Monthly Archives: February 2024

When Is a Homeowner Responsible for a Permit?

When plans for construction and renovation projects are put into motion, someone will have to pull a permit. Building permits are crucial as they ensure safety and compliance with zoning requirements.

Anytime you’re wondering, “Do I need a building permit for my project?” you can check out the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) to get your answer – but whose job is it to pull it?

Figuring out whether the property owner or the contractor is responsible for obtaining a building permit can be a source of confusion for homeowners and contractors alike. This article should help you if you’re ever in a situation where you’re not sure which party is responsible for handling this piece of the project’s paper trail.

Before we dig too deep into legal precedents and California state regulations for building permits, it’s worth it to check out a few of our recent articles on building permits – The 10 Most Common Permits for Construction Work in California and Does A Contractor Have To Pull Permits?

Building Permits in California

Building permits are exactly what they sound like legal documents that permit you to build. These agreements are often highly localized and will be specific to your city, county, or even local HOA.

In short, a building permit is an official document that says, “Hey, a local governing body requires permission before this type of construction, remodeling, or renovation work is performed. And check it out, permission has been granted.”

Building permits are highly flexible and can be an extremely complex patchwork of rules and regulations, many of which were created decades ago. Building permits dictate things like maximum building heights, acceptable materials, and even more specific stuff like what type of roof you can have.

California Building Permit Legal Frameworks

Building permits are regulated at both state and local levels in California.

The California Building Standards Code (Title 24) indicates how construction projects ought to be run throughout the state – then city and county officials can add their own specific requirements for worksites in their areas.

How do you know about your local area’s building permits? Well, you do the legwork to find out. Contact your local building department or zoning board – they’ll be more than happy to tell you all the stuff you can’t do!

When Does a Homeowner Need to Pull a Permit?

Here are a few common scenarios where a California homeowner would be most likely responsible for getting the building permit:

Structural Changes

If the property owner wants to make structural changes like…

  • Adding or removing load-bearing walls
  • Changing the foundation
  • Altering the roof structure

Electrical Work

If the property owner wants to…

  • Install new electrical circuits
  • Upgrade the main electrical service panel
  • Add outdoor lighting fixtures

Plumbing and Mechanical Systems

When it’s time for the property owners to…

  • Install or replace water heaters
  • Alter or extend plumbing lines
  • Install HVAC systems

Major Renovations

Also, of course, when it’s time for major renovations like…

  • Kitchen or bathroom remodels
  • Room additions or extensions
  • Significant interior or exterior renovations

Truthfully, it is most optimal for California homeowners when the contractor oversees the permitting process because it lessens the liability for the property owner.

In What Case Does a Contractor Need to Pull a Permit?

When contractors are brought in to perform work on behalf of a homeowner or property owner, they’re typically responsible for obtaining permits in these scenarios:

New Construction

  • Building a new home or structure
  • Constructing additions for existing buildings

Commercial Projects

  • Renovating or constructing commercial properties
  • Developing commercial spaces

Specialized Trades

  • Contractors with specialized licenses pull permits for their respective trades like…
  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • HVAC contractors

Complex Projects

Construction projects involving multiple phases and requiring coordination between various contractors may call for a general contractor to oversee the permitting process.


For contractors, being well-versed in local regulations and building codes comes with the territory, so they should expect to handle permit applications most of the time. However, homeowners should make it their business to communicate clearly with their contractors about permits.

Homeowners should also feel empowered to check with their local building department, zoning department, or city hall to determine which specific permit requirements affect their construction project. Failure to secure all necessary permits can result in costly fines, delays, or even the removal of non-compliant construction work.

It’s important to remember that any building project is a collaboration. Whether you’re a property owner or a contractor, you’re working toward the same result.

You want to ensure that a structure is safe and compliant so regardless of whomever is handling the permitting process, you still want to help out and make sure everything is all squared away.

CSLB News: Humboldt County Sting Operation Busts 4 Unlicensed Contractors

SACRAMENTO – The Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office and the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) worked together in an undercover operation that ultimately exposed contractors for performing construction work without a license.

The severe stormy weather in early February precipitated the increase in demand for home repair work in southern California. As a result, unlicensed contractors began advertising themselves as available for hire for construction contracting services.

In California, it is required by law for unlicensed contractors to state clearly that they are not license holders and that they cannot bid on work contracts valued higher than $500 (including labor and materials).

But in Eureka, CA this month, law enforcement and the CSLB discovered that four unlicensed contractors had submitted bids ranging from $1,400 for a home painting project to $12,000 for deck work. Exceeding the legal limit of $500 is a blatant violation of the standards and regulations put in place by the CSLB.

This undercover sting operation left each of the four unlicensed contractors with a Notice to Appear in criminal court. Their primary offense was allegedly performing contracting activities without the required licenses.

One of the offenders may face an additional obstruction of justice charge. After the accused individual was caught by the sting operation, they took to social media to post information about the crackdown, most likely to warn other unlicensed contractors to help them dodge controversy.

Investigators report that this person was expressly told not to spread information about the undercover operation. Now they and the three other individuals who were suspended for unlawful construction activities are looking at fines and possible jail time.

In a statement to the press, David Fogt from the CSLB Registrar underscored the importance of hiring licensed contractors for home improvement projects. He pointed out how after a storm, unlicensed contractors are more likely to take advantage of the moment and approach people in need of home repair.

Fogt’s message concluded with him saying, “That’s why CSLB educates consumers on how to protect themselves by hiring a licensed contractor — it takes just a few minutes to find a licensed contractor in California.”

Most contractors know that the CSLB operates under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. The board licenses and regulates about 285,000 contractors in California and it requires that all of them carry some form of insurance or another to comply with public safety standards and to meet established quality standards.

When unsuspecting clients wind up hiring unlicensed contractors like the four individuals who got caught so recently in Eureka, they are unknowingly taking on a great deal of risk. Because the work of an unlicensed contractor is performed without the CSLB’s endorsement or oversight.

Homeowners hiring unlicensed contractors to perform construction work that exceeds the $500 limit open themselves up to potential legal problems and safety issues. They could be taking on the legal liability for any damages incurred as a result of the unlicensed construction work.

Taking on costs associated with workers’ compensation, building code violations, having to redo shoddy construction work, and other similar costs is wholly unnecessary. The CSLB strongly encourages consumers to plan ahead and hire a licensed contractor to ensure safe, efficient, and high-quality work from contractors.

C-9 Drywall Contractor’s License: A Comprehensive Guide

Looking to become a licensed drywall contractor in California, so you can start making money doing drywall fitting, installs, maintenance, and more?

We’ve got you covered. In our latest comprehensive license guide, we’ll cover everything related to the C-9 license: what it is, who needs it, what kinds of jobs you can do with a C-9 license, and more!

Let’s dig in.

What Does a C-9 Drywall Contractor Do?

A drywall contractor specializes in the installation, taping, and texturing of gypsum wallboard assemblies, including nonstructural metal framing members. Drywall contractors are skilled professionals responsible for installing wallboard panels, which are used to construct walls and ceilings in buildings.

Their work involves measuring, cutting, and fitting these panels into the framework of buildings and ensuring a smooth, finished surface that’s ready for painting or wallpapering. The main day-to-day tasks include taping and applying joint compound to seams between panels, as well as patching and sanding imperfections to create a seamless appearance.

C-9 drywall contractors play a crucial role in both residential and commercial construction by ensuring walls and ceilings are properly installed and finished to meet building standards and aesthetic requirements.

While C-9 drywall contractors install drywall, they may not paint these walls (that’s a C-33 Painter’s License) nor may they build the framing around them (that’s a C-5 Carpenter’s License).

What is a C-9 Drywall Contractor License?

The C-9 Drywall Contractor License is a classification under the California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) that permits individuals or companies to legally perform drywall installation and repair services within the state of California.

This license is a testament to the holder’s expertise in the field, ensuring any C-9 license holder meets the state’s rigorous standards for safety, quality, and professionalism. Without a C-9 license, you cannot do any drywall work on projects over $500.

Who Needs a C-9 License?

Individuals or businesses that undertake drywall projects in California where the total cost (labor and materials) exceeds $500 must possess a C-9 license. If your job is less than $500, you can do drywall work without a C-9 license, but those cases are rare.

Licensure ensures that all parties involved are qualified and capable of adhering to state regulations and building codes – and penalties are serious and severe for people who do work without a contractor’s license.

When Do You Need a C-9 Drywall Contractor License?

As we’ve just covered, you need a C-9 license before bidding on any project that involves drywall work exceeding $500 in California. That’s right – beyond doing the work itself, you need a license to even bid on a project!

Furthermore, a C-9 license whenever doing any sort of drywall work over $500. This involves practically anything related to drywall, including the nonstructural and aesthetic work surrounding an installation.

As previously stated, the main areas that require a C-9 license are:

  • Installation of gypsum wallboard
  • Nonstructural metal framing members
  • Taping and texturing operations

Most Common Types of Jobs for a C-9 Contractor

C-9 Contractors can undertake a variety of projects. Generally speaking, here are the main areas you’ll be working on as a C-9 contractor.

  • Installation & finishing of drywall in new structures and remodels
  • Patching/repairing of drywall
  • Metal stud framing
  • Acoustic ceiling removal
  • Sound control installations
  • Suspended ceilings​.

Digging deeper, here are some more specific types of jobs for C-9 contractors:

  • Fire-rated Drywall Installation: Projects that require fire-resistant drywall to meet building codes and enhance the safety of structures.
  • Moisture-resistant Drywall Installation: In areas prone to moisture such as bathrooms and kitchens, moisture-resistant drywall is essential for preventing mold and water damage.
  • Acoustic Drywall Installation: For buildings where sound insulation is crucial, such as apartments, hotels, and schools, using acoustic drywall helps in reducing noise transmission.
  • Architectural Drywall Features: Creating custom arches, eaves, and other architectural features that require precise drywall shaping and installation techniques.
  • Decorative Texturing: Applying specialized textures to walls and ceilings for aesthetic purposes, including but not limited to, knockdown, orange peel, and smooth finishes.
  • Drywall Art and Sculpting: Crafting artistic elements or sculpted details into drywall, which can include recessed lighting coves or custom relief work.
  • Seismic Retrofitting: Installing or upgrading drywall systems to improve a building’s earthquake resilience, often involving the use of flexible fasteners and reinforced framing.
  • Lead-lined Drywall Installation for X-ray Rooms: In medical facilities, installing lead-lined drywall is necessary to provide protection against X-ray radiation.
  • Egress and Fire Escape Routes: Constructing or modifying walls to ensure compliance with safety codes, including the installation of fire-rated drywall in stairwells and escape routes.
  • Water Damage Repair: Replacing or repairing drywall that has been damaged by water or moisture, including matching textures and finishes in restoration projects.
  • Historic Renovation: Working within the constraints of historic preservation standards to repair or replace drywall in a way that maintains the integrity of the original structure.
  • Crack and Hole Repairs: Addressing structural and cosmetic issues in drywall, from small punctures to larger areas of damage, ensuring a seamless finish.
  • Insulating Drywall Systems: Installing drywall products that come with built-in insulation properties to enhance a building’s thermal performance.
  • Air Sealing: Implementing drywall installation techniques that improve the airtightness of a building, reducing energy loss and improving comfort.

Each of these tasks requires a deep understanding of building codes, materials, and techniques to ensure a high-quality finish that meets or exceeds the client’s expectations.

How to Get a C-9 License in California?

  • Experience Requirement: Applicants must prove a minimum of 4 years of journeyman-level experience in the drywall trade.
  • Age and Identification: Be at least 18 years old with a valid driver’s license or USA Issued Identification.
  • Application Process: Submit a completed application to the CSLB, including proof of experience and a $330 application fee.
  • Examination: Pass the two-part state CSLB exam covering trade-specific knowledge and California business law.

What’s the Difference Between a C-9 Contractor, a C-6 Contractor, and a C-5 Contractor?

The C-9, C-6, and C-5 classifications all fall under the broader category of carpentry and construction but specialize in different aspects.

A C-9 Drywall Contractor is specialized in the installation and finishing of drywall. In contrast, a C-6 Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry Contractor specialize in building and installing cabinets, millwork, and other fine woodwork projects. A C-5 Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor focuses on the framing work that provides the structural support for buildings, including framing systems, sheathing, subflooring, and related tasks.

The key difference lies in the specifics of their trade skills and the materials they work with. C-9 contractors work with gypsum wallboard, C-6 contractors with cabinets and fine woodwork, and C-5 contractors with structural wood framing. Each requires a unique set of skills, knowledge, and experience to meet the standards of their specific trade.

What Types of Contractors’ Licenses Are Good to Have in Addition to a C-9 License?

Holding additional licenses can expand a C-9 contractor’s business opportunities by allowing them to take on a broader range of projects. Here are a few licenses that complement the C-9 license well:

  • C-5 Framing and Rough Carpentry License: Since many drywall projects are part of larger construction projects that involve framing, having a C-5 license allows a contractor to handle both the structural and the finishing aspects of the project.
  • C-6 Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry License: This license allows a C-9 contractor to offer comprehensive interior finishing services, including custom cabinetry and detailed millwork, alongside drywall services.
  • C-10 Electrical Contractor License: For projects that require electrical work behind walls before drywall installation, a C-10 license can be beneficial.
  • C-33 Painting and Decorating Contractor License: Since painting often follows drywall installation, having a C-33 license allows a contractor to provide a complete finish package to clients.

Popular Niches For C-9 License Holders

When it comes to being a C-9 contractor, there’s a number of general areas that you can work in. Here are some of the main niches where C-9 contractors can establish a powerful niche.

  • Complete Home Remodels and Renovations: Handling the framing, drywall, and finishing aspects of remodels can make a contractor a one-stop shop for clients.
  • New Residential and Commercial Construction: Being able to manage both the structural framing and the interior drywall and finishes can be a significant advantage.
  • Custom Home Theaters and Soundproofing Projects: With expertise in drywall, a contractor can specialize in creating custom entertainment spaces and soundproofing, areas that require specialized drywall techniques.
  • Energy-Efficient and Green Building Projects: Incorporating energy-efficient techniques in drywall installation, such as using sustainable materials and advanced insulation strategies, aligns with growing trends in construction.

Holding multiple licenses not only broadens the scope of potential projects a contractor can bid on and complete but also enhances their appeal to clients looking for a comprehensive range of services from a single provider.

By following the above guide and meeting California’s strict licensing requirements, anyone can embark on a rewarding career as a C-9 Drywall Contractor. This license not only opens the door to a wide range of projects that you may already be working on in other capacities, but the C-9 license also establishes the contractor’s credibility in an environment that thrives on trustworthiness and integrity.

The Consequences of Doing Unlicensed Contractor Work in California

Tempted to do unlicensed contracting work in California? Thinking you can save money and time by skipping the CSLB’s arduous licensing process by simply making a backroom deal? Maybe you can hire your nephew as a concrete subcontractor under the table and save money on taxes?

Sounds good, right?


When it comes to doing unlicensed contracting work in California, you need to consider the consequences. In California, there are serious consequences for doing unlicensed contracting work on jobs over $500 – including facing time in jail.

Still – you might think you’ll get away with it, but we’re here to tell you: it’s simply not worth the trouble. Why? Let’s find out.

What is a CSLB Contractor’s License?

The CSLB Contractor’s License

The CSLB (California State License Board) contractor’s license is a certification issued by the state of California to individuals and businesses in the construction industry, ensuring they meet the necessary qualifications and standards. It covers various classifications, including general building, specialty trades, and engineering.

The Importance of Licensure

The whole point of a CSLB license is to ensure safety and security when it comes to construction. People need to know they’re safe in their homes, workplaces, bars, restaurants, and go-kart tracks. The CSLB license ensures that you not only have a verified professional doing your job – but that you have a way to fix any issues a contractor may cause you.

A CSLB license signals to clients that you are worth the time and money they’re investing in you – the CSLB serves as a gold standard for construction professionals in the state.

Do I Need a Contractor’s License to Do Contracting Work?

In California, it’s mandatory for any contract over $500 (labor and materials) to be undertaken by a licensed contractor. This requirement safeguards consumers from potential fraud and ensures that all work meets specific safety and quality standards.

While you can stick to jobs under $500 for your whole career – a construction job known colloquially as a handyman – most construction contractors want to reach for the stars and grow their careers and businesses. If you have any ambition as a contractor, you need a CSLB license.

What Happens if You’re Caught Doing Unlicensed Construction Work in California?

Immediate Repercussions

Contractors found working without a license face severe penalties, including fines, cease-and-desist orders, and the possibility of criminal charges – all of which are designed to stop unlicensed activity before anyone can get hurt or suffer losses.

And California is always watching – the CSLB has done at least 10 separate stings just last year, involving over 20 unlicensed contractors operating in the state. Many of these contractors were pulled off the job site, arrested on the spot by local authorities, and compelled to serve jail time.

If you’re doing unlicensed work and someone finds out, they’re going to get you and get you quick!

Who Enforces Contractor’s Licenses in California?

CSLB’s Role

The CSLB is responsible for enforcing contractor licensing laws in California. Through investigations, sting operations, and consumer reports, the CSLB ensures compliance and prosecutes violations.

The CSLB’s license task force is called SWIFT. SWIFT (CSLB’s Statewide Investigative Fraud Team) is responsible for enforcement across the state. They work together with local law enforcement to perform stings against unlicensed contractors operating in the state.

Recent sting operations by the CSLB in counties like Orange and Sonoma have resulted in several unlicensed contractors being caught and facing legal action.

For instance, in June 2023 in Orange County, eight individuals received Notices to Appear in criminal court for contracting without a license, with bids ranging from $7,500 to $36,000 for a painting job​.

Similarly, in Sonoma County, eight suspected unlicensed contractors were cited during a sting operation, with submitted bids exceeding the legal limit of $500, highlighting the ongoing efforts to crack down on unlicensed activities​.

Legal Ramifications for Unlicensed Contracting Work

  • Fines and Penalties: Unlicensed contractors can face fines ranging from $200 to $15,000.
  • Criminal Charges: Engaging in unlicensed contracting work can lead to misdemeanor or felony charges, with potential jail time. Multiple offenders are often placed in jail for six months or longer.
  • Restitution to Consumers: Courts may order unlicensed contractors to pay restitution to harmed consumers. Whenever there are damages to the home or persons, courts will most likely order contractors to make their clients whole.
  • Administrative Actions: The CSLB may issue cease-and-desist orders and place individuals on a public database of violators. If you’re a violator of the CSLB, you will be on their list forever, and you will face much greater scrutiny with everything you try to do through the CSLB.


Operating as an unlicensed contractor in California carries significant risks, including legal penalties, financial liabilities, and damage to one’s professional reputation. The CSLB enforces strict regulations to protect consumers and ensure that only qualified, licensed contractors perform work in the state.

We can’t say this more emphatically – do not do work in California over $500 without a license. There are simply too many consequences and you have too much to lose!

Being caught doing unlicensed contracting work will not only present short-term consequences like jail time and fines, but it also marks you for life in the state – meaning further scrutiny and worse penalties in the future.

Understanding the Difference Between the Zoning Code and the Building Code

It’s easy for certain industry vocab terms to go over our heads when discussing plans for new construction projects. Sometimes the exact meaning of a word or phrase will slip right past us.

In construction, contractors learn a lot of the basics on the fly as they work. So it’s no surprise when a collective understanding, or lack thereof, of certain terms gets taken for granted.

Whether you’re here looking for a refresher or if you’re here learning for the first time, we are sharing this article to shine a spotlight on the difference between the zoning code and the building code.

Zoning Code vs. Building Code – What is the difference?

While the zoning code and the building code relate closely to one another and are each essential for making sure that construction projects prioritize safety and order, they serve different purposes.

Zoning Code
The zoning code is a detailed set of requirements that conveys how land can and will be used. Anyone involved with new construction relies on the zoning code to determine how properties can be used within a specific jurisdiction.

Local planning departments or zoning boards enforce the zoning code. In addition to making decisions about permissible land uses, they also set the standard for various aspects of construction like building heights, density limits, and property setbacks.

A few common categories of zones that zoning codes regulate are residential, commercial, industrial, and mixed-use zones.

Building Code
The building code is a separate set of requirements that focuses on the safety and structural integrity of buildings and structures.

There are building departments and code enforcement agencies who are responsible for this code and here’s a quick list of the areas that their rules cover:

  • Construction standards in general
  • Specs for building materials
  • Structural design
  • Fire safety
  • Electrical systems
  • Plumbing
  • Mechanical systems

And just for reference, here are a few widely adopted building codes:

  • International Building Code (IBC)
  • National Electrical Code (NEC)
  • International Residential Code (IRC)
  • International Plumbing Code (IPC)

Unlike zoning codes which dictate how land can be used and developed, building codes help us work according to agreed-upon standards and requirements for construction projects.

Where Do General Contractors Learn About Zoning Codes and Building Codes?

When general contractors are studying ahead of taking their licensing exam, they learn all about zoning codes and building codes as part of their licensing school curriculum.

Understanding these codes is necessary for building foundational career knowledge for general contractors.

And once they secure their license and get more experience in the field, this info will be reinforced again and again because zoning and building safety and compliance are so important.

Contractor licensing schools also teach contractors a lot about how to keep up with laws, regulations, and ordinances throughout their careers.

How Can General Contractors Educate Their Clients on the Local Laws, Codes, and Ordinances Affecting Their Construction Projects?

General contractors know that maintaining clear communication with their clients about any restrictions or constraints concerning their construction projects. While “clear communication” is a simple practice, keeping it up and remaining transparent with clients is not always easy.

To achieve a consistently open and clear line of communication with clients, sometimes contractors have to go above and beyond to educate them on local laws, codes, and ordinances affecting their construction projects.

Provide Information
Showing clients literature, either printed or digital, about relevant zoning restrictions, building codes, permit requirements, and project timelines can be a huge help. Different people retain new information differently.

Meet them where they’re at and ask them if they need additional help with understanding the information that you’ve shared with them. Once you have confirmation from them that their expectations align with yours, you’re on the right track.

Offer Guidance
If you’ve ever been in a situation where you’ve offered a client multiple options to consider, you may have noticed that the client isn’t even sure which option is best for their project.

Navigating the permitting process, obtaining approvals, and addressing regulatory concerns might not be the most familiar or intuitive thing for every client. It makes sense that they’d have a bunch of follow-up questions for their contractor!

Communicating clearly with clients means developing a clear understanding of their goals and interests so you can guide them and empower them to make the best choice for themselves.

Collaborate with Other Design and Building Professionals
Working in collaboration with architects, engineers, and legal experts can help a general contractor build up trust and credibility with clients.

If you can foster open communication and a productive exchange of expertise with your colleagues in construction, it will leave your clients feeling assured that they are in the right hands.

While this might seem like an invitation for a too-many-cooks-in-the-kitchen type situation, it is the responsibility of the general contractor to run point and make sure that the client doesn’t get overwhelmed or confused.

Developing this team of professionals naturally adds accountability to the overall project. More qualified people with specialized focuses working together on a construction project means more professionals working to ensure comprehensive compliance and high-quality standards.

Are Contractors or Their Clients Responsible for Pulling Permits?

It is typically the contractor’s responsibility to obtain necessary permits for construction projects. But there are a lot of situations that could come up where clients might prefer to handle permit applications themselves.

We write about this topic in more detail in our recent post, Does a Contractor Have to Pull Permits? but at the end of the day, whichever person is handling this process, you want them to do it right!

Whether the person handing permits is a project manager, a permit expediter, or a homeowner who happens to be extra familiar with the local regulations in the area, it is ultimately the general contractor’s job to make sure that their construction project is safe and compliant.


Zoning codes and building codes serve different purposes but they work together to enforce safety and quality standards for anyone concerned with erecting, maintaining, or demolishing a building or structure.

Zoning codes focus on land use while building codes regulate building use, aesthetic and structural integrity.

General contractors need to learn about zoning codes, building codes, local laws, regulations, and ordinances early in their careers and continue learning about them as they work.

Understanding all these details can be tricky for that one general contractor overseeing all of the construction. But it’s majorly important for them to keep their crew and clients informed about how their work will remain compliant with the laws and quality standards set by local authorities.

In doing so, that general contractor isn’t just maintaining the integrity and high quality of the properties they build, but they’re also reinforcing the integrity of their strong professional reputation in the construction business.

Additional Reading

Contractors State License Board – License Law & Reference Book

California Permits – Permit Services for the Construction Industry

Millman National Land Services – Zoning Codes in California to Know About

International Code Council – California Building Codes

What Does It Take to Get a General Contractor License in California?

In these uncertain times, when the job market is constantly changing, we do what we can to take control of our lives. Maybe you’re looking for a career change. Maybe you’re finishing up school and making decisions about what to do next.

No matter what season of life you find yourself in currently, you can look around and be certain that the construction business is strong and consistent in California.

If your career ambitions have begun to steer you toward becoming a contractor, you’re probably thinking, what does it take to get a Class B General Building Contractor License? This article can serve as an easy jumping-off point so that you can decide for yourself if taking this next big step is right for you.

Basic Requirements

Before getting too deep in the weeds about general contractor life, let’s make sure all the basics are covered. Here’s the absolute essential requirements put forth by the CSLB.

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must be legally allowed to work in the United States.
  • You must have a minimum of 4 years of journey-level experience.
  • Conversely, you may supply the CSLB with proof of three years of college or trade-specific classroom education. You must, however, have at least one year’s on-the-job experience doing general contractor work.

How Much Education Does It Take to Get a General Contractor License?

One thing that sets the general contractor career apart from so many others is the fact that you can build a lucrative future for yourself without having to worry about securing a pricey, seemingly out-of-reach higher ed degree first – and potentially saddling yourself with lifelong debt.

The reality is that the amount of education that you want to take on as you move toward your goals as a general contractor is mostly up to you – but education is always a method to empower oneself.

Basic math and reading comprehension are the main prerequisites that you’ll need in your day-to-day life as a general contractor – think about all the square footage you need to measure and the dozens of emails you have to write – so a high school diploma or an equivalent (like the GED) is enough to get you going.

Of course, you know that knowledge is power, so if you’re so inclined you can enroll in construction management programs, courses focusing on blueprint reading, or business administration classes to build your skill set anytime. Even a university degree can hugely benefit general contractors in this area of work.

General Contractors and Financial Commitments

For a lot of people who are just getting started with becoming a general contractor, the heaviest lift is the financial commitment involved. Take some time and reflect on whether now is the right time to go for your general contractor license. To make this pursuit worthwhile you’ll need:

When it comes to understanding the full schedule of fees, check out some of our recent posts, like How to Obtain a Contractor License with Minimal Fees and our Comprehensive Guide To CSLB Application Fees!

Liability and Mitigating Risk

We mentioned above that having a Contractor’s Bond (and very soon, workers’ comp) is essential as you move toward getting your general contractor’s license.

This is because the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) will not issue an active license, reactivate an inactive license, or renew an active license until these protections are in place.

This fact really gets to the heart of what it takes to become a general contractor. It takes the willingness to take on a hefty amount of liability. It takes someone who isn’t afraid of risk, but who can mitigate risk while on the job.

It takes a commitment to working in compliance with building codes and regulations. Meeting these standards is non-negotiable for a general contractor.

A failure to comply with the guidelines and restrictions set by local authorities inevitably leads to an increase in legal liabilities, financial penalties, and a damaged reputation.

Throughout your four years of required training, you’re likely to make mistakes and you’re likely to learn from those mistakes. But when you’re officially a license-holding general contractor the mistakes will be more costly and possibly more dangerous.

Can you envision yourself working closely with clients and crew members to mitigate risk as you work through your career in construction? Are you prepared to keep a clean paper trail documenting all your contracts, permits, inspections, and transactions?

Networking and Building a Reputation

Sometimes a word-of-mouth testimonial is your best asset. One major pillar that you’ll need to prop up your career as a general contractor is networking and reputation-building skills.

  • Join Trade Associations and participate in industry events, workshops, and seminars. The Associated General Contractors (AGC) or the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) are great places to seek out networking opportunities.
  • Fix up your online presence and create a professional website for yourself. Link to social media and LinkedIn and include client testimonials there along with details about your industry expertise.
  • Prioritize customer service and nurture lasting relationships with clients. Remain consistent and always deliver high-quality workmanship while also keeping your communication with clients open and honest to maintain mutual trust.


It definitely takes a great deal to become a general contractor. But if you determine that you’re up for the task, it’s nothing you can’t handle.

Meeting the necessary requirements for getting the General Building Contractor license is only the beginning. Beyond that step, you will need to invest in continuing education for yourself and manage your financial responsibilities from job to job and in between jobs.

You will also have to work in compliance with California codes and local ordinances all while keeping up strong and healthy relationships with clients and colleagues.

If you see yourself aligning with this career journey, please check out the CSLB website to get the most current and accurate guidance for the next steps toward your future in construction.

Do You Need a Permit to Add a Sink in California?

When considering home improvements or construction projects in California, one common question is whether a permit is required for specific tasks, such as adding a sink.

Understanding the legal requirements and processes for permits is crucial for contractors and homeowners alike to ensure compliance with state and local regulations.

This article will cover the essentials regarding permits for adding a sink in California, both for homeowners and contractors alike. Let’s dig in.

What is a Permit?

A permit is a legal document issued by local government agencies that authorizes the permit holder to conduct certain construction or remodeling activities. It ensures that the project complies with state and local building codes, zoning regulations, and safety standards.

Permits are typically required for activities that may affect the health and safety of the occupants or impact the structural integrity of a building. Check out our article on the 10 Most Common Permits for a rundown of typical permits you’ll come across.

When Do You Need a Permit to Build in California?

In California, the need for a building permit is determined by the nature of the project. Generally, permits are required for projects that involve constructing, enlarging, altering, repairing, moving, or demolishing a building or structure. Sounds like a lot of stuff, right? Yeah, it’s practically everything.

This includes significant changes to electrical, mechanical, and, yes, plumbing systems. While the specific requirements can and do vary by city and county, overarching state regulations are the ones that dictate whether or not you can install a sink in your own home.

Do You Need a Permit to Add a Sink in California?

Yes, adding a sink in California typically requires a permit. This is because installing a sink involves changes to the plumbing system, which must comply with the California Plumbing Code, therefore requiring a specific permit to allow construction to go forward.

These regulations ensure that plumbing installations meet health and safety standards, preventing issues such as water contamination and improper drainage. If you’ve ever tried to install a bidet without turning off the water first – you know exactly why these types of regulations exist!

What Kind of Permit Do You Need to Add a Sink in California?

The specific type of permit required to add a sink in California is a plumbing permit. These are usually handled by local government. For example, the City of San Diego has a whole page dedicated to their specific building permits, including plumbing permits.

A plumbing permit covers the installation of new plumbing fixtures and the modification of existing plumbing systems within every jurisdiction. The process involves submitting detailed plans of the plumbing work to the local building department for review and approval. If it’s just a homeowner installing a sink, this process is usually very quick and painless, as it’s an extremely common type of permit.

Do You Need a Contractor License to Install a Sink in California?

Yes, in most cases, you need a licensed contractor to install a sink in California.

Contractors performing plumbing work in California are required to have a C-36 plumbing license issued by the California State Licensing Board (CSLB). This requirement ensures that plumbing work is performed by qualified professionals who understand the state and local codes.

Who Can Install a Sink in California?

In California, the following individuals or entities can install a sink:

  • Licensed Plumbing Contractors: Individuals or companies with a C-36 plumbing license can perform plumbing installations, including sink installation. This is the quickest and easiest way to get your sink installed in California.
  • Homeowners: Homeowners may be allowed to install sinks in their own homes if the costs of material and labor are less than $500. However, homeowners must obtain the necessary permits and may be required to demonstrate knowledge of the plumbing code. It’s important to check with local building departments for specific regulations.


Like everything in California, installing a sink in your own home involves navigating the regulatory environment in place. You do need a plumbing permit as per the California Plumbing Code to install a sink in your home.

We, of course, recommend contracting with a C-36 plumbing contractor when installing a sink as they have the expertise and experience to deliver a quality sink installation without all the hullabaloo of permitting and licensure.

By understanding and following these requirements, contractors and homeowners can ensure that their projects are completed safely, legally, and to a high standard. Always consult with the local building department for the most accurate and up-to-date information specific to your project and locality.

Remember, compliance with building codes and regulations not only ensures safety but also avoids potential legal and financial penalties associated with unpermitted work. Whether you’re a seasoned contractor or a homeowner embarking on a DIY project, taking the time to secure the proper permits is critical – lest you face the wrath of the state afterward.

C-46 Solar Contractor’s License: A Comprehensive Guide

Over recent years, solar panel systems have inspired a lot of chatter, especially in California, where ecological demands are great in the world’s fourth-largest economy. The demand for qualified workers in solar power is higher than ever as well-heeled home and landowners seek ways to harness sustainable energy.

If you’re one of the many, many contractors seeking out a chance to install and maintain solar panel systems – you need to know about the C-46 Solar Contractor License, as this is a requirement to do solar power contracting work in the state.

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) issues this license to individuals or companies who have demonstrated that they know a lot about solar energy technologies and use them safely.

It should also be mentioned that many solar contractors carry the C-10 Electricians License as these two disciplines dovetail very easily. In fact, the CSLB has historically favored the C-10 License when it comes to classifying certain kinds of important contractor work in the solar power space – only recently has the C-46 license become the sole license for solar work.

All the same, it’s good for anyone in the construction business to know what’s going on with solar. If you’re hoping to get a solar contractor license yourself or if you’re just curious about this license, let’s go deeper into the details, so you can prepare yourself for a successful career as a solar installer.

Requirements for the Solar Contractor License

Here are the basic requirements for receiving a C-46 solar contractor license in California:

  • You must be at least 18 years old.
  • You must have a valid social security or ITIN number.
  • You must complete four years of experience doing C-46 Solar work.
  • You may also be exempt from four years’ experience by doing three years’ education and one year on-the-job training.
  • You must pass the C-46 exam and the California Business Law exam.

Completing your four years of on-the-job training and passing the serious CSLB tests certifies that you do indeed know your stuff when it comes to solar energy systems, safety protocols, and local building codes. If you can’t pass the test – you don’t have the expertise to become a license holder.

2024 Solar Power Construction News in California

What you’ve heard is true – California really is still the leader in the U.S. for embracing solar power as a source of renewable energy.

It’s good for contractors to keep up with how the solar power conversation is changing and how recent developments in solar are creating more work opportunities in construction.

Ambitious Solar Energy Goals in California
California Governor Gavin Newsom is ramping up the state’s solar energy capacity by an additional 10 gigawatts over the next five years – providing great opportunity for contractors in this space.

Ambitious goals like these truly solidify California’s position as a global leader in renewable energy adoption.

Solar Incentive Programs Gain Traction
State-sponsored incentive programs are encouraging California residents and businesses to adopt new solar technology using tax credits and rebates which help offset the upfront costs.

With more solar panel systems being installed, the demand for solar contractors is rising, again creating more opportunities for people like you.

Solar Innovation and The California Solar Mandate
With solar technology becoming more advanced, contractors ought to know precisely how they can keep up with the latest trends and innovations.

And becoming more familiar with solar power isn’t exactly optional. The California Energy Commission (CEC) created the California Solar Mandate, which requires the installation of solar panels for many new construction projects.

Learning to Install Solar Panels

Contractors who are hungry for a chance to learn how to install solar panels have several options.

Vocational Training Programs
These days California has quite the array of vocational schools and community colleges that offer specialized training programs related to solar energy.

These programs cover topics such as photovoltaic system design, installation techniques, and safety procedures – all of which are critical for solar power contractors in the state.

Apprenticeship Programs
Seeking out apprenticeship programs is a good idea for the contractor who wants to get hands-on experience under the guidance of a seasoned, licensed solar contractor.

It is a great learning opportunity that also comes with a legitimate wage. For people in the middle of a career change and for people in that pre-career phase hoping to get their start in solar, this might be an attractive option.

Unlike the solar contractor license which is issued by the state, the Solar Professionals Certificate is issued by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP). The NABCEP Handbook covers all of the specific qualifications for becoming certified.

There are other certifications in solar, but Solar Energy International recognizes NABCEP as the leading authority in this area.


There has never been a more exciting time for contractors to engage with solar power. Many C-10 electrical contractors and some class B general contractors are already busy working on new solar projects at this very moment.

There are certification options and special training programs available to contractors who want to get their start in solar – but the C-46 Solar Contractor License is the one credential issued by the CSLB that is wholly dedicated to contractors who install and maintain solar panel systems.

Do You Need A Contractor License For Private Construction?

While it’s true that public construction comes with more constraints, codes, and requirements, you still need a contractor license for all private construction costing $500 or more in materials or labor.

The consequences of working as a contractor without a license are very serious. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) exists to enforce the much-needed state-regulated construction standards that ensure the safety and quality of construction jobs across the state.

While you usually need a contractor’s license on pretty much every project in California, there are some exceptions when it comes to private construction. Let’s take a look at private construction and see how the CSLB contractor’s license comes into play.

Why Are Contractor Licenses Required?

1. Safety and Quality
In construction, safety and quality are most important. People need to know that the homes, offices, stores, and other buildings we spend our time in are safe and habitable. A contractor license ensures safety and quality, serving as a voucher that proves your training and expertise when it comes to these facets of the business.

2. Legal Compliance
Licensing makes sure contractors stick to local building codes, zoning laws, and regulations. Any lawless, unregulated construction is a hazard for the property owner and the surrounding public. Licensing protects you from unnecessary legal struggles by ensuring that there are consequences for running afoul of local ordinances.

3. Consumer Protection
Since licensing requires contractors to carry insurance and bonds, a contractor’s license provides a guarantee to consumers that they will be able to be made whole financially in the case of a contractor not following through. A contractor’s license serves as a built-in promise that shoddy work or random incidents related to construction can be met with financial recourse.

4. Taxation and Regulation
Contractor licensing can help the government regulate and collect taxes on construction work. It helps take the ambiguity out of what contractors owe in taxes, creating more clarity for contractors and allowing for more precise estimations and quotes.

Different Types of Contractor Licenses for Private Construction

As you assess your private construction needs, you might not be sure which work requires a license and which license classifications are most relevant to you. Here are the key types of contractor’s licenses you may need on your private construction job.

1. General Contractor License
The Class “B” General Building Contractor’s License is required for projects involving major construction involving two or more trades. Whether you’re building new homes, commercial buildings, or doing renovations, this license covers general contractor work.

2. Special Contractor Licenses
Sometimes general contractors subcontract for certain jobs involving specific trades. You’ll need special licenses to perform specialized construction work like electrical, plumbing, HVAC, or roofing. All the CSLB license classifications are listed on the CSLB website.

3. Residential Contractor License
In some regions, residential construction requires a separate license. If your construction project involves home renovations, additions, or repairs then you’ll need a B-2 Residential Remodeling Contractor license.

4. Commercial Contractor License
In certain areas, a specific license is needed for commercial construction. This license covers large-scale projects like office buildings, warehouses, and retail spaces. See our earlier post on the key differences between residential and commercial contractors for more information.

Getting a Contractor License in California

The California Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is responsible for regulating contractors in the Golden State. You can update, renew, or apply for your contractor license through the CSLB website. The process of getting your license can be complex and requires several steps.

We have talked about the process for getting your contractor’s license before and all the same steps apply to your work in private construction. You’ll need:

1. Education and Experience
Contractors need to demonstrate a certain level of education and skill. Apprenticeship programs, vocational training, or relevant work in the field will help cover these requirements.

2. Exam Prep
In most cases, you’ll need to prepare for a written exam and pass to get a contractor license. This confirms your knowledge of construction practices, codes, and regulations.

3. Insurance and Bonds
As mentioned above, contractors need liability insurance and surety bonds. It’s a license requirement put in place to protect clients and hold contractors accountable for their work.

4. A Complete Application and Payment for Fees
To get a contractor license you have to complete an application and submit it. This process involves paying fees, but you can keep those fees to a minimum if you allow this blog post to guide you.

5. Routine License Renewal and Continuing Education
Periodically, licensed contractors have to renew their licenses. Something that goes along with that is continuing education. Taking continuing education courses throughout your career is important so you stay current on trends, best practices, and updated regulations.


You do need a contractor license for private construction projects. Cases where a license isn’t required are quite rare and the consequences for doing unlicensed work are substantial.

Specific requirements for securing specific contractor licenses vary based on region and the classification of the construction work. But you can find all the information you need to make sure your work is compliant on the CSLB website.

C-7 Low Voltage Systems Contractor’s License Guide

Looking to get your C-7 Low Voltage Contractors’ license in California – so you can do professional low voltage electrical work on construction projects in the state?

Well, you’re off to a great start. The C-7 license is a fantastic way to pick up low-voltage jobs in the state, installing simple electrical wiring and systems like cable and satellite dishes.

But what else do you need to know about the C-7 license? In this simple guide, we’ll get you started with everything you need to know about the C-7 license: what it is, who needs one, where to get one, and how to get yours today.

What Does a Low Voltage Systems Contractor Do?

A C-7 Low Voltage Systems Contractor in California specializes in – you guessed it – low-voltage electrical systems, including installation, maintenance, and removal.

  • Installing, servicing, and maintaining communication and low-voltage systems
  • Working with systems limited to 91 volts or less
  • Handling telephone, sound, cable television systems, satellite dish antennas
  • Managing low-voltage landscape lighting
  • Excluding work on low voltage fire alarm systems, fire protection equipment, lock and security equipment, and solar equipment

What is a C-7 Low Voltage Systems Contractor License?

The C-7 Low Voltage Systems Contractor License is essential for anyone working on low-voltage systems in the state. It’s a subset of the Class C classification of the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) contractor’s license.

The CSLB is responsible for ensuring that construction contractors and the jobs they do in California are habitable, high-quality, and safe to live in. The main way they ensure construction standards are kept in the state is via the contractor’s license.

The contractor’s license, then, is essentially proof that the California government has verified that the license holder meets the strict standards of construction in the state of California.

Who Needs a C-7 License?

Practically anyone who does low-voltage work in California requires a C-7 license – but if low-voltage electrical systems are not your main area of work, you may not need a C-7 license.

For instance, if you’re simply installing a light on a patio, then you probably don’t need a license. However, if you’re hired on to install a series of lights for full backyard renovation, you probably will need one.

Key Duties of a C-7 Contractor

Key responsibilities include:

  • Job planning and design
  • Material selection and estimation
  • Wire/cable installation and termination
  • Systems configuration and installation
  • Testing and project closeout
  • System troubleshooting, repair, or replacement
  • Maintaining safety standards

Common Types of Jobs for a C-7 Contractor

The jobs typically handled by C-7 contractors include:

  • VoIP phone systems
  • Audio & video design
  • Low voltage lights
  • Telecom services
  • Integrated systems
  • TV connection/home entertainment/cabling solutions
  • Cable installation
  • Security surveillance/data & security/network services
  • Satellite & television systems design
  • Surround sound services
  • Voice & data networks
  • Computers and electronics
  • Home theaters, home automation
  • Gate & entry systems
  • Cabling, building out floor plans, and fiber optics

When Do You Need a Low Voltage Systems Contractor License?

The threshold for whether you need a C-7 license is whether you’re working on a job where materials and labor costs over $500. If your job is less than $500 in total, you qualify for the minor work exemption – meaning you don’t need a C-7 license.

However, in any case – if you’re doing any low-voltage electrical work over $500, you absolutely need to have a C-7 license.

How to Get a C-7 License in California?

To obtain a C-7 license you have to apply for the C-7 license via the CSLB website. In order to get your license, you must meet a number of requirements.

Here are the main requirements to get your C-7 license:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Four years of journeyman-level experience; or three years’ apprenticeship or education and one year of on-the-job professional training.
  • Pass the Low Voltage Systems Examination and the Law and Business Exam
  • Pass an FBI background and fingerprint check
  • Supply proof of contractor’s bond
  • Submit an application and pay relevant fees, including:
    • Initial application fee: $330
    • Two-year license card fee: $200
    • Background check and fingerprinting: Approximately $75

What’s The Difference Between a C-7 and C-10 Contractor License?

When it comes to electrical work, you may wonder whether you need the C-7 Low Voltage Electrical Contractor license or C-10 Electrical Contractor license.

How are the two licenses different? It’s rather simple – the C-7 license only allows you to do work on systems up to 91 volts. That means you cannot perform electrical work on any electrical system over 91 volts – you absolutely need a C-10 license in that case.

Basically, the C-7 license covers all minor electrical work, while the C-10 license covers significant electrical work, including high-voltage electrical systems. The C-10 license is specifically designed for electricians, while the C-7 license tends to be for people who work with electrical systems installs – people like cable installers or simple lighting systems.

What Other License Classifications Are Good to Have for C-7 Contractors?

For contractors looking to expand their business scope and the array of services they can offer clients, a C-7 license can be an exceptional arrow to add to your quiver. Here’s some common license classes that often have C-7 licenses as well.

  • Class B General Building Contractor: Gen Cons are always looking to add new classifications to increase the array of offerings you can provide to clients – a C-7 license is a no-brainer as it allows GCs to keep that work in-house.
  • Class C-10 Electrical Contractor: As you might expect, Class C-10 license holders often add a C-7 license to cover the entirety of electrical work in the state. This way you can do both high and low voltage work.
  • C-27 Landscaping Contractor: Many C-7 license jobs involve outdoor projects – things like backyard renovations, patios, and deck builds. The C-7 license allows contractors involved in these projects to install the often-requested lighting systems.