Monthly Archives: February 2021

What Is the B-2 Remodeling Contractors License?

For 2021, the California State Licensing Board has introduced a new type of contractor classification. The B-2 classification relates to specific types of remodeling work. It’s not quite the same as a B classification, and there are a few differences you should know about. Here are several important details about the new classification, with tips to determine if it might be right for you.

Class B Licenses vs. B-2 Licenses
Contractors who hold a Class B license are considered general building contractors. They are allowed to create a structure from nothing or to supervise others in the construction of buildings that require more than two unrelated trades. As such, a general contractor is a role that requires a lot of experience and knowledge of various types of trades, even if a person does not necessarily carry a specialty license in all of them. Of course, there are limitations to the types of projects that a general contractor can accept without a specialty license, like fire protection or well drilling.

By comparison, the B-2 license is meant for existing structures only. Imagine that you’re a homeowner and you want to renovate a room in your house. You want new drywall, flooring, and painting, but you’re not making any changes to the structure of the room itself. You could hire individual contractors for each of these, but many homeowners don’t want the hassle. The B-2 license was designed to allow contractors to meet a variety of these needs at once, as long as they stick to a setlist of 12 types of services and obtain a specialty license for any others they plan to offer.

B-2 License Limits
There are a few common-sense limitations to the services that B-2 remodeling contractors can offer. As a general rule, they relate to the support of the structure and the function of its major systems. For example, someone who only holds a B-2 classification won’t be permitted to change load-bearing aspects of the building, such as changing the foundation or relocating a load-bearing wall. They also can’t update the electrical, plumbing, or any mechanical aspects of the building if they don’t hold a specialty license to do it.

Practical Uses of the B-2 License
Many experts are lauding the creation of this new license as a way to legitimize popular handyman services in California. If you’re a jack of all trades and you love to work on multiple aspects of a project and see it come to a fine completion, the license might be the right fit for you. You’ll still need to prove your experience and take an exam like you would for other licenses, and these requirements will be available in time.

New License Rollout
Since this new law creates a license for a busy field in construction, it’s not surprising that many people may be looking forward to the ability to apply for it. The CSLB needs time to create a program that helps people discover what knowledge they will need to prove for the exam and start to process applications. At present, they hope to start accepting applications in spring and approve the first licenses by the end of the summer.

If you’ve always wanted to work in remodeling, now might be a good time to start. California has a new license that might be the perfect fit for you. For more information about how you can become a licensed contractor, contact CSLS today!

In California, Is the Future of Construction Headed Toward Mixed-Use?

When you start thinking about a career in construction, you might start by deciding whether you’d like to specialize in commercial or residential construction. But the way that property owners are thinking about development indicates that you might not have to commit to one or the other. In many cases, urban or suburban renewal creates a space that combines the two. Here’s what you need to know.

What Is Mixed-Use?
Mixed-use construction is only unique when you compare it to what city planners have done for the past several decades. In many parts of California, you live in one place and work in another. Most people live in residential areas and commute to a place zoned for commercial use. Mixed-use turns this concept on its head. Instead of separating living and working spaces, a single development might have residential units, small shops and entertainment outlets, and even green or recreation spaces. Mixed-use construction often relies on multifamily housing to achieve efficiency, but this isn’t always the case.

Is Mixed-Use a New Construction Concept?
As a concept, mixed-use construction is actually hundreds of years old. In the sense of a town or village with a definable commercial square, people have often lived where they worked. Medieval towns and cities in Europe often built towering housing developments on top of street-level shops. More recently, people can usually find these types of building artifacts in any part of the country where space is scarce. Zoning regulations that divided residential from industrial or commercial came up during high periods of industrialization. They were most popular in the time period before environmental regulations against industrial pollution. Since then, however, living near a place of business isn’t necessarily any riskier than living in an area zoned for residential.

Why Is Mixed-Use Becoming Popular?
Mixed-use construction is coming back into popularity because it is more efficient and offers flexibility to developers and cities. For much of the 20th Century, people tried to keep commercial spaces and residential spaces separate. This increased the need for roads and for vehicles to get people to and from work or shopping. In states like California that have areas with high population density, this is a nightmare. The demand for housing increases the cost and the affordable suburbs keep spreading farther away.

Instead, mixed-use construction allows cities to create a practical, useful community with work opportunities and housing in the same space. They aren’t doubling their efforts to build roads or lay sewer lines because both are available in the same efficient space. As an added benefit, people drive less, so they use less gasoline and put fewer cars on the road. This improves traffic and makes services more accessible.

