Monthly Archives: January 2024

How To Become a Licensed Bridge Builder in California

Maybe it’s a dream job for now, but you can make your dream come true and become a licensed bridge builder in California! This lucrative career path will have you working frequently on public works jobs and other government-funded projects, which are often lucrative and steady streams of income.

In this article, we’ll help you mentally prepare for the amount of education and experience required for the start of a career in bridge building, as well as cover the critical details surrounding the professional licensing requirements that will allow you to work in this area of expertise.

Let’s find out how to become a licensed bridge builder in California!

What Kind of License Does a Bridge Builder Need?

Bridge builders need a Class A General Engineering Contractor License because of the specialized engineering knowledge required for the work. Securing a license as a bridge builder is a necessary step, not only to do work in the field but also to gain the requisite knowledge and expertise to operate in this highly mathematical field.

To become a licensed bridge builder, you also need a professional engineering license. Here are the steps you need to take to get a professional engineering license:

  1. Pass the Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) Exam.
  2. Gain Work Experience by working under the supervision of a licensed professional engineer for at least four years. This is essential to get your CSLB license.
  3. Pass the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE) Exam. After you’ve acquired experience in the field, you’ll take this exam where you apply knowledge specific to your focus; in your case, structural engineering for bridge builders.
  4. Apply for your Class A Engineering license and cover the payment for application fees.
  5. Be prepared for additional requirements. You may have to take an ethics exam or appear for interviews.
  6. Maintain your license. Keep up with the license renewal requirements and complete all the continuing education you need to keep your career going. Staying up to date with best practices and ethics will help you keep your license and keep you working.

How Much Education Does a Bridge Engineer Need?

It’s very common for bridge engineers to hold a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering or something similar, as bridge building requires substantial engineering, physics, and mathematics knowledge. Some bridge engineers pursue advanced degrees to set themselves up for bigger jobs. This also opens up opportunities for research and development roles.

In any case, bridge builders need to get practical experience in the field in addition to classroom education. Engineering internships and entry-level engineer positions at construction companies, government agencies, or engineering firms, can help them expand their knowledge and develop real practical skills.

As a bridge builder, you must keep yourself informed about current developments, technologies, and regulations in the industry. Professional organizations such as the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and attending conferences and seminars will help you stay abreast of any developments in this niche.

Bridge builders may also pursue additional certifications related to bridge engineering and construction. These extra credentials demonstrate expertise and help bridge builders stand out in the hiring process and win bids from potential clients looking for someone they can trust.

Some relevant certifications include Certified Bridge Inspector (CBI), Bridge Safety Inspector (BSI), and Certified Structural Engineer (SE), but many more certs can help build credibility in you as an expert.

Continuing education is also important in bridge engineering. All bridge builders must engage in lifelong learning and stay updated with the latest techniques, materials, and design methods in bridge engineering.

Is Bridge Construction in California Unique Compared to Other Places?

Bridge construction can be different depending on geographical, environmental, and regulatory factors. When it comes to bridge construction, California definitely presents its challenges.

The terrain is so diverse and the seismic activity is pretty chaotic. With all this in mind, engineers in California need to account for earthquake-resistant design.

We don’t have the time or space to go too deep into the unique realities of California bridge building. The best way to find more information about bridge building in California is through the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans).

How Is Tech Changing the Lives of Bridge Engineers?

The field of bridge engineering is continually evolving, and advancements in tech only hasten that evolution. You might remember our blog post that touches on Building Information Modeling (BIM). BIM helps display 3D models of bridges, improving design accuracy and collaboration.

You’re also seeing a ton of automation and artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) applications come online to aid bridge engineers in visualization and testing.

Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) is another technological innovation that’s bringing bridge-building into the future. SHM uses sensors to monitor bridge health in real-time.

Bridge engineers in California must also work with sustainable design and materials and practices to reduce negative environmental impact.

Professional Advancement for Bridge Builders

As bridge builders gain experience and expertise in bridge engineering, new doors start to open for them professionally. As they become qualified for more advanced, higher-level opportunities, they should take stock of their new, lucrative, professional options.

Contractors who build bridges could become senior bridge engineers. They could also take on project manager positions. They might even wind up starting their own bridge engineering firm. The sky is the limit for bridge builders who know what they’re doing and can be trusted to deliver on their word!


Becoming a licensed bridge builder is a multifaceted journey. It requires education, hands-on experience, and obtaining professional licenses. And advanced degrees can help bridge builders step up to fill higher-level positions.

Whether you’re pursuing a career in California or elsewhere, safety and innovation will always be at the core of bridge engineering. Bridge builders must remain engaged with how advancements in tech are evolving the industry to ensure that they themselves evolve with it.

Do You Need Workers’ Compensation Insurance As A Construction Contractor in California?

What Is Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

Workers’ Compensation Insurance – often referred to simply as workers’ comp – is a type of insurance designed to provide financial and medical protection to employees who suffer job-related injuries or illnesses.

This insurance is similar to liability insurance but is specific to people. If (and when) someone gets hurt on a job site, workers’ comp covers a number of costs for the affected worker, including medical care, temporary and permanent disability benefits, supplemental job displacement benefits, and death benefits.

The purpose is to support injured workers in their recovery and return to work while protecting employers from lawsuits by injured employees.

Even though contractors now have to supply another piece of insurance, it really is beneficial to both parties – workers have a safety net when doing sometimes dangerous construction work, while employers are indemnified from being sued for on-site accidents.

Does the CSLB Require Workers’ Compensation Insurance to Obtain a Contractor’s License?

