Category Archives: Construction

Can a General Contractor Close Access to the Owner on a Construction Jobsite?

As a general contractor, you spend more time putting out fires than pretty much anything else.

It’s not a problem – most general contractors are natural problem-solvers and improvisers by nature, so we’re not shy when it comes to overcoming obstacles, even when those problems are people.

Dealing with subcontractors, haggling with suppliers, overseeing administrative teams, and interfacing with stakeholders – general contractors are constantly dealing with the expectations and demands of various groups of people, all with drastically different needs.

Usually, gen cons can handle these problems, as we’re the captains of the ship, and everyone answers to us. But what about those exceedingly rare situations where the client is the problem?

What do you do, as a general contractor, when the client themselves is causing you problems?

As a GC, you often have to solve problems with people by cutting ties with them and getting them away from the job site. But what can you do about an overreaching owner? Or worse, an owner who is putting your team in danger?

In some cases, you simply cannot do anything but ban the owner’s access to their own property while you do the things you need to do as a general contractor. Let’s learn more about this unique situation.

General Contractors and Owner Access: The Big Picture

To be entirely honest, understanding the legal intricacies of owner-contractor rights is a nigh-impossible task for construction professionals. After all, we’re here to build things – you wouldn’t hire a lawyer to install a toilet!

We could talk until we’re blue in the face about who has access to what and when, but the stark reality is that what’s legal in one place could be illegal in another across the giant geography that is the United States.

Instead of trying to get granular, we’re going to cover some of the main legal areas of importance governing owner access – and the rights of general contractors when it comes to denying access to owners. These legal goalposts serve as the federal frameworks around which localities and states build their own rules and regulations.

  • Implied Obligation of Access: On the client side, there is an inherent obligation for property owners to provide contractors with adequate access to the construction site. This access is necessary for contractors to perform their work under the contract. The level of access required depends on the nature of the work, and as its name suggests, is implied in the contract, not expressly written.
    • Example: A simple example of this is for a residential building where the owner must allow the contractor to access the entire site for excavation and foundation work.
  • Owner’s Responsibility: Property owners must not only provide access but also ensure it is unobstructed for contractors. Any limitations on the contractor’s access must be explicitly stated in the contract. If an owner restricts access without a contractual basis, they risk breaching their obligations and may become liable for additional costs or losses incurred by the contractor​​​.
    • Example: A property owner restricts site access due to financial issues on the client side, but fails to specify this in the contract. This could result in the general contractor suing the property owner for losses.
  • Contractor’s Right To Work Without Interference: Contractors have the right to carry out work without interference from the property owner. This right is fundamental to construction contracts, and courts have shown a willingness to provide remedies for losses resulting from infringements of these rights​.
    • Example: A contractor may file a lawsuit against a property owner for repeatedly interrupting the work schedule, which infringes on the contractor’s right to work without interference.
  • Risk Allocation in Contracts: Construction contracts typically include provisions for risk distribution. These provisions aim to balance the responsibilities and liabilities between the owner and the contractor, so both parties can move forward in good faith. While specific clauses may attempt to shift responsibilities, the law generally imposes implied warranties and duties on both parties​.
    • Example: A contract outlining a high-rise commercial project might have 20-30 pages of risk allocation documents, specifically detailing the amount and type of risk allocated to both client and contractor. These documents can contain scenarios as wild as blizzard and tornado damage.
  • Cooperation and Non-Interference: Both the owner and the contractor are generally understood to have an implied duty to cooperate and not to impede or interfere with each other’s work. This mutual obligation is crucial for the successful completion of the project, though its application often depends on the individuals involved​.
    • Example: A common issue here is a failure on the client’s end to handle certain things like permits or materials. In many residential situations, it’s on the homeowner or landowner to get the necessary building permits.

When Can A General Contractor Close A Site To The Owner?

There are very few situations where general contractors can close access to the landowner, and even then, it is because they are being ordered to close the site as per regulations or regulatory bodies themselves.

The situations where you are allowed to close access to an owner as a general contractor are the extreme situations you would expect – issues with health and safety, explicit contractual orders, or legal compulsion either by law or law enforcement.

General Contractors Can Close Access To Owners If:

  • Safety Concerns: If there are imminent safety risks on the site, contractors can restrict access to ensure safety protocols are followed.
  • Contractual Provisions: If the contract explicitly allows the contractor to control site access during certain project phases.
  • Legal Orders: In cases where a legal authority or court order restricts access due to external factors like public safety or legal disputes.

General Contractors Cannot Close Access If:

  • No Contractual Basis: If the contract does not explicitly give the contractor the authority to restrict access, they cannot restrict access.
  • Owner’s Legal Rights: When the owner has legal rights to access the site for inspections, monitoring progress, or other purposes outlined in the law or contract.
  • Pretty Much Every Situation: If you are considering any restriction that is not based on safety, legal, or contractual reasons – assume you cannot restrict an owner’s access.

Conclusion

The answer to the question: “When can a general contractor close access to the owner?” is rather simple – you usually can’t.

