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Wisconsin General Contractor License: How to Become a Licensed Contractor

November 28, 2023 10 min. read
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If you’re thinking about getting a general contractor license in Wisconsin, now is the perfect time to get started in this lucrative industry. Construction jobs in Wisconsin are experiencing a surge in growth, according to the Associated General Contractors of America. In early 2023, there were 134,200 positions filled, which represents a 3% increase since February 2022 and a 6% increase since February 2020.

This job outlook, coupled with an average annual salary of nearly $127,000 for general contractors, makes for a promising start in a career with substantial growth opportunities. 

In this licensing guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know to get licensed as a general contractor in Wisconsin.

Do you need a general contractor license in Wisconsin?

Yes, if you’ll be performing work on one- to two-family residential dwellings and the work requires a building permit, you are required to get certified by the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services (DSPS) as a Dwelling Contractor. This certification is required for performing general contracting work like installing siding, insulation, and roofing.  

You’ll need to check with the municipality in which you’ll be working to determine whether building permits are required for each job.

Note that Wisconsin does not issue licenses or certifications for commercial general contractors—for further details, check with the local city or county to see what requirements or licenses may be necessary.

Types of contractor licenses in Wisconsin

The DSPS offers two types of certifications for businesses, differentiated by the monetary amount of the bond the contractor carries, and one type of individual certification that someone from a business must have. Also, if you are interested in installing manufactured homes, a separate Manufactured Home Installer’s license is available. Here is information about each:

Certification/License TypeDescription 


Dwelling Contractor (DC) Certification
• Business credential
• Person applying must be the business owner, a partner in the business applying on behalf of the partnership, or the chairman of the board or CEO applying on behalf of the corporation
• Certification holder can contract to work on any construction project for a one- to two-family residential dwelling that requires a building permit
Dwelling Contractor—Restricted (DCR) Certification• Business credential
• Person applying must be the business owner, a partner in the business applying on behalf of the partnership, or the chairman of the board or CEO applying on behalf of the corporation
• Certification holder can contract to work on some* construction projects for a one- to two-family residential dwelling that require a building permit 

*Restricted certification holders carry a bond that is less than $25,000, and the estimated cost of any construction project may not exceed the bond amount.
Dwelling Contractor Qualifier• Individual credential
• Each business that holds a DC or DCR credential is required to have at least one designated Dwelling Contractor Qualifier who:

1. Is the owner, CEO, or employee of the company
2. Within a year of the application date, has taken a 12-hour approved initial qualifier course in dwelling construction
Manufactured Home Installer License• License holder can install or supervise the installation of manufactured homes onto a foundation

Additionally, you’ll need to get a separate lead certification if you’ll be working on any structures containing lead-based paint. This rule applies to any contractor who performs work on housing and childcare facilities built prior to 1978.

Wisconsin general contractor license requirements

To be eligible for each type of Dwelling Contractor certification, there are a few financial requirements you’ll need to be ready to meet:

Certification/License TypeRequirements


Dwelling Contractor (DC) Certification
Contractor must pay for: 
• An issued bond of at least $25,000

OR

General liability insurance in an amount of at least $250,000 per occurrence due to bodily injury, death of others, or damage to property of others

• Current workers’ compensation insurance, if applicable

• State unemployment contributions or federal unemployment compensation taxes, if applicable
Dwelling Contractor—Restricted (DCR) CertificationContractor must pay for:
• An issued bond of $5,000 to $25,000

OR

General liability insurance in an amount of at least $250,000 per occurrence due to bodily injury, death of others, or damage to property of others

• Current workers’ compensation, if applicable

• State unemployment contributions or federal unemployment compensation taxes, if applicable

 To be eligible for a Manufactured Home Installer license, you’ll need to be at least 18 years old, have a clean work history record, comply with all Wisconsin administrative codes, and agree to carry your license while performing contracted work. 

Finally, you must prove that you either:

  1. have a manufactured home installer license from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development
  2. have a manufactured home installer license from a state administrative agency with an installer licensing program similar to Wisconsin’s
  3. have successfully completed at least 12 hours of coursework within a year of the application date covering the installation of manufactured homes and:
    1. Soil study
    2. Site preparation
    3. Structural support, stabilization, and anchoring
    4. Setting
    5. Crawl space ventilation
    6. Connections (plumbing, electrical, HVAC)
    7. Joining home sections

Refer to this application form for more details and instructions.

How do I get a general contractor license in Wisconsin? (steps)

Now let’s take a look at the steps involved in getting your Dwelling Contractor or Dwelling Contractor—Restricted certification:

  1. Complete the Dwelling Contractor application 
  2. Submit the application and credential fees
  3. Provide evidence of workers’ compensation insurance, if applicable
  4. Provide proof of meeting unemployment compensation requirements, if applicable
  5. Provide proof of financial responsibility (bond or general liability insurance)

Apply online using the eSLA portal or mail all documents and fees to:

Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
4822 Madison Yards Way
Madison, WI 53705 

To  get certified as a Dwelling Contractor Qualifier:

  1. Complete the Dwelling Contractor Qualifier application
  2. Submit the relevant fees
  3. Provide proof of completion of 12 hours in a qualifying dwelling construction course

Again, apply online using the eSLA portal or mail all documents and fees to:

Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
4822 Madison Yards Way
Madison, WI 53705

If you want to obtain a Manufactured Home Installer license, you’ll need to follow these steps:

  1. Complete the Manufactured Home Installer License application
  2. Provide the specified documents for the relevant licensing method:
  • Method 1:
    • A copy of your federal license
  • Method 2:
    • A copy of your state license
    • A completed petition for variance form to verify the state license aligns with Wisconsin DSPS regulations and the associated fee
  • Method 3:
    • Proof of completing at least 12 hours in an approved course

Apply online using the eSLA portal, or mail your application, required documents, and fees to:

Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services
P.O. Box 8935
Madison, WI 53708-8935

Wisconsin general contractor exam

There are no required exams for general contractors in Wisconsin, and the only required educational course is for the Dwelling Contractor Qualifier certification. The purpose of this course is to make sure continuing education obligations are met by contractors applying for permits.

