How to Market to Your Local Area as a California Contractor

As a California contractor, one of the hardest parts of being a contractor is growing your business. 

While some contractors are lucky enough to work a number of jobs across different zip codes and geographies, the reality is that the majority of the contractors in the state work in the same area for their entire careers.

With this in mind, it’s absolutely essential for any contractor looking to build success to have a strong local presence. People in your neighborhood need to know who you are and what you do, before they can even think about hiring you.

So how do you reach your local market? What are the best ways for California contractors to get their name out there – and ultimately to win more business. Here’s how.


Define and Understand Your Local Market

Before you can market to your local area, you need to understand it, as well as how your skills, or license fits into your local area’s needs. For example, if you’re a C-57 Well Drilling contractor, you might not find much work in Santa Monica.

Here are some easy ways to define your market:

  • Demographics: Who are the people in your local area? What is their age range, income level, and housing situation? What types of properties are in your area, and which ones need contractors in your discipline?
  • Needs: What are the common construction needs in your area? Are there more demands for home renovations or new constructions? 
  • Competition: Who are your local competitors? What services do they offer, and how can you differentiate yourself? A quick Google search can provide you with a list of local contractors. Analyze their services, pricing, and customer reviews to identify gaps that your business can fill.
  • Networking: Attend industry events, stay up to date with your union meetups, and join professional organizations both locally, regionally and nationally. This not only helps you stay updated with the latest trends but also provides opportunities for networking and collaboration between contracting disciplines. If someone needs a roofer, they’re going to call the roofer they know.


Person-To-Person Contact

Once you’ve understood your local market, the next step is to build a strong local presence. The best way to achieve growth, just like networking, is by face-to-face, in-person connection. 

Especially when it comes to something as expensive and important as construction, people want to hire people they trust. Here’s some specific ways you can do that.

    • Community Involvement: Participate in local events and sponsor local teams or charities. This not only increases your visibility, but also builds your reputation as a community-focused business. People trust people who are invested in their own community and success – so put your money where your mouth is.
    • Local Partnerships: Partner with local businesses to offer joint promotions or discounts. This can help you reach a wider audience and increase your customer base. For instance, partnering with a local home improvement store or joining forces with other contractors in the area to offer discounts is a great way to net new customers.
  • Angie’s List – Angie’s List is a great way to build your local network, as many people use it to find contractors in their area. Sure, this isn’t a direct, in-person way, but usually, if you book a job on Angie’s List, and deliver well, you’ll get hired again.
  • Referral Programs: One of the best ways to grow your business locally is via a referral program. Offer incentives like discounts or free services to motivate satisfied customers to refer you to friends. Referential power is the best way to grow your business – Nielsen underlines that 92% of people trust referrals from people they know.


Digital Marketing Is Essential

In today’s digital age, online marketing is a powerful tool for reaching your local audience. Here are some strategies to consider:

  • Social Media: You need to be using social media if you want to market yourself effectively – not even contractors are exempt from this. Share updates about your projects, offer home improvement tips, and respond to comments and messages – this will help you stay top of mind for your local customers. And don’t underestimate a good, old-fashioned Facebook group for your local community – it’s a great way to connect with people in your area.  
  • Online Advertising: Use platforms like Google Ads and Facebook Ads to reach a wider audience. You can target your ads based on location, demographics, and interests to ensure your ads stay relevant to the people you’re trying to reach.
  • Email Marketing: Along those lines, sending regular newsletters to your subscribers, offering updates, promotions, or useful content can keep you top of mind. According to a study by Campaign Monitor, email marketing has an ROI of $44 for every $1 spent.
  • Local SEO: Optimize your website for local search. This includes using location-specific keywords, such as “California contractor,” and ensuring your business is listed in local directories and on Google Business, so people can find you when they search for you. According to a study by BrightLocal, 93% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year – underlining how important this is to local marketing.
  • Content Marketing: Create valuable content related to home construction and renovation and post it on your own website. This not only positions you as an expert for anyone looking at your services, but also increases visibility by improving your website’s SEO. You can even go as far as creating video or photo content for TikTok or Instagram.


Track Your Efforts And Iterate

At the end of the day you have no idea how your efforts are doing if you don’t track your data and record the results of your marketing efforts.

Use tools like Google Analytics to monitor your website traffic, social media insights to track engagement, and customer feedback – in the form of customer surveys after a completed job – to gauge satisfaction. According to a report by HubSpot, companies that track their inbound marketing see a 12% increase in conversion rates, really underlining the importance of seeing how your work is doing.

Even if it looks like your marketing efforts aren’t working at all, stay patient. In many cases it takes a long time for prospective customers to become real customers, up to months or even years in some cases, especially as contractors. 

And if you think something isn’t working, you can always iterate upon it. Sometimes it’s as simple as the image you are using for your ad, or the subject line of your email. Iteration is a great way to quickly and easily improve your marketing.

How To Work On Government Contracting Projects: A Deep Dive On The Government Contractor License

If you’re a contractor, you might often find yourself asking: “How do I get my hands on one of those lucrative, long-term, often-over-budget government contracts?”

You may see contracts for bridges or tunnels or a number of other federal or local public works projects out there on jobs boards or you may hear about them through your local trade union. But how exactly do you get these jobs? And what kind of work do you need to do to even get your foot in the door?

In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about locking down those lucrative government contracts – so you can start bringing in those dollary-doos from Uncle Sam!


The End-All, Be-All: The Government Contractor License

To begin, you first have to establish yourself as a verified contractor who can take on jobs for the federal, state or local government by obtaining a government contractor license. Just like the CSLB, this is a process that requires verification and certification by a regulatory body.

The way to do that is through the United States Small Business Association (SBA) – this is the federal organization responsible for providing resources and regulation for small businesses across the nation – including issuing federal government licenses.

If you want to work on government contracts, you’ll need a federal government license, just like you’d need a CSLB contractor’s license to do any construction work over $500 in California.

Keep the SBA’s website in your back pocket. As you continue down the path of getting your government license as a contractor, you’ll be constantly in contact with the SBA, and constantly visiting their website over and over again as you jump through the endless hoops of paperwork and bureaucracy.


The Steps To Getting Your Government Contractor License

To be completely honest, the process of obtaining a government contractor license is long and arduous. This is the tradeoff of working with the government – everything takes much longer and requires a lot more work than it should.