At the time of writing, the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) does not require that all construction contractors possess workers’ comp to obtain and maintain a contractor’s license; however, in the next few years, all contractors will be required to.

As of January 2024, here’s the classifications and situations where workers’ comp is required:

  • Any contractor who has employees
  • All active C-8 Concrete contractors, C-20 Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning contractors, C-22 Asbestos Abatement contractors, C-39 Roofing contractors, and/or C-61/D-49 Tree Service contractors
  • Your license is qualified by an RME

This mandate is crucial to ensure that all contractors operating in the state are adequately covered for any workplace injuries or illnesses that their employees might encounter.

Recent Changes to Workers’ Compensation Insurance Requirements

The most significant recent change in California’s workers’ compensation insurance requirements is the enactment of Senate Bill 216.

This law, which came into effect in September 2022, expands the workers’ compensation insurance requirements to include all contractors by January 2026 – irrespective of whether they have employees!

This is a massive departure from the previous law, which mandated insurance only for contractors with employees and specific classifications. Now, every contractor – from general contractors with 50 subs on site to handymen – will have to have workers’ comp insurance.

In the meantime, specific contractor trades such as concrete (C-8), HVAC (C-20), asbestos abatement (C-22), and tree service (D-49) are now required to have workers’ comp, regardless if they have employees or not​​​.

Do I Need Workers’ Compensation Insurance If I Don’t Have Employees?

Under the new California law, even contractors without employees are required to have workers’ compensation insurance – but you have until 2026 to take action.

While you don’t need workers’ compensation right now if you don’t have employees, contractors who are sole proprietors or have no employees must still comply with this insurance mandate​​ in two years.

How Much Workers’ Comp Insurance Does a Contractor Need?

The required amount of Workers’ Compensation Insurance for a contractor in California depends on various factors, including the size of the business, the type of work performed, and the level of risk associated with the specific trade.

Contractors can obtain this insurance through a licensed insurance company or opt for self-insurance, which requires state approval, a net worth of at least $5 million, and a net income of $500,000 per year​.

Consequences For Noncompliance

The penalties for failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance in California are severe. They not only include losing your license, but you can even face imprisonment for up to one year, fines of up to double the amount of premium that would have been due, or a minimum fine of $10,000.

Additionally, the California Division of Labor Standards can issue a stop order, legally demanding cessation of all employee labor – which means more money disappearing into thin air. Noncompliance can also result in a misdemeanor criminal offense, punishable by up to 60 days in county jail or by a fine of up to $10,000, or both. In cases where an uninsured worker is injured, the employer may face a penalty of up to $100,000​​​!

In summary, workers’ compensation insurance is a mandatory requirement for all construction contractors in California, by January 2026, regardless of their employee count. Right now, only certain contractor classifications need to have workers’ comp, regardless of employees or not.

If you don’t have workers’ comp yet, you might as well take the plunge – as it’ll be required in two years anyway!

Become a General Contractor After High School With Online Courses

High school moves so quickly, doesn’t it? Blink and you miss it.

Once you graduate, things start to get serious – quickly. What are you planning to do with your career? Many recent high school graduates in California who are happy to see the schoolhouse in the rearview mirror move into industries that don’t require more schooling – starting careers in the trades or even as a general contractor.

While we’ve written extensively about this topic in a recent post, if you’re making plans to become a general contractor after high school, it’s critical to educate yourself about your future career. Lucky for you – there are helpful online courses available 24/7 for this very purpose.

In this article, we’ll cover some of the quickest and easiest ways to become a general contractor via online classes.

Reasons to Enroll in Online Courses for General Contractors After High School

Promising Career Choice

  • Becoming a general contractor is a promising career choice as the demand for skilled, licensed contractors seems to just grow and grow, especially in California.
  • You might want to kickstart your career in construction without a traditional college degree. If that’s you, check out our post on Can You Start a Construction Career Out of High School? for more on this topic.

Learn at Your Own Pace

  • Whether your schedule is super predictable or wildly unconventional, online courses allow you to set your own pace and schedule study time when you want.
  • There’s also something great about home study — or studying anywhere you like! Whatever learning environment is best for you, you can set yourself up in that space to complete your online coursework.

Diversify Your Qualifications

  • You have access to many online courses that cover the different kinds of training required when applying for different contractor licenses.
  • Completing certain coursework and special training helps you diversify your skills, which opens you up to more categories of construction work and a competitive income.

9 Steps To Using Online Courses To Become A Contractor

1. Plan Your Journey

Before you enroll in any courses for becoming a general contractor, what are your goals in construction? Do you only want to be a Class B General Contractor? Or do you want to expand your offerings (and make more money) by picking up additional licenses? Do you want to also be a B-2 Residential Remodeling Contractor? Or a C-8 licensed contractor so you can pour concrete? A C-21 license so you can do demolition?

2. Search for Accredited Online Courses

Once you know which license or licenses you want, search for the right programs. Choose an online school that covers the essentials, such as construction management, project planning, safety regulations, and legal requirements. Check with the Contractors State License Board to make sure you’re meeting their requirements.

3. Create a Study Schedule

As we mentioned before, online courses offer some extra flexibility. But it’s important to create some structure for yourself and hold yourself accountable. Create a consistent, realistic study schedule so you stay on track.

4. Get Some Hands-on Experience

Per the CSLB, you’ll need four years of experience total — three of which can be technical training, apprenticeship training, or education. At least one year needs to be practical experience, maybe in an internship or an entry-level job where you can apply what you’ve learned from your online courses. This is the hardest part of the journey.