Owners are owners for a reason. It’s their property, so it makes no sense that a contractor would be able to refuse access to them.

Except for rare circumstances – or if it’s outlined in the contract – general contractors should act with the assumption that they cannot prevent owners from accessing their site. The only time you can really prevent an owner from accessing their property is in extreme circumstances – health and safety issues or situations where law enforcement is forcing you to shut the site down.

Can a Contractor Put A Lien On My House?

Most people who own their own homes – and thereby, have to hire contractors to build, fix, or otherwise modify their properties – have absolutely no issues with their contractors. Most contractors are trusted professionals in their fields and have no intention of delivering anything less than what they’ve agreed to in the contract.

But there are always exceptions. Especially in states that don’t require contractors to be licensed, or are lacking in general oversight, there are definitely a share of contractors who have less-than-honorable intentions with taking on your job.

In situations where there’s a dispute over the work done (or not done) and the payment for said work, the idea of a mechanics lien often comes up in the conversation. You may have heard someone say: “they can put a mechanics lien on your house” in case of nonpayment for contracting services.

Is that true? Can any contractor put a lien on your house in the case of a pay dispute? And if so, what are the consequences of having a lien put on your home?

Let’s find out.

Mechanics Liens: An Overview

So what is a mechanic’s lien?

According to the CSLB, a mechanics lien is a “‘hold’ against your property, filed by an unpaid contractor, subcontractor, laborer, or material supplier, and is recorded with the county recorder’s office. If unpaid, it allows a foreclosure action, forcing the sale of the property in lieu of compensation.”

In simpler terms, a mechanics lien is a legal claim made by contractors, subcontractors, laborers, and material suppliers against a property when they haven’t been paid for their services or supplier. This is a recourse for anyone in the construction industry to receive payment for services rendered, but not given.

If you’re a contractor, you know you’re often paying out of pocket for materials and other supplies – which you then recoup when you are paid for the work done. A mechanics lien is a way to make sure that you aren’t out whatever you spent to get the job done in case of non-payment.

The mechanic’s lien is a legal measure that ensures construction professionals receive their due compensation for the work done or materials provided. It serves as a safety net for every person in the construction industry, ensuring that hard work (and all the costs associated with it) doesn’t go unpaid.

Who Can File a Mechanic’s Lien?

In California, basically, anyone involved in a construction project can file a mechanics lien in the case of non-payment.

This includes general contractors, subcontractors, laborers, and material suppliers. If you’re a general contractor and you don’t get paid by the client – you can file a lien. If you’re a roofer who did one day of work on a job, were paid, but less than the amount in the contract – you can file a lien.

However, all of these different roles and situations have different rules and procedures for filing a mechanics lien. It’s not a one-size-fits-all process, and understanding the nuances can be crucial in ensuring the lien is filed correctly and effectively.

How To File A Mechanic’s Lien

Step 1: Send A Preliminary 20-Day Notice

Before a mechanics lien can be filed, the first step is to serve a Notice of Right to Liens, often referred to as the Preliminary 20-Day Notice.

This notice must be served within 20 days of starting work or supplying materials to the project, whichever. If you miss the 20-day window, you can still serve the notice to recoup the costs of the project – but only money earned within the previous 20 days can be included in the lien.

That means if you only worked one day, but you let the 20-day window expire, you’re out of luck. If you worked, say, 5 days on a job, and you filed 21 days after the start, you’d only be entitled to 4 days of work – that first day’s wages are now unretrievable as you missed the 20-day window.

This step is crucial as it sets the stage for the filing of the lien and informs all parties involved of the potential claim. You should be filing this notice on every job, just to be safe. MAKE SURE that you file it before the 20-day deadline is up, as you will be unable to recoup any money spent after that time frame.

Step 2: File The Mechanic’s Lien

Once the Preliminary 20-Day Notice has been served, the next step is to file the mechanics lien. In many cases, you’ll never even have to do this, but everyone gets done over once by some unscrupulous construction “professional” at some point.

In California, you have 90 days from the last day you performed work or provided goods on the project to file your mechanics lien. This is different from the 20-day Notice, of course – which is a warning that you could file a lien if you’re not paid.

Now, you’re not being paid, and you have up to 3 months to file a mechanics lien to get repaid. If you let this time go by without filing a mechanics lien, the party that owes you money for your work and supplies is no longer legally liable to pay you.

Notice of Completion Or Cessation: 60 Days To File

One important exception to the 90-day window to file your mechanic’s lien for backpay or supplies is if the owner files a notice of completion or cessation, indicating the project has stopped.

In case of a filing of a notice of completion or cessation, you only have 60 days from the filing of that notice to file your lien. You will see this often on projects with tenuous funding or in times of upheaval. Make sure you’re paying attention to the people who owe you money, and get that mechanic’s lien filed ASAP.

Every day you wait is you potentially losing money you’re owed!

Step 3: The Chips Fall

Once a mechanics lien has been filed, then the pain begins. For the homeowner, at least.