Step 1: Establish Your Business

The first step on this journey is to establish your business legally. In most cases, you’ve already gotten this taken care of – these are all the basic elements of forming your business in the state of California.

This involves several sub-steps, including registering your business with the appropriate state agency (in this case, the California Secretary of State and the CSLB), obtaining an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and setting up a DUNS number through Dun & Bradstreet. 

As we’ve said, most of these are basic steps of owning a business, and in many cases, you will already have done these.


Step 2: NAICS and PSC Codes

Once your business is legally established, the next step is to identify your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes and Product Service Codes (PSC). 

These codes are part of a database that the government uses to categorize the types of products or services that businesses offer. In our case, we’ll be submitting construction-related services, including sourcing, engineering, and general contracting. 


Step 3: Register Your Company With SAM

You’ve done it – you’re now ready to start winning some business! With your NAICS and PSC codes in hand, you’re ready to register your business with the System for Award Management (SAM). 

SAM is the sole system where companies can bid for contracts – and the sole way that the government awards contracts. Once you’re in the system, you’ll be able to start bidding on and winning contracts with the government. 


OPTIONAL STEP: Get Certified 

While not strictly necessary, obtaining certain certifications can significantly increase your chances of winning government contracts, especially in the realm of construction. 

If you’re a minority-owned business or a woman-owned business, for example, you can get certified as a disadvantaged business, which means you’ll have a better chance of winning contracts over more established competitors!


Step 4: Start Winning Government Contracts!

With your business established, your codes identified, your SAM registration complete, and your certifications (if any) in hand, you’re finally ready to start searching for contract opportunities.

The king of all websites when it comes to finding and bidding on government contracts is, as you probably guessed, the SAM website. Visit to find federal contracts that fit your area of expertise – then start bidding on them!


Why Bother With A Government Contractor License?

There are so many incredible benefits of being a contractor who has worked and continues to work on, government jobs.

Here are just a few benefits of working on government contracts as a construction contractor:

  • Dependable – government contracts will always pay out according to the terms
  • Lots of work – there’s always work to be done for the federal government. 
  • Good pay – the government is notorious for paying way over the odds for routine work
  • Reputation boost – working for the government automatically stamps a seal of approval on your work. If the government trusts you, people will trust you, too.
  • Networking – working on government contracts opens you up to a whole new world of work opportunities. 


Is It Worth It?

Getting your government contractor’s license is no walk in the park – it can take months of paperwork wrangling and bureaucratic navigation to get your license for federal work.

But the objective reality is that getting your government contractor’s license is absolutely worth it to any contractor. Not only do you get access to more, better-paying jobs, you significantly increase your chances of booking other work with an increase in your network and in the trust your current network will have in you.

If you’re on the fence about whether it’s worth it to take the plunge into government contract land, stop sitting up there and jump on in! It’s worth it on the other side!

Can a Contractor Put A Lien On My House?

Most people who own their own homes – and thereby, have to hire contractors to build, fix, or otherwise modify their properties – have absolutely no issues with their contractors. Most contractors are trusted professionals in their fields and have no intention of delivering anything less than what they’ve agreed to in the contract.

But there are always exceptions. Especially in states that don’t require contractors to be licensed, or are lacking in general oversight, there are definitely a fair share of contractors who have less-than-honorable intentions with taking on your job.

In situations where there’s a dispute over the work done (or not done) and the payment for said work, the idea of a mechanics lien often comes up in the conversation. You may have heard someone say: “they can put a mechanics lien on your house” in case of nonpayment for contracting services.

Is that true? Can any contractor put a lien on your house in the case of a pay dispute? And if so, what are the consequences of having a lien put on your home?

Let’s find out.

Mechanics Liens: An Overview

So what is a mechanics lien

According to the CSLB, a mechanics lien is a “‘hold’ against your property, filed by an unpaid contractor, subcontractor, laborer, or material supplier, and is recorded with the county recorder’s office. If unpaid, it allows a foreclosure action, forcing the sale of the property in lieu of compensation.”

In simpler terms, a mechanics lien is a legal claim made by contractors, subcontractors, laborers, and material suppliers against a property when they haven’t been paid for their services or supplier. This is a recourse for anyone in the construction industry to receive payment for services rendered, but not given.

If you’re a contractor, you know you’re often paying out of pocket for materials and other supplies – which you then recoup when you are paid for the work done. A mechanics lien is a way to make sure that you aren’t out whatever you spent to get the job done in case of non-payment.

The mechanic’s lien is a legal measure that ensures construction professionals receive their due compensation for the work done or materials provided. It serves as a safety net for every person in the construction industry, ensuring that hard work (and all the costs associated with it) doesn’t go unpaid.

Who Can File a Mechanics Lien?

In California, basically, anyone involved in a construction project can file a mechanics lien in the case of non-payment. 

This includes general contractors, subcontractors, laborers, and material suppliers. If you’re a general contractor and you don’t get paid by the client – you can file a lien. If you’re a roofer who did one day of work on a job and was paid, but less than the amount in the contract – you can file a lien.

However, all of these different roles and situations have different rules and procedures for filing a mechanics lien. It’s not a one-size-fits-all process, and understanding the nuances can be crucial in ensuring the lien is filed correctly and effectively.


How To File A Mechanics Lien

Step 1: Send A Preliminary 20-Day Notice

Before a mechanics lien can be filed, the first step is to serve a Notice of Right to Liens, often referred to as the Preliminary 20-Day Notice

This notice must be served within 20 days of starting work or supplying materials to the project, whichever. If you miss the 20-day window, you can still serve the notice to recoup the costs of the project – but only money earned within the previous 20 days can be included in the lien. 

That means if you only worked one day, but let the 20-day window expire, you’re out of luck. If you worked, say, 5 days on a job, and you filed 21 days after the start, you’d only be entitled to 4 days of work – that first day’s wages are now unretrievable as you missed the 20-day window.

This step is crucial as it sets the stage for the filing of the lien and informs all parties involved of the potential claim. You should be filing this notice on every job, just to be safe. MAKE SURE that you file it before the 20-day deadline is up, as you will be unable to recoup any money spent after that time frame.


