Monthly Archives: October 2023

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 are 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 going 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.

A Comprehensive Guide To ADU Builds For California Contractors

Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs) have emerged as a huge economic opportunity for both homeowners and contractors alike. The ADU market in California has experienced unprecedented growth, evidenced by a 50% increase in permit applications in 2022 compared to the preceding year. There’s a reason why – it represents a huge opportunity for both contractors and homeowners alike.

With bill after bill of pro-ADU legislation coming through the California legislature, the state is definitely making it easy for people to offer ADUs on residential property. If you’re a builder looking to take advantage of this new market or a person looking to make a little bit of extra cash, an ADU looks like an enticing opportunity. But make no mistake – building an ADU is no joke. It requires a lot of work, a lot of money, and a lot of regulatory legwork.

If you’re someone looking to build an ADU, either for yourself or your client – this guide will cover everything you need to know about ADUs and what it means to actually build one or enter the market as a specialty ADU contractor.

A Closer Look at the Historical Evolution

The trajectory of ADUs in California is marked by significant legislative milestones, each contributing to easing housing shortages. The introduction of Senate Bill 1069 in 2017 was a game-changer, relaxing parking and utility fee requirements and thereby catalyzing ADU developments.

Assembly Bill 68 in 2021 further expedited the approval process and allowed for multiple ADUs on single-family lots, setting the stage for a thriving ADU market with contractors steering this transformative shift

Navigating the intricate regulatory framework is paramount for contractors. The California Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) outlines comprehensive guidelines encompassing zoning, size, and design, with local jurisdictions adding another layer of specificity. Contractors must meticulously consider:

  • Zoning Requirements: Adherence to varying local zoning ordinances is crucial, dictating the permissible locations for ADU construction and often adding to the cost.
  • Size Limitations: With a typical cap at 1,200 square feet, size regulations demand careful attention, considering the lot size and local variations.
  • Local Design Standards: Compliance with local design standards ensures that ADUs stay within local building codes like heights and lawn care.

Innovations and Trends: Crafting the ADU of Tomorrow

Innovation is at the heart of ADU construction, with contractors employing advanced technologies and sustainable methodologies to meet the evolving market expectations. Emerging trends include:

  • Sustainable Building Practices: The incorporation of features like solar panels, rainwater harvesting systems, and energy-efficient appliances is becoming the norm, reflecting California’s sustainability goals.
  • Modular Construction: The rising popularity of modular construction offers a blend of cost efficiency and time-saving benefits.
  • Smart Home Integration: The integration of smart home technologies enhances the appeal and functionality of ADUs, aligning with modern living expectations.

Statistics About the ADU Market in California in 2023

The ADU market in California in 2023 has witnessed significant developments, reflecting the evolving legal and economic landscape. Here are five noteworthy statistics:

  • Permit Applications: There has been a 60% increase in ADU permit applications in California in 2023 compared to the previous year, indicating heightened interest and activity in the ADU market.
  • Construction Costs: The average construction cost of an ADU in California is approximately $200,000, varying based on size, design, and location.
  • Rental Rates: Rental rates for ADUs in California have seen an average increase of 8%, making them a lucrative investment for homeowners.
  • Sustainability Trends: Approximately 70% of new ADUs constructed in 2023 have incorporated sustainable building practices, reflecting the growing emphasis on eco-friendly living.
  • Financing Options: The availability of ADU-specific financing options has increased by 25%, providing homeowners with more avenues to fund ADU construction.

Best Tips for Contractors Who Want to Enter the ADU Market

Establishing yourself in the piping-hot ADU market in California presents a golden opportunity for contractors. While every contractor’s situation is different, here are some general tips that will put you in the right direction when it comes to ADUs.

  • Stay Informed on Regulations: Regularly update knowledge on state and local ADU regulations to ensure compliance and stay ahead of any legislative changes.
  • Specialize in Sustainable Practices: Embrace and specialize in sustainable building practices to meet the growing demand for eco-friendly ADUs.
  • Build Relationships with Local Authorities: Foster relationships with local planning and zoning authorities to facilitate smoother permit applications and approvals.
  • Offer Customized Solutions: Provide tailored ADU designs and solutions to cater to the diverse needs and preferences of homeowners.
  • Engage in Community Outreach: Actively engage with communities to address concerns, build trust, and establish a positive reputation in the ADU market.
  • Budgeting and Financing: Providing accurate cost estimates and assisting homeowners in navigating financing options, such as ADU-specific loans and grants, is essential.
  • Site Assessment: Comprehensive site assessments identify potential challenges related to topography and utility access, enabling preemptive solutions.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Contractor to Build Your ADU

As a homeowner, deciding whether to hire a contractor for your ADU build is probably the most important step you’ll make when building an ADU, because, obviously, you’re going to be the one building it if you don’t hire someone to build it!

Obviously, we think that most people would benefit from having a contractor build your ADU, but here are some pros and cons of bringing on an expert to take care of the building of your ADU property.


  • Expertise and Experience: Contractors bring a wealth of experience and expertise in construction, ensuring that the ADU is built to high standards and complies with all applicable regulations.
  • Streamlined Permitting Process: Navigating the permitting process can be challenging. Contractors are familiar with local ordinances and can streamline the application and approval process, saving homeowners time and hassle.
  • Quality Assurance: Hiring a contractor provides quality assurance, as they are accountable for the workmanship and must adhere to industry standards, reducing the risk of construction errors and subsequent costs.
  • Time Efficiency: Contractors manage the construction timeline efficiently, coordinating with subcontractors and suppliers, which can expedite the building process compared to a DIY approach.
  • Less Stress: Building an ADU can be stressful. Having a contractor manage the project alleviates the burden on homeowners, providing peace of mind throughout the construction journey.


  • Cost Implications: Hiring a contractor can be more expensive than a DIY approach due to labor and management costs. Homeowners need to weigh this against the potential costs of mistakes and delays if they were to manage the project themselves.
  • Less Personal Control: While contractors consult with homeowners, there may be less personal control over every detail of the construction process, which might be a drawback for those who prefer a hands-on approach.
  • Potential Communication Gaps: Homeowners may experience communication gaps or misunderstandings with the contractor, which can affect the project’s outcome. Clear and consistent communication is essential to mitigate this risk.
  • Finding the Right Fit: Identifying a reliable and qualified contractor can be time-consuming. Homeowners need to conduct thorough research, check references, and obtain multiple quotes to find the right fit for their project.
  • Contractual Disputes: There is a risk of disputes arising over contractual agreements, such as costs, timelines, or work scope. A well-drafted contract and open communication can help prevent and resolve any issues.

