A contract license is a state-regulated license that is granted to construction workers who have extensive skills and experience in the field and have met the state board's requirements.

Contractors manage the general planning of different kinds of construction, then make sure that plans become reality by facilitating the construction process to its completion. Contractors have the experience to handle all different kinds of projects, from small things like adding a room to an existing house, or larger projects like building a new office. Flexibility is key in the contracting field, and that explains why seasoned contractors are able to jump into the construction project management mindset so easily. For contractors, jobs come in all shapes and sizes.

Many construction contractors specialize in a particular kind of construction or niche. Many are also freelance or self-employed contractors. Others manage their own construction business and hire employees. However, most contractors typically work for an existing company, which is generally the easiest way to break into the trade, especially if one wants to gain experience and training as an apprentice tradesman.

Why Hire a Licensed Contractor?

If you're looking to hire a contractor, it's important to hire one that is bonded and licensed. If you hire an unlicensed contractor, chances are that he is breaking the law by working without a license. This could mean that he isn't adhering to other laws, such as permit and inspection requirements. If your building has been inspected and it is not up to code, it could result in serious fines, repairs, or even demolition. In addition, it can be difficult to determine whether a contractor is able to provide high-quality work, as their work and knowledge has not been reviewed by a licensing board.

If you hire an unlicensed contractor, you might also give up your right to make warranty claims. Most states include laws that impose warranties on contractors for poor workmanship, but those warranty laws typically only apply to licensed contractors. Your state contractor board will not likely be able to assist you in making a claim against an unlicensed contractor, which means that you'll have to take your claim to civil court.

Requirements for Licensed Contractors

There are numerous requirements for a contractor to become legally licensed, including:

  • A licensed contractor must be at least 18 years of age and have the skills and experience required to perform the daily activities of a construction business, such as field supervision, or must be represented by a qualifying person with the required skills and experience.
  • The nonrefundable fee for an original application is $150, in addition to the financial requirements. The initial license fee (for one classification) is $150. The license needs to be renewed every other year, and the renewal fee is $300.
  • To qualify for the exam, an individual must have gained at least four years of journey-level experience. The Board gives credit for experience as a journeyman, contractor, foreman, supervising employee, or owner-builder.
  • Each applicant must undergo a criminal-background check and be fingerprinted. The applicant is responsible for paying the cost of the checks.
  • Each applicant is required to pass trade and law examinations, unless they meet the necessary criteria for a waiver. The applicant will receive an examination notice at least three weeks before the examination date.

In California, all companies or individuals who alter or construct any highway, building, road, parking facility, excavation, railroad, or other structure within the state must have a valid license from the California Contractors State License Board if the total cost (including materials and labor) of at least one of the contracts on the project meets or exceeds $500. Before projects begin, contracts need to be licensed.

Although the Board does not state any educational requirements to qualify for a contractor's license, it's recommended that applicants seek help from a school that focuses on assisting students in passing the Contractor State License Board Exam.

In California, you can pick up an Application for Original Contractor's License at any Contractors State License Board office. For more information, or to download an application, visit the Contractors State License Board website, or call the CSLB's automated information line at 1-800-321-CSLB. You may also write to the CSLB at: P.O. Box 26000, Sacramento, CA, 95826

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