Step 2: File The Mechanics Lien

Once the Preliminary 20-Day Notice has been served, the next step is to file the mechanic’s lien. In many cases, you’ll never even have to do this, but everyone gets done over once by some unscrupulous construction “professional” at some point.

In California, you have 90 days from the last day you performed work or provided goods on the project to file your mechanic’s lien.  This is different from the 20-day Notice, of course – which is a warning that you could file a lien if you’re not paid.

Now, you’re not being paid, and you have up to 3 months to file a mechanics lien to get repaid. If you let this time go by without filing a mechanics lien, the party that owes you money for your work and supplies is no longer legally liable to pay you.


Notice of Completion Or Cessation: 60 Days To File

One important exception to the 90-day window to file your mechanic’s lien for backpay or supplies is if the owner files a notice of completion or cessation, indicating the project has stopped.

In case of a filing of a notice of completion or cessation, you only have 60 days from the filing of that notice to file your lien. You will see this often on projects with tenuous funding or in times of upheaval. Make sure you’re paying attention to the people who owe you money, and get that mechanic’s lien filed ASAP. Every day you wait is you potentially losing the money you’re owed!


Step 3: The Chips Fall

Once a mechanics lien has been filed, then the pain begins. For the homeowner, at least.

Any homeowner who has a mechanics lien filed against them will have their property immediately impacted. In some cases, they may have their home foreclosed to recoup the payments. In other scenarios, a homeowner may be forced to pay twice the original amount. 

At any rate, a homeowner with a lien against their home will have a very difficult time selling, refinancing, or doing many things that property owners need to do. Basically, a lien on someone’s home makes it extremely difficult to do anything substantial with that home – until the lien is cleared.

Once the homeowner completes the lien and pays the outstanding balance, the lien is quickly dropped and both the homeowner and the contractor can continue on with their lives. As you can imagine, this process is good for no one in the process – and ultimately it may feel like a Pyrrhic victory, having had to deal with months of back and forth and legal work.


The Importance Of Following Through

Even if you don’t plan to foreclose on the lien, it’s best to go through the entire procedure of filing a mechanics lien on every project. It’s important that you make the mechanics lien an essential part of your business, as it only serves to protect you and your company.

If payment discussions break down or your customer appears headed toward insolvency, your diligence will have made it possible for you to foreclose on the lien and retrieve any funds that you’ve invested. There really is absolutely no reason for you not to be on top of this, personally and with anyone working under you.

In the case of non-payment, if you don’t have a mechanics lien, things get A LOT more difficult if you want to get your money. Considering how easy the process is, there’s absolutely no excuse to not follow this entire process for every job you take on. 

In any situation, whether you’re the homeowner or the contractor, it’s important to contact a legal professional to handle these complicated situations. A lawyer can be an invaluable resource when it comes to properly navigating the complex and labyrinthine American legal system. 

The key takeaway from all of this is to do your diligence ahead of time – and you’ll always be prepared when the worst happens.

How to Skip the CSLB Exam: Can You Get A Contractor’s License Without Testing?

For many contractors (most contractors), the most difficult part of getting your Contractors State License Board (CSLB) contractor license, so you can start working as a licensed contractor in California. .

The 200+ question, 3+ hour CSLB exam is a notoriously difficult examination designed to test the skills of even the most prepared and experienced construction professionals. That’s why we always recommend leaning on the expert guidance of a trusted contractor license exam school – through proven courses, these classes can make taking the test much, much easier.

But let’s say you don’t have the time nor the money to take a contractor’s license course from a trustworthy school. Is there a way to get your license without taking the CSLB exam? Let’s find out.


First Off, What Is The CSLB Exam Like?

To California contractors, taking the CSLB exam is like taking the SAT or the LSAT or MCAT exam for prospective college students, lawyers or doctors – this long, arduous trial decides whether or not you’ll be able to work as a contractor in California.

Clocking in at around 200 questions and taking up to 4 hours, the CSLB exam is, by design, not a joke. It’s meant to separate the wheat from the chaff when it comes to contractors and will test even the most seasoned construction expert if they’re not prepared.

 The CSLB requires most applicants to pass two examinations:

  1. Trade Examination: Tests your knowledge of your chosen license classification.
    1. This can be either a Class A, Class B, Class B-2, or specific Class C speciality license – like plumbing or electrical.
  2. Law and Business Examination. This part of the exam covers California’s contracting laws and business management principles.

See our comprehensive guide on the CSLB exam for a deep dive on what you can expect from the CSLB exam process.


Is It Possible to Skip the CSLB Exam?

The short answer is no

The majority of applicants must score a 72% passing grade on both the CSLB Trade and Law and Business exams to obtain a contractor’s license in California. 

However, there are a few exceptions and alternative paths to explore:

1. License Reciprocity Agreements

California has reciprocity agreements with Arizona, Nevada, and Utah for certain classifications, allowing licensed contractors who currently hold a valid license from those states to bypass the Trade exam and only pass the Business and Law exam to get their California contractor license.

Contractors who qualify for the reciprocity agreement still have to take the Business and Law exam, which covers – you guessed it – California-specific business and law. You know, stuff like construction codes and financial obligations for contractors in the State.

To qualify, applicants must:

  • Hold an active license in good standing for at least five years
  • Submit a Verification of License form from the reciprocal state
  • Pass the California Law and Business exam


Keep in mind that not all classifications are eligible, and applicants are still required to meet the basic experience and financial requirements put forth by the CSLB and the state of California.

2. Waivers for the Trade Examination

The CSLB may grant a waiver for the Trade exam in specific circumstances, such as:

  • Adding a new classification to an existing license (if the qualifying individual has the required experience)
  • Replacing a qualifier in an existing license (if the new qualifier meets the experience requirements)
  • Applying for a license within five years of the expiration date of a previous California contractor’s license in the same classification

Note that like those who are able to take advantage of California’s reciprocity agreement with other states, applicants still have to score a 72% passing grade on the Business and Law exam.


You Can Never Skip the CSLB Law and Business Exam

You’ll notice that in both of the scenarios where you can skip the CSLB trade exam – via reciprocity agreement or waivers – you are never allowed to skip the Law and Business portion of the CSLB exam.

We repeat: there are no ways – we’ve checked – to skip the CSLB Law and Business exam. It is not worth your time to even pursue a way of skipping it. Just study and pass it – you need to know the information anyway!


