Do I Need A Contractor License As A Handyman?

If you’re a handyman, do you need a contractor’s license to work in California? What can happen if you are caught doing unlicensed handyman work?

The answer is not always straightforward, as it depends on the type of work you will be performing. In this article, we will help you understand everything about handyman services and whether you need a contractor’s license to do handyman work.

What Is A Handyman?

A handyman is someone who is skilled at a wide range of repair and maintenance tasks around the home, but does not specialize in any one trade. A jack-of-all-trades, if you will. 

Handymen often work on small jobs around the home that can be achieved with minimal disruption to the homeowners or occupants. If you’ve ever lived in a large apartment complex, you know what a handyman is and what they do.

You’ll see handymen doing jobs such as painting, basic plumbing and electrical work, installing fixtures, and repairing drywall, among other things. The general idea is that a handyman does small, quick tasks that don’t require extensive education or expertise, like other construction-related trades such as carpentry or welding. 

Are There Exemptions For Handymen?

Under California law, there are exemptions that allow individuals to perform certain types of work without needing a contractor license. These exemptions are based on the nature and scope of the work being performed. If the work falls under one of the exemptions, then a contractor’s license is not required.

Exemptions for Handyman Work

One of the exemptions that may apply to a handyman is the “minor work” exemption. This exemption essentially allows for handymen to do routine handymen tasks that can be done cheaply. 

You can only use the minor work exemption to do handyman work without a contractor license if and only if:

  • The job is valued at less than $500 in total
  • It involves only certain types of jobs, including:
    • Painting and decorating
    • Minor electrical work, such as replacing light fixtures and switches
    • Minor plumbing work, such as replacing faucets and fixtures
    • Installing drywall and insulation
    • Installing finished flooring, such as hardwood or tile
    • Minor carpentry work, such as repairing or installing cabinets
    • Wallpapering
    • Installing floor coverings
    • Installing window screens
    • Minor landscaping work

It’s important to check if your job falls under the minor work exemption, or you can face legal penalties. Visit the CSLB’s website to find more information:,part%20of%20a%20larger%20project.

Limitations of Exemptions

It’s important to note that even if your work falls under one of the exemptions, there are limitations to what you can do without a contractor license.

 For example, you cannot work on any project that requires a building permit or involves structural alterations. Additionally, you cannot contract with a property owner or act in the capacity of a general contractor.

Again, refer to the CSLB website for more information on exactly what types of jobs you can and cannot perform without a contractor’s license.

When Is A Contractor License Is Required?

If your work does not fall under one of the exemptions, you need to obtain a contractor license to operate in California to do work as a handyman. 

If you do not fall under one of the above exemptions, a contractor license is required for any work that involves:

  • Building, altering, or improving any structure
  • Working on any project that requires a building permit
  • Performing any work that involves trades such as plumbing, electrical, or HVAC

How to Obtain a Contractor License

To obtain a contractor license in California, you must meet certain requirements, including:

  • Minimum age of 18 years old
  • A valid Social Security number
  • 4 years’ work experience and/or apprenticeship and/or relevant education
  • Background check and fingerprint scan

Insurance and Bonding

If you decide to obtain a contractor license, you will also need to obtain insurance and bonding. Insurance protects you and your clients in case of accidents or damages that occur during the course of a project. Bonding provides financial protection to clients in case of incomplete or unsatisfactory work.

Should I get a Contractor’s License?

That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? The answer is: it depends on how much work you want, how complex you want your work to be, and how big you want to build your business,.

In general, if you plan to take on projects that involve more than minor repairs or basic maintenance tasks, you will need a contractor license. 

This is true if you plan to grow your business in any way – if you advertise your services as a handyman or charge more than a certain amount for your work. Most importantly, if you ever hire anyone or grow your business in any way past $500 jobs, you’ll need to get a contractor license or face serious consequences.

In general, if you’re a handyman doing only odd jobs and minor repairs, you can easily get by without a contractor license. But be careful of doing any big jobs – you could face serious legal and financial penalties for doing unlicensed work over $500.

For handymen looking to make more money, you’ll definitely want to get a license. If you want to grow your business, you have to do certain things – like hiring people to get more jobs. Handymen who get a contractor license not only get access to more projects with higher prices, but they also can hire others to bring in even more money for their business. 

Additionally, having a contractor license shows potential clients that you are a serious professional who is committed to their craft rather than some person with a truck and some tools, which increases the number and value of customers you can reach. Overall, obtaining a contractor license is a smart investment for any handyman looking to grow their business and increase their earning potential.

The answer to the question of whether or not you need a contractor license as a handyman in California is not always clear-cut. It ultimately depends on the type of work you plan to do and whether or not you want to grow your business and take on bigger jobs than $500 gigs.


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About CSLS

Contractors State License Service (CSLS) is the largest school in California devoted to the Construction professional. For over 23 years, CSLS has helped its students pass the exam to become licensed contractors in the State of California, licensing more students than any other school. From our main offices in Southern California, CSLS operates over 25 locations with full-service support and classrooms. We have grown to this extent by providing quality, professional services. In comparison, this provides 7 times the number of convenient locations than the second largest contractor school. Contractors State License Services is one of the only contractor schools in the state that is run by educators, not lawyers or people mostly interested in the bonding and insurance business. Contractors State License Services formerly operated under the oversight of the State of California's Bureau for Private Post Secondary and Vocational Education. As of January 1 2010, the new Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) came into existence replacing the BPPVE. CSLS now operates under the provisions of the California Private Postsecondary Education Act of 2009 (CPPEA), Article 4 Section 94874(f). Our Mission is simple; We can help you pass your California Contractors License Exam. Celebrating our 25th year, CSLS has helped over 120,000 students pass the California contractor licensing exam to become licensed contractors in the State of California. Additionally, we offer complete home study and online contractor’s license programs to help you pass your California contractors license exam. CSLS offers licensing classes for all types of contractor licenses, including General Engineering Contractor, General Building Contractor, Specialty Contractor, Insulation and Acoustical Contractor, Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor, Cabinet, Millwork and Finish Carpentry Contractor, Concrete Contractor, Drywall Contractor, Electrical Contractor, Elevator Contractor, Landscaping Contractor, Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor, and many others. For a complete list of contractor licenses, visit and tuned for more informative posts.