The Final Word

If you’re a contractor looking to get into ADUs, now is the time. The longer you wait to become a trusted ADU contractor in your area, the more competition there will be when you finally take the plunge.

The good thing is you don’t need a specific CSLB license to build an ADU – at the very least, you only need a Class B license, or, if you’re a homeowner modifying your own property, and the materials cost less than $600, you can build your own ADU. We have to be honest, though, that’s unlikely unless you’re just installing a new shelf or something. Considering the average cost of an ADU is $200,000, that’s highly unlikely.

Additional Reading

LA Times – Deep Dive on ADUs
California Legislative Information – Senate Bill 1069
California Legislative Information – Assembly Bill 68
California Department of Housing and Community Development – ADU Handbook
Terner Center for Housing Innovation at UC Berkeley – The State of ADUs in California
California Contractors State License Board – Owner-Builder Responsibilities
California Department of Housing and Community Development – ADU Construction and Financing
California Housing Partnership – ADU Market Trends and Statistics
U.S. Green Building Council – Sustainable ADU Construction in California

Business Structures 101 for California Contractors

You’ve put in the hard hours, you’ve done the hard work, and you’ve finally passed the notorious CSLB exam. Now’s the time to submit your bonds and insurance to the CSLB and get your contractor’s license.

Not so fast. There’s one thing that many contractors overlook – every contractor needs to establish a company for themselves, whether they’re a day jobber working on roofs in their neighborhood, or a multinational company beginning work in California for the first time.

But what kind of business should you establish for your contracting business? How do you even decide? In this article, we’ll cover some of the essentials when it comes to deciding what kind of business structure you should establish for your contracting company.

The California Secretary of State and the CSLB

The authority that regulates business in California is called the Secretary of State, but the CSLB – as always – is the one who requires all contractors to register as a business in the state.

It’s important to note that while technically speaking you do not need to have a business or to be registered with the California SoS, it’s all but necessary for contractors to have their own business. Without a proper business structure and registration, you expose yourself to financial risk, liability risk, to reputational risk in case anything goes wrong.

Registering a Business: A Prerequisite for CSLB Licensing

Before you can apply for a contractor’s license from the CSLB, you must first register your business with the state of California. This is a critical step in the licensing process. The type of business structure you choose will determine the specific registration process you must follow – more on that later.

Once your business is registered, you can then proceed to apply for a contractor’s license from the CSLB. The application process involves demonstrating your qualifying experience, passing an examination, and getting fingerprinted for a criminal background check.

Remember, operating a contracting business without a valid license from the CSLB is illegal in California and can result in hefty penalties. Therefore, it’s crucial to ensure your business is properly registered and licensed before you start offering contracting services.

Sole Proprietorship: Simplicity with Personal Liability

For 99% of contractors, you’ll want to set up as a sole proprietorship.

In its simplest form, this means you are the only operator and only employee in the business. As you can imagine, this is the structure that independent construction specialists (those with Class C licenses) like plumbers, HVAC techs, and welders use, as they’re often one-man bands.

In California, contractors operating as sole proprietors must register their business with the county clerk’s office in the county where the business is located. They must also obtain an Employer Identification Number (EIN) from the IRS, even if they don’t have employees, as an EIN is required for certain federal tax filings.

Partnership: Shared Ownership and Responsibilities

A partnership is a business structure where two or more individuals share ownership. Partnerships can be general or limited in liability – which essentially defines what you’re liable for in case of losses.

In a general partnership, all partners share in the business’s profits and losses, and each partner is personally liable for business debts. In a limited partnership, one or more general partners have unlimited liability, while the limited partners have liability only up to the amount of their investment.

This setup is a good situation for family businesses or situations where you and some of your friends, family, or local community are all banding together to work together. This way, the people involved in your company’s success are liable for losses as well as profits.

When setting up a partnership, documentation is key. Partnerships require a written agreement detailing the division of profits, roles and responsibilities, and procedures for resolving disputes. Partnerships in California must register with the Secretary of State and obtain an EIN from the IRS.

Corporation: Maximum Protection with Increased Complexity

“Corporation” might be a dirty word nowadays, but for contractors, it can be a very useful business structure. A corporation is a legal entity separate from its owners, providing the most protection from personal liability, but the tradeoff is it takes tons of resources to begin – and even more to maintain.

Corporations have the most complex business structure and require more time and money to maintain. Corporations are required to hold regular board meetings, maintain corporate records, and file corporate income tax returns – all of which are extremely complicated and difficult, especially for corporations.

In addition to filing a formation of business with the California SOS, corporations must also adopt bylaws, issue shares of stock, and file an annual report. Corporations are taxed at the corporate rate and may face double taxation if profits are distributed to shareholders as dividends.

Limited Liability Company (LLC)

An LLC combines the liability protection of a corporation with the tax benefits and simplicity of a partnership. This, in addition to Sole proprietorship, are rather common in the construction world, as it blends both the liability protection of corporations with the freedom and flexibility of a sole proprietorship or partnership.

Owners of an LLC, known as members, are not personally liable for the company’s debts and liabilities. There can be as many members as you want to name. We have to recommend an LLC structure for your contracting business, it’s a nice balance of all the other various structures.

The Role of Qualifying Individuals in Business Structures

In California, every contractor license requires a qualifying individual, or “qualifier,” who has demonstrated their knowledge and experience through the application process and holds one or more license classifications. If you’re a contractor, you either are a QI or work for a QI.

A qualifier may be a Sole Owner, Qualifying Partner, Responsible Managing Employee (RME), Responsible Managing Officer (RMO), Responsible Managing Manager, or Responsible Managing Member.

Being a qualifier on a license can be a significant risk and liability. Under Business and Professions (B&P) Code section 7122.5, if the performance of an act or omission by the license constitutes a cause for disciplinary action, it also is a cause for disciplinary action against the qualifier, regardless of their knowledge and participation.


Choosing the right business structure for your contracting business in California is a critical decision to both your business’s success and your personal liability. It’s essential to consider your business’s nature, your personal risk tolerance, and your long-term business goals when making this decision, as this decision is extremely subjective and equally important.

When opening your business, it’s definitely worth the time to meet with someone who can help you make the right decision. Someone with experience in California law knows the tax codes, and has the general financial know-how that can provide individualized advice – these are definitely worth the money when opening your business.