Alternative Paths to Working in the Construction Industry

If skipping the CSLB exam isn’t an option for you, consider alternative paths to work in California’s construction industry:

  1. Become a construction laborer. Gain hands-on experience in the field without obtaining a contractor’s license. If you work on jobs less than $500, you can gain experience toward your CSLB exam. It can also help you build valuable skills and industry knowledge, so you’ll be more prepared when it comes time to take the CSLB exam.
  2. Find a Sponsor: Find a mentor or senior person to help you gain the necessary work experience in your classification. These experienced, CSLB-licensed professionals can not only help you acquire he skills and experience needed to get your CSLB license, they can help you learn all the other soft and hard skills associated with construction.
  3. Get A Degree or Certification: Obtain a degree or certification in a field related to your specialty, like construction management. This education can sometimes qualify you to be waived for the exam or to waive other CSLB requirements.

While facing the CSLB exam can seem like little David facing up a 50’ tall Goliath, it is well within any dedicated contractor’s reach to pass the exam and get their contractor license.

Unless you’re an out-of-state contractor that can take advantage of the reciprocity agreement, or you can find another exemption, you have to just bite the bullet. With a good plan and dedication, anyone can pass the CSLB exam

AI For Construction: How Contractors Can Use Cutting-Edge Technology To Gain An Advantage


Like almost every other industry on Planet Earth, the construction industry is witnessing a seismic shift as it embraces the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to revolutionize processes and outcomes.

One of the biggest technological breakthroughs in human history, late 2022 and early 2023 has seen the emergence of AI so sophisticated it is finally becoming widely adopted across industries and business sizes. 

The construction industry is no exception to this changing landscape. Several groundbreaking AI technologies are emerging and taking the sector by storm, leading to increased efficiency, enhanced safety, and innovative designs.

Those contractors who don’t adopt AI into their construction pipelines are sure to be left behind – don’t be hopelessly stuck in the past!

In this article, we will help you identify which AI technologies are worth keeping an eye on or even adding to your workflow immediately as a California contractor, so you can gain a competitive edge over your competition.


Types of AI and Use Cases for Construction

Generative Design

AI-driven generative design software is revolutionizing the way architects and engineers approach building design. By inputting specific design constraints and objectives, such as materials, budget, and desired energy efficiency, generative design software rapidly produces a multitude of design options. 

This technology operates at lightning speed compared to traditional design – increasing the efficiency of optimizing layouts for structural integrity, cost-effectiveness, and environmental impact, and providing a more sustainable and efficient approach to construction planning.


Autonomous Vehicles 

Construction sites are increasingly deploying autonomous vehicles, such as self-driving bulldozers and excavators, to do more precise, more efficient work. 

These machines leverage advanced sensors, LIDAR, and GPS technology to perform tasks with minimal human intervention. They significantly improve efficiency and reduce the risk of accidents, contributing to a safer working environment and better allocation of human resources.



Drones are increasingly becoming commonplace on construction sites, with their ability to seamlessly and easily give a different perspective to your project.

AI-powered drones are becoming an indispensable tool for construction site surveillance and monitoring, allowing you to continue working on other areas of the business while they do their thing without your constant surveillance. 

They collect real-time data and generate 3D maps, providing accurate progress reports and identifying potential hazards. Drones also assist in site inspections and reduce the need for manual labor in dangerous or hard-to-reach areas, increasing safety and cost-efficiency.


3D Printing

3D printing has helped revolutionize building in the past decade, and now AI is pushing the capabilities of this process even further.

AI-powered 3D printing technology has made considerable advancements in recent years, enabling the creation of complex architectural structures with precision and speed. This technology reduces waste, minimizes construction costs, and has the potential to revolutionize affordable housing by making the construction of custom designs more accessible.

 As 3D printing technology continues to advance, it is expected to play an even more significant role in the construction industry, shaping the way we build our cities and infrastructure with more efficient building materials.



From bricklaying robots to robotic arms for welding and cutting, AI-enabled robotics are transforming the construction industry. 

These advanced machines perform repetitive and intricate tasks with greater accuracy and speed, improving overall productivity and reducing human error, increasing efficiency and safety at the same time. 

The adoption of robotic technology is also expected to enhance the quality and durability of structures, as precise and consistent workmanship becomes the new norm.


Predictive Analytics

The construction industry generates massive amounts of data daily. AI-powered predictive analytics tools harness this data to provide valuable insights into project management and safety.

They can predict potential delays, identify areas of improvement, and develop preventive measures for safety hazards. 

With the power of predictive analytics, construction professionals can proactively address challenges and reduce the risk of cost overruns, ensuring that projects are completed on time and within budget. This is an ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL tool for correctly budgeting for costs and calculating your end profit.


Digital Twins

Digital twin technology involves creating a virtual replica of a physical asset or project. These digital representations are updated in real time, allowing construction professionals to monitor project progress, detect issues, and make informed decisions. 

By simulating different scenarios, digital twins can help optimize resource allocation, schedule maintenance, and predict potential problems. The integration of digital twins in construction projects is expected to streamline workflows, enhance collaboration, and ultimately lead to higher-quality outcomes.


Wearable Technology

Wearable devices, such as smart helmets and vests equipped with sensors, are enhancing safety and productivity on construction sites. 

These AI-driven wearables can monitor workers’ vital signs, track their location, and detect potential safety hazards. Additionally, they facilitate improved communication between team members and offer real-time feedback on work performance. The implementation of wearable technology in the construction industry is poised to significantly reduce the number of workplace accidents, ensuring a safer and more productive environment.


Machine Learning and Building Information Modeling (BIM)

Machine learning algorithms are being applied to Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems to enhance construction processes.

BIM integrates architectural, structural, and engineering data into a single digital model, providing a comprehensive view of the project. Machine learning allows for the automated analysis of BIM data, helping professionals identify patterns and correlations that might have otherwise gone unnoticed. This, in turn, results in more efficient construction processes and optimized decision-making.


AI-driven Project Scheduling and Resource Management

AI-powered software tools are enabling more efficient project scheduling and resource management within the construction industry. 

By analyzing vast amounts of historical data, AI can predict the duration and resource requirements for specific tasks, resulting in a more accurate project schedule. This technology also assists in identifying potential bottlenecks and optimizing resource allocation, ensuring that projects are completed efficiently and within budget constraints.