What Are the Possible Drawbacks to Mixed-Use Construction?
Although mixed-use construction is certainly trending toward the norm in many parts of California and the country as a whole, it is not without drawbacks. When you’re trying to renovate a space from something that was entirely commercial or residential into a development that combines the two, you may run into zoning problems. In this case, developers need to work with the municipality to determine what can be done, which might include changing the zoning for the land. If the plans include an extensive increase in population that requires improvements to roads or access to water or electricity, the city may or may not be willing to take on that burden.

Mixed-use construction is a hot building trend in California. You will probably see it coming to a city near you. To learn more about the latest trends in construction and how you can prepare for a career in the industry, visit CSLS today!

What Are the Payment Options for Your Contracting Business?

Years ago, when you wanted payment for your contracting business services, you had only a couple of options. Mostly, you sent an invoice and waited for a paper check. But the times have changed. These days, many clients are looking for seamless websites where they can send you payment through a variety of methods with a click of a button. Here are a few you should consider.

Invoicing
If you are working primarily with businesses, you’ll probably need to get comfortable with sending an invoice. You have a variety of options:

  • Creating your own invoices individually
  • Searching for invoice templates
  • Using invoices through an online payment system
  • Whether you choose to design your own invoice or use a template, you need to make sure that the invoice includes all of the relevant details. Specifically, you need a date, the amount due, methods of payment, time that the payment is due, and where people can submit the payment. All of this information is necessary to ensure a timely payment that is correct and submitted in the right format.

Credit Card Payments
If you are working primarily with customers, not businesses, you may want to consider setting up to accept credit cards. There are a few different ways that you can do this. The most traditional involves setting up a merchant account with one or more credit networks, like Visa or Mastercard. If you take this route, you will need to set up a merchant account for each type of card you would like to accept. Merchant accounts usually have restrictions on the way that you can handle transactions, as well as a fee you pay for the service. Since a lot of people conduct business mostly or entirely by credit card these days, including businesses, finding a way to accept credit cards is a worthy goal.

Online Payment Systems
Although setting up your own merchant accounts is a viable option, there are other ways you can accept credit cards. Online payment systems like PayPal or Stripe charge fees so that you can accept payments through them. The added benefit is that you can rely on their extensive protections of consumer information, instead of having to maintain that degree of security for your own website.

Systems like Square are useful when you need to accept payment in person. Square and companies like it have tools that you can attach to a smartphone, tablet or other device to turn it into a Point of Sale device. This way, you don’t have to direct customers to your website when they can just hand you a credit card for processing.

How to Accept Payments
If you maintain a website, it may be practical to put in writing how you handle billing and when payment is expected. Keep in mind that people may be used to different payment options than the ones you are expecting. If you work primarily with businesses, you can expect that they will either pay by credit card or mail you a check on receipt of your invoice. Customers who aren’t business owners may expect to pay with a credit card, personal check or even cash. It’s wise to outline which forms of payment you will accept before you agree to do the work. This avoids complications and stress at payment time.

Billing Tips
Ultimately, you need to get paid for the work you do. The best way to set that up depends on the business, but it requires consistency. For example, if you choose to invoice clients, you can’t let it become a last-minute task that you are forever putting off. If you bill on a net 30 days or net 90 basis, you are waiting for that amount of time from the date of invoice. If you’re taking a full payment on the date of service, however, the consistency is built into it.

Getting paid is one of the most important ways to keep your contracting business going. With a variety of payment options, you can find a system that works best for your clients. To get started building a great construction career, contact CSLS today!

Common Repetitive Stress Injuries in Construction, and How to Avoid Them

Repetitive stress injuries are fairly common in construction. When you spend a lot of time repeating the same physical tasks over and over, you’re at higher risk. But once you get the injury, it can be tricky to heal and avoid making it worse. Here are a few of the most common types for people who work in construction, and how you can reduce your risk of ending up with one.

Tendonitis
Tendonitis is one of the most common signs of a repetitive stress injury. Different forms of tendonitis often have names associated with certain sports that require a movement repeated over and over. For example, tennis elbow is a type of tendonitis that occurs on the outside of your elbow. Golfer’s elbow, on the other hand, refers to the tendon running along the underside of your elbow. You’ve got tendons everywhere, and any task that causes repeated stretching of those tendons can lead to temporary or long-term damage.

Nerve Issues
The way that you put pressure on your joints can trigger nerve problems. These don’t necessarily involve permanent nerve damage but in some cases, they do. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a common condition where pressure on the wrists and hands leads to pain, tingling, and loss of feeling in the hands and fingers. Cubital tunnel syndrome creates similar feelings in the hands and arms, starting with the elbows. If you’re holding your arm at a 90-degree angle for very long periods of time, you may trigger this condition.