Additional Reading

“Starting a Business Checklist.” California Secretary of State
“Employer ID Numbers.” Internal Revenue Service
“Partnerships.” Internal Revenue Service
“Corporations.” California Secretary of State
“Corporation Tax Rates.” Franchise Tax Board
“Contractors State License Board.” State of California
“Absentee Qualifiers.” Contractors State License Board

Do You Really Need to Join A Union To Become A Master Electrician?

If you’re an electrician or thinking about becoming one, you’re probably thinking about joining the union – whether that’s the national unions like the IBEW and NECA, or your local union like the CSAEW. If you’re even vaguely aware of electricians, what they do, and what the career entails, then surely you’ve at least heard of these.

These unions are the collective bargaining groups in the electrician’s field, and beyond the basic benefits of unions like arguing for wage and safety standards, the union serves as a psychological standard for electricians.

That is to say, being a union electrician carries a certain amount of prestige for electricians – it legitimizes many of them in the eye of the public. Likewise the title “Master Electrician” – it’s a title that everyone has heard from and it carries with it an air of trustworthiness and quality.

The thought that comes into one’s mind when one hears “master” versus “journeyman” or “apprentice” is that of a professional versus an amateur. Anyone who aims to be an electrician wants to be a master electrician.

What is a Master Electrician? And do you have to be in a union to become one? In this article, we’ll examine what a master electrician is, how to become one, and how the IBEW fits into this whole thing. Let’s take a look.

What Is A Master Electrician?

At the pinnacle of the electrical profession stands the master electrician—a title that signifies not just expertise but years of dedication, training, and hands-on experience. But what does it mean? What is a Master Electrician?

To be honest, it’s a little nebulous and frankly, ill-defined. A master electrician is actually not a specific title, like a journeyman or an apprentice. Rather, it’s a general signifier that suggests an electrician who has gone as far as they can go in their field.

What that means is typically a few things. A master electrician is a title that exists for electricians who have completed the apprenticeship and journeyman stages of their careers. They are people who have passed all the exams, gotten all the certifications, have worked the hours, and have overseen journeyman and apprentice electricians.

The specific requirements for becoming a master electrician vary by state, but generally speaking, it’s a title that only exists by necessity; it describes electricians who have surpassed journeyman status.

It’s also a term that seems to be dying out as the electrical profession continues to become more standardized. For example, California doesn’t create a distinction between these. You’ve satisfied the requirements to become a licensed C-10 electrical contractor, in which case, you get your license. Or you’re not. There’s no in-between.

In other states, like Arkansas or Colorado, there are distinctions between different types of electricians (some even getting as granular as apprentice journeyman electricians), so be aware of what the requirements are in your state. You may have to apply for a new license every single time you reach a new designation.

The long and short of it is what a master electrician actually is is vague at best, and meaningless at worst. There are some states where it doesn’t even exist.

Do I Have To Join The Union To Be A Master Electrician?

So now that you know that a master electrician simply means, well, being a good electrician for a long time, you can finally start moving in that direction. In some states, it’s a meaningless title or one that doesn’t exist. In others, becoming a master electrician is a quantifiable boost to your career.

Either way, the question remains: do you have to join the union to become a master electrician? In most cases, the answer is: technically no, but realistically yes.

Why do we say that? Well, because even though you are technically not required to be a part of any trade organization to become a master electrician in any state, the benefits of electrician’s unions are powerful. They provide invaluable resources that make getting any electrician’s license easier – they can definitely point you in the right direction to your master’s status.

You don’t need a union for anything as an electrician, really, but they do provide strong support for new electricians especially. However, you can still gain the same skills from non-union apprenticeships or non-union trade associations.

Union apprenticeships are known for their competitiveness and rigorous standards that will set you up in the professional for life, as well as induct you into the union, a big benefit to many just starting out. Union apprenticeships come with added prerequisites but offer better pay and benefits. Such apprenticeships are coordinated through partnerships, notably the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA).

Non-union apprenticeships offer more flexibility and are often preferred by those who wish to avoid union dues and seek a less structured work environment. local contractors or non-union trade organizations, such as the Independent Electrical Contractors (IECI) or the Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC) offer these apprenticeship programs and can be a good start for people who lack the money for union dues.

The reality is both pathways are equally viable. Electrical work is pure science that anyone can learn – even from a library – but both come with pros and cons that may fit your lifestyle better than the other.

The Transition From Apprentice to Master

The journey from an apprentice to a master electrician is filled with milestones and largely dependent on where you live. In some states, there are specific requirements that delineate between apprentices, journeymen, and master electricians. As we said before, in some states, the master electrician title does not exist at all!

In general, though, you’ll often see an hourly or yearly work requirement. That is to say, in order to be certified as a master electrician in certain states, you have to either work a number of hours or work for a number of years in a certain position.

For example, in Georgia, you can either do four years’ on-the-job training or four years’ apprenticeship and that’s it – you can get your license. In Arkansas, you need to complete 8,000 hours of work experience, AND 2,000 hours in the classroom, AND you have to pass an exam!

This underlines all the different definitions and standards for what makes a master electrician. In reality, what makes a master electrician depends on your local jurisdiction, on both a state and municipal level. If you’re reading this, you probably already know your area’s regulatory requirements. If you don’t – you need to get into gear!

Licensing and Regulations

Master electrician licensing is a complex tapestry of requirements that vary across states, and they become increasingly complex as you get more local – with town, municipal, and county regulations coming into play with state regulations as well. In some places, you’ll be up to your neck in licenses and regulations before you’re even a journeyman!

While the National Fire Protection Association’s National Electrical Code (NEC) serves as a foundational standard for many states, local jurisdictions often have their own specific requirements, modifications, and examinations, and as we covered in the last section, they can be radically different state-by-state.

In most cases; however, it’s a simple case of doing on-the-job training, in the form of apprenticeship, and then journeymanship. Only after completing these two steps can you reach the next level of becoming a master electrician.

Circling back to our central question: Do you have to be in a union to be a master electrician? The answer is no – with a ton of caveats.

While unions offer a myriad of benefits and can significantly influence an electrician’s career, they are not a mandatory or exclusive pathway to mastery. You don’t ever have to join a union to get your contractor’s license or to become a certified master electrician. And in many areas – like the 40 million people in California – master electricians don’t even exist!

