Plumbing is a highly profitable field in California, with the state having the highest number of employed plumbers in the nation. To take advantage of the opportunities in the California market, obtaining the C-36 license is essential. This license is a prerequisite for bidding on plumbing projects valued at over $500 in the state. While obtaining the license requires dedication and hard work, we are here to provide you with guidance and support to help you swiftly establish yourself as a licensed plumbing contractor.
A plumbing contractor provides a means for a supply of safe water, ample in volume and of suitable temperature for the purpose intended and the proper disposal of fluid waste from the premises in all structures and fixed works. This classification includes the following:
In California, every contractor, including landscaping contractors who obtain the C-37 License, must acquire a license from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). The primary objective of the CSLB is to safeguard Californians by carefully assessing and registering construction businesses that charge more than $500 for their services. This ensures the citizens get quality services and that the contractors act within their regulations and in good faith. The CSLB is responsible for overseeing the application and examination procedures and maintains a publicly accessible database that contains the license numbers of both active and inactive contractors.
To assist contractors and consumers in understanding their rights and obligations, the CSLB offers various resources and educational materials. They provide guidance on contract requirements, dispute resolution, and other pertinent subjects to encourage equitable and ethical business practices within the construction industry. Additionally, the CSLB investigates complaints lodged against licensed contractors. In cases where contractors fail to comply with state regulations or engage in unethical conduct, the CSLB takes appropriate enforcement actions, which may involve disciplinary measures, monetary penalties, or license revocation.
Obtaining a C-36 plumbing license in California offers several compelling reasons to consider:
To qualify for the exam, applicants must have 4 years of experience as a journeyman. A "journeyman" is an experienced worker who is fully qualified (as opposed to a trainee) and is able to perform the trade without supervision or a person who has completed an apprenticeship program. Like other permits, the C–36 license requires apprenticeship training or qualification by a Joint Examination Board. Here are a few reasons why this requirement exists:
Once you have acquired the necessary training, fill out the Certification of Work Experience and include it in your application packet.
To verify your experience claims, they must be endorsed by a trustworthy individual who has firsthand knowledge of your work. This could be an employer, contractor, foreman/supervisor, fellow employee, other journeyman, union representative, building inspector, architect, engineer, or homeowner. The person certifying your experience should have observed the tasks you have performed and is required to complete the experience certification section of the application.
Here is a list of Acceptable Supporting Experience Documentation that you can use to determine what documents to submit in order to provide proof of your experience.
The next step will be completing the Application for Original Contractor’s License. Make sure you read through the instructions carefully because an incomplete application will lead to delays or even your application getting rejected. Once submitted, the CSLB will send a letter of acknowledgment with an application fee number and four-digit PIN, both required to check the application status.
Once you have confirmed you have completed your application and included all the requirements, you are now ready to submit it. Submit the application, the $450 application processing fee, and all required documents to:
Contractors State License Board
P.O. Box 26000
Sacramento, CA 95826-0026
Payments at CSLB's Sacramento office may be made by cash (exact change only), check, or money order.
Upon acceptance of your application, you will be provided with a fingerprinting live scan packet. This step is necessary for the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to conduct a criminal background check. Your fingerprints will be compared to the records of the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to determine if any criminal history exists.
All applicants for a license, as well as officers, partners, owners, responsible managing employees, and home improvement salesperson applicants, must undergo fingerprinting. However, individuals who are currently licensed by CSLB and are not making any changes to their license, as well as joint venture license applicants, are exempt from this requirement.
Once CSLB deems your application complete, each individual listed on the application will receive instructions on the process for obtaining and submitting fingerprints, along with a "Request for Live Scan Service" form (BCII 8016).
You need to fill out all the required fields in the third section (applicant information) of the form and bring three copies of the completed form to a Live Scan station. The Live Scan station will process your fingerprints and submit them to the DOJ and the FBI. You can find Live Scan fingerprinting services at local police and sheriff departments, as well as other public Live Scan sites.
A listing of Live Scan locations is available here.
If your application is accepted, you will receive a Notice to Appear for Examination. You should receive your examination notice at least three weeks prior to the examination date. Studying for the CSLB exam is important!
You should bring picture identification with you to the testing center. No personal calculators, cell phones, pagers or other electronic devices are permitted in the testing area. The exam itself lasts three and a half hours.
The examination consists of two sections: the first section focuses on contractor law and consists of 115 multiple-choice questions, while the second section concentrates on plumbing and also consists of 115 multiple-choice questions. Both parts of the exam are taken on a computer at the designated location. The test is administered in English, but if you arrange it beforehand, you are permitted to bring a translator.
The plumbing section is divided into 5 parts:
You can use the California Contractor License Law & Reference Book as a study guide in preparation for your exam.
After successfully passing the exam, you will receive a bond and fee notification form at the testing site. This form will outline the requirements you must fulfill to obtain your license.
One of the requirements is obtaining a California contractor bond with a value of $25,000. This specific type of surety bond is intended for contractors and serves as a financial safeguard for clients and the public. It ensures that contractors fulfill their contractual obligations, comply with relevant laws and regulations, and conduct their business in an ethical and responsible manner.
To obtain a contractor bond, you typically need to provide basic information such as your business name, owner's name, address, and undergo a soft credit check by providing your social security number.
Once your dealer bond application is approved, you can proceed with making the payment for the bond. Subsequently, you can expect to receive the hard copy of the bond via mail within 3-5 business days. It is important to have the physical copy of the bond for your license application.
Congratulations on passing your examination. Going through all these steps is no easy feat. What’s left is getting your application and starting work as a contractor.
You will receive a wall certificate showing the following information:
You will also receive a plastic pocket card showing the following:
According to the legal requirement, you must prominently display your wall certificate in your primary office or main place of business. Additionally, it is advisable to carry your pocket card with you regularly, especially in situations where you anticipate engaging in business solicitation or interacting with potential customers.
California requires renewal every two years. If you happen to change any general business information, this must be reflected on the renewal application.
Specific details are available on the Contractor’s State Licensing Board fee page.
Currently, the CSLB has testing locations in the following cities:
You can find a comprehensive list of testing locations on the PSI website.
You will be assigned a testing location based on the city you live in. The CSLB will grant you 18 months after your application is accepted to pass both examinations.
A contractor license initially is issued for a two-year period. It will expire two years from the last day of the month in which it was issued. Licenses may be renewed for two years at a time if renewed on active status, or for four years if renewed on inactive status.
Your application will be returned to you if it is insufficient or incomplete. Don’t lose hope though! The CSLB gives you 90 days from the day you application was returned to provide any missing information, make corrections, and resubmit your application. If you do not resubmit your application to CSLB within 90 days though, it becomes void.
You will not be able to reinstate it, and you must submit a new application and processing fee if you wish to pursue a license.
If you do not live in California and do not plan to come to California during the application process, or if you do not have access to a Live Scan site, you will be fingerprinted using hard copy fingerprint cards. For out-of-state residents, the hard copy cards automatically will be generated and sent after your application has been posted.
If you fail to appear for an examination, you must pay a $100 rescheduling fee. If you have a preference of when you would like to be rescheduled, please email Exams@cslb.ca.gov or call (916) 255-3498 with your requested date.
You can buy a Contractor Bond at any major surety agency that is licensed in the state of California. SuretyNow is a reputable surety agency that is appointed with 10+ insurance carriers so it can find you the most affordable rate.