5. Stay in Touch with Industry Trends and Your Network

Construction is an ever-evolving industry, so you’ll have to keep up with new trends and new tech. Keep yourself up on industry news by joining construction associations, following blogs like ours, and staying in contact with people you meet on the job.

6. Prepare for Licensing

Your online courses should cover basic knowledge about how to prepare for licensing exams. You can also familiarize yourself with exam prep and application requirements for each classification of contractor license on the CSLB website.

7. Build a Portfolio and Keep Networking

As you gain experience and complete your online courses, put together a portfolio of your work. If you display your achievements alongside professional photos of your work you’ll make it easier on yourself when you want to share your accomplishments with potential employers, clients, and your greater network of contractors.

8. Continuing Education

Beyond your initial online coursework, you’ll still need continuing education as your career continues to build. You can find continuing education courses online when it’s time to renew your general contractor license. Also, as you develop new specialized skills, you can check out advanced courses or certifications that cover those too.

9. Keep Building Your Career

With online courses available to you 24/7 and an online social network full of contractors just like you growing every day, the possibilities for your career are practically endless. Whether you want to work for a construction company or start your own, online courses can help you accumulate whatever knowledge and skills you need when you need them!

The Quicker You Learn, The Quicker You’ll Get To Work

You can become a contractor after high school relying heavily on online courses.

You will still need to get a certain number of hours of practical experience on the job, but online courses will help you build a sturdy foundation for your construction knowledge. Online learning gives you more options and it can really free up your time when balancing all the incredible demands of modern life.

If you want to become a general contractor after high school, you can definitely make it happen with the right amount of focus, determination, and commitment to meeting the requirements as laid out by the CSLB.

Why California Construction Business is Booming in 2024

Contractors are keeping busy this year. All over California, the construction industry is seeing a significant boom for a variety of reasons.

In this article, we break down the key factors responsible for the current upswing in job creation and economic development that the California construction business is experiencing in 2024.

Infrastructure Investment

The state government is putting a lot into improving transportation, public facility upgrades, and updating water and energy infrastructure right now.

A recent report tells us that California has had $32.7 billion announced in Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) funding. Of this amount, $24.18 billion is dedicated to transportation-related projects – so that could be a good in for civil engineers and public works contractors.

You can keep yourself updated about ongoing transportation projects in California on the California Department of Transportation website. The Office of Governor Gavin Newsom also launched to help you track exactly how money is being used for building projects around the state.

It might also be worth mentioning that there are government incentives promoting growth in construction and development.

For instance, construction projects supporting affordable housing, renewable energy goals, and earthquake-resistant builds — since these projects are good for Californians state-wide, so they help companies qualify for tax credits, grants, and subsidies.

Housing Demand

California is just one of those attractive places that people want to call home.

The state has long grappled with a housing shortage, but in 2024 we’re seeing developers go full-tilt in their efforts to build new apartment buildings, condos, and single-family homes.

Over five thousand homes were just fast-tracked by an affordable housing initiative across 10 statewide projects.

You might have seen our post about ADU builds and noticed how homeowners are adding even more residential space to properties where they live. That’s just another indication of how busy construction is in California right now.

Green Building Initiatives

California frequently encourages builders to help the state reduce its environmental footprint and there’s no sign of that stopping in 2024. 2023 was the hottest year on record, underlining the reality that green construction is more important than ever – which is a great opportunity for contractors who know their environmentally-conscious construction.

With the growing emphasis on sustainable and energy-efficient design and construction, certain government incentives and mandates lead to upgrades, renovations, and other construction projects that promote a greener California.

Advancements in Tech

Based on what we’ve covered in our article AI and Automation Construction trends and what you’ve no doubt observed in the field, you see that Building Information Modeling (BIM), drones, and automation increase efficiency and productivity in construction.

The more construction companies adapt to emerging tech, the higher the demand for their services – and the future is only going to demand you stay up-to-date with current tech in order to serve your customers appropriately.

Consistent Contractors Like You

Just as the construction business in California is growing at a steady pace, so is the number of new contractor licenses being issued.

If you’re looking for immediate, to-the-minute news about infrastructure updates, new housing development, green initiatives, and new tech, one of your best sources will be your peers in the field.

This flourishing industry relies on consistent, knowledgeable contractors like you who are really invested in construction work and how the landscape of the business is changing year to year. So keep yourself updated and check out some construction events in 2024.

Get yourself to some expos and industry conferences. You’ll see how all the factors we discussed in this post create new jobs and amp up construction activity statewide.

Quickstart Guide To California Construction Project Deposits

As a contractor in California, knowing the ins and outs of how to handle deposits for your construction projects is an utterly crucial skill.

First of all, a deposit is a legal obligation on most projects, but beyond that, deposits serve as an essential mechanism of the construction process that functions as a shield for both the contractor and the client.

But how do deposits work? Do you need a deposit on your construction project? How do you go about determining and handling deposits? Let’s find out.

What is a Deposit?

A deposit in any industry is a guarantee of work. It’s a legal mechanism that is designed to encourage good faith agreements between both parties.

In practice, a deposit functions by a client and the service provider agreeing on a small percentage of the total project cost that is paid upfront. Usually this is a small amount – like 10-15% of the total project cost.

This amount protects the homeowner by ensuring they don’t spend a huge amount of money on a service provider that doesn’t provide the service they agreed upon. It also protects the service provider by ensuring that they are monetarily rewarded for taking on a project – even if the client ultimately backs out of seeing the project to completion.

In this way, deposits benefit both parties. Clients feel safe that they’re not losing a big chunk of money on an unscrupulous provider, while service providers know they are going to be paid at least a small amount for the work done on the project.