That said, the electrician’s union is giant and popular amongst electricians for a reason – they do provide quite a bit of value to electricians just starting out and those at the end of their careers. If you’re just starting out, we recommend checking out an introductory meeting at your local chapter of the IBEW.

What Is the Best Degree for a General Contractor?

As a general contractor, you wear many hats (or helmets, if you want to keep your job) – construction expert, business owner, marketing professional, logistics maestro, engineering authority, and so on – all of which require knowledge and experience with a variety of fields.

While the beauty of general contracting is that you don’t need anything but job experience and hard work to reach the GC level, one does sometimes wonder if a college degree is necessary – or even beneficial to becoming a general contractor.

In this article, we’ll take a look at whether it makes sense to get a college degree if you’re planning to become a general contractor. Is it worth it? And if so, what degree makes the most sense if a general contracting career is in your future?

Do You Need A Degree As A General Contractor?

A general contractor is akin to the conductor of an orchestra, ensuring every instrument plays in harmony to create a symphony. From the initial design and planning stages to the final brick laid, they oversee every nuance of a construction project.

The cold reality is that being a general contractor is a ton of work. Sure, it’s physically taxing, with long hours and constant problem-solving, but for most contractors, we’re used to spending long hours on our feet, often in hot buildings or cold winds.

No, more significantly, being a general contractor is extremely taxing mentally. It requires you to constantly be in problem-solving mode, both on a micro and macro- scale. You need to pay attention to a thousand different things at once, often doing complex calculations and cost-benefit analyses in your head about materials, labor, and client expectations.

This leads us to our original question – do you need a degree as a general contractor? The answer is no. But do you need a flashlight when inspecting a job site at night? Nor do you need a worksite trailer when a tent would do. Sure, you can do without it, but education is like any tool – it can only make you better if you know how to use it.

A degree can arm you with the wide array of tools gen cons needs to not only survive as a general contractor – an extremely competitive field – but to thrive. All education and knowledge can give you a massive advantage over your competitors, so while you don’t need a degree, if you work at it, it’ll reap big rewards for you and your business.

What Is The Best Degree For a General Contractor?

If you’re thinking about becoming a general contractor, there’s a variety of different degrees out there that can benefit your business. While construction-related degrees used to be relegated to the worlds of engineering and architecture, schools across the country have begun offering construction-related degrees in things like general contracting!

That said, general contracting degrees are still rather rare and lack pedigree at this point in time. Usually, you find that the best educational opportunities for general contracting-specific education are local schools (like ours) that have established streamlined content relevant only to general contractors.

With that in mind, you’ll find that universities and colleges offer degrees related to only a few general contracting skills, like engineering or architecture.

Which of these types of degrees you pick isn’t specific. There isn’t really the best degree for general contractors. They all offer different things, with different pros and cons.

Bachelor’s in Building Science

  • Overview: A fusion of construction techniques with business acumen.
  • Key Subjects: Mathematics, design principles, building codes, construction methodologies, cost estimation, and project management.
  • Pros: Offers a panoramic view of the construction landscape, while also getting into the nitty gritty with mathematics and understanding of codes.
  • Cons: Few. Hard to tell if programs lean towards one or the other – business or construction.

Bachelor’s in Construction Engineering

  • Overview: As the name suggests, this degree yields an understanding of the technical and mechanical aspects of construction.
  • Key Subjects: Structural dynamics, geotechnics, materials science, and construction logistics.
  • Pros: Prepares students for the technical challenges of large-scale construction projects. An engineering degree means you can tackle any challenge.
  • Cons: Unlike many building science degrees, this program is often lacking in business programs.

Bachelor’s in Architecture

  • Overview: Architecture is basically an intersection of design with construction.
  • Key Subjects: Architectural design principles, building systems integration, and presentation and communication skills.
  • Pros: Ensures projects are both visually appealing and structurally sound. Forces you to work through real-world problems as you develop your work.
  • Cons: You might find yourself pigeonholed as an architect rather than a general contractor. If you like doing on-site work, this might not be for you

The Best Universities for General Contractor-Related Degrees

Want to get a degree in one of these fields? Here are some of the most well-respected degrees in the nation. While many of these universities are expensive, they may give you a leg up on the competition not only in the pedigree of their classes but also in the value of their network.

What’s really important is you choose an area of expertise that is interesting to you, as that will give you the best chance of success in your field.

Building Science:

Construction Engineering:


There’s No Wrong Answer Here

When it comes to becoming a general contractor, the wonderful thing is that there is no wrong answer. It’s one of the things we love about our profession – anyone, from any walk of life, can work hard, acquire the right skills, make the right moves, and ultimately become a general contractor!

That is to say, we neither recommend going to, or skipping school as a general contractor. If it works for you, there’s certainly a lot to gain. If you’d rather skip school and start getting experience, that path is relevant as well.

While many of us turned to the construction field because we didn’t like school, the potential upsides of going to school for general contractor-related education far outweigh the negatives of going back to school.

And honestly, if you can’t hack it in the cushy halls of a college, you frankly won’t be able to handle the significant demands of effective general contracting. We always recommend arming yourself with knowledge – and in that vein, we have to say that more education is better. That said, everyone’s situation is different, so make sure it makes sense for you.

Additional Reading

National Association of State Contractors Licensing Agencies
Best Degree Programs – Construction Project Manager
College Consensus – Construction Degrees

Does a Contractor Have to Pull Permits?


“Does a contractor have to pull permits?” is a question that every contractor runs into at some point early on in their careers. Given the legal ramifications of running afoul of local codes and regulations, it’s no wonder this is a question that gives many a new contractor cause for pause.

So – are contractors the ones who are responsible for pulling permits for the job? Or is it the construction manager, project manager, or maybe even the foreman on the job site? Does the responsibility change depending on whether you’re a general contractor or a Class C specialty contractor?

In this article, we’ll cover everything about permits: what they are, who is responsible for acquiring the right permit, the legal points surrounding permits, and so on. Let’s dig in.

What Does “Pulling Permits” Mean?

Pulling permits is a colloquial term used to describe the act of securing the necessary permits or authorizations from relevant governmental bodies. Usually, permits are given out by local governments like counties, cities, or townships.

These permits ensure that the construction or renovation work complies with local building codes, zoning laws, and other regulations. Actually “pulling” a permit requires a number of steps – involves submitting detailed plans of the proposed project for approval, and working with local government to make any changes until your plans meet the necessary code. After your project is approved, you’ll receive your permit – but whether or not you’re in violation of said permit may require inspections before, during, or after the construction.