Any homeowner who has a mechanics lien filed against them will have their property immediately impacted. In some cases, they may have their home foreclosed to recoup the payments. In other scenarios, a homeowner may be forced to pay twice the original amount.

At any rate, a homeowner with a lien against their home will have a very difficult time selling, refinancing, or doing many things that property owners need to do. Basically, a lien on someone’s home makes it extremely difficult to do anything substantial with that home – until the lien is cleared.

Once the homeowner completes the lien and pays the outstanding balance, the lien is quickly dropped and both the homeowner and the contractor can continue on with their lives. As you can imagine, this process is good for no one in the process – and ultimately it may feel like a Pyrrhic victory, having had to deal with months of back and forth and legal work.

The Importance Of Following Through

Even if you don’t plan to foreclose on the lien, it’s best to go through the entire procedure of filing a mechanics lien on every project. It’s important that you make the mechanics lien an essential part of your business, as it only serves to protect you and your company.

If payment discussions break down or your customer appears headed toward insolvency, your diligence will have made it possible for you to foreclose on the lien and retrieve any funds that you’ve invested. There really is absolutely no reason for you not to be on top of this, personally and with anyone working under you.

In the case of non-payment, if you don’t have a mechanics lien, things get A LOT more difficult if you want to get your money. Considering how easy the process is, there’s absolutely no excuse to not follow this entire process for every job you take on.

In any situation, whether you’re the homeowner or the contractor, it’s important to contact a legal professional to handle these complicated situations. A lawyer can be an invaluable resource when it comes to properly navigating the complex and labyrinthine American legal system.

The key takeaway from all of this is to do your diligence ahead of time – and you’ll always be prepared when the worst happens.

Additional Reading

CSLB – Preventing Mechanics Liens (great source of nitty-gritty information!)
CSLB – Understanding Mechanics Liens

Contractor Warranties: What California Contractors Need to Know

Implied, express, or contractual – warranties are a critical part of contract law that ALL California contractors need to know to be successful.

Sure, one can say “I’m a contractor and not a lawyer!” and while that’s true, it’s also essential that you understand the basics of a contract, to make sure you don’t get burned by sketchy subcontractors or ruthless clients – both of which want to get the most value for the least money.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at warranties for contractors – what they are, what they do, and why you need to know them to be successful as a California contractor.

What Is A Construction Warranty?

In California, a warranty is a legally enforceable assurance provided by a contractor to a client regarding the quality, functionality, and durability of the work delivered.

Warranties in the construction domain serve to uphold professional standards, protect consumer rights, and provide a framework for action and remuneration in case of construction defects or non-compliance with specified standards.

It serves as a pledge that the delivered project will adhere to the specified standards, and should any issues arise within a stipulated period post-completion, the contractor will rectify them at no additional cost to the client.

In legal terms, a warranty refers to a guarantee or promise enshrined within a contract, under which the contractor assures the quality, performance, or condition of a particular subject matter to the client. Warranties also stipulate the consequences of construction defects, legally outlining what a contractor must do in the case of a construction defect.

What Does A Construction Warranty Do?

Warranties, at their very basic level, are legal protections that protect both the contractor and the client by outlining all of the responsibilities of both parties – and the consequences for violating the terms both parties agreed upon.

  • Contractual Assurance: A warranty is a contractual assurance wherein the contractor guarantees the quality and compliance of the job. This could range from the materials used, the workmanship quality, to the project adhering to local building codes and regulations.
  • Binding Obligation: Once a warranty is stipulated within a contract, it becomes a binding obligation, enforceable in court. The contractor is now legally bound to honor the warranty, failing which could result in legal repercussions.
  • Remedial Action: The primary purpose of a warranty is to provide a remedial course of action in case the delivered work doesn’t meet the specified standards. Warranties exist to protect the client, by outlining the specific steps a contractor must take to fix a contractual violation.
  • Risk Allocation: On the flip side, warranties also protect contractors by defining the extent to which contractors are liable for defects or issues arising post-construction.

Types of Construction Warranties

  • Express Warranty: This is a clearly articulated assurance provided by the contractor regarding specific aspects of the construction project. This is essentially any warranty or guarantee a contractor puts in a contract. It specifically and granularly outlines the things they promise to deliver to the client and the timeframe they’ll fix any problems that crop up.
  • Implied Warranty: Unlike express warranties, implied warranties are not explicitly stated but are implied in the very nature of construction. By taking on any construction job, a contractor is tacitly agreeing to these warranties. There are two types of implied warranties in the United States.
    • Workmanship Warranty: guarantees that any construction project will be built in a good or workmanlike manner, free of major defects. This includes both labor and materials.
    • Warranty of Habitability: guarantees that any construction project will be suitable for the purpose they are intended for and be safe to live in.
  • Statutory Warranty: These are warranties determined by the state. Statutory warranties do one thing: they specifically outline the amount of time that contractors are liable for any construction defects.