Deposits encourage good faith bargaining between both parties, creating a safety net to protect both parties’ interests.

How Deposits Work in Construction Projects

When it comes to construction, deposits are relatively straightforward. These are assurances guaranteed ahead of time, usually with a percentage of the entire project being paid to the contractor even before the first trench is dug or the first nail is hammered.

The size, scope, and payment terms of a deposit are influenced by the scale and nature of the project. Smaller projects have more flexibility with a deposit, while larger projects involving multiple contractors or firms may have multiple layers of deposits overlapping at the same time.

A deposit not only protects contractors against nonpayment by clients but it also ensures that initial startup costs – like materials and labor – can be paid for to get the ball rolling. Deposits, then, also function as early funding on a project to make sure it can get completed on time.

In construction, a deposit is a preliminary payment made by the client to the contractor, or by the general contractor to the subcontractor.

Legal Requirements for Deposits in California

When it comes to the legal requirements in the state of California, there’s a number of different frameworks for deposits, spanning the various areas of construction, various levels of complexity, and the various stages of a project.

The General Legal Framework For Construction Deposits In California

  • Home Improvement Projects: Home improvement projects are one of the few areas of construction that have stringent contractual obligations set forth by the CSLB. California limits deposits for home improvement contracts to $1,000 or 10% of the project cost, whichever is less. This is a hard-and-fast rule that cannot be circumvented.
  • Commercial Projects: Unlike home improvement projects, there is no specific legal cap on deposits for commercial construction projects in California. It’s up to the individuals and businesses involved in commercial construction to determine their own deposits.
  • Other Projects: Like commercial projects, there are no deposit requirements for other types of construction projects, like municipal or large-scale infrastructure projects, which are often defined by specific contract terms, government regulations, or funding agreements.

Contractual Requirements

  • Progress Payments: California law mandates that contracts must detail the schedule of progress payments, clearly outlining each phase of work, services provided, and associated payment amounts – including deposits! Contractors cannot legally collect payment for work not completed or materials not delivered. However, they can require a downpayment, which is just another term for a deposit!
  • Change Orders: The law requires that any extra work or change orders be documented in writing and signed by both parties before commencement. This documentation should include the scope, cost changes, and impact on the payment schedule.

Mechanics Lien Warning

A crucial aspect of the contract is the mechanic’s lien warning, which works hand in hand with a deposit to ensure that a project is completed according to the contract.

A Mechanics Lien warning informs clients about the potential for liens against their property by unpaid subcontractors or suppliers, despite full payment to the prime contractor. It emphasizes the importance of preliminary notices from subcontractors and material suppliers.

Check out our article on contractor’s liens, and mechanic’s liens for California contractors for a deeper dive into these legal mechanisms.

Responsibilities and Consequences

Compliance with Deposit Limits

Contractors must comply with the deposit limits and progress payment regulations. Failure to adhere to these rules can lead to legal consequences, including disputes and potential litigation.

There’s only one legally enforceable deposit limitation in California – home improvement contractors cannot demand more than $1000 or 10% of the project cost, whichever is less. In this case, the State of California can hold the contractor legally liable for overstepping this law.

All other instances of deposits in the construction industry are not a civil, not criminal liability – which means it’s up to the individual or business to take the issue to court to receive compensation.

What Happens If You Don’t Have A Deposit?

If you don’t have a deposit on your construction project, you may or may not be in big trouble.

If you don’t have a deposit, you’re not legally in trouble, but you put yourself at significant risk of eating some serious costs without one. Without a deposit, the client can simply cancel the project at any time and you have basically no way to get your money back for things like materials and labor.

The reality is that you should not take on any construction project, no matter how big or small, without a deposit. It exists to protect you and the client, so there’s really no reason not to include one.

So…Do I Need A Deposit To Do Construction?

Do you need a deposit?

Yeah, you do. We can say that any contractor working in any industry, niche, or area of expertise in California should have a deposit in every single contract they sign with a client.

At the end of the day, there’s absolutely zero reason not to. It provides clarity to both the client and the contractor, while also protecting both parties financially in the case of non-fulfillment of a contract for a construction project.

It’s simply a no-brainer – get some money upfront and protect your business from losses!

Is a Subcontractor Liable for Damages?

Construction liability in general can be a difficult and confusing thing to nail down – it’s dictated by miles of paperwork and mountains of bureaucratic language that makes it impossible for the average Joes like us to understand.

Even worse, as construction projects become more complex, more subcontractors are required to take on the specialized work required in today’s world of hyper-complicated, highly bespoke construction. And the more people you bring on a job site, the higher the probability that something will go wrong.

When something does go wrong, you need to know how to fix it, and that first means establishing liability – which makes sense, as you need to establish liability before you can recover damages.

So, are subcontractors liable for damages on a construction job? The answer is…well, it depends. Let’s take a deeper look.

The Subcontractor-Contractor Relationship

In California, the relationship between subcontractors and contractors is complex and governed by specific laws and contractual agreements, but in general, contractors hire subcontractors to do specific, specialized construction work on their job sites.

The contractor – usually a general contractor in California, but possibly a foreman or a project manager – is responsible for finding the right person for their specialized task.

The subcontractor and contractor work hand-in-hand to get the work done. The general contractor establishes the scope, the process, and the schedule to get the work done – then the subcontractor is responsible for delivering as per the contract.

The subcontractor may work independently, but ultimately, they report to the general contractor, who is responsible for verifying and approving the work. When the job is completed, usually the general contractor is responsible for making sure the subcontractor is paid.