The Legal Landscape

No matter where you do construction work, there’s a well-defined legal framework that mandates contractors to secure permits for particular types of work.

For example, the California Code of Regulations requires employers to obtain Project Permits and Annual Permits from Cal/OSHA before initiating specific construction activities. These regulations aim to ensure that all construction activities meet the safety and quality standards set by the state.

Who is Responsible for Pulling Permits?

As always with construction, the responsibility for pulling permits…depends on so many factors.

This burden generally falls on the contractor overseeing the project, but that could be anyone from a general contractor to a homeowner installing a new window. In a typical construction company, however, the task of applying for, compiling, and maintaining permits is often assigned to a project manager, or in some cases, a designated permit expediter.

They are responsible for understanding the types of permits required, gathering the necessary documentation, and liaising with the relevant authorities.

However, in some cases, either the homeowner or a licensed contractor can secure the essential permits. This would be in situations where it’s you doing work on your own home, or where you’re an out-of-town GC who hires a local. In many cases, the local will know the permitting system in their local jurisdiction better than you would, so in that case, they may offer to take care of that (often for an additional fee).

How to Obtain a Permit

Obtaining a permit usually involves several steps, but they’re rather straightforward and follow simple common sense.

  • Identify The Type of Permit Needed: Different projects may require different types of permits, such as building, electrical, or plumbing permits.
  • Develop Plans: Create detailed plans for the project that comply with all local bylaws and regulations.
  • Submit Plans: Now take your plans and submit them to the relevant authority for review and approval.
  • Pay Fees: There are usually fees associated with permit applications. Most of the time they are paid upon submission, but you may also be waived the fee in the case of a permit rejection.
  • Await Approval: Once submitted, the application undergoes a review process, which may take anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Not much you can do in this step of the process but prepare your resources for deployment when you do get approved.
  • Receive Your Permit: If your permit is found to be compliant with the authority’s regulations, you will receive your permit! If not, you will usually get a chance to re-apply for a new permit.

What Requires a Building Permit in California?

While California is stringent about environmental regulations, each municipality interprets these regulations uniquely for their specific area.

Generally, projects that likely require a building permit in California include:

  • Demolition of an existing building
  • Roof replacement
  • Plumbing, electrical, and mechanical replacements
  • Adding an accessory dwelling unit (ADU) or a junior accessory dwelling unit (JADU)
  • Changing the layout of a house
  • The addition or removal of exterior walls
  • Stormwater
  • Grading
  • Mechanical Operation

It’s crucial to note that additional permits, such as stormwater, electrical, plumbing, grading, and mechanical permits, might be required based on the project’s scope.

Examples of Permits You Need For Construction In California

With one of the most complicated and comprehensive legal frameworks in the nation, California mandates contractors to obtain permits for almost any type of construction work.

The California Code of Regulations, for instance, requires employers to secure Project Permits and Annual Permits from Cal/OSHA for specific construction activities1.

You may also have to deal with permitting for the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA). This usually involves an environmental review for projects that may have significant environmental impacts, ensuring sustainable development for projects that can affect the local ecology. These days, that’s most projects.

Here are some more types of permits you might run into in California, depending on your location, the nature of the job, and what role you have.

  • Annual Construction Permits: These permits are required for specific construction activities and are issued by the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (DOSH). More information on annual construction permits and the list of permit holders can be found on the DOSH Annual Construction Permit Holders page.
  • Construction Stormwater Permit: Construction projects in certain watersheds must apply for a Regional Water Board permit rather than a statewide permit. More details are available on the Construction Stormwater Program page.
  • Building Permits: These are required for various construction activities such as building garages, storage buildings, decks, carports, patio covers, and additions to single-family dwellings. More information can be found on the Building Department Documents page.
  • Energy Compliance Permits: Compliance with Title 24, State Energy Code, is mandatory for construction projects in California. More details are available on the Building Permit – Department of Planning and Development page.
  • Model Code Adherence Permits: Every three years, the State of California adopts new and/or updated model codes and adherence to these codes is mandatory. More information is available on the Building Permits and Inspection – Sacramento County page.

Do You Need To Pull A Permit As A Contractor?

Let’s answer the question once and for all: do you need to pull permits as a contractor in California?

And everyone’s favorite answer: most likely, but it depends!

California is a complex patchwork of legal standards, especially when it comes to construction. In addition to statewide regulations like sustainability standards, you have local codes and bylaws that are county, city, town, or even community-wide.

With that in mind, the reality is that you will most likely have to pull a permit as a contractor, at some point! The most important thing is you familiarize yourself with all the codes and regulations in the area you’ll be operating in.

It’s your responsibility to know the codes and adhere to them – or face the consequences, which can often be severe. Even if you’re not physically the one pulling the permits, you could face such penalties as a suspended or revoked CSLB license!

Additional Reading

California Department of Industrial Relations – Permit Requirements – Building Permit Survey
AvaTrade – What Are Building Permits?

New Laws for California Contractors in 2023

We’re always hearing stories from former clients and current contractors that they’re seeing frequent violations of new contractor laws that just came into effect this year, in 2023.

There are a ton of new laws that are – to be frank – absolutely critical to know as a contractor, no matter your classification, location, or size. Any violation of these new laws carries serious penalties – including time in jail for repeat offenders.

Arm yourself with the knowledge and take the steps necessary to protect your business by becoming familiar with the following pieces of new legislation.

Senate Bill 216 (Dodd)

If you’re a concrete, HVAC, Asbestos or Tree Service contractor in California – listen up!

Senate Bill 216 (SB216), which amends the Business and Professions Code (BPC) Section 7125, is a piece of legislation that requires 5 Class “C” contractors to carry workers’ compensation insurance, even without employees.

This mandate means that contractors with a C-8 Concrete, C-20 Heating, Warm-Air Ventilating and Air-Conditioning, C-22 Asbestos Abatement, or D-49 Tree Service license must have valid workers’ compensation insurance by January 1, 2023.

And as a note to all contractors of all classifications: by January 1, 2026, all contractors must have valid workers’ compensation insurance, irrespective of whether or not they have employees.

The only exception to the new CSLB workers’ comp requirements is joint ventures without employees. Anyone with this structure of business is exempt from SB 216’s workers’ comp requirements.

Senate Bill 607 (Min)

In another insurance-related move, the California Senate passed Bill 607 (SB 607), which marks another important change in the requirements to hold a CSLB license. It updates numerous sections of the BPC – with one huge change in bond amounts.