Other nerve conditions relate specifically to types of work common in construction. Hand-arm vibration syndrome, for example, is practically exclusive to construction work. If you work with equipment that vibrates most of the day, every day, you may eventually develop symptoms of this condition. Common signs include muscle aches, tingling or loss of feeling in the arms.

Bursitis
Your joints have little pockets of fluid that help to cushion your joints for impact. These pockets are called bursae. If you engage in activities that put constant pressure on them, they may swell and become painful, which is called bursitis. People are more likely to get bursitis in bigger joints like the shoulder or hip. In most cases, bursitis happens after holding a particular position for long periods of time. For example, if you kneel for hours a day, you may develop bursitis in one or both hips.

Treating Repetitive Stress Injuries
The way to treat repetitive stress injuries depends on the type and the severity. Most of the time, you should start by a visit to a doctor with experience treating these types of conditions, like a sports medicine doctor. They may recommend that you rest the affected joint, which may require some rearranging if the task is one you do every day. Pain-relief components like ice, heat, or over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may help. Once your condition is starting to improve, you will likely need physical therapy to help rebuild use of the joint without reinjuring it.

Reducing Risk of Injury
Ultimately, your best bet is to avoid creating these injuries in the first place. That may be the most difficult thing since it is so easy to keep going with a task until it is done. Experts recommend that if you want to prevent this type of injury, you should:

  • Change tasks regularly
  • Avoid sitting or standing in the same place for long periods
  • Use pads under your feet or knees
  • Use braces when needed
  • Seek treatment at the first sign of symptoms

As a business owner, you should also encourage your employees to avoid repetitive stress injuries. Making it easy for them to follow healthy practices will help to ensure that they can continue to provide good work into the future.

Repetitive stress injury is a common hazard in construction work, but you may be able to avoid it with these tips. For more information about starting your own contracting business, visit CSLS today!

Is Your Contracting Business Growing Too Quickly?

For most businesses, growth is a good strategy. You need to keep growing in order to ensure that you don’t become obsolete. On the other hand, explosive growth can be difficult to manage, particularly if you don’t have a ton of business experience. With these tips, you will know if your business growth pattern is starting to shift out of control.

You Can’t Say No to New Work
In the early years of your contracting business, you may not have to say no to new work opportunities. In fact, at some point you may be delighted to get them. But on the other hand, some businesses are so successful and in demand at the beginning but they are quickly inundated. This can be a problem. After all, saying yes to every job opportunity can leave you burned out and may even pressure you to make shortcuts on the jobs you have. It isn’t a good long-term strategy, because it can leave you without a reliable, satisfied client base.

Your Backlog Is Longer than Your Client List
For most people in construction, a little bit of a backlog can be a good thing. You don’t want to be finishing projects so quickly that you have days without work before the next one. On the other hand, too much of a backlog can make it difficult for you to focus on a more gradual rate of growth. The right backlog depends on the field that you’re in. If you’re regularly taking projects that will last weeks or months, it’s common to have a backlog that could last you several months. But if most of your work takes a week or less, you don’t want to be booked out so far that people conclude you are simply unavailable. There’s a good balance between booking out past the end of the calendar and being ready to do the work tomorrow.

You’re Hiring People Faster than Paying Them
Having so much work on your plate that you need to hire employees to help is a great problem to have. You just have to make sure that your workload can sustain the expenses. In many small businesses, payroll is the biggest single expense. For every person that you hire, you need to be reasonably certain that you have future work sufficient to continue their services. And this isn’t just about protecting your relationship with employees who may be difficult to find. Logic and laws dictate that if you hire people to do work, you have to pay them for it. Sometimes, if you hire too many people too quickly, you may run out of work and money faster than you expected.

Your Expenses Are Doubling
When your clients are coming out of the woodwork, it’s tempting to look at all these projects and think only of the future profits. But you also have to consider how this can increase your expenses. For example, trying to run twice as many projects in the same amount of time may require you to rent or purchase more equipment, or order more supplies. The value of the projects may significantly exceed the expenses, but you’ll need to keep a close eye on it. When your total costs to run the business are much higher than they were a few months ago, it may not take much to send your cash flow spiraling.

Your Cash Flow Isn’t Improving
The last sign that your business is growing out of pace is your cash flow. Cash flow is the liquid assets you have to keep your business running:

  • Pay yourself and employees
  • Pay bills
  • Order materials from suppliers
  • Outsource administrative tasks, like taxes
  • In theory, if you average about 70% expenses on each project you do, that leaves at least 30% for cash flow and possible profits. But this depends on the projects that are most in-demand. If you go through a period where you were doing more work with a lower margin, you might watch your cash flow evaporate.