In some instances, a subcontractor may subcontract certain jobs out to other subs. While it’s not a general contractor hiring, the chain of command and liability is still the same.

Construction Liability in California

Who is liable for construction issues in California? What legislation defines construction liability?
There’s a series of frameworks that stipulate the entirety of construction liability law in California.

Key Aspects

  • Contractual Agreements: Govern the scope of work, payment terms, and other conditions.
  • Worker Classification: The California ABC test, established by Assembly Bill (AB) 5, is used to differentiate between employees and independent contractors on a state level, but in construction in particular, whoever is hiring is classified as a contractor, while anyone being hired is a subcontractor.
  • Legal Penalties: Refusal or inability to cover the damages from construction defects can lead to even bigger penalties as clients seek to recover losses.

Key Legislation

  • Assembly Bill 1701: Makes general contractors responsible for unpaid wages and benefits of subcontractors’ employees. Contractors have the right to inspect subcontractors’ payroll records to ensure compliance.
  • Liability Limitations: In cases of defective construction, damages are strictly limited by law. The measure of damages is typically either the cost of repair or the diminution in value of the property, whichever is less. Basically, contractors have to cover the cost of poor delivery.

Legal Responsibilities For General Contractors

  • Regular financial reviews of subcontractors.
  • Ensuring subcontractors comply with wage and benefit obligations.
  • Potential changes in contracting practices to mitigate risks.

General Contractors’ Liability for Subcontractor Damages

When it comes to subcontractors’ construction defects, whether or not they’re liable for subcontractors’ construction defects really depends on the situation. In general, these are the things that dictate liability:

  • Contractual Liability: The general contractor and subcontractor relationship is typically defined by a contract. This contract often includes clauses related to indemnification, where the subcontractor may agree to indemnify the general contractor against certain types of liabilities. However, the effectiveness of these clauses can depend on the specific language used and the legal interpretations of such agreements.
  • Vicarious Liability: In some cases, general contractors can be held vicariously liable for the acts of their subcontractors. This can occur when the subcontractor is deemed to be an agent of the general contractor, which often depends on the degree of control the general contractor has over the subcontractor’s work. However, because subcontractors are usually independent entities, this type of liability is less common in construction.
  • Direct Liability: General contractors can also be directly liable for damages caused by their subcontractors if it is found that the general contractor was negligent in some way. This could include situations where the general contractor failed to properly supervise the subcontractor, did not hire a competent subcontractor, or if the general contractor was involved in the activity that caused the damage.

While they are not directly liable for penalties or liquidated damages against the subcontractor, they are responsible for the unpaid wages, benefits, and interest. This responsibility necessitates a change in how general contractors manage and audit their subcontractors.

What Are Subcontractors Liable For?

Subcontractors are liable for their own taxes, liability insurance, and workers’ compensation coverage. They are responsible for the quality of their work and may be liable for damages caused by their negligence or contractual breaches.

In cases of defective construction, subcontractors can be held liable to the owner, with damages limited to repair costs or property value diminution. However, it’s dictated by the three types of liability we covered in the previous section.

Pursuing Damages from a Subcontractor

If a general contractor needs to pursue damages from a subcontractor, they must:

  • Review the contractual agreement for breach clauses.
  • Gather evidence of the subcontractor’s failure to comply with the agreement.
  • Take legal action based on contract law and specific construction laws in California.

Protecting Against Unscrupulous Subcontractors

To protect against hiring unscrupulous subcontractors, general contractors should:

  • Conduct thorough background checks.
  • Review the subcontractor’s financial stability and past project history.
  • Ensure clarity in contracts regarding responsibilities and liabilities.
  • Regularly monitor the subcontractor’s compliance with laws and contract terms.

Situations Where Subcontractors Are And Are Not Liable

Here are some of the main areas when it comes to general contractor liability when dealing with subcontractors.

  • Defective Construction Work
    • Subcontractor Liable: If a subcontractor performs a specific construction task (like plumbing or electrical work) and the work is faulty or doesn’t meet the contract’s specifications, the subcontractor is typically liable for the damages caused by this defective work.
    • Subcontractor Not Liable: If the defect is due to design errors provided by the general contractor or another party, the subcontractor may not be liable, provided they followed the design specifications accurately.
  • Injury on the Job Site
    • Subcontractor Liable: If an employee of the subcontractor or a third party is injured due to the subcontractor’s negligence or failure to adhere to safety standards, the subcontractor can be held liable for these injuries.
    • Subcontractor Not Liable: If the injury is caused by the general contractor’s negligence or by hazards outside the subcontractor’s control or work area, the subcontractor may not be held liable.
  • Non-Payment of Subcontractor’s Employees
    • Subcontractor Liable: Under California law, specifically Assembly Bill 1701, subcontractors are directly liable for paying their employees. If they fail to do so, they can be held responsible for the unpaid wages and benefits.
    • Subcontractor Not Liable: If the general contractor fails to pay the subcontractor, which in turn affects the subcontractor’s ability to pay their employees, the liability may shift to the general contractor, especially if there’s a breach of contract.
  • Environmental Damage
    • Subcontractor Liable: If a subcontractor’s actions lead to environmental damage, such as improper disposal of hazardous materials, they can be held liable for the cleanup costs and any related damages.
    • Subcontractor Not Liable: If the environmental damage is due to factors beyond the subcontractor’s control or due to adherence to the general contractor’s specific instructions, the subcontractor might not be held liable.
  • Project Delays
    • Subcontractor Liable: If a subcontractor fails to complete their portion of the project on time, and this delay is solely due to their mismanagement or lack of resources, they can be held liable for any damages resulting from the delay.
    • Subcontractor Not Liable: If the delay is caused by factors such as change orders from the general contractor, unforeseen site conditions, or delays in other parts of the project not related to the subcontractor’s scope of work, the subcontractor may not be liable for these delays.