SB 607 mandates that the CSLB qualifier, license, and minimum disciplinary bonds be raised from $12,500 and $15,000, respectively, to $25,000 for all three bonds as of January 1, 2023.

As a bonus for the families of military members looking to become licensed contractors, SB 216 also requires the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) boards and bureaus (including the CSLB) to waive application and license fees for military family members.

What if I Don’t Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance Or My Bond Amount Is Insufficient?

If you are currently in one of the above classifications and you do not have workers’ comp or a sufficient bond amount…well, we’ve got bad news for you: your license is surely suspended.

Don’t panic – just stop doing work entirely if you are still doing it. This is critical as you can face serious legal consequences for working without a license.

Next, you should immediately begin the process of getting the necessary workers’ compensation insurance and/or increasing your bond amount. Once that is sorted out, you can re-apply for your license.

If you’re unsure or don’t remember if you have workers’ compensation insurance, you should immediately check your license status.

Senate Bill 1237 (Newman)

Huzzah for troops-turned-contractors – SB 1237 is here to waive any renewal fees!

Senate Bill 1237 (SB 1237) updates the current law that requires DCA boards, including the CSLB, to waive renewal fees for a licensee who is called to active duty as a member of the U.S. Armed Forces or California National Guard.

This applies if the licensee or registrant is stationed outside of California. The new law expands the definition of “called to active duty” and extends it to licensees on active duty during a “state of insurrection” or a “state of extreme emergency.”

Assembly Bill 2105 (Smith)

In another move that will have veteran contractors excited, Assembly Bill 2105 (AB 2105) mandates a 50% fee reduction for an initial license or registration fee for all veterans!

All you have to do is provide paperwork proving you are a veteran who has served as an active-duty member of the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard or Reserve components and was not dishonorably discharged.

For HIS contractors, this still applies to you as well! This applies to all initial license fees for anyone acquiring a CSLB license.

Assembly Bill 1747 (Quirk)

Assembly Bill 1747 (AB 1747) increases the civil penalty from $8,000 to $30,000 for every violation of BPC Section 7110 (savvy legal contractors will know these are building code violations) and amends Section 7099.2 (how much in penalties violators will pay).

This bill expands BPC 7110 to include failure to comply with certain health and safety laws, water laws, safe excavation requirements, pest control requirements, illegal dumping, and other state laws related to building and insurance requirements.

Assembly Bill 2374 (Bauer-Kahan)

Bad news for litterbug contractors: your time is up.

Assembly Bill 2374 (AB 2374) amends Penal Code Section 374.3 and now requires courts to notify CSLB or other DCA boards or bureaus when a licensee is convicted of an illegal dumping crime. This is so the board can publish the conviction on their website.

The bill also increases the fines a court may impose for this crime, which is great for everyone everywhere. In a double-swoop of awesome for contractors who like to do the entire job right, it also requires the court to order a person convicted of dumping commercial quantities of waste to remove or pay for the removal of, the waste matter that was illegally dumped. Which, again, is an absolute win for everyone involved.

Assembly Bill 2916 (McCarty)

Assembly Bill 2916 (AB 2916) amends BPC Section 7124.6 and modifies the CSLB Letter of Admonishment (LOA) program to allow CSLB to determine whether it should be issued for one or two years, rather than the current one-year limitation.

In making that determination, CSLB is required to consider the gravity of the violation, the good faith of the licensee or applicant being charged, and the history of previous violations.

This is a pretty technical bill and to be honest, it remains to be seen how it will affect contractors. It seems to really only affect disciplinary actions, which affect only a small number of contractors. We’ll keep you posted on how it develops.

Stay Compliant…Or Else!

These new laws have serious consequences for any contractor that is non-compliant and remember: Ignorantia juris non excusat – ignorance of the law does not mean you are free from the consequences of violating it.

And in the CSLB’s case – the punishments are extremely severe for anyone violating contractor law in California. So don’t do it!

Save Money On Your Taxes As A California Contractor

As a licensed contractor, you’ve got enough on your plate with high-pressure deadlines and constantly shifting targets to hit. The last thing you need is to be buried under a mountain of tax paperwork, trying to make heads or tails of any of it!

With so many moving parts and costs, it can feel impossible to navigate the complicated labyrinth that is the US and California tax codes.

With these simple tips, however, you can easily and quickly make sure you’re maximizing your tax savings.

How Do You Structure Your Business?

Before diving into tax requirements, it’s crucial to understand how your business structure influences your tax obligations.

You probably already know this information, but it’s important to restate it here so that we have a good starting point.

  1. Sole Proprietorship: As a sole proprietor, you’ll report business income on your personal tax return. Keep track of expenses and income throughout the year so you can report them when tax day comes. Many, if not most contractors, are sole proprietors.
  2. Partnership: Income and losses are passed through to individual partners. Partners report their share on personal tax returns. Rarely are contractors partnerships, but in cases where it is a family business, you may see it.
  3. LLC: Limited liability companies offer flexibility, allowing owners to choose their tax classification (e.g., sole proprietorship, partnership, or corporation). The second-most common form of business structure for contractors.
  4. Corporation: Let’s be honest, if you’re a big enough construction company that you need corporation status to maximize your tax benefits, you either already know how to best file your taxes, or you have an accountant who handles your voluminous balance sheet.

Choose a structure that best suits your business needs and tax goals. Most construction professionals, as previously mentioned, will find sole proprietorships to be more than enough to fulfill their tax needs and will find the most savings there. But the more you grow, the more you’ll need the protection of LLCs and partnerships or corporations.

Know Your Taxes: Federal, State, and Local

Federal Taxes

There’s no escaping Uncle Sam. Always pay your taxes in full – you do not want the IRS sniffing around your business, causing trouble, when you could just take care of it ahead of time by educating yourself and planning effectively.

  • Income Tax: All businesses must file an annual income tax return. Tax rates and filing requirements depend on your business structure.
  • Self-Employment Tax: Self-employed contractors who operate as sole proprietors have to pay self-employment tax, which covers Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • Estimated Tax: Again, if you are a sole proprietor (working as a 1099 employee), you may need to make quarterly estimated tax payments if you expect to owe tax of $1,000 or more when filing your return.
      • You don’t have to make these payments, but they will lower your tax burden at the end of the year.

