TLDR: Californian Contractors are businesses or individuals who construct or alter any building, roads, and other structure located in the state of California. There are about 290,000 licensed contractors in 44 different classifications. This article walks you through step by step how to get your contractor licenses in California
If the total cost (labor and materials) of a single contractor project is $500 or more, contractors engaged in the business of home improvement must be licensed before submitting bids. If you are required to have a license but don’t get one, there are serious penalties. First time violations for contracting without a license implicates a misdemeanor charge, which could result in a maximum prison term of six months, and/or a fine of up to $500. Furthermore, an administrative penalty ranging from $200 to $15,000 may also be levied. Subsequent violations result in more penalties. A second conviction could indicate a 20% of the contract price of the work or a $4,500 penalty. Additionally, the unlicensed contractor could be put in jail for no less than 90 days
The following scenarios may exempt the contractors from licensing
California contractor licenses are categorized into different classifications. Each classification is a particular trade. You can add as many classifications to your license as you wish. However, more classifications would mean more tests
Business & Professions Code Section 7055. For the purpose of classification, the contracting business includes any or all of the following branches:
Class "C" Specialty Contractor's License Classifications. You may obtain a license in any of the classifications listed below. For a detailed description of these classifications, click on the corresponding link.
Need to possess a minimum of four (4) years of experience in the contractor classification you are applying for. Experience credit is awarded exclusively for work performed at a journey level or in a supervisory capacity as a foreman, contractor, owner-builder, or supervising employee.
Even though education requirements are not required to qualify for a contractor license, You are eligible for a credit of up to three (3) years for technical training, apprenticeship training, or education that contributes towards the four (4) years of mandatory experience in the category for which you intend to obtain a license.
At least one year of the four years of required experience must be practical experience.
CSLB may grant the following credits for the particular training, apprenticeship or education:
A maximum credit of 1.5 years for an Associate of Arts degree from an accredited school or college in building or construction management
A maximum credit of 2 years for any of the following
A maximum credit of 3 years for any of the following
Complete the Application for Original Contractor's License;
Contractors State License Board
P.O. Box 26000
Sacramento, CA 95826-0026
Make sure you include your return address on your envelope because CSLB will mail your forms and letters to complete.
After receiving your application, CSLB will mail you a letter of acknowledgement. In this letter, you need to note two important numbers: an Application Fee Number and a four-digit Personal Identification Number (PIN) Number.
You can use both numbers to check on the progress of your application via the application checker on the CLSB site.
Once your exam application has been accepted, you will receive two documents in your mail
After an exam application has been accepted by CSLB, instructions will be sent to each applicant for obtaining and submitting fingerprints and a “Request for Live Scan Service” form (BCII 8016).
The applicant must complete the applicant information section and take three copies of the completed form to process your fingerprinting at a Live Scan station. You can get your fingerprinting processed at most local police and sheriff departments and public Live Scan sites. A listing of Live Scan locations is available on the California State Department of Justice website.
Exams are performed by PSI. PSI has locations throughout the state and offers testing six days a week.
You need to bring a picture ID (a valid driver’s license, Department of Motor Vehicles ID card, or military ID card)
You will be taking your exam on the computer-assisted testing system
Personal calculators, cell phones, and other electronics prohibited in the testing area
The test taker will have 3- 1/2 hours to complete each examination
You will be told that you pass the exam before you leave the test site.
After you pass the exam, you will be given a bond and fee notification form at the site, which tells you the items needed to meet your license issuance requirements
If you failed to pass, you can still reschedule the test. You are given 18 months to pass the examinations after which your application will be void.
An initial licensing fee of $200 for Sole Owner and $350 for Non-Sole Owner may be charged. The fee is in addition to the application fee paid when you filed your application. It covers the license for two years
The purpose of the examination is to make contractors aware of the risks of asbestos and so they know how to respond appropriately to situations where asbestos may be present. This link will give you more details about the exam.
There are two forms of license certificates:
The license can be granted to an individual, partnership, corporation, limited liability company.
Your applicant is returned to you if it is insufficient or incomplete. You should provide missing information, make corrections, and resubmit your application within 90 days since the date your application was returned. If you don’t resubmit your application to CSLB within 90 days, it becomes void. You would have to submit a new application and processing fee if you want a license
The application fee is not refundable as soon as it is received by CSLB.
There are two documents that you can show to proof you are licensed (details in the step 16 above)
A contractor's license is first issued for a duration of two years. The license will expire after two years from the last day of the month in which it was issued. If renewed on active status, licenses can be renewed for two years at a time. If renewed on inactive status, licenses can be renewed for a duration of four years.
You can find all the information from the CLSB website. We've linked the specific section for you here.