In California, both general contractors and subcontractors have specific responsibilities and potential liabilities. Keeping strict track of these liabilities and responsibilities for operating within the legal framework and ensuring a smooth construction process.

As a general contractor or a homeowner signing on with a subcontractor – the best thing you can possibly do for yourself is to outline liability specifically and comprehensively in the contractor. That way, you have it in writing – so you have a legal leg to stand on if something goes wrong.

The 10 Most Common Permits for Construction Work in California

You could be just getting started with your career in construction or you could be a seasoned pro – but your knowledge of building permits, codes, and regulations should always continue to grow.

As you do more work, you’ll naturally become familiar with your local laws, but it’s also critical that you know some of the basics in a general sense.

Today, we’ll start with permits! Yeah, we’re excited, too.

These permits will no doubt come up again and again as you work. It may be a good idea to bookmark this page as a reference to make sure all your construction projects are safe and in accordance with local regulations.

Building Permits

Electrical Permit

  • You’ll need an electrical permit anytime you install, alter, repair, replace, or remodel an electrical system. There are a few cases that are exempted by the California Electric Code or by a County Ordinance, but it is safe to assume you’ll need this permit in most cases.
  • When in doubt, check local guidelines for electrical service upgrades and related contractor work.

Plumbing Permit

  • While there are so many different kinds of plumbing services for general contractors to be aware of, any sizable plumbing project or plumbing repair will require a plumbing permit.
  • The Uniform Plumbing Code and local regulations will help you install, repair, and replace plumbing fixtures and piping safely and legally, but make sure you are familiar with your local regulations.

Mechanical Permit

  • This permit works hand-in-hand with other permits for certain construction projects. You’ll need a mechanical permit before doing any ductwork or heating or cooling work.
  • Permit advisors – like Permit Advisors – can help you plan your project according to local building and safety standards.

Grading Permit

  • If any of your construction work involves changing the topography of a property, perhaps cutting or filling space in the earth, you’ll need a grading permit.
  • Class C-27 license-covered landscaping work will often require grading permits. Think about all the hillside construction, flood zone mitigation, and seismic hazard zone mitigation you see happening in California. That’s all grading.

Demolition Permit

  • While it’s true that different jurisdictions have supplemental regulations for the demolition category of construction work, overall you can be sure that you’ll need special permission before tearing down a structure or performing any kind of deep excavation.
  • According to the Department of Industrial Relations, you’ll also need to notify utility companies before demolition so they can accommodate the work by either shutting off or rearranging utility services to protect them from damage.

Environmental Permit

  • The state of California is sincerely invested in environmental conservation efforts, so wherever your construction projects risk affecting water quality, air quality, protected species, and their habitats, your work will involve environmental permits.
  • The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is a great resource for keeping up with the latest environmental reviews and permitting, and this Environmental Permitting Guide might also help you out as well.

Zoning Permit

  • Local zoning regulations dictate how land can be used and which kinds of structures can exist where. It sounds simple, but it can get pretty complicated, especially when you look back at our post about mixed-use construction and the zoning problems involved.
  • Check with your local planning department and review the standards laid out by the California Department of Housing and Community Development to stay informed about land-use rules you might need to know.

Special Use Permit

  • If a construction project involves a temporary structure, a special event, or some kind of unusual land use, that’s where special use permits may come up.
  • These permits exist for the sake of flexibility when certain plans come up within certain zoning districts. You can apply for a special use permit in California right here.

Fire Department Permit

  • Depending on a construction project’s size or scope, permits and clearances from your local fire marshal might be necessary. If you’re a C-16 licensed Fire Protection Contractor you know these permits well.
  • Local fire safety measures will keep you, your team, and your clients safe throughout construction. If you do not obtain the necessary permits, you could be looking at some big fines, major delays, or even a full work stoppage.

In Summary

Of course, there are many more permits you’ll come across throughout your contractor days, but the permits listed above are the ones that will come up repeatedly.

The Contractors State License Board will have all of the information you need when it comes to construction permits in California. Check there and also check with the local governing bodies responsible for the area where you work as regulations and permit requirements will vary depending on your location.

Can I Build My Own Home in California?

Many ask the question. But are you ready to go the distance?

Frankly, we don’t recommend most people build their own homes, but if you have the skills, the savvy, and the dogged determination required, maybe you can pull it off and build your own home in California.

We’re here to help – we see the vision! But it’s only fair to tell you to expect a long road with lots of (possibly costly) bureaucratic red tape along the way.

Here’s how you build your own home in California.

Learn About Contractor Licensing (And Learn If You Need A License)

The first items you probably already have on your mind are the necessary licenses and permits you’ll need to get the job done. Before you do another online search about the matter, do yourself a favor and browse the California State License Board website – that’s the place to go for any and all state-level licensing requirements and legal information.

Whatever kind of construction work your home-building process requires, the licensing and permitting information that you need will be available for you on the CSLB site.

If you’ve already started getting a construction crew together, you can look up their licenses on the CSLB site as well and learn more about their qualifications and work history. In general, you will find that your contractors are all Class B license holders.

Do you need a license to build your own home? Check out our article on that very topic.

Studying Up on California Building Standards

California’s Building Standards Commission is your BFF if you want to build a safe and compliant house. You can join their mailing list to keep up with all the new building codes and standards throughout the construction of your new residence.