State Taxes

It’s no mistake – California has high taxes. Make sure you’re keeping enough cash on hand to pay when April comes around; or, if you’ve got the right tax plan, get ready to get a rebate.

Either way, you can prepare yourself to file your state taxes as a California contractor by checking out the Franchise Tax Board’s website.

  • State Income Tax: If you’re doing business in California, you have to pay an income tax. You can find how much you expect to pay based on your revenue. Here is the Franchise Tax Board’s tax bracket.
  • Sales Tax: California has a sales tax, so you’ll be paying tax on things like materials and payments to any subcontractors or yourself.
  • Employment Taxes: If you have employees, you may need to withhold state income tax and pay state unemployment tax.

Local Taxes

Local tax requirements depend on where in California you’re operating. These local taxes can come in many forms, like business licenses or filing fees. Be prepared to pay local taxes when starting a new construction.

Employment Taxes: A Responsibility You Can’t Ignore

If you have employees, you must withhold and pay employment taxes. These include:

  • Federal Income Tax Withholding: Based on the employee’s Form W-4 and their earnings. This will fluctuate based on the number and types of employees you have. You are exempt from paying taxes for contract workers who file Form 1099.
  • Social Security and Medicare Taxes: Employers and employees share responsibility for Social Security and Medicare taxes.
  • Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax: Every employer must pay FUTA tax, which provides unemployment compensation to workers who lose their jobs.
  • State Unemployment Tax: You must also pay into California’s unemployment fund if you have full-time employees. This will also be a variable cost for your business as you grow.

Tax Deductions: Your Best Friend

If you’re a contractor, you probably can save tons of money by taking advantage of various tax deductions that are favorable to construction professionals – people who are constantly spending money on their business in order to survive.

We recommend researching these common deductions for a full scoop, but hiring a tax pro who has the expertise to successfully navigate the various deductions you qualify for is even better.

Common Deductions for Contractors

  • Home Office Deduction: If you use part of your home exclusively for business purposes, you may qualify for the home office deduction.
  • Vehicle Expenses: Deduct business-related vehicle expenses such as mileage, fuel, maintenance, and insurance.
  • Tools and Equipment: Contractors can often deduct the cost of tools, equipment, and supplies used in the course of business.
  • Contract Labor: Payments made to subcontractors are generally tax-deductible if they meet specific criteria.
  • Insurance: Business insurance premiums, such as general liability or workers’ compensation, can be deductible.
  • Training and Education: Expenses related to improving your professional skills may be tax-deductible.
  • Advertising and Marketing: You can deduct advertising expenses, including website development, business cards, and online advertising.

Hire an Accountant For Your Contracting Business

As we have said multiple times in this article: Hire. An. Accountant.

If you’re doing business in California as a contractor, we can’t recommend hiring an accountant. Simply put, an accountant will save you tons of time, energy, and money when it comes to filing your taxes – as well as being more likely to keep you from being audited.

The reality is that American taxes can be extremely confusing, so employing the skill of a professional accountant can help big time when it comes to saving the most money (and saving you the energy of having to understand the un-understandable).

You can even hire an accountant who specializes in California contracting taxes – saving you more money than ever before.

Taxes Can Actually Save You Money

Everyone has to pay taxes (well, mostly everyone). But by understanding and executing an effective tax plan for your contracting business, you can actually find yourself with more money in your pocket come tax time next year.

One thing we definitely can’t emphasize enough as you continue to grow your contracting business – hiring a qualified accountant or tax professional service is a critical element of maximizing your tax deductions and saving money every year.

Do Home Improvement Salespeople Need a Contractor’s License in California? A Complete Guide


Looking to start selling home improvement contracts? You’re gonna need a CSLB license for that.

In this article, we’ll take a look at CSLB licenses for home improvement salespeople (or HIS): what they are, who needs them, and how you can get one right now.

What Is A Home Improvement Salesperson (HIS)?

So what is a home improvement salesperson or HIS? Well, quite simply, it’s a person who sells home improvement services on behalf of a contractor or contracting business.

According to the CSLB, a home improvement salesperson is a “professional who solicits, sells, negotiates, or executes home improvement contracts for a licensed contractor.” This includes any home improvement or remodeling job – even those that are under $500 in value!

Really, any task or job that requires the construction contractor to have a B-2 Remodeling Contractor’s license is a service that a HIS can sell. Whether a homeowner is looking to, say, install a new bathtub or build a patio, the HIS is their pathway to finding someone to do the job. While home improvement salespeople can’t do any builds themselves, they do 99% of the work when it comes to booking jobs for home improvement contractors.

Many HIS are in-house employees of contractors, and many work freelance with different contractors. There’s no right way to operate – freelancers may bring in even more commission by expanding their client base, but they also expose themselves to long periods of financial insecurity.

So now that you know what an HIS is, let’s dig into the license!

HIS License Registration Requirements And Regulations

If you’re looking to become an HIS quickly – and start selling home improvement services in your neck of the woods – you’re in luck! Working as an HIS can be extremely lucrative in the incredibly wealthy state of California and getting started is remarkably easy – especially compared to other contractor-related professions. All you need to do is get your CSLB HIS license.

Every person who sells home improvement services – no matter when, where, how or why – must be registered with the CSLB and have a valid CSLB HIS license. There are no exceptions to this – unlike contracting jobs under $500 – so, too do home improvement salespeople.

The good news is getting your HIS license is extremely easy, especially by CSLB standards. You only need two things to get your CSLB HIS license, so you can start working with contractors to book them jobs (and collect your sweet, sweet commission). These are:

  1. Be at least 18 years old
  2. Submit an application to the CSLB for your license

That’s it! You only need to be a legal adult for you to get your HIS license and start knocking on doors.

Do I Need A Contractor’s License To Be A Home Improvement Salesperson?

No, you do not need a contractor’s license to sell home improvement services in California. As we’ve discussed – you only need a CSLB Home Improvement Salesperson’s license to be an HIS in California.

While many B-2 Home Improvement contractor’s license holders may want to get their HIS license in order to book their jobs directly, the reverse is rarely true – most home improvement salespeople do not acquire a contractor’s license.

Exceptions to the Rule

Although all people who sell home improvement services technically need a CSLB HIS license, there are some exceptions, as always with the CSLB.