The construction industry is experiencing a paradigm shift as emerging AI technologies pave the way for a safer, more efficient, and innovative future. 

As we embrace the AI revolution, the construction industry will continue to evolve and grow, driving progress and prosperity in the built environment. 

Embracing these innovative technologies will not only result in improved project outcomes, but it will also create new opportunities for construction professionals within the industry to develop and expand their skillsets – bringing in more value for you while increasing efficiency and the amount of money you can make on each project as your skillsets broaden and deepen.

California Home Improvement Contracts 101

There are over 50 different contractor’s licenses for California contractors to obtain, but among the most common types of contractor licenses are Class B General Contractors’ licenses – which allow any contractor to take on GC work in the state of California.

While every different construction project has different parameters, needs, and requirements – every type of construction project requires a robust contract that outlines what is expected from both the homeowner and the contractor. 

Residential remodeling projects in California are no exception. Home improvement remodelers need to know what to include in a contract given to a client.

In this article, we’ll cover all the essential ingredients of creating a Home Improvement contract, so you can start taking on remodeling projects right away.

Please note that this is not financial or legal advice. Always consult a legal professional before creating or delivering a contract to any client.

The B-2 License: The Home Improvement Contractor License in California

If you work in home improvement, you’ll be very familiar with the Class B General Contractor license, specifically its sub-license – the B-2 Residential Remodeling license.

The B-2 License allows you to take on any residential remodeling, home improvement or other construction project involving a residential property under 3 stories tall. A B-2 license is commonly used by remodeling contractors who want to do jobs like bathroom remodels, siding teardowns and refurbs, and so on.

Learn more about the B-2 Home Improvement Contractor license in our blog post on the subject.

Do You Need A Home Improvement Contract?

The answer is yes – in most cases.

In California, a “home improvement” is legally defined as an agreement between a contractor and a homeowner or tenant for work to be performed at the owner’s or tenant’s home on projects with a value over $500.

Whether you are installing a new kitchen, adding a second story, or simply painting a room, if the cost of the project exceeds $500 – you need a home improvement contract and a CSLB-certified B-2 Remodeling Contractor to perform the work.

All home improvement projects that are less than $500 are excluded from CSLB rules. You don’t need a registered contractor, nor do you need a contract. Basically, anyone doing remodeling work under $500 is good to go, no additional paperwork or certs required.

Essential Requirements of a Home Improvement Contract

Clarity and Legibility

First and foremost, a home improvement contract should be clear and easily readable. This legal standard ensures that all parties understand their commitments and obligations and that the contract isn’t entered into under deceitful, misleading, forceful, or other circumstances of bad faith.

This means that any handwritten portions of the contract must be legible. While technically verbal contracts are binding – heck, you could have a contract on the back of a paper napkin – you should save yourself the bother of this requirement and just type out all of your contracts.  

It’s 2023, there’s no excuse for any contractor to not produce typed contracts. Not that it matters anyway, as no client will sign on with a contractor whose contracts are written in pen.

When writing your contract, pay attention to the font size. Preprinted sections, including any headings of a contract in California, must be in at least a 10-point typeface.

First Page Information

The first page of the contract should include crucial information like the name of the project, the name of your contracting company, the date the homeowner signed the agreement, the name and address of both the homeowner and the contractor, as well as any name or address where you will receive project-related mail like cancellation notices.

Mechanic’s Lien and Down Payment Stipulations

A mechanic’s lien is a legal claim against a property that has been remodeled or improved. This legal instrument allows contractors to protect themselves against nonpayment – this usually covers things like material costs or wages if the homeowner cancels the project.

On the other side of the coin, homeowners who are protected in Home Improvement Contracts must include a statement indicating that upon completion of each phase of the project, the contractor will provide an unconditional release from any potential mechanic’s lien claimants.

Moreover, the contract should include a clear stipulation about down payments. California law caps the down payment at 10% of the total project price or $1,000 – whichever is less. 

This law is designed to protect homeowners from paying too much upfront – only to be stuck with an unfinished project when an unscrupulous contractor skips town.

Change Orders and Bonds

Change orders are modifications to the original contract regarding the scope of work, materials, or cost. 

The contract should contain a statement indicating that change orders will become part of the contract once they’re signed. 

This protects both the contractor and the homeowner, ensuring that any changes to the work are documented and agreed upon by both parties.

Additionally, the contract should state that the homeowner has the right to require the contractor to have a performance bond. 

A performance bond is a type of surety bond that ensures a contractor will complete a project according to the terms of the contract. If the contractor fails to complete the project, the bond compensates the homeowner.

Contractor’s Information

The contract must include the contractor’s name, business address, and license number. This protects homeowners from unscrupulous contractors as there’s a paper trail they can follow to recoup any potential costs from bad construction work.

On the flip side, it puts the homeowner at risk as well as hiring an unlicensed contractor is illegal. They can face penalties for hiring them, as well as putting themselves at the risk of having no legal recourse should the unlicensed contractor make a meal of things.

Detailed Description of the Work

The contract should contain a detailed description of the work to be performed. 

This description should be so comprehensive that it leaves no room for ambiguity or misunderstanding. It should specify the materials to be used, the process to be followed, and the expected result of the project – down to the last nail and screw.

For instance, if the project involves installing new flooring, the contract should detail the type and brand of the flooring, the pattern for installation, and any preparatory and finishing work that will be done. You’re a contractor – you know what a description of work is and what’s required!

Project Price and Payment Schedule

The total price of the project should be clearly stated in the contract, and it should be broken down to demonstrate where the money will be spent.

This price should include the contractor’s labor costs, the cost of materials, and any applicable fees, such as permit fees or Homeowner Association (HOA) fees.

In addition to the total project price, the contract should also include a payment schedule.

This schedule outlines when the homeowner will make payments to the contractor, typically upon completion of specific project milestones. This not only ensures that the contractor is paid promptly but also gives the homeowner some control over the project’s progress.

Start and End Dates

The contract should specify both the approximate start date and completion date of the project. Obviously, this is construction and things can change – and often do. 

The point of including these dates is to set expectations for both parties and provide a timeline for the project for everyone to be familiar with and understand.

While not necessary, it is often beneficial to include a list of acceptable delays to these dates to ensure clarity in the event of unforeseen circumstances that might cause the project to be delayed.

