Do Carpenters Need a License?

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Most states require carpenters to obtain a contracting license.
Most states require carpenters to obtain a contracting license. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

Carpentry may be your ideal career choice if you enjoy working with your hands, but before you start practicing carpentry professionally, you may need to become officially licensed. The licensing process ensures that you have proven your contracting abilities and have the means to cover your clients financially in the event of a mishap or dispute. Many, but not all states require some form of certification for potential carpenters.

Prerequisites

Most states require carpenters to obtain a contractor license, but the specific requirements vary from state to state. Connecticut, Delaware, South Carolina and Alabama require only a general contractor license, while many other states require some form of a specialized contracting license. Residents of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Louisiana, Montana and Nevada must obtain a Class C contractor license, while states such as Florida and Virginia offer multiple types of contracting licenses depending on the type of carpentry.

Exceptions

While the majority of states require some form of contracting license, exceptions include Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming. At the time of publication, you can practice carpentry in any of the aforementioned states without a license. Idaho only requires a license for public works contractors, and Kansas only requires nonresidents to file for a contractor registration. Residents may practice without a license.

Licensing Types

If you want to stick with small residential projects, you may only need the general contracting license, but if you want to take on larger projects, you may need a more specialized license. For example, Alabama, Arkansas and Delaware allows you to practice general carpentry with a general contractor license, but if you want to take on jobs valued at more than $20,000 in any one of these states, you must obtain a different license, specific to high value jobs. Some states also have specialized licenses for specific areas like flooring and commercial building construction.

Obtaining a License

Each carpentry-regulating state has its own requirements for obtaining the necessary contracting license. In most cases, you must post a surety bond with a value of $5 to $10 thousand. This protects your customers in the event that you fail to meet a contractual obligation. Some states also require you to have a minimum net worth to obtain a license. For instance, Louisiana requires you to prove a minimum net worth of $10,000, while California requires a net worth of only $2,500. Additionally, some states require a minimum number of years of on-the-job experience before you may obtain a license, and most states require you to pass an exam. Contact your state's licensing board for all requirements specific to your state.

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