLA).

Licenses expired for less than five years can be renewed within one year of the expiration date by submitting the renewal fee plus a $25 late renewal fee. Licenses expired for more than five years cannot be renewed – the initial licensing process must be completed again.

Insurance Requirements

Carpenters licensed as dwelling contractor qualifiers in Wisconsin must carry both general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance.

General Liability Insurance

Licensed carpenters must maintain minimum general liability insurance coverage limits of $250,000 for bodily injury, but $1M per occurrence and $2M aggregate is typically recommended.

This insurance covers any third-party bodily injury and property damage that may occur in connection with your carpentry business operations. It protects your business assets in the event of a lawsuit.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Businesses with 3 or more full-time or part-time employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance under Wisconsin law. This provides wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured on the job.

Licensed carpenters with fewer than 3 employees can file for an exemption from workers’ compensation insurance requirements.

Carpenters must maintain proof of insurance coverage or exemption and comply with all applicable laws to maintain their state license.


Carpenters in Wisconsin must obtain a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license from DSPS to legally operate a carpentry business or perform contracting services valued at $1,000 or more.

Key steps include completing pre-licensure education, passing an exam, submitting a license application and fees, and maintaining the required liability insurance and workers’ compensation coverage. Licenses must be renewed every two years with proof of continuing education.

Properly licensing your carpentry business and maintaining adequate insurance protects your company assets and demonstrates that you operate a legitimate business that follows state regulations. It allows you to legally bid on carpentry jobs and avoid potential compliance actions.

Following Wisconsin’s carpentry licensing and insurance rules shows that you are a qualified, professional carpenter committed to safety and performance in your work. It helps you build credibility and trust with customers in the community.