Common Construction Warranties In California

Warranties in California cover a spectrum of durations and construction aspects, and they can vary from industry to industry and home to home. Here’s some of the main ones you’ll come across in your career as a California contractor.

General Warranties

  • Mandatory Warranties: Contractors in California are obligated to provide warranties on their work, such as a 4-year warranty on installed items, a one-year warranty on the fit and finish of certain areas, and a guarantee against defects in compliance with building codes and manufacturer requirements​.
  • State Law: Notable legal codes include California Civil Code 900, which requires one-year expressed limited warranties for both new construction and remodeling projects, and the Right to Repair Act (California Civil Code 896, et seq.), which includes implied warranties into the one-year warranty requirement.
  • One-Year Warranties: These short-term warranties cover aspects like “fit and finish” of certain elements, “manufactured products,” compliance with “interunit noise transmission standards,” and irrigation, drainage, and landscaping systems​.
  • Two to Five-Year Warranties: These cover medium-sized problems, like untreated wood posts, dryer ducts, plumbing, sewer, electrical systems, exterior pathways, and paint and stains causing deterioration​.
  • Ten-Year Warranties: Ten-year warranties are all about foundational and structural elements. Ten-year warranties ensure long-term accountability on the construction elements most critical to human safety.

Notable Court Cases Involving Warranties

When it comes to contractor contracts, looking to existing court cases is a good way to learn about the system, so you can prepare yourself for even the worst-case scenario.

1. Moore v. Teed

Moore v. Teed was an interesting case about contractual fraud and construction defects, with a big emphasis on the legal application of Business and Professions Code §7160. In the case, a homeowner was suing a contractor for damages because the contractor severely overpromised… and underdelivered to the tune of $300,000.

This ruling gives homeowners more leverage over contractors who promise the world and don’t deliver. In the case, the court ruled that homeowners are entitled to the “image that the contractor promised” when selling their services. In other words, a contractor is liable for the promise of the project made by the contractor and is due damages equal to the promise made to the client – whether it’s in writing or not.

2. Howard Contracting, Inc. v. G.A. Macdonald Construction Co., Inc.

This landmark case made it to the California Supreme Court and set a precedent that allows subcontractors to recover damages for cost overruns caused by delays and disruptions – even if there’s stipulations in the prime contract barring such claims.

The civil ruling changed things for both subcontractors and contractors in California by giving subcontractors the option to sue for – and receive – damages for any out-of-pocket costs or expense overruns caused by delays. The key thing is that even if the prime contract states the prime contractor isn’t liable for damages, they are still liable for damages.

3. Aas v. Superior Court Of California

In this massive 2000 ruling, the California Supreme Court delineated the boundaries of negligence claims in construction defects scenarios. The court ruled that homeowners could not recover damages for construction defects that hadn’t caused property damage. It seems obvious, but before then, there was no legal precedent protecting contractors against

This ruling set a significant precedent on the scope of liability for contractors and developers, finally establishing precedent that homeowners can’t sue contractors for damages related to construction defects…. without actually suffering damages related to construction defects.

It’s wild that we even have to type that…but here we are. Thanks to this court ruling, contractors and the state of California must have saved millions in legal fees from baseless lawsuits.

California Contractors: Get To Know Your Contracts!

As you can see from these court cases, it’s critical for any contractor to know what’s in their contracts – and what’s excluded from them. Any contractor who is too lazy to learn at least the basics of contract law is a contractor who will find themselves in trouble at some point down the road.

We hope this guide serves as a good jumping-off point for your contracting business – now’s the time for you to dig deeper into your own personal situation to make sure you’re covering all your bases and setting yourself up for success as a California contractor.

Additional Reading

California State Licensing Board
Levelset – Warranty requirements for contractors in California​
Esquire REB – New Construction Warranties Provided By California Law​
Valley Contractors Exchange – New Construction Warranties
Stone Sallus – Construction Defect Claims in California: Understanding Your Options​
FreeAdvice – California Contractor Warranty Form
Smith Currie – New California Construction Laws for 2023

How To Go From A Construction Manager To A Licensed Engineer

Construction management is a difficult, demanding profession – it involves long days at the job site in every weather imaginable, putting out fires from sun-up to sun-down (and often all the time in between!).

If you’re a construction manager yourself, you may be thinking: why not just become an engineer? In many cases, you already have 90% of the skills of an engineer; you just lack the mathematical education and skills and the licensing requirements to become an engineer – and enjoy the quality-of-life perks that come with it.

But becoming an engineer as a construction manager isn’t the most straightforward or easy path. It requires years of hard work and planning to fulfill that dream – but it’s not impossible! With that in mind, here’s our guide to the easiest way to become an engineer as a construction manager!

Understanding the Roles: Construction Manager vs. Engineer

Before diving into the transition process, it’s essential to understand the distinct roles of a construction manager and an engineer.

