As a general contractor, you have a broad and diverse skillset that covers many areas of construction, from budgeting to hiring to contracts and more – in addition to the various trade skills you’ve acquired over the years.
General contractors know better than anyone that you need specialist knowledge to operate in the various trades that comprise any construction project and rarely do these expertise overlap. Most roofers can’t install and maintain an HVAC system, for example.
But as a general contractor, you may have specialist knowledge in addition to your GC skills. You may even be a certified contractor in your former area of expertise. Heck, you might even be in a union.
So what if you’re, for example, an IBEW electrician who has, over the years, fallen into a more general contractor position? It’s a common career path for many apprentice electricians – you start wiring systems and within a decade you’re running your own business, hiring electricians to work for you.
With that in mind, as a general contractor in California, can you perform electrical work? Can you say, “Oh, I’ll take care of the electrical” in a new building or a refurb or a commercial project? What are the limits to the electrical jobs you can take as a gen con?
Let’s take a look.
General Contractors vs. Electrical Contractors
A general contractor, often referred to in California as a Class “B” contractor, is a construction professional who oversees a construction project.
A general contractor manages all aspects of the project, from obtaining building permits to hiring subcontractors, scheduling inspections, and ensuring that the work is completed according to plan. They are essentially the directors of the project, overseeing every aspect of the project through to completion.
In some cases, general contractors may hold multiple licenses, including trade licenses like electrical or HVAC specialties. Whether or not the general contractor can perform their licensed trade on the same project they are gen conning for depends on a number of factors.
Electrical work, meanwhile, is a Class C license – a specialized field that involves the installation, maintenance, and repair of electrical systems. This work is typically performed by a licensed electrician who is classified as a C-10 contractor in California.
Electrical work is a critical component of any construction project. It involves the installation of wiring and circuits, the placement of outlets and switches, and the connection of electrical appliances. It also includes the installation of lighting fixtures, the setup of electrical panels, and the grounding of electrical systems.
As a general contractor with a background or certification in electrical work, you might be tempted to save some money (and put more money in your pocket) by hiring out your electrical work. You might think: “Hmm, I could probably just do all this myself.” We’ve got one more thing to define, then we’ll find out.
The C-10 License
If you’re a general contractor with an electrician’s background, you definitely already know about the C-10 license.
A C-10 electrical contractor is a professional who has met the specific requirements set by the CSLB for performing electrical work. These requirements include passing a trade examination and having at least four years of journey-level experience in the electrical trade2.
C-10 electrical contractors are experts in their field. They have a deep understanding of electrical systems and the safety protocols that must be followed when working with electricity. They are trained to handle a wide range of electrical tasks, from simple installations to complex wiring projects.
Do You Have To Subcontract Out Electrical Work If You’re A GC with A C-10?
With all the definitions out of the way, let’s get down to business. We know that you probably could do your own electrical work as a GC with a C-10 License, without anyone knowing. But can you face legal consequences for doing so?
In other words, can you perform electrical work as a general contractor if you have a C-10 license? Or do you always have to subcontract out that work?
The good news is that California really doesn’t care. If you are a Class B General Contractor and you have a valid C-10 Electrical Contractor’s License, you can choose whether you want to subcontract out the work or not.
IN short, if you are a C-10 licensed electrician, you are good to go!
Pros and Cons of Subcontracting Electrical Work As A General Contractor
Now, you might see the cost savings of doing your own electrical work as a general contractor – but that doesn’t mean you should always do electrical work on every project. There’s always trade-offs when it comes to choosing to do the work yourself or hire it out.
Here’s a few pros and cons for hiring out electrical work when you’re a general contractor with a C-10 license.
- Up-to-date expertise. Most C-10 holders are electricians – specialists who never go on to become generalists. By their very nature, electricians will have more up-to-date and more cultured expertise than someone who does mostly general contracting work.
- Efficiency. As a general contractor, your job is to be efficient. Sometimes it just makes sense to hire out the electrical work, so you can focus on other things, especially on bigger projects.
- Trust. A C-10 electrician has passed the rigorous C-10 exam, which means they meet the strict standards of the CSLB. Any C-10 license holder will be able to meet the qualifications of the client and deliver a final product that meets the standard set by the CSLB – or face the consequences.
- Costs. Obviously, you’ll save lots of money by not having to hire someone else to do work you can legally and professionally accomplish. You’re not only adding money to your company’s coffers, but you yourself are basically taking the wages you would have spent on hiring out.
- Additional Expenses. As a C-10 License holder, you may need to pay for extra things like educational programs, IBEW union dues or Electrical Contractors Insurance. Considering how dangerous electrical work can be, many of these expenses are unavoidable – and can add up quickly.
- Time and energy. Good electrical work requires care and precision – which usually means it’s incompatible with being a general contractor. In most cases, you simply will not have the time or energy to be physically wiring a 10-story apartment while also dealing with vendors, clients and employees (and the 10 million problems that follow).
So, can a general contractor do electrical work in California? The answer is yes – but only if that general contractor has a valid and up-to-date C-10 license.
The reality is, though, that in 99% of cases, you will want to hire out your electrical work to a trusted, CSLB-certified C-10 electrician. The reasons for that are manifold, but the one that always sticks out is that it is logistically impossible for all but the smallest projects.
If you’re building a house or refurbishing the garage – then maybe you’re good to do your own electrical work as a Class B gen con. Any project bigger than that, you really should be subcontracting it out.