Anyone who falls under the following situations is exempt from needing a CSLB license:

  1. An officer of record of a licensed corporation, or a manager, member, or officer of record of a licensed limited liability company
  2. A general partner listed on the license record of a partnership
  3. A qualifying person, as defined in BPC section 7025
  4. A salesperson whose sales are all made after negotiations between the parties if the negotiations are initiated by the prospective buyer at or with a general merchandise retail establishment that operates from a fixed location where goods or services are offered for sale
  5. A person who contacts the prospective buyer for the exclusive purpose of scheduling appointments for a registered home improvement salesperson.
  6. A bona fide service repairperson who is employed by a licensed contractor and whose repair or service call is limited to the service, repair, or emergency repair initially requested by the buyer of the service

4 Steps To Getting Your HIS License

The registration process for a home improvement salesperson has been streamlined thanks to the CSLB’s online interactive forms. The whole process takes place online now and it can all be done in a matter of minutes, provided you have the right information.

Here’s 4 Steps to getting your HIS license:

Step 1: Gather all the information and details you need to apply. This includes your driver’s license to prove your age and identity, and

Step 2: Apply for your HIS registration. Fill this out right – the CSLB rejects over HALF of HIS applications, adding weeks or months to the time it takes to get your license.

Step 3: Fingerprint/Live Scan/Background Check. If you have anything on your criminal record, it will come up here. You may be disqualified from a CSLB HIS license – it really is up to the CSLB.

Step 4: Receive your license! You did it! Now you can start selling home improvement services in California!

Learn more about the process of getting your HIS license on the CSLB website.

The Key Differences Between a HIS License and a Contractor’s License

Home improvement salespeople and contractors have a mutually beneficial relationship, but the differences in expertise, safety compliance, and general skillset between the two could not be bigger.

The HIS license is the easiest CSLB license to get, for the following reasons:

  • No experience requirement (4 years journeyman experience for contractors)
  • No insurance or bond requirement
  • No CSLB exam
  • Cheaper fees
  • Less severe penalties for non-compliant work


If you’re an HIS in California and you don’t have your HIS license – well, what are you waiting for?

The CSLB has made being a licensed HIS easier than passing your driver’s test, and the turnaround time for you to receive your license is even quicker and easier.

Quit wasting time and get your HIS license now!

Is My Contractor Licensed and Bonded?

Whether you’re a homeowner looking to refresh the tile in your bathroom or you’re the CEO of a Fortune 500 company looking to expand your company’s data center assets, you need contractors to do the job.

But finding a good contractor to do the job is a tough thing to do. First, you have to identify the job you need done, then you need to actually find the person to do the job – which comes with its own set of responsibilities and problems for you.

The biggest issues when hiring a contractor are legality and expertise: there are millions of dudes out there with a hammer and some nails who could do a decent job on your project.

But how do you know that the project won’t fall apart immediately after they leave the job site? And how do you know you won’t be in big trouble after the fact, both financially and legally?

The easiest and most direct way to know if you’ve got a contractor worth their salt is if they’re licensed and bonded. This single characteristic immediately makes your search for the right contractor that much easier.

Let’s find out why.

Why Hiring Licensed and Bonded Contractors Matters

In California, the law stipulates that all contractors working on a project valued at $500 or more must be licensed by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). This mandate ensures that contractors meet certain standards of professionalism and expertise.

So we’ve covered the licensing side of things – contractors are licensed by the CSLB – but what about being “bonded”?

Being “bonded” simply means the contractor has secured a surety bond – a type of insurance that protects the client if the contractor fails to complete the job, doesn’t pay for permits, or fails to meet other financial obligations.

This amount is a dollar amount that any homeowner is entitled to, should the contractor not fulfill their contract. The idea is that you at least get something for your troubles.

As of 2023, the CSLB requires licensed contractors to hold a contractor’s bond worth $25,000 – that means, in the event of a contract breach, customers are entitled to receive an amount of up to $25,000 to cover their losses. Note that you will not always receive this amount, but this is the amount that is available in this situation.

Probably the most important bit of anything bond-related is that every contractor in California is required to hold a surety bond. That’s right – anyone who has a valid CSLB license also has a surety bond, as per the CSLB’s laws.

That’s it for a quick-and-dirty overview of bonds and licenses. If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty of bonds, the CSLB has all the information available on their website.

How To Verify a Contractor’s License and Bond in California

So, how can you confirm if your contractor is licensed and bonded in California? Here’s how to check a license in three easy steps.

  1. Ask for the contractor’s license number: Any contractor worth talking to will have their CSLB license number easily available – either on their business card or company website. If they’re reluctant to provide it, that’s a red flag.
  2. Verify the license number: Use the CSLB’s online License Check tool to check the validity of the license. This tool will not only immediately tell you if a contractor is licensed (and bonded), but it also shows if there are any disciplinary actions against the contractor.
  3. Check their bond: while no contractor can obtain a CSLB license without proof of a $25,000 surety bond, it is still possible for a contractor to cancel their bond after getting their license. You can check on the validity of their bond by asking the contractor directly for their bond information and cross-referencing it with their bond company.

What Happens If I Hire An Unlicensed Contractor?

If you’re tempted to skip the whole “is my contractor licensed and bonded?” question, pump the brakes first. The consequences of hiring an unlicensed contractor can be severe in many ways.

From the start, there’s a reason someone is operating as a contractor without a license – they probably lack the skill to get a license. An unlicensed contractor may lack the necessary skills and standards to do the job of a professional.

While you may be stoked about the cost savings of an unlicensed contractor (funny how they can always offer to do a job for cheaper, huh?), the ultimate cost of hiring an unlicensed contractor outweighs the nominal cost savings.

Many unlicensed contractors simply lack the skill and expertise of a licensed contractor who has been through the grueling CSLB process. The effects on your expensive construction project can be catastrophic and can cause your project’s cost to double, triple, quadruple, and so on.

And that’s even if they finish the project! In many cases, unlicensed contractors simply take your money and run – and since they’re unlicensed, you have no recourse. You are stuck with the bill, the unfinished project, and the need to hire a licensed contractor to fix their problem. Sounds like you should have just hired a licensed contractor in the beginning (that’s the whole idea here!).

And even if you get your job done right, you could still be in massive trouble for getting an unlicensed contractor to do the work. California’s Business and Professions Code 7118 states that the punishments for employing an unlicensed contractor for work costing $500 or more can include a fine of up to $5,000 and/or six months in jail.

Imagine that – jail, just to save a few pennies for a subpar job.

All of the consequences of hiring an unlicensed contractor is why we cannot stress this enough: hire a licensed contractor for Pete’s (and your) sake!