  • Construction Manager: Primarily responsible for overseeing the day-to-day operations of a construction site, ensuring that projects are completed on time, within budget, and adhering to set standards. Their education typically includes a degree in construction management, civil engineering, or construction science.
  • Engineer: These professionals design the initial planning and blueprints for construction projects and ensure that their directions are followed throughout the project by regularly communicating with construction managers and other stakeholders. Engineers usually work from an offsite main office, overseeing the broader aspects of planning a construction project1. Depending on the complexity of the project, engineers may have a smaller part of the process as the project progresses.

Practical Steps to Transition

Okay, so how do you transition into an engineering career as a construction manager? Well, get ready to go back to school, as you need to get a degree in engineering to get started! You need a bachelor’s degree to get any real job as an engineer on a construction project. This is obviously for safety reasons – engineers are responsible for ensuring the physical safety of their buildings.

A bachelor’s degree in engineering provides you with the comprehensive knowledge needed to operate as an engineer in the real world – ensuring construction projects are safe and within the boundaries of physical law. You learn everything from math to design – all critical skills for engineers.

  • Earn a Relevant Bachelor’s Degree: The first step to becoming a civil engineer is to earn a bachelor’s degree from a program that offers a construction engineering program. A good engineering program typically has accreditation from the Engineering Accreditation Commission of the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET).
  • Get A License: To practice as an engineer, you don’t technically need a license, but in reality, you do. If you’re a civil engineer, you must obtain a Professional Engineer (PE) license. Μuch like getting any other CSLB license, this includes four years of experience operating as a “journeyman” engineer under a licensed engineer. In addition to licenses for civil engineers, most states require specific licenses. All of these routes require you to pass engineering exams as well. The steps to licensing are:

In many cases, you have to apply for and receive a state license from your state. There may even be state and local requirements as well.

Skills Needed for Engineers

Transitioning to an engineering role requires a blend of technical and soft skills. Luckily, if you’re a construction manager, you have all the necessary soft skills needed, in addition to knowing the ins and outs of construction – something that gives you a huge advantage in understanding and communicating logistical realities to clients and higher-ups.

The key difference in skills needed is your engineering skills – the knowledge and understanding of the mathematics and physics needed to construct a building that is safe and fit for humans, meets local codes and bylaws, and may even need to be sustainably developed.

  • Total understanding and control of physics such as dynamics, mechanics, tension and more.
  • Strong mathematical skills such as calculus and geometry, with the ability to apply them.
  • Design skills such as blueprinting, conceiving, and sketching.
  • Proficiency with design and visualization programs like AutoCAD and TileFlow.
  • Programming skills to get maximum value from design tools such as SolidWorks and AutoCAD. In the electrical and mechanical engineering fields, specialized programming languages such as MATLAB and RAPID are often used.
  • Specialized construction knowledge of common high-use projects like roads, tunnels, bridges, and so on.
  • Ability to accurately estimate cost and communicate trade-offs when it comes to materials and design.
  • Knowledge of sustainable and energy-efficient materials and their properties with regard to construction.
  • Ability to effectively communicate the project to stakeholders.
  • A consistent ability to problem-solve real-world problems posed by the physical and material challenges of production.

Similarities and Differences Between Construction Managers and Engineers

Similarities

  • Both roles are the backbone of the construction process. Without either of them, no building gets built.
  • Both demand a profound understanding of construction principles and practices, on both a macro- and micro-scopic level.
  • Effective and consistent communication is the key in both roles, especially when coordinating with other professionals and stakeholders.

Differences

  • Engineers have more stringent education and licensing prerequisites, with a stronger emphasis on the mathematics and physics of construction.
  • Engineers are involved early on in planning and design, well before anything is touched on a job site. Construction managers take the plan and make it happen – they are the day-to-day torchbearers on a job site.
  • Engineers are generally much more mathematical and “brainy” than construction managers, and their work is much less ambiguous than construction managers. CMs are constantly working with the human side and the day-to-day work, which means they’re doing less math and less time in an office chair.
  • Engineers may never step foot on a job site, often working from the comfort of an office. Construction managers are pretty much on the site from the beginning of the project all the way to the bitter end.

Engineering vs. Construction Management Salaries and Economic Impact

It may surprise you that, in general, it is more lucrative to be a construction manager than an engineer!

As of May 2022, the median annual wage for construction managers was $101,480. The employment of construction managers is projected to grow by 5% from 2022 to 2032, which is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations. This indicates approximately 38,700 job openings for construction managers each year over the decade.

On the flip side, civil engineers (the best representation of this diverse career) had a median annual wage of $89,940 in May 2022. The employment landscape for civil engineers is projected to burgeon by 5% from 2022 to 2032. This signifies about 21,200 openings for civil engineers each year, on average, over the decade.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that financial compensation is only one piece of the puzzle when deciding one’s career. A construction manager is often in the trenches with their team, dealing with rain, snow, wind, and all sorts of weather conditions, at all hours of the day, often working long days to make sure everything runs smoothly.

Engineers, on the other hand, are generally white-collar jobs. Engineers generally work regular hours from the comfort of an air-conditioned office. With a difference of ~$10k, it makes sense for a lot of seasoned CMs to want to change to something that’s a little less demanding. You may be one of these people!