Registration will occur through an approved course provider. Approved courses will provide training in one or more tests on subjects including:

  • Construction laws
  • Construction codes
  • Construction business practices

If you’re applying for a Manufacturer’s Home Installer license under Method 3, contact the DSPS for more information about approved courses and enrollment procedures.

Does Wisconsin reciprocate general contractor licenses?

Reciprocal license agreements let professionals from out of state apply directly for a general contractor license. However, at this time, Wisconsin does not offer license reciprocity. 

That means that even if you’re a licensed general contractor in another state, you’ll still need to meet the requirements and follow the defined application process to get a Dwelling Contractor and Dwelling Contractor Qualifier certifications. 

For Manufactured Home Installer Licenses, if you can prove that you already have a manufactured home installer license from a state administrative agency with an installer licensing program similar to Wisconsin’s, then you may be able to apply directly.

How much does a general contractor license cost in Wisconsin?

You can expect to pay about $180 initially to get certified as a Dwelling Contractor and Dwelling Contractor Qualifier. For Manufactured Home Installers, the cost of an initial license ranges from $115 to $315, but be sure to include room in your budget for educational courses and study materials.

Certification/license TypeFees
Dwelling Contractor Certification
• Initial certification: $40 (includes $15 application fee and $25 credential fee)
• Reinstatement (credential expired more than one year): $65 (includes $15 application fee, $25 credential fee, and $25 late renewal fee)
• Renewal (On time): $25
• Renewal (Late): $40
Dwelling Contractor Qualifier Certification

Pre-license course: $95 (this can vary based on the course provider)
• Initial certification: $45 (includes $15 application fee and $30 credential fee)
• Reinstatement (credential expired more than two years): $70 (includes $15 application fee, $30 credential fee, and $25 late renewal fee)
• Renewal (On time): $30
• Renewal (Late): $45
Manufactured Home Installer License
• Method 1: $115 (includes $15 application fee and $100 credential fee)
• Method 2: $315 (includes $15 application fee, $100 credential fee, and $200 petition for variance fee)
• Method 3: $115* (includes $15 application fee and $100 credential fee)

*Total does not include the cost of a 12-hour approved course.

Keep in mind that there are also bond, insurance, and other financial requirements that you may need to meet in order to get your license. 

Renewing your general contractor license

Dwelling Contractor certifications expire each year based on the date they were issued. Dwelling Contractor Qualifier certifications expire every two years, also based on the date they were issued. 

Renewal of your Dwelling Contractors certification follows the same steps as the initial application process: submit an application, fees, and supporting documentation. You can renew your license online via eSLA or by mail.

Similarly, renewal of your Dwelling Contractor Qualifier certification follows the same steps as the initial application process: submit an application and fees and provide documentation to validate your 12 hours of continuing education. Continuing education must be completed every two years. You can renew online or by mail.

Additional requirements include:

To check on the continued education you’ve already completed, you can check the eSLA Public Lookup page—put in your ID and click your name. 

Manufactured Home Installer licenses expire every four years based on the date they were issued. The renewal process is again the same as the initial application process: submit an application and fees and provide documentation to validate your 12 hours of continuing education.

What happens if my general contractor license expires? 

If you think your certification or license has expired, you should stop all work immediately, or else you open yourself up to penalties, fees, and even legal action. In addition, you won’t be able to pull permits for new work until your certification is active again. 

You can use the eSLA system to look up your certification or license status. To reinstate an expired certification or license, you’ll have to pay additional fees.

How to start a contracting business in Wisconsin

Once you have your Dwelling Contractor and Dwelling Contractor Qualifier certifications, you can think about taking the next step and starting your own general contracting business. Thankfully, Wisconsin provides the One Stop Business Portal to guide you step by step on your journey to create and register a business.

Some of the resources you can find are:

  • Entity registration
  • Business tax registration
  • Unemployment Insurance assessment

Once you’re registered, there are few more things you’ll need to think about to truly set your business up for success:

See our library of free contracting business resources for expert advice and templates you get you started.

Does a general contractor license in Wisconsin increase your earning potential?

Yes, having a general contractor license in Wisconsin will boost your earning potential.  Whether you apply as a Dwelling Contractor or Dwelling Contractor—Restricted, you are getting your foot in the door of a booming multi-billion-dollar industry.

The state’s average annual salary for general contractors is close to $127,000, but top earners can bring in as much as $154,000. As with most jobs, salaries increase over time based on experience. You can increase your earning potential even more by starting your own contracting business.

To learn more, refer to our guide on How to make money in construction and remodeling.

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