Wisconsin has a number of requirements and steps to complete before granting a general contractor license. Because it’s more rigorous than other states, it’s no small feat. It includes taking an exam, filing an application with the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS), and getting the proper liability and bond insurance.
Keep reading for a detailed guide on how to get a general contractor license in Wisconsin, including:
- How to become a general contractor in Wisconsin
- Who needs a dwelling contractor license
- How to get a Wisconsin contractor license
- General contractor renewals
- Bond requirements for contractors
- Insurance requirements for Wisconsin dwelling contractors
How to become a general contractor in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, general contractors are referred to as dwelling contractors. To become a dwelling contractor, you need to complete several steps. It’s more than applying with the Wisconsin DSPS — you may also be an owner or partner in a general contracting business, take an exam, provide proof of insurance and financial responsibility, and pay a $40 fee.
If you’re restarting a general contracting business and your license expired more than a year ago, you can reinstate it by submitting an application and supporting documentation, along with a $65 fee.
Who needs a dwelling contractor license in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin general contractor license requirements have two layers. First, anyone who intends to build, improve, or alter a one- or two-family dwelling or accessory building must have a dwelling contractor qualifier license (or work under someone who does). The qualifier license is in your name and requires 12 hours of continuing education every two years to renew it.
You will also need a dwelling contractor license if you own a business that provides construction services. The license is held under the business name and does not require continuing education. However, you must renew it yearly.
How to get a dwelling contractor license in Wisconsin
Once you answer the question, “Do I need a general contractor license?” the next step is to start the process. Here’s how to get the dwelling contractor license:
- Complete your Wisconsin dwelling contractor certification initial qualifier course, which includes 12 hours of pre-license education.
- Set up your DSPS eSLA account, an online portal where you can submit your application and pay the relevant fees. This is optional but can streamline your experience.
- Send in your qualifier application with the necessary information, fees, and proof of your qualifier course.
- Wait for the DSPS to review, process, and approve your application.
Once approved, you can begin working as a residential contractor in Wisconsin. Remember to renew your dwelling contractor qualifier license and complete 12 hours of continuing education every two years, and keep all necessary general contractor insurance and bonding up to date.
You must apply for a dwelling contractor license if you own a business. It requires an application, a $40 fee, and an annual renewal, but it has no continuing education requirements.
Wisconsin dwelling contractor license requirements
Becoming a licensed dwelling contractor in Wisconsin starts with completing the application, including education, documentation, and fees. Here’s what you need:
- Business FEIN number
- Business name and title of representative
- U.S. citizen or proof of lawful presence
- Completed application and fee
- Proof of workers’ compensation insurance
- Proof of financial liability, such as a bond or liability policy
- Exam certification
- Application fees
Like other states, Wisconsin issues licenses for dwelling contractors at the state level. However, some areas may have local jurisdiction requirements. Make sure you know whether you need any additional permits, laws, or regulations before you begin your project.
Wisconsin dwelling contractor license renewal requirements
Wisconsin general contractor license renewal is a straightforward process. If you're renewing a dwelling contractor license, you simply need to submit the $40 renewal fee using the state's Electronic Safety and Licensing (eSLA) portal. This license doesn't require continuing education, but you must renew it yearly.
However, the dwelling contractor qualifier license is valid for two years. It requires completing 12 hours of approved continuing education, providing evidence of completion, and the $40 fee.
Bond requirements for Wisconsin dwelling contractors
Proof of financial responsibility is necessary when applying to be a dwelling contractor in Wisconsin. If you choose to skip general contractor liability insurance, you can file a bond of at least $25,000. The state will issue you a restricted certification if your bond is less than that.
Insurance requirements for Wisconsin dwelling contractors
Dwelling contractors must maintain minimum liability insurance coverage to fulfill the license’s financial responsibility requirement. Here are some common types of Wisconsin business insurance contractors usually consider having.
General Liability insurance
Wisconsin requires dwelling contractors to carry $250,000 in general liability insurance to ensure proof of financial responsibility. It protects your business from accidents, injuries, or property damage that may occur during the course of business as a dwelling contractor.
Workers’ Compensation insurance
Dwelling contractors must provide workers' compensation insurance to their employees in case of job-related injuries or illnesses. Generally, workers' compensation insurance covers medical expenses, rehabilitation costs and lost wages.
Tools and Equipment insurance
Tools and equipment insurance is an important coverage for dwelling contractors. It covers loss or damage for hand tools, power tools and other equipment that a contractor uses on a regular basis.
Commercial Auto insurance
Commercial auto insurance can protect the vehicles you use for business. A policy can safeguard against accidents or damage you experience while on the job.
Commercial Property insurance
Commercial property insurance can keep your business running smoothly. It protects against potential losses due to property damage, theft and other unexpected events.
How NEXT supports Wisconsin dwelling contractors
With NEXT, you can comply with Wisconsin dwelling contractor licensing requirements and protect your business.
We specialize in coverage for construction professionals, and we sell only small business insurance. Over the years, we have helped thousands of contractors find affordable insurance packages that are tailored to their specific needs.
Do you have projects in another U.S. state? Visit our summary of general contractor license requirements in every state.