Transitioning to a Licensed Engineer in California: The Golden State’s Path

As always, let’s take a look at the process for construction managers in California looking to change course and become an engineer in the Oldie Goldie State.

Steps to Become a Licensed Engineer in California:

Pre-Application Requirements:

  • Before applying for licensure, ensure you’ve passed the NCEES Fundamentals of Engineering (FE) exam and the Principles and Practice of Engineering (PE-Civil) exam.
  • Confirm that you meet the qualifying experience requirements set by the state.

FOR CIVIL ENGINEERS ONLY – APPLY TO BPELSG

  • Once you’ve passed the necessary exams and have the required experience, submit your application for licensure to the California Board of Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, and Geologists using the online BPELSG Connect portal.
  • California requires additional state-specific exams: Civil Seismic Principles and Civil Engineering Surveying.
  • These exams are offered on a continuous quarterly basis, and there’s no final filing date.

Get Your CSLB License

  • Now you need to apply for your CSLB Class A General Engineering Contractor License!
  • As always, you have to meet the CSLB’s licensing requirements before applying.
  • Then, you just have to pass the CSLB exam and get the necessary bonds and insurance
    Receive Your License And Start Working!

Once you’ve passed the CSLB exam, you can start working as an engineer right away!

Additional Information:

  • For Civil Engineers – Three Types Of BPELSG Licenses: BPELSG California offers three categories of licensing for engineers:
      • Practice act (Civil, Electrical, and Mechanical Engineering)
      • Title act (Agricultural, Chemical, Control Systems, Fire Protection, Industrial, Metallurgical, Nuclear, Petroleum, and Traffic Engineering)
      • Title authority (sub-branches of Civil Engineering: Structural Engineering and Geotechnical Engineering).
  • Eligibility and Experience Requirements: Applicants must meet the qualifying experience requirements outlined in Business and Professions Code sections 6751(c) and 6753 and Title 16, California Code of Regulations section 424.
  • Background Check and Fingerprinting: All applicants are background checked and fingerprinted by the CSLB before they are given a license. Check out our comprehensive article on that topic for more information.

Should I Become An Engineer As A Construction Manager?

The answer to that question can only lie within. The reality is that construction managers do make a bit more money, but the trade-offs of having set, reliable hours, and working off-site (or even from home!) means that it could be absolutely worth it for you and your family to make the transition to engineering.

If you’re looking to become an engineer in California, we’ve got you covered with everything you could need to know about what it takes to become a CSLB-certified construction engineer in our great state.

A Comprehensive Guide To ADU Builds For California Contractors

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

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

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

A Closer Look at the Historical Evolution

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

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

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

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

Innovations and Trends: Crafting the ADU of Tomorrow

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

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

Statistics About the ADU Market in California in 2023

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

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

Best Tips for Contractors Who Want to Enter the ADU Market

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

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

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Contractor to Build Your ADU

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

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

Pros

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

Cons

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

The Final Word

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

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

Additional Reading

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

New Laws for California Contractors in 2023

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

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

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

Senate Bill 216 (Dodd)

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

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

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

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

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

Senate Bill 607 (Min)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Senate Bill 1237 (Newman)

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

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

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

Assembly Bill 2105 (Smith)

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

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

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

Assembly Bill 1747 (Quirk)

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

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

Assembly Bill 2374 (Bauer-Kahan)

Bad news for litterbug contractors: your time is up.

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

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

Assembly Bill 2916 (McCarty)

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

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

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

Stay Compliant…Or Else!

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

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

Save Money On Your Taxes As A California Contractor

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

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

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

How Do You Structure Your Business?

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

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

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

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

Know Your Taxes: Federal, State, and Local

Federal Taxes

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

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

State Taxes

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

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

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

Local Taxes

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

Employment Taxes: A Responsibility You Can’t Ignore

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

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

Tax Deductions: Your Best Friend

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

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

Common Deductions for Contractors

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

Hire an Accountant For Your Contracting Business

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

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

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

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

Taxes Can Actually Save You Money

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

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

How To Get A Contractors License In California

Let’s skip all the usual stuff and get right to the point: you’re a contractor in California, and you need a Contractors State License Board contractors license.

Here’s how you do it.

The Journey to Obtaining a Contractor’s License in California

Meet The Requirements

Before you can even apply for a CSLB license, you must meet the requirements laid out by the CSLB. They are as follows:

  1. You must be at least 18 years old and provide valid proof of identity.
  2. You need a minimum of 4 years of journey-level experience within the past ten years in the trade you’re seeking a license for. This experience can be as a worker or a supervisor.
  3. You need to pass a fingerprint-based background check. (This test will check for any past criminal behavior as well as any other contractor-related issues).