Warranties & Additional Covenants

Finally, the contract should provide a description of available warranties. These warranties might be product warranties, which are offered by manufacturers to ensure that the equipment, fixtures, or products used in the project work as intended. 

Additionally, the contract may include project guarantees, which are assurances from the contractor about the quality and longevity of their work. This is not required many reputable contractors


California is a state notorious for its endless labyrinths of red tape – but the bureaucracy and legal frameworks exist for a reason: to protect homeowners and contractors.

A quality home improvement contract does exactly this: it outlines all of the details of the project and sets expectations accordingly, while also detailing the penalties and consequences of either party violating their contract.

How to Choose A Swimming Pool Builder

Finding the right contractor to work on your swimming pool is similar to hiring any contractor – it’s an often-confusing process involving tons of uncertainty, doubt, and confusion as you try to identify someone who not only has the skills to nail your pool construction but also is someone you know you can trust to complete the job.

The good thing is that most pool jobs aren’t life-and-death, in most cases, a pool installation won’t cause your roof to collapse on you while you’re sleeping. That’s also the dark side of pool installation – the lack of serious health concerns means it’s a ripe opportunity for sketchy contractors to sneak in and bluff their way to a pool job that’s beyond them.

So how do you save yourself the time, money, and energy that comes along with getting your pool built? Here’s a simple guide.


Swimming Pool Contractors: Just As Important As Others

Sure, a swimming pool is a luxury item – a construction project that exists solely for the pleasure and relaxation it provides – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a significant investment.  Ask anyone who’s had a pool built – it’s an often grueling process that takes days, weeks or months to complete.

The right contractor can not only make the entire process easier through professional skill and good communication, but they can also ensure that your investment yields dividends by delivering a pool that not only meets your expectations but also enhances your property’s aesthetic appeal and value. 

According to Pool Pricer, a well-constructed pool can add as much as 7% to your home’s value. That’s nothing to sniff at! 

What Makes A Good Pool Builder?

When selecting a swimming pool contractor, several factors should be at the forefront of your decision-making process:

  • Experience: Experience is probably the most critical factor to consider, especially when it comes to pools. They’ve likely encountered and overcome every possible challenge that can arise when throwing a pool in, so they know how to deal with any issues quickly and effectively, decreasing costs and the time it takes to install your pool
  • Reputation: Contracting is a local business, and your contractor’s reputation will speak volumes to the work they deliver to people like you. Online reviews and references are invaluable resources when assessing a contractor’s reputation. Look on Google and on their personal website for testimonials or other reviews straight from the horse’s mouth.
  • Licenses and Insurance: It’s essential to verify that your contractor is licensed and insured. In most states, this is a legal requirement – and knowingly hiring an unlicensed contractor can put you in hot water legally. In states where it’s not a legal requirement, it’s still advisable to ensure these two pieces are in place to protect you and your home.
  • Portfolio: A contractor’s portfolio provides insight into the quality and style of their work. Especially considering the high aesthetic needs affixed to pools, having someone who can fit the style you’re going for is important.
  • Communication: Last but certainly not least is effective communication. Your contractor should be responsive, open to your ideas, and able to articulate their plans clearly. This is perhaps the most underrated aspect of an effective contractor and can be the difference between a good and a great pool install.

Where to Find Pool Builders?

Finding the right pool contractor starts with knowing where to look. Here are a few places to start your search:


  • Online: Websites like HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List provide directories of contractors in your area, complete with ratings and reviews. This is a great place to start your search – but it always requires a little more legwork to verify their quality.
  • Referrals: Ask friends, family, or neighbors who have recently installed pools for their recommendations. Chances are that someone in your community has a pool contractor they can trust.
  • Local Home Shows: Home shows are a great place to meet contractors face-to-face and see examples of their work in real-time. These are rare, so stay abreast of any coming to you locally.
  • Pool Stores: Local pool stores often have relationships with contractors and can provide recommendations. Be wary, these relationships often come with jacked-up prices as they’ve got to cover their own referral costs.

How to Negotiate the Best Price?

Negotiating the best price with your pool contractor requires a balance between ensuring you get a fair deal and understanding that lower costs can sometimes mean lower quality. Here are some tips:

  • Get Multiple Quotes: This will give you a sense of the average cost and provide leverage in negotiations. By having a baseline of understanding what it will cost, you can understand who is trying to take advantage of you.
  • Understand What’s Included: Make sure you know exactly what each quote includes, down to the color tile on the walls. This will prevent surprises down the line and help you compare quotes accurately as well. 
  • Be Upfront About Your Budget: Letting contractors know your budget from the start can help them tailor their proposals to meet your financial needs. You can be as firm as you need to be, as most contractors want the work and will be flexible to book your job.
  • Don’t Be Afraid to Ask: If a quote seems high, don’t be afraid to ask the contractor to explain the costs. There may be areas where you can compromise to lower the price while still getting the same quality.

The Selection Process

Initial Research

Begin by conducting thorough research on local contractors. Examine their websites, review their portfolios, and read online reviews. According to a survey by HomeAdvisor, homeowners on average reach out to four contractors before making a decision.


After narrowing down your options, schedule interviews with each contractor. This is your chance to ask detailed questions about their process, timeline, and costs. Pay attention to their communication style and level of interest in your project.


Following the interviews, request a detailed quote from each contractor. The quote should include all costs, such as materials, labor, and any potential extras. This will enable you to compare contractors effectively. 

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost to build a pool is $35,000, with most homeowners spending between $28,000 and $55,000. Pay attention to this ballpark, as it’ll help you anchor a price and establish boundaries.


With all the information gathered, it’s time to make your decision. Remember, the cheapest quote isn’t always the best choice. Consider all factors, including experience, reputation, and your impressions from the interview!

In many cases, it’s worth it to pay more for a contractor whom you can trust. You’re already spending thousands on something that is frankly not essential to your life, so why not spend a few more on the right person?

What To Do If Your Pool Contractor Doesn’t Meet Expectations

So what if, despite all your best efforts, you still end up with a pool contractor who has no idea what they’re doing, or worse yet, knows what they’re doing (when it comes to taking your money and running)?

In many cases, you’re left with a half-finished pool – usually no more than just a big hole with a mound of dirt next to it – in your backyard, and you’re often out thousands of dollars.