Once you start your contracting business, you want it to grow at a steady rate. For more information about beginning your career path in construction, visit CSLS today!

Is Your Contracting Business Workspace Making You Sick?

Environmental hazards have a way of affecting the way you think and even your health. Although you might be most concerned about your living space, your workspace also deserves careful consideration. You may need to conduct a detailed analysis, especially if you’re already encountering symptoms. With these tips, you can discover the common health risks presented by workspaces, both office and industrial.

Sick Building Syndrome
Sick Building Syndrome is not a particularly new concept, but it’s something worth keeping in mind when you’re working in spaces built in the last 70 years. In essence, Sick Building Syndrome describes a pattern of health problems for the people who live and work in the space, tied to the construction of the building itself. It’s kind of like chronic illnesses and health concerns that people might develop if they live in an area where the water or soil is contaminated. In this case, it’s the construction, layout, and function of the building that triggers issues for the people inside it.

Signs and Symptoms
Environmental exposure to contaminants or irritants is common enough that you might not even think about it. But there’s a difference between an occasional issue and one that seems to come up all the time. People who are getting sick at their place of work often experience the following:

  • Colds that never seem to go away
  • Chronic allergies that get better with time away from work
  • Chronic headaches or migraines
  • Exhaustion or inability to focus
  • The quick spread of communicable diseases
  • Unfortunately, these symptoms are sufficiently mainstream that people may not realize they are tied to the workspace. But just as you would clean up your home if you suspect a problem, you may have to inspect your workspace in the same ways.

Sanitation
If you have been paying attention to anything that has happened in 2020, you know that sanitation can be a significant factor in your health at home and work. The recent pandemic has made a lot of people rethink their sanitation strategies, particularly related to diseases that spread by contact, droplets or aerosols. Protecting yourself from common conditions involves more than the extra clean-up tasks you do to prevent COVID-19, however. After all, you can contract colds, influenza and even food poisoning at your workplace. If you find that you spend half the year with a sniffle at work, you know that increased sanitation is something you’ll need to keep.

Ventilation
Improvements in modern construction techniques have solved problems while simultaneously creating others. For example, changes in the ways that people envision the building envelope have greatly improved energy efficiency by controlling the airflow. Unfortunately, this presumes that every system has an ideal ventilation system, and that people will use it regularly. In a building that is tightly sealed, ventilation makes the difference between safe spaces to work and harmful off-gassing of VOCs. This is as much a concern of behavior as it is a factor of the equipment. In some cases, increasing the filtration minimizes the harm. In other cases, people have to convince themselves to use the ventilation in the first place.

Chemicals and VOCs
Sometimes, certain features of the building or activities inside it can trigger a lot of these health problems. Many products that people use at home or work contain volatile organic compounds. These VOCs can release contaminants into the air over time. Some of them are relatively harmless, but others are not. For example, if a warehouse cleaning crew is using cleaning products or solvents that are meant to be used outside or with proper ventilation, there may be problems when they use them inside with the doors closed. In many cases, a funky smell is an indicator that you need to increase the ventilation. However, you can’t guarantee that you will know a toxin by scent. After all, carbon monoxide is deadly but also odorless.

Getting work done means ensuring that your workspace isn’t causing health concerns. With these tips, you’ll know if you have a problem. To find out about the benefits of expert contractor licensing exam preparation, visit CSLS today!

How to Improve Your Handwriting on Estimates and Other Documents for Your Contracting Business

Have you ever received a written document in handwriting and had no idea what the person had written? This is a common problem for a lot of people who aren’t composing all of their documents by computer. Although you may be set up to type and print almost everything, every now and then you’ll fill out an estimate or similar form in your own writing. Can the client read it? Here’s how you can make sure they do.

Choose the Right Implement
There is a right pen for anyone. If you haven’t found it yet, it’s time to keep looking. Some people prefer pens with ink that dry virtually on contact. If you’re finding that your handwriting smears easily, you may need to take this route. Other people feel that cheap pens quit on them too easily or force them to press much harder than they would otherwise. In this case, a pen with free-flowing ink may help you to relax your grip and write with greater ease. Invest $10 or $20 in a handful of choices, and test them out for more than just a scribble. This process will help you narrow it down to a few options.

Take Your Time
If you look at someone’s handwriting, you can usually tell when they are taking their time and when they’re in a hurry. Someone who is writing very quickly makes more mistakes and may press too hard. Good handwriting takes practice, but it also takes focus. If you are trying to fill out a detailed page in only five or 10 minutes, it’s much more likely to come out looking like chicken scratch. Instead, give yourself the time to focus on the words and numbers that you’re writing, especially on the parts that require absolute clarity. Think about it as you would signing a deed or writing a check. Money may be involved here, so it’s worth the wait.