Take The Exam

Once you’ve met the initial requirements, it’s time to prepare and pass the exams. Both exams California requires you to pass two written tests:

  1. Contractor’s Law and Business Examination: This exam covers California’s contracting laws, business management, and safety regulations. This test is designed to ensure that you understand the legal and administrative aspects of running a contracting business. Brutal stuff if you’re not familiar with these laws.
  2. Trade Examination: This test is specific to your trade, i.e., a plumber’s trade exam will cover plumbing. This part of the test assesses your technical knowledge and skills, ensuring that you’re ready to provide top-notch services to your clients.

Get Insured and Get Your License!

After you’ve passed your exams, there are just a few more steps to complete:

  1. Fee Payment: You’ll need to pay an initial licensing fee, as well as other potential fees based on your classification.
  2. Contractor’s Bond: You’re required to secure a contractor’s license bond. This bond, set at $25,000, is a form of protection for your clients, ensuring that you’ll fulfill your contractual obligations.
  3. Insurance: If you have employees, you’ll need to provide proof of workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance protects your workers in case they get injured on the job. You’ll also need to provide general liability insurance as well.
  4. Get Your License! Once all these steps are complete, the state will issue your contractor’s license.

That’s it!

While the process to get your license is fairly straightforward, it can be really difficult to understand for first-timers.

If you’re struggling to make heads or tails of all the paperwork – or if you need help passing the CSLB exam – contact us today and we can help you make sense of anything that you don’t understand.

Additional Reading

Contractors State License Board (CSLB)
CSLB Applicant Resources
The Top Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for a Contractor License in California
CSLB Contractor License Exams and Study Guides en Español
How Long Does it Take to Get a Contractor’s License in California?
Do I Need a Class C Contractor’s License?

What Is A Journeyman And How Is It Related To My CSLB License?

Just moved to California as a contractor and need your CSLB license – as any contractor does – to start doing construction work in the State?

Or maybe you’re a fresh-faced 18-year-old, who sees a career in construction in the future, and you are looking for the path to making that a reality.

In any case, no matter what type of construction work you want to do in California, you need a CSLB license – and in order to get a CSLB license, you need to first become a journeyman.

But what is a journeyman? And how does it play into getting your CSLB contractor’s license? In this article, we’ll walk you through everything and anything related to being a construction journeyman.

Journeymen and Journey-level Experience

The CSLB defines a journeyman as anyone who has “journey-level experience”, which is anyone who “has completed an apprenticeship program or is an experienced worker, not a trainee, and is fully qualified and able to perform a specific trade without supervision.”

Unlike a novice or a trainee, a journeyman is fully qualified and capable of performing their trade without supervision. They are experienced, skilled construction workers who have specialty expertise in their area of operation – whether it’s a hands-on trade like plumbing or the more general practice of general contracting.

Despite the ability of a journeyman to essentially perform all of the jobs of a licensed contractor, a journeyman cannot do contracting work on their own – only under the supervision of a general contractor. That means that even if you have all the skills to perform construction work on jobs over $500, you still cannot do it. 

If journeymen are found doing contracting work, they are treated just like any other unlicensed contractor in the eyes of the law – facing all the same penalties, despite their skill and experience.

Do not do work on your own as a journeyman – wait until you’re a licensed contractor. You’re already on the path to becoming a licensed contractor, so why ruin it by breaking the law?

The Journeyman’s Experience Requirement

One of the essential requirements to obtain a CSLB contractor’s license is the journey-level experience requirement. This requirement means that you must have at least four (4) years of journey-level experience in your area of expertise. 

You must have four years’ journey-level experience in your trade. If you’re a plumber applying for a C-36 Plumbing license, you need four years’ journeyman experience as a plumber. You can’t, for example, do 4 years of general contracting work, and then expect to get an HVAC contractor’s license.

Exceptions From The CSLB Journey-level Experience Requirement

As always with the CSLB, there’s always exceptions to the rule. There are many situations where one may be exempt from the classical definition of “journey-level experience”.

Some situations where you can apply for an exception from the journey-level experience requirement include:

    • Education/Apprenticeship
      • The CSLB does allow anyone to apply for an exemption to the journeyman requirement by substituting four (4) years of technical training or apprenticeship training
      • Note – you must have at least one (1) year of practical experience.
    • Builder-Owner
      • In some situations, you can be exempt from the journey-level experience requirement if you built your own home. This is taken by the CSLB on a case-by-case basis.
  • Reciprocity
    • The CSLB has reciprocity agreements with a number of states – and if you’re a licensed contractor in these states, you can be exempt from having to start over again as a journeyman.

The Path To Becoming A Journeyman

Don’t have your journey-level experience but need some to get your contractor’s license? How do you even get your journeyman experience in the first place? 

An easy way to do it is to reach out to local contractors in your area and see if they’ll offer you an apprenticeship or work experience program in the area you’re interested in. You may not be making a ton of money, if you’re making money at all, but think of it long term – you are building your knowledge base and your abilities so that you can start bringing in the big bucks for the rest of your life.

By working under a licensed contractor, you can not only learn the ropes but also perform the work you will ultimately be doing in your area of expertise. Look at it this way – most people go to university for four years only to leave with a diploma, hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, and a degree in something that probably won’t be relevant in a few years anyway.

