Congratulations – you’re joining 100,000+ licensed general contractors in the state working to build everything from new apartments to interchanges on the I-5. These are people who have put in the time and effort to become experts at general contracting and you should be honored to even consider joining their ranks.
The path to becoming a licensed general contractor in California is somewhat long, and it can be difficult – especially if you don’t prepare yourself with knowledge and expert guidance along the way – but it’s far from impossible, even for people who never got along with traditional school and learning pathways.
In this article, you’ll find the essential information you’ll need to get your California Contractor State Licensing Board (CSLB) general contractor license!
General Contractor License: The CSLB Class “B” License
If you’re a general contractor in California, you must hold a CSLB Class “B” License to do your job.
The State of California requires anyone who oversees the construction, remodeling, and repair of residential and commercial structures to hold a Class B General Contractor License. This license allows you to oversee and manage all trades involved in a project, such as electrical, plumbing, and HVAC work – but not perform any of the work yourself.
For example, a “B” license holder cannot perform electrical work like installing wiring, nor can they even do less complex work, such as painting large spaces.
There are exceptions though. It is possible for a general contractor to do the work if they hold the appropriate specialty license (a Class “C” specialty license). They can, of course, also subcontract a licensed specialty contractor to perform the work (duh, you say!).
Examples of projects a “B” license holder can undertake include:
- New residential or commercial building construction
- Home additions and renovations
- Commercial tenant improvements
- Kitchen and bathroom remodeling
- Structural repairs and alterations
Projects that require additional licensing or subcontracting include:
- Electrical wiring and panel installation
- Plumbing system installation or repair
- HVAC system installation or repair
- Roofing installation or repair
Fulfill the Experience Requirement
To qualify for a “B” license, you must have at least four years of journey-level experience within the last ten years in the construction industry. This experience can include working as a journeyman, foreman, supervisor, or contractor.
The CSLB will consider a combination of experience and education, such as a degree in construction management when evaluating your qualifications. In many cases, education can stand in for the requisite experience, especially if the education involves hands-on training for a significant period of time.
Take and Pass the Exams
The CSLB requires “B” license applicants to pass two exams: the Law and Business Exam and the Trade Exam.
The Law and Business Exam covers topics like California construction law, business management, and ethics, while the Trade Exam tests your knowledge of trade-specific skills and techniques. In this case, the Trade portion of the exam will cover general contractor skills – ranging from things like large-scale construction math to OSHA complaints on your job site.
To help you prepare, the CSLB offers study guides, examination resources, and practice tests on their website.
Step 4: Submit a Thorough Application
After passing the exams, you’ll need to complete the Application for Original Contractor License. This application includes details about your experience, business structure, and financial responsibility.
These are the essential fees and materials necessary to pass this step.
- A $330 application processing fee
- A $200 initial license fee (upon approval)
- Proof of workers’ compensation insurance (per employee)
- A $25,000 contractor’s bond
Step 5: Keep Your License in Good Standing
Once you’ve obtained your “B” license, you must renew it every two years. Staying informed about changes to California construction laws and industry best practices is essential to maintaining your license.
Additionally, individual projects may require local permits and licenses, so familiarize yourself with local requirements in the areas where you plan to work.
Licensed General Building Contractor in California
Embarking on a career as a licensed general contractor in California is an exciting opportunity. By following the steps in this guide and staying informed about the latest industry developments, you’ll be well on your way to a successful career in the construction industry.