Relax Your Grip
Many people who struggle with their handwriting realize that they are holding onto the pen for dear life. Like any other tool you use for your contracting business, a pen is a device that you must handle correctly. If you’re gripping it tight enough to snap it in two, your hand will wear out and you’ll be more likely to punch through the paper. Instead, try a few different ways to grip the pen and not just the one that your primary school teachers told you to use. Find one that feels comfortable and natural to you. You’ll be able to keep going on longer forms this way.

Write on a Stable Platform
Practically everyone has had an experience of trying to write down some important information on a piece of paper against a car‘s windshield. This is not the ideal surface on which to write, which is why it’s not surprising that you may find information written in this way hard to read. You need a stable platform that isn’t likely to shift unexpectedly. Of course, writing at a desk is ideal, but not every contractor has this option. If you’re writing on the jobsite, consider asking to sit down at a desk or table to fill out the relevant information. If you’re writing in your car, look for portable writing desks that don’t require you to lay them across the steering wheel.

Practice, Practice, Practice
The best way you can improve your handwriting in a way that will stick is to build a habit. In order to build a habit that improves upon your previous handwriting, you’ll need to practice. Once you reach a point where your handwriting is consistent, clear and easy to read, continue working at that pace. Over time, you may be able to build up a little more speed. Since clarity is the goal, keep in mind that rushing your practice is more likely to re-introduce the bad habits you worked so hard to get rid of.

Having good professional communication can help you run a successful contracting business. So does a thorough grounding in the knowledge you need to pass your contractor licensing exam. To find out more about your options, contact CSLS today!

Hidden Costs for Your Contracting Business

When you run a business, you need to make sure that your income stays ahead of your expenses. The trouble is that there are a variety of hidden costs that you might not know about, and they can certainly add up. Be sure to factor in these unexpected fees or charges, so that you can form a plan to keep your accounts in the black.

Permits, Licenses and Insurance
The ability to conduct business depends on the type of licenses you have and how you maintain them. For example, you’ll need to pay a fee every couple of years to renew your contractor’s license. This license is not the same thing as your business license, which you will also need to renew regularly through the state. Given the type of work contractors do, you should also plan to carry insurance to protect yourself, your equipment and your clients, where applicable. These fees may need to be paid once a year, twice a year or more frequently. You may need to save up so that you can pay them in a lump sum on the month that they are due.

Credit Processing Fees
Credit processing fees usually take a small percentage of each transaction that you accept by credit card. It typically amounts to 3-4% of the transaction, and may not necessarily have a maximum dollar amount per transaction. If you sign up for one of the many payment-handling platforms like PayPal or Square, you’ll still need to pay the transaction fees. You can avoid this problem by deciding not to accept credit cards, but that depends on the way you plan to run your business. Contractors who work primarily with residential customers and not businesses may find it very difficult to do business without accepting credit cards.

Interest on Debts
It’s not uncommon for business owners to carry at least a small amount of debt in the form of small business loans or a line of credit. Before you apply for loans like this, you should consider the interest rates and how quickly you will be able to pay them off. For example, a fixed-rate loan at a low rate gives you a predictable payment you can plan for until it’s paid off. A line of credit or a business credit card offers you flexibility in determining how much money you need. In exchange, you may have to deal with an adjustable interest rate. Keep in mind that credit card companies aren’t necessarily required to keep a fixed-rate credit card at the same rate after the initial term. With advance notice, they may be able to raise the interest rate over time.

Late Fees or Extensions on Rentals
Many contractors find that renting equipment is often quite a bit cheaper than buying it. After all, if you don’t use the equipment daily, you don’t want to pay more to have it sitting in a warehouse most of the time. When you reserve the equipment, you should pay attention to the rental interval and what happens if you’re not able to return it at the right time. Getting charged for an extra day of use or a late fee could double the cost, which may amount to hundreds or thousands of dollars that you did not expect.

Employee Benefits
You offer employee benefits as a way to keep good workers and entice more to join your team. Even if those benefits aren’t tangible, they still typically come at some kind of cost. For example, if you offer employees a few weeks of paid leave each year, you must expect them to take it. If you only have a few employees, you may not be able to maintain the same level of productivity while they are taking a day off. It is wise to consider your cash flow so that you can always cover payroll, regardless of the project that you are working on this week.

Running a contracting business may cost more than you think. If you pay attention to these hidden costs, you’ll have a better idea of what you can expect. For a great investment to help you prepare for the contractor licensing exam, visit CSLS today!