Remember – knowing the building codes on both a state and local level is your job as the builder. Do your diligence upfront and make sure you stay compliant throughout the process.

Gain Purchase in Your Process

You’ll want to learn quite a bit about the California Department of Real Estate and what it takes to buy land and sell a self-built home eventually. Sure, your plan is to build your own home today and live in that self-built home tomorrow, but later down the line, this residence ought to be fit for the California real estate market as well and the DRE can help with that.

Another reason to learn the real estate regulations and licensing details now is that you often need that information to buy the land your home will be built on in the first place. The California Department of Housing and Community Development can help you sort out which land ordinances and zoning laws pertain to you and your process. This department can also help you find out which permit applications you need in your county, city, and neighborhood.

Expect Inspections

As you build your strategy for building your own home, take the considerations of the California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA) into account.

The state of California is serious about environmental conservation so check to be sure that your construction project isn’t a hindrance to any protected species or elements. If your project requires special permits or approvals, keep all the paperwork squared away so that later down the line all building inspections go smoothly.

Even if you don’t have any special permits or anything like that, you can expect, especially in the case of a builder-owner, for the state to make sure that you’re staying compliant with environmental standards.

Build an Airtight Strategy

Keep everything mentioned above in mind as you design your home. Create detailed blueprints and if you can, hire an architect or a professional drafter to help you. A project manager or construction manager can also help lighten the administrative load.

Make a realistic budget for yourself. If you qualify for a construction loan, that is a common route that many others have taken before you. Then secure a suitable plot of land for your dream home in California and be sure that your build complies with local zoning regulations.

Before you break ground on construction, you’ll need all those permits we talked about earlier. Building permits, grading permits, electrical permits, plumbing permits, mechanical permits — the whole nine.

When you’re ready to begin construction, consider hiring a team of contractors. Because you’ll need licensed experts to take care of tasks like excavation, framing, plumbing, and electrical work. These aren’t things you can DIY — you need special licenses for all this work.

Throughout construction, you and your team need to make sure that all of your work holds up to California’s building codes and regulations. There will be multiple inspections throughout the process and more once the project is complete.

Home Sweet Home!

If you follow all the necessary guidelines throughout construction, you will be ready to move into your new home once the structure is complete! From there you can get a Certificate of Occupancy from your city that proves you can live in your new home legally! Alright!

There you have it! Building your own home in California is a significant undertaking, and complying with all legal requirements is a full-time job all on its own. Always consult with professionals and the local governing bodies in charge of the regulations in your area to ensure a smooth and legal construction process.

Our word of advice: staying ahead of problems before they become bigger problems is the biggest thing you can do for yourself to maintain your sanity. Always keep an eye peeled for upcoming bumps in the road so you can take evasive maneuvers. Happy building!

Clients Will Look Up Your Contractor License – Be Prepared!

Maybe you just realized your contractor license is past expiration, but you’re still completing a job. Maybe you’re taking on odd jobs here or there and the classification of your contractor license doesn’t actually cover that category of work. Maybe you’re just curious — Will the people who hire you check up on the validity of your license? Can they even check?

Yes. Clients can and will check to ensure that their contractors and their licenses are in good standing – and why wouldn’t they? Wouldn’t you do your due diligence if you were spending thousands on a new home or millions on an office?

Your clients will 100% check your license, so you need to be prepared to keep your license up-to-date…or failing that, do what you can to fix it. Here’s how.

Keep Your Contractor License Current…Or Else!

One of the first things your clients will do while hiring you is to check the validity and current status of your contractor’s license.

The client is looking for certainty and safety. They want to know that the significant money they are investing into their construction project is going to be put to good use by someone who knows what they’re doing.

In their minds, the outcome of their construction project depends on you and the entire contractor team being fit to work and in good legal standing with the state of California. Not only are they looking to make sure that you’ll deliver a good product, but they also want to know that they’ll be safe living and working in the house you built – two things that are verified by a license.

Not having a valid license will not only scare away potential clients who would much rather go with someone legitimate and licensed, but it will also lead to severe criminal penalties should you take on jobs over $500 without a license.

The state of California does not mess around when it comes to unlicensed contracting. Get a license, or don’t even think about doing construction. It’s that simple.

Anyone Can Check Your Contractor License On The CSLB Website

You can always count on clients visiting the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) website to check the status of your license. And it makes sense too, doesn’t it?

With the CSLB being the governing body responsible for issuing and regulating whatever contractor licenses you hold, they’re likely the first and only place someone might think to search for and verify the documents you hold indicating that you’re eligible for contractor work.

Since anyone can and will check your license at any time, thanks to the magnificence of the internet, it’s more important than ever to maintain your license and make sure you’re in good standing with the CSLB.

What Do Clients Check to Decide if You’re a Safe Choice?

Clients will always do their diligence when it comes to construction projects. If that’s surprising to you, you might consider another field of work.

People will naturally want to make sure the hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands, or hundreds of millions of dollars they’re investing in their construction project are being invested wisely and carefully.

Here’s the 5 main things they’ll look for.