In that case, it’s important you not only report your contractor to your state’s regulatory agency – like the CSLB in California – so that you can begin the process of reclaiming your funds, and flagging this contractor so no one else gets burned like you did.

Once the contractor is reported to the regulatory agency in your state, usually they will also have a pathway to open a civil suit against the contractor. In this situation, you’d take the contractor to small claims court to reclaim the money you sunk into the contract that was not fulfilled by the contractor.

Once a judge has ruled in your favor and your contractor is legally required to pay you back for your costs, this is where your journey ends, unless there are serious consequences to the project like bodily injury or death. In that situation, you will probably be involved in a criminal case against the contractor. 

Can a General Contractor Do Electrical Work in California?

As a general contractor, you have a broad and diverse skillset that covers many areas of construction, from budgeting to hiring to contracts and more – in addition to the various trade skills you’ve acquired over the years.

General contractors know better than anyone that you need specialist knowledge to operate in the various trades that comprise any construction project and rarely do these expertise overlap. Most roofers can’t install and maintain an HVAC system, for example.

But as a general contractor, you may have specialist knowledge in addition to your GC skills. You may even be a certified contractor in your former area of expertise. Heck, you might even be in a union.

So what if you’re, for example, an IBEW electrician who has, over the years, fallen into a more general contractor position? It’s a common career path for many apprentice electricians – you start wiring systems and within a decade you’re running your own business, hiring electricians to work for you.

With that in mind, as a general contractor in California, can you perform electrical work? Can you say, “Oh, I’ll take care of the electrical” in a new building or a refurb or a commercial project? What are the limits to the electrical jobs you can take as a gen con? 

Let’s take a look.


General Contractors vs. Electrical Contractors

A general contractor, often referred to in California as a Class “B” contractor, is a construction professional who oversees a construction project. 

A general contractor manages all aspects of the project, from obtaining building permits to hiring subcontractors, scheduling inspections, and ensuring that the work is completed according to plan.  They are essentially the directors of the project, overseeing every aspect of the project through to completion.

In some cases, general contractors may hold multiple licenses, including trade licenses like electrical or HVAC specialties. Whether or not the general contractor can perform their licensed trade on the same project they are gen conning for depends on a number of factors.

Electrical work, meanwhile, is a Class C license – a specialized field that involves the installation, maintenance, and repair of electrical systems. This work is typically performed by a licensed electrician who is classified as a C-10 contractor in California.

Electrical work is a critical component of any construction project. It involves the installation of wiring and circuits, the placement of outlets and switches, and the connection of electrical appliances. It also includes the installation of lighting fixtures, the setup of electrical panels, and the grounding of electrical systems.

As a general contractor with a background or certification in electrical work, you might be tempted to save some money (and put more money in your pocket) by hiring out your electrical work. You might think: “Hmm, I could probably just do all this myself.” We’ve got one more thing to define, then we’ll find out.


The C-10 License

If you’re a general contractor with an electrician’s background, you definitely already know about the C-10 license. 

A C-10 electrical contractor is a professional who has met the specific requirements set by the CSLB for performing electrical work. These requirements include passing a trade examination and having at least four years of journey-level experience in the electrical trade2.

C-10 electrical contractors are experts in their field. They have a deep understanding of electrical systems and the safety protocols that must be followed when working with electricity. They are trained to handle a wide range of electrical tasks, from simple installations to complex wiring projects.


Do You Have To Subcontract Out Electrical Work If You’re A GC with A C-10?

With all the definitions out of the way, let’s get down to business. We know that you probably could do your own electrical work as a GC with a C-10 License, without anyone knowing. But can you face legal consequences for doing so?

In other words, can you perform electrical work as a general contractor if you have a C-10 license? Or do you always have to subcontract out that work? 

The good news is that California really doesn’t care. If you are a Class B General Contractor and you have a valid C-10 Electrical Contractor’s License, you can choose whether you want to subcontract out the work or not.

IN short, if you are a C-10 licensed electrician, you are good to go!


Pros and Cons of Subcontracting Electrical Work As A General Contractor

Now, you might see the cost savings of doing your own electrical work as a general contractor – but that doesn’t mean you should always do electrical work on every project. There’s always trade-offs when it comes to choosing to do the work yourself or hire it out.

Here’s a few pros and cons for hiring out electrical work when you’re a general contractor with a C-10 license.



  • Up-to-date expertise. Most C-10 holders are electricians – specialists who never go on to become generalists. By their very nature, electricians will have more up-to-date and more cultured expertise than someone who does mostly general contracting work.
  • Efficiency. As a general contractor, your job is to be efficient. Sometimes it just makes sense to hire out the electrical work, so you can focus on other things, especially on bigger projects.
  • Trust. A C-10 electrician has passed the rigorous C-10 exam, which means they meet the strict standards of the CSLB. Any C-10 license holder will be able to meet the qualifications of the client and deliver a final product that meets the standard set by the CSLB – or face the consequences.



  • Costs. Obviously, you’ll save lots of money by not having to hire someone else to do work you can legally and professionally accomplish. You’re not only adding money to your company’s coffers, but you yourself are basically taking the wages you would have spent on hiring out.
  • Additional Expenses. As a C-10 License holder, you may need to pay for extra things like educational programs, IBEW union dues or Electrical Contractors Insurance. Considering how dangerous electrical work can be, many of these expenses are unavoidable – and can add up quickly.
  • Time and energy. Good electrical work requires care and precision – which usually means it’s incompatible with being a general contractor. In most cases, you simply will not have the time or energy to be physically wiring a 10-story apartment while also dealing with vendors, clients and employees (and the 10 million problems that follow).



So, can a general contractor do electrical work in California? The answer is yes – but only if that general contractor has a valid and up-to-date C-10 license.

The reality is, though, that in 99% of cases, you will want to hire out your electrical work to a trusted, CSLB-certified C-10 electrician. The reasons for that are manifold, but the one that always sticks out is that it is logistically impossible for all but the smallest projects.

If you’re building a house or refurbishing the garage – then maybe you’re good to do your own electrical work as a Class B gen con. Any project bigger than that, you really should be subcontracting it out.

