Wisconsin has a more stringent contractor licensing process than most states. The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services administers many licenses for general contracting activities. However, general contractors looking to perform construction on dwellings, structures, and sites can expect to go through Wisconsin’s Dwelling Contractor Qualifier licensing process.
While other licenses for plumbing, electrical, and mechanical contractor work will be issued through the same board, the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services will have you meet different requirements for a Dwelling Contractor license, including: obtaining a certificate through an initial qualifier educational course, filling out an application, providing necessary documents such as bond insurance, and paying all of the associated fees. Understanding which license to apply for, and which requirements to meet, can make a relatively complex licensing process go as smoothly as possible.
Wisconsin General Contractor License Requirements
Wisconsin’s State Legislature describes a contractor as:
“Any person who performs, furnishes, or procures any work, labor, service, materials, plans, or specifications, used or consumed for the improvement of land, and who complies with s. 779.02, shall have a lien therefor on all interests in the land belonging to its owners. The lien extends to all contiguous land of the owner, but if the improvement is located wholly on one or more platted lots belonging to the owner, the lien applies only to the lots on which the improvement is located.”
While in many states, a general contractors license may cover all of the above, Wisconsin takes a more in-depth approach, and separates general contractor work more rigidly. The State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services does not offer an all-encompassing license to cover all general contracting work. Instead, different contracting work calls for a different licensing or certification process, education, and associated fees.
Who Needs a Contractors License?
The State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services requires you to get certifications and/or licenses for special trades, or “credentials,” including:
- Asbestos and Lead Abatement
- Well Drilling
These specific credentials will require their own education and experience requirements,and additional fees. They will also need to be accompanied by a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license. Along with your credentials, your Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license will be issued at the state level, and handled through the State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Your Dwelling Contractor license will come with its own requirements as well.
What Do You Need To Become a Dwelling Contractor in Wisconsin?
Obtaining your Dwelling Contractors license will require you to get your Dwelling Contractor Qualifier certification. To do this, you must first complete a 12-hour initial training course and pass an exam. After you receive your certificate from the class, you can then start the Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license application.
If you plan on owning a contracting business, you will also need to apply for a Dwelling Contractors license. Your application will include a business license — either acting as an owner, a partner or the chairman of the board applying on behalf of the contracting corporation. Additionally, you must meet Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Compensation requirements. Documents that need to accompany your application is proof of a surety bond, financial responsibility, and liability insurance. Bonds and liability insurance ensures both you and your clients that the services they paid for will be provided safely and effectively.
Once you’ve received your Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license and become bonded, you can then apply online for your Dwelling Contractors license. There will be associated fees along the way.
Licensing and Registration Fee Summary
As stated above, you’ll need to acquire your Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license before you can apply for a Dwelling Contractors license. Throughout both processes, there will be fees attached.
Dwelling Contractor Qualifier Licensure:
- Initial Training Course Fee: May vary depending on course provider.
- Application Fee: $15.00 for a 2-year license.
- Credential Fee: $30.00
- Renewal Fee: Renewal requires another, 12-hour educational course.
Dwelling Contractor Licensure:
- Application Fee: $15.00 for a 1-year license.
- Credential Fee: $25.00
- Renewal Fee: $25.00 or $100 for a 4-year renewal.
Wisconsin Contractors Exam
The State of Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services requires you to take a 12-hour initial training course, and subsequent exam, to get your Dwelling Contractor Qualifier license. While they no longer post courses through their website, they do offer a list of approved course providers in which you will find details such as: fees, scheduling dates and locations, and approved materials.
Contractors Exam Fees
Depending on what approved course provider you choose to take your initial qualifier course through, the dates and locations of your exam and payment amount and options may vary.
Wisconsin Contractors License & Qualifier Application
Both your Dwelling Contractor Qualifier and Dwelling Contractor licenses will be handled through the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services. Additionally, your Qualifier application will be much more simplified than your Dwelling Contractor license application.
The following requirements will need to be met, and documents will need to be attached when submitting both your Dwelling Contractor Qualifier certification and Dwelling Contractor license applications:
For Dwelling Contractor Qualifier Certification:
- Verification that you completed an approved initial qualifier course.
- Application and credential fees.
For Dwelling Contractor License:
- Must hold a dwelling contractor qualifier certificate.
- Applicant must be the owner or partner of a contracting business, of chairman of the board applying in favor of the contracting corporation.
- Meet Workers’ Compensation and Unemployment Compensation requirements and furnish a certificate of insurance.
- Show proof of financial responsibility by way of a $25,000 bond, and $250,000 liability insurance. Costs of bonds, however, are only ever a fraction of their value, similar to the cost of premiums for insurance relative to the amount of coverage they provide.
- Application and credential fees.
Wisconsin State Business Licenses and Registration
A Dwelling Contractor license will require you have a contracting business. This means going through all the proper business channels to license your business. Business registration and licensing will be overseen by the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue.
Wisconsin Tax Identification Numbers and Registration
Businesses that operate within Wisconsin are required to register for one or more tax-specific identification numbers, licenses or permits, including income tax withholding, sales and use tax (seller’s permit), and unemployment insurance tax. Visit the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue for more details.
Wisconsin Workers’ Compensation Insurance Requirements and Forms
Businesses with employees are required to carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance coverage through a commercial carrier, on a self-insured basis, or through the state Workers’ Compensation Insurance program. Contact the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development for more information.
Wisconsin Unemployment Insurance Requirements and Forms
Wisconsin requires businesses to carry Unemployment Insurance for their employees. Check out the State of Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development for all your unemployment insurance questions and concerns.
Wisconsin Contractor License Lookup and Verification
The Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services provides a credential/license search in which you can determine a holder’s eligibility to practice.
For More License and Career Guides
To find out how to become a General Contractor in another state, start here.
For information on other trades in Wisconsin, click on a link below to learn more about the licensing requirements: