Monthly Archives: February 2024

General Contractor Liability: Liability During Construction vs. Liability After Completion

General contractors need to know the ins and outs of their liability before, during, and after they have completed construction on their projects. Property owners would do well to keep these details in mind as well!

In this article, we’ll talk about the difference between a general contractor’s liability during construction versus their liability after their work on the job is complete. We will also discuss the point at which property owners become responsible for structural issues, so you’ll know exactly when you may be liable for any jobs you work on or work you have done.

Understanding General Contractor Liability

There is a great deal of responsibility on the shoulders of general contractors overseeing construction projects. It is their job to make sure working conditions are safe at the worksite, 24/7, around the clock.

Since they also manage subcontractors, general contractors are on the hook for those contractors’ responsibilities and mistakes as well. But their liability is not unlimited.

There is a defined timeline during which general contractors can be held accountable for issues related to construction. See our post on how long contractors are liable for a deeper dive into this.

Liability During Construction

General contractors are responsible for maintaining a safe work environment. It sounds simple, but this means they have to check in on all their workers and make sure they’re following safety protocols properly. Mitigating risk and preventing accidents is pretty tough!

As we mentioned above, some of those workers could be subcontractors with specialized licenses. Making sure that specialized work meets the project’s requirements can be a tall order, but it is always your responsibility.

With that in mind, quality control is a major concern of the general contractor. Any defects, code violations, or any kind of substandard work could get a general contractor in trouble – including losing your license.

The general contractor is also responsible for maintaining project timelines. Delays could cause a breach of contract and could result in financial penalties for the general contractor.

Finally, it is the general contractor’s duty to make sure construction projects comply with local building codes, regulations, and standards. This means pulling permits and making sure no structural defects or issues are compromising the quality of the end product.

Finally, contractors have a responsibility to notify their clients about problems. Upon noticing an issue, it is up to the general contractor to address it promptly and to fix the problem.

Liability After Completion

As contractors complete projects and hand everything over to the property owner, their liability starts to change. Here are a few items to take into consideration during this stage:

Warranty Period

  • A lot of times contractors provide a warranty for their work, which covers defects or issues that arise shortly after construction is finished. The duration of this period varies from project to project but it often spans one to two years.

Statute of Limitations

  • Property owners have a certain time frame during which they can take legal action against a contractor. It depends on their jurisdiction, but there is a time clock on most construction-related legal claims.

Negligence or Misrepresentation

  • The discovery of negligence or misrepresentation on the part of the contractor warrants legal action and may still be possible beyond the statute of limitations. The burden of proof may be higher, but a property owner may still have a case.

Property Owner Responsibility for Structural Issues

The property owner is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the structure overall. Here are a few specific situations where they might be liable for structural issues:

Change of Ownership

  • When property owners purchase or inherit pre-existing structures, they also inherit the problems that come with those structures. An inspection prior to purchase will help a property owner to-be assess issues and negotiate accordingly for the best value price.


  • If property owners are neglectful and fail to maintain a structure, they are liable for any damages that get flagged during an inspection. Keeping up regular maintenance is extremely important for property owners as it prevents costly repairs down the road.

Improper Modifications

  • At times, property owners make modifications or renovations without following proper codes and regulations. In these cases, they are responsible for resulting structural problems and any complaints from local jurisdictions.


A general contractor’s liability varies depending on which phase of the project they’re on. The terms of their contract may include specifics pertaining to safety, quality, and compliance and those terms will clarify which items the contractor must deliver for their client.

After a project is complete, a contractor might still be liable during a warranty period. However, property owners must be vigilant about inspecting and maintaining the structure they own to avoid structural issues and potential legal troubles.

Ultimately, it’s best to refer to the advice of legal and construction professionals for guidance in these situations. This explainer about property damage cases is available on the California Courts Self-Help Guide website to help out as well.

C-6 Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry Contractor’s License Guide in California

In California, the C-6 Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry contractor’s license is a specialized classification under the Class C Specialty License category, covering all “small job” carpentry – cabinets, millwork, and finishing.

If you want to work in this area in California, you’ll need a C-6 license to do it legally. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to start your career as a C-6 license holder.

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB)

The CSLB is the state agency in California responsible for licensing and regulating contractors in the construction industry, including the C-6 License.

Here’s what the CSLB is responsible for:

  • Application Process: The CSLB manages all the applications for a C-6 contractor
  • Qualifications and Experience: The CSLB sets eligibility criteria, including a combination of education, work experience, and/or apprenticeship training
  • Examinations: The CSLB administers the trade-specific and law & business exams necessary for licensure
  • Background Checks: The CSLB verifies the identity and criminal history of all contractors
  • Licensing and Renewal: The CSLB issues and renews all contractor licenses
  • Consumer Complaints and Investigations: The CSLB handles complaints and can take disciplinary action against contractors through their enforcement division, SWIFT.

The C-6 License: The Facts

CSLB Class C Specialty Licenses

The C-6 license falls under the Class C category of licenses, which encompasses 45 different specialized trades in California.

This specific license is required for contractors who wish to legally perform cabinet, millwork, and finish carpentry work in the state.

C-6 License Requirements

To obtain a C-6 license, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Possess 4 years of journeyman-level experience.
  • Have a Social Security or ITIN number.
  • Provide a signature from a licensed contractor, fellow employee, supervisor, or business associate.
  • Pass the CSLB exam
  • Provide a Contractor’s Bond in the amount of $25,000 to the CSLB

The C-6 Exam Process

The notoriously difficult CSLB licensing exam consists of two parts for every single license in California.

  • 115 questions on Law & Business.
  • 115 questions specifically on Cabinet Making, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry.

The exams are multiple-choice, closed-book, and computer-based, administered at CSLB Testing Facilities across California. Topics covered in the trade exam include planning and estimation, cabinetry and millwork fabrication, cabinet installation, and safety.

What Does a Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry Contractor Do?

A C-6 licensed contractor – as its name suggests – are contractors who are responsible for creating and installing cabinets, millwork (like moldings and trim), and finishing carpentry products.

Despite having carpentry skills, they are not carpenters who do things like framing or structural work – that’s the C-5 Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor License.

Though they can’t do structural work, C-6 license holders do work on both functional and aesthetic aspects of interior finishings, such as cases, sashes, doors, trims, and nonbearing partitions, often fabricating wood or other materials to enhance the visual appeal and functionality of interior spaces.

Who Needs a C-6 License?

Any professional or business intending to perform cabinet, millwork, and finish carpentry work on projects valued over $500 in California must have a C-6 license. Even if you are a C-5 license holder, you still need a C-6 license to do finishing, cabinetry, and millwork.

If you do cabinetry, millwork, or finishing carpentry that costs over $500 in total – you must have a C-6 license. If you don’t, you can face severe penalties.

Key Duties of a C-6 Contractor

A C-6 contractor primarily deals with:

  • Fabrication and installation of cabinets, cupboards, and counters.
  • Working on stairs, baseboards, trim, and other detailed woodwork.
  • Applying finishes like paint and stain to woodwork.
  • Utilizing various adhesives and mastics in carpentry projects.
  • Ensuring safety protocols are followed during work.

Common Types of Jobs for a C-6 Contractor

C-6 contractors in California typically undertake a variety of tasks that include:

  • Designing, building, and installing custom cabinets.
  • Crafting and installing millwork items like moldings, trims, and decorative woodwork.
  • Finishing carpentry projects, including stairs, baseboards, and trim work.
  • Refacing existing cabinets and millwork.
  • Installing doors and windows as part of the finish carpentry process.
  • Demolishing old cabinets and preparing sites for new installations.
  • Identifying and handling hazardous materials during renovation or installation projects.
  • Ensuring job site safety and managing waste and recycling materials.

Steps to Obtain a C-6 License in California

Obtaining a C-6 Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry Contractor license in California involves a multi-step application process that can take weeks or months to complete.

Here’s what you have to do to get A C-6 license.

  • Meet the Eligibility Criteria:
    • Ensure you are at least 18 years of age.
    • Have a minimum of 4 years of journeyman-level experience in the last 10 years.
    • Possess a valid Social Security or ITIN number.
  • Gather Documentation:
    • Prepare to provide evidence of your experience, such as tax returns, check stubs, contracts, or material order invoices.
    • Note that photos of projects are not accepted by the CSLB (Contractors State License Board).
  • Find a Certifier:
    • Your experience needs to be certified by an individual who can vouch for your skills and experience. This can be a licensed general contractor, a C-6 license holder, a fellow employee, a current or former supervisor, a business associate, a fellow journeyman, or a union representative.
  • Complete the Application:
    • Fill out the state application form, which requires detailed descriptions of your knowledge and skill set.
    • Be thorough and specific in the experience descriptions as the CSLB is strict with the application review process. Any issues or mistakes you make will only add time to getting your license – which will cost you time, money, and energy.
  • Pay the Application Fee:
    • Submit the application along with the necessary fees, which include a state application fee, license activation fee, and fingerprinting costs.
  • Background Check and Fingerprinting:
    • Undergo a background check. Be honest about any criminal history as the CSLB reviews these on a case-by-case basis.
    • Fingerprints will be taken as part of the background check process.
  • Prepare for and Schedule the Exam:
    • The exam process includes two tests: Law & Business and the trade-specific exam.
    • Utilize study guides and practice exams to prepare.
    • Once your application is processed, schedule your exam date.
  • Pass the Exam:
    • The C-6 Trade Exam covers topics like planning and estimation, cabinetry and millwork fabrication, cabinet and millwork installation, and safety.
    • The Law & Business exam covers business organization, finances, employment requirements, contract requirements, licensing requirements, safety, and more.
    • Both exams are multiple-choice and closed-book.
  • Post-Exam Requirements:
    • After passing the exam, you will need to provide proof of a contractor bond and workers’ compensation insurance.
    • The CSLB will issue your license upon completion of all requirements.
  • Maintain Your License:
    • Stay updated with any continuing education requirements and ensure timely renewal of your license.

What’s The Difference Between a C-5 and a C-6 License?

While both the C-5 and C-6 licenses cover the carpentry trade in one form or another, they are significantly different, with different requirements, rules, and regulations about what types of work each respective license can do.

The C-5 license is designated for contractors specializing in structural framing, custom carpentry, and woodwork. This includes services like specialized framing, wood design, sub-flooring, exterior staircases, custom windows and overhead doors, siding installation, and structural framing and home construction.

On the other hand, the C-6 license is focused on cabinet making, millwork, and finish carpentry. It covers a range of services like cabinet installation, millwork installation, and other finish carpentry tasks. The C-6 contractors are skilled in planning, fabricating, and installing detailed woodwork and cabinetry​​​​.


Acquiring a C-6 Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry Contractor’s license in California is a crucial step for professionals wishing to work in this field. Considering the cost of even the cheapest cabinet, pretty much any job is going to cost $500 – and therefore, require a license.

By understanding the requirements, preparing thoroughly for the exams, and completing the application process, contractors can expand their business scope and operate within California’s legal framework.

For detailed information on the CSLB requirements and the licensing process, you can visit the official CSLB website or refer to expert guides and resources provided by organizations like Digital Constructive and Contractor Campus​​​​​​​​​​​​.