  • Your Contractor License Number
    Your business card, website, wherever you advertise your services, or even your licensing documents themselves are a few places from where a person hiring you will grab your license number. Once they have that info, they will run a check on the CSLB website to see if you’re legit.
  • Previous Work
    One of the most obvious things that clients will look at when validating your qualifications is your previous work – especially previous work that is similar to their current project.
  • References
    Contractors – and people in general – first look to references from people they know and trust. As you grow your career, your network and references will grow, creating more opportunities and building your reputation in your niche.
  • Website
    A professional website is essential to creating a positive, professional impression on your potential client. There’s no excuse to not have a simple, beautiful website in 2024. Sure, it’s easier to not set up a website, but you’re just leaving money on the table.
  • Social Media
    The folks hiring you want to know that you have valid worker’s compensation insurance coverage. They’ll want to be sure that they are not liable in case of injuries to you or your employees while you complete their construction projects.
  • Reviews
    Of course, they’ll want to check reviews and the personal testimony of previous clients. How did you do? How was your rapport? Clients work to gather insights and impressions to get a sense of what it might be like to work with you.


Verifying the validity and current status of your California contractor’s license is often a client’s first step toward building trust in you and your work.

While it can be tough to keep renewing licenses and applying for additional licenses depending on the nature of your construction projects, it’s worth it if it means retaining clients and maintaining your reputation as a reliable and capable contractor.

As a contractor, your reputation is everything, and like it or not, a valid contractor license in good standing with the CSLB can make or break your reputation immediately.

C-10 Electrical Contracting License Guide for General Contractors

Ever hired a subcontractor as a general contractor only for the sub not to show up when it’s time to do the job? Of course, you have – this is the construction industry we’re talking about, where no-call no-shows are commonplace, even among seasoned contractors.

How many times have you, as a general contractor, looked at a faucet install and thought: “I should just do this”?

More commonly, how many times have you had to wait around for an electrician to show up just to do a simple wire-up?

Instead of delaying progress on a project until you can bring in an available sparky to do your electrical work, you might think about getting a C-10 license yourself.

If you want the option to perform electrical work all on your own, you must obtain a Special Class C-10 license. With this new classification in your arsenal, you’d be legally cleared to work on…

  • Electrical Wiring
    Your everyday residential, commercial, and industrial installs, such as wiring for lighting systems, power distribution, and electrical panels.
  • Electrical Repairs
    You’d be legally allowed to assess, diagnose, and fix electrical issues on a deeper level than as a general contractor alone.
  • Installation of Electrical Fixtures
    The installation of electrical fixtures like outlets, switches, light fixtures, ceiling fans, and circuit breakers would be in your hands. This is huge for a general contractor.
  • Low Voltage Systems
    You’d be legally cleared to handle low-voltage electrical systems, including security systems, intercoms, data cabling, and telecommunications infrastructure.
  • Electrical Upgrades
    You could upgrade existing electrical systems, including capacity upgrades, electrical panel replacements, and the installation of energy-efficient electrical components.
  • Electrical Maintenance
    You could carry out routine electrical maintenance services. And you wouldn’t have to wait for subcontracted specialists to come in to inspect electrical systems to confirm that everything is functioning safely and optimally.
  • Electrical Design
    You could provide electrical design services, including creating electrical plans and layouts for new construction or renovation projects.
  • Safety and Code Compliance
    Monitoring electrical work and regulating safety also comes with the C-10 territory. You’d be qualified to evaluate and confirm that electrical systems are compliant with state and local building codes and industry standards.
  • Electrical Inspections
    You’d also be authorized to inspect electrical systems by yourself to verify compliance. You could assess risk and examine the functionality of the electrical installation.

Maintaining Your C-10 License

Picture yourself with your C-10 license in hand and you’re (literally) keeping the lights on with all your new electrical jobs. Now that you’re juggling two license classifications, it’s critical that you stay plugged in with the latest California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) regulations on top of all the various codes and laws around electrical work.

Electrical codes evolve. So do industry-wide practices. To make sure all your work is safe and meets current standards, the CSLB requires periodic exams and continuing education for licensed contractors.

  • Pass Your Exams: Your requirements for C-10 licensing exams can be found on the CSLB website. We recommend taking a CSLB exam course to ace your exams. At the very least, this study guide is specifically designed for electrical exam takers.
  • Meet The Experience Requirements: You need a certain amount of on-the-job experience before securing a class C-10 contractor license. The amount of that experience varies depending on whether you want to be a general electrician or a fire/life/safety technician or if the work you’re performing is residential vs. nonresidential – but you need at least 2,000 hours of electrical experience to be qualified for even the lowest tier.
  • Get and Stay Insured: General contractors like you already know that having a contractor bond and – in many cases, workers’ comp – are required for your overall operations. The terms of your bond and insurance coverage plans may change when you take on electrical work, but your responsibility to maintain this coverage remains the same. Learn more about the bonds you need as a contractor in 2024.
  • Stay Continually Educated! A big part of maintaining a C-10 Electrical Contractor license is continuing education. You’re required to keep yourself updated on the latest electrical codes, regulations, and industry best practices and that means enrolling in the right courses to keep you covered. Check out the full list of Department of Industrial Relations-approved continuing education providers.

Is the C-10 License worth it for general contractors?

There’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the C-10 License. So take a look at all your work across a calendar year and think about how much electrical work you actually plan to do.

Is the cost of insurance worth it? Are the fees associated with the C-10 License worth it? Run a cost-benefit analysis and decide for yourself!

It’s possible that securing a C-10 license would save you time and money because you wouldn’t have to wait and schedule with subcontractors. But it’s also possible that you’d save time and money because you hired subcontractors.

No matter what you choose, play it safe. Always follow the guidelines set by the CSLB. Remember, you must accumulate the required amount of experience and pass your exam before you even apply for a class C-10 license.

If you can keep your bonds and insurance agreements in good standing and remain up to date on continuing education for this specific classification of work, maybe you really are that contractor who can keep the electrical part of their career switched on.

For more on general contractors holding C-10 licenses, check out our comprehensive article on Class B and C-10 Licenses.