New Workers’ Compensation Law For C-8, C-20, C-22 and D-49 License Holders In 2023

If you’re a concrete, HVAC, asbestos abatement, or tree service contractor, you probably know about SB 216 and its impact on your trade. 

SB 216 was signed into law in 2021, but became effective on January 1, 2023, and if you’re a part of 

The new law says that contractors with the C-8, C-20, C-22, and D-49 license classifications will be required to have workers’ compensation insurance – even if you don’t have any employees! 

That’s right – if you fall into any of these trades, it is now mandatory for you to have workers’ comp insurance in the State of California, as enforced by the CSLB, and the punishments are severe.

Don’t worry though – there’s plenty of time to make sure you comply with the law and continue on with your Class C or Class D license. Here’s all you need to know about SB216 – and how you can stay compliant.


Which Contractors Are Affected by the New Law?

As mentioned earlier, only certain Class C and Class D contractor license classifications are affected by SB 216. 

These classifications include:

  • C-8: Concrete
  • C-20: Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning
  • C-22: Asbestos Abatement
  • D-49: Tree Service

What is Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

Workers’ compensation insurance is a type of insurance that provides benefits to employees who are injured or become ill as a direct result of their job. 

In California, employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. The coverage includes medical expenses, lost wages, and other benefits.


How Much Workers’ Compensation Insurance Coverage is Required?

The amount of workers’ compensation insurance coverage, as outlined in the CSLB bulletin from November of last year, says that “for every $100 in payroll, a contractor must have $1.57 in workers’ compensation insurance coverage.” 

If you’re a solo contractor, the math is easy. For example, if you make $10,000 a month, you’d have to cover $1,570 in workers compensation. That doesn’t mean you’re paying $1,570 per month, only that you need that much coverage. The cost of monthly coverage is a fraction of the actual coverage amount.


When Does SB 216 Go Into Effect And What Happens If You’re Caught Without Workers’ Comp Insurance?

Although technically SB 216 is in effect right now, you will not face any penalties until July 1, 2023 – when the new law becomes enforceable. If you are without insurance right now, but need to get it, it’s okay, you’ve got time!

According to the CSLB, failure to comply will result in the suspension or revocation of their license. Contractors who do not comply with the law may also be subject to penalties and fines, in addition to any legal punishments that come from doing unlicensed work.

At the end of the day, it’s not worth it to avoid following the new law. If you take the CSLB at their word, they will be watching contractors with these licenses like a hawk to make sure you have workers’ compensation insurance. 


The Bottom Line

If you have a C-8, C-20, C-22, and D-49 license classification, you must have workers’ compensation insurance coverage in place by July 1, 2023, to avoid penalties and fines. 

It’s essential that you understand the requirements of this new law and take the necessary steps to comply with it. You have plenty of time to get the requisite insurance – but don’t procrastinate, as you could lose your license quickly!

How To Get Your General Building Contractor License In California

Are you considering a career as a licensed general contractor in California? 

Congratulations – you’re joining 100,000+ licensed general contractors in the state working to build everything from new apartments to interchanges on the I-5. These are people who have put in the time and effort to become experts at general contracting and you should be honored to even consider joining their ranks.

The path to becoming a licensed general contractor in California is somewhat long, and it can be difficult – especially if you don’t prepare yourself with knowledge and expert guidance along the way – but it’s far from impossible, even for people who never got along with traditional school and learning pathways.

In this article, you’ll find the essential information you’ll need to get your California Contractor State Licensing Board (CSLB) general contractor license!


General Contractor License: The CSLB Class “B” License

If you’re a general contractor in California, you must hold a CSLB Class “B” License to do your job. 

The State of California requires anyone who oversees the construction, remodeling, and repair of residential and commercial structures to hold a Class B General Contractor License. This license allows you to oversee and manage all trades involved in a project, such as electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work – but not perform any of the work yourself.

For example, a “B” license holder cannot perform electrical work like installing wiring, nor can they even do less complex work, such as painting large spaces.

There are exceptions though. It is possible for a general contractor to do the work if they hold the appropriate specialty license (a Class “C” specialty license). They can, of course, also subcontract a licensed specialty contractor to perform the work (duh, you say!).

Examples of projects a “B” license holder can undertake include:

  • New residential or commercial building construction
  • Home additions and renovations
  • Commercial tenant improvements
  • Kitchen and bathroom remodeling
  • Structural repairs and alterations

Projects that require additional licensing or subcontracting include:

  • Electrical wiring and panel installation
  • Plumbing system installation or repair
  • HVAC system installation or repair
  • Roofing installation or repair

Fulfill the Experience Requirement

To qualify for a “B” license, you must have at least four years of journey-level experience within the last ten years in the construction industry. This experience can include working as a journeyman, foreman, supervisor, or contractor. 

The CSLB will consider a combination of experience and education, such as a degree in construction management when evaluating your qualifications. In many cases, education can stand in for the requisite experience, especially if the education involves hands-on training for a significant period of time.


Take and Pass the Exams

The CSLB requires “B” license applicants to pass two exams: the Law and Business Exam and the Trade Exam. 

The Law and Business Exam covers topics like California construction law, business management, and ethics, while the Trade Exam tests your knowledge of trade-specific skills and techniques. In this case, the Trade portion of the exam will cover general contractor skills – ranging from things like large-scale construction math to OSHA complaints on your job site.

To help you prepare, the CSLB offers study guides, examination resources, and practice tests on their website.

Learn more about the CSLB exam – what to expect, how long it takes, what’s on it – here!


Step 4: Submit a Thorough Application

After passing the exams, you’ll need to complete the Application for Original Contractor License. This application includes details about your experience, business structure, and financial responsibility. 

These are the essential fees and materials necessary to pass this step.

  • A $330 application processing fee
  • A $200 initial license fee (upon approval)
  • Proof of workers’ compensation insurance (per employee)
  • A $25,000 contractor’s bond


Step 5: Keep Your License in Good Standing

Once you’ve obtained your “B” license, you must renew it every two years. Staying informed about changes to California construction laws and industry best practices is essential to maintaining your license. 

Additionally, individual projects may require local permits and licenses, so familiarize yourself with local requirements in the areas where you plan to work.


Licensed General Building Contractor in California

Embarking on a career as a licensed general contractor in California is an exciting opportunity. By following the steps in this guide and staying informed about the latest industry developments, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career in the construction industry.