What’s a few years of learning the skills that will suit you for life – and being paid for it? Anyone with a bit of determination and an attitude of open-mindedness and learning can get their CSLB license – all it takes is a few years of hard work.

Additional Reading

What’s The Easiest Contractor’s License To Get In California?

What’s the easiest contractor’s license to get in California? Well, it’s complicated.

Maybe you’re a construction professional who has worked a bunch of construction jobs in California, but you’re ready to move to the next level with your California Contractors State Licensing Board (CSLB) contractors license. 

Or maybe you just moved to California from out of state and need to find work right away – but you need a contractor’s license to do it. Either way, you need your license right away and you want to know the easiest type of contractor license to get in California.

In this article, we’ll dig into the easiest contractor’s license to get in California.

How Hard Is It To Get Your License, Anway?

We’re just going to say straight from the top – getting your CSLB contractor license in California is not an easy task. 

Since the CSLB is the agency responsible for vetting contractors and ensuring contractors and the public alike are protected from unscrupulous and potentially destructive contractors, they have made the process to get your license intentionally difficult – to separate the contractor wheat from the contractor chaff.

No matter what contractor license you choose, you will still have to take the dreaded CSLB examination in order to get your license and become a licensed contractor. In short, there are no shortcuts to being a licensed contractor – it’s hard for a reason!

Types of Licenses

California offers a variety of contractor licenses, divided into three primary categories: 

  • Class A – General Engineering
  • Class B – General Building

Although the easiest contractor’s license to get in California depends on your individual experience and preferences, certain specialty licenses tend to have fewer prerequisites and require less experience. The following options are often considered the easiest:

  1. C-61 Limited Specialty License: Encompassing a diverse array of limited specialties not covered by other classifications, the C-61 license generally has lower experience requirements, making it a popular choice among newcomers to the industry.
  2. C-54 Ceramic and Mosaic Tile License: Allowing the installation and repair of ceramic and mosaic tile work, the C-54 license has a lower barrier to entry than other specialty licenses and is an attractive option for aspiring contractors.
  3. C-33 Painting and Decorating License: Authorizing painting, finishing, and decorating services for various surfaces and structures, the C-33 license typically has less stringent experience requirements and is often deemed one of the easiest licenses to acquire.

California Contractor License Requirements

Regardless of the license you pursue, there are standard requirements you’ll need to fulfill the following requirements.

  • Experience: A minimum of four years of journey-level experience in the specific trade is necessary. However, some licenses, such as the C-61, may have lower experience requirements.
  • Examinations: Applicants must pass both the trade-specific exam and the California Law and Business exam.
  • Background Check: Fingerprint submission is required for a background check.
  • Bonding: Contractors must secure a $25,000 contractor’s bond or an equivalent cash deposit.
  • Insurance: General liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance are necessary to provide to the CSLB.

Find more information about contractor license requirements on the CSLB website.

California Contractor License Application Process

To obtain the easiest contractor’s license in California, follow these steps:

  1. Complete the Application: Fill out the Application for Original Contractor License
  2. Submit Supporting Documents: Provide proof of your experience, such as a Certification of Work Experience.
  3. Pass the Exams: Take and pass the CSLB exam, which consists of two parts: the Law and Business Exam and the Trade Exam.
  4. Get Fingerprinted: Submit fingerprints for a background check.
  5. Secure Bonding and Insurance: Obtain the required $25,000 contractor’s bond or cash deposit and the necessary insurance.

Gaining Experience for the Easiest Contractors License in California

In order to get a contractor’s license in California, you must have the relevant experience to work in your area of expertise.

If you don’t have the experience yet, here are a few ways to acquire that important on-the-job training:

  1. Become an Apprentice: Apprenticeships provide valuable on-the-job training and experience, which are essential for pursuing a contractor’s license in California. Seek apprenticeship opportunities in your desired trade to gain hands-on skills and knowledge. Reaching out to your local Trade Association can help you find someone to work for.
  2. Work as a Handyman: In California, you do not require a license for smaller jobs or repairs – any job that is valued under $500. By working as a handyman, you can build your skills and gain experience in various aspects of construction work. Just make sure you keep your jobs under $500 or you could face serious penalties.
  3. Complete a Trade School Program: Trade schools offer programs that teach specific skills related to construction trades, such as carpentry, plumbing, and electrical work. In many cases, these trade school programs can satisfy the CSLB contractor license experience requirement.

Conclusion

While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to “What is the easiest contractor’s license to get in California?”, some licenses – like the C-61 Limited Specialty License, C-54 Ceramic and Mosaic Tile License, and C-33 Painting and Decorating License – generally have fewer prerequisites and are considered easier to obtain.

That said, there is no shortcut to getting any specific license more quickly and easily than others. The main sticking point for most contractors is passing the notoriously tough CSLB exam – so focus your time and resources on that rather than looking for shortcuts or ways to fast-track your contractor’s license.