Contractor License Requirements in California

Apr 14, 2022 · 6 minutes to read

Bricklayer holding construction tools

Construction is booming in California. This is creating opportunities for ambitious tradespeople who want to enter the building, renovation, and home maintenance fields. You could build great success in the Golden State with the right skills and determination!

You need a license to work as a contractor in California. The general contractor license has many classifications and subclassifications covering dozens of skilled trades.

This article covers what you need to know about getting a contractor license in California, including eligibility, application, and insurance requirements for small business owners.

Who needs a contractor license in California?

You must get a contractor license in California if you work on a project with a total cost (labor and materials) of $500 or more. This applies to all businesses and individuals, including subcontractors, specialty contractors, and home improvement professionals. The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) issues contractor licenses to individuals, partnerships, joint ventures, corporations, and limited liability companies (LLCs) in the state.

Some states issue separate licenses for specific specialty trades, but a contractor license applies to a broad umbrella of tradespeople in California. If you are seeking a carpenter, plumbing, electrician, painter, HVAC, or handyman license in California, you should apply for a contractor license under the classification for your skilled trade.

Who can become a contractor in California?

To get a California contractor license, you must meet the general contractor license requirements. License applicants must:

  • Be 18 years or older
  • Have a valid Social Security number or individual taxpayer identification number
  • Have at least 4 years of relevant work experience

Applicants may be able to use relevant education or military service towards meeting the work experience requirement. For example, if you have completed an apprenticeship, technical training, or education in your trade beyond high school, these can often be counted as work experience.

Contact the CSLB or visit their website for more information about meeting California’s general contractor license requirements and how to apply for a work experience waiver.

How do I get a contractor license in California?

If you are eligible to get a California contractor license, you must complete the following steps to obtain one:

  1. Complete and submit the application – You will need to pay $450 fee to process your application. (Please check the CSLB website, as fees may change.)
  2. Submit your fingerprints for a background check – The CSLB will let you know how and when to do this after your application has been reviewed.
  3. Pass the required exams – You will need to pass two main exams: a law & business and a trade exam. (Some contractors may qualify for a waiver and can skip these tests.)
  4. Pass the asbestos exam – All applicants must also pass an open book exam on asbestos handling and removal. You can take this exam through the CSLB website or request a paper copy.
  5. Receive your license – There are additional licensing requirements you may need to meet once your license is issued

Your contractor license must be renewed every two years. Unlicensed contractors may face fines and jail time for a first offence, with increased fines and penalties for each violation after that.

Do California contractors need business insurance?

There are additional general contractor license requirements that you may need to meet to keep your license active. Showing proof of specific insurances may be necessary in some circumstances.

All businesses in California must have Workers’ Compensation insurance before they hire their first employee. If you are a sole proprietor, you are not required to have this type of coverage unless you are a roofing contractor. They must have Workers’ Compensation insurance even if they are a sole proprietor.

You must also show proof of General Liability insurance. The CSLB will send you a letter explaining the minimum coverage amount you must have based on the size and type of business you run.

Do California contractors need to be bonded?

Along with showing proof of business insurance, California contractors must also be bonded. All licensed contractors must file a surety bond or cashiers check with the CSLB. The value of bond you are required to file will depend on your business structure. Check the CSLB website for up-to-date information on bond requirements.

How do I prove I am licensed?

Once you are licensed and meet the licensing requirements, you can work as a general contractor or specialty contractor in California. You will receive a wall certificate and a plastic pocket-sized license from the CSLB that provide proof of your general contractor license.

You are required by state law to display your wall certificate in your office or principal place of business. You are also required by law to provide proof of licensing when asked. The CSLB encourages contractors to always carry their pocket license, as customers could ask to see your license at any time.

Getting California Contractors to Work

Obtaining a contractor license in California is often the first step towards starting your contractor business in the Golden State. Carefully following the general contractor license requirements can help ensure that you operate legally. Whether you’re a carpenter, electrician, painter, or provide other specialty services, a contractor license helps prove that you are a skilled professional and builds trust with potential clients and customers.

Ready to protect your small business? Learn more about insurance for general contractors from BizInsure.

*This information is a general guide only and does not take into account your objectives, financial situation or needs. Always check with your local licensing board when getting or renewing your contractor license to ensure you are meeting their current licensing requirements.
As with any insurance, coverage will be subject to the terms, conditions and exclusions contained in the policy wording. The information contained on this guide is general only and should not be relied upon as advice. The number of quotes provided varies between products, occupations and other underwriting factors determined by the insurers.
© Copyright 2023 BizInsure LLC, 2015 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED BizInsure LLC; CA DBA: Simple, Smart, BizInsure Insurance Agency LLC; NY DBA: BizInsure Services LLC; NH DBA: Simple, Smart, BizInsure Insurance Agency; PA DBA: BizInsure Services LLC. 2950 Buskirk Ave Suite 300, Walnut Creek CA 94597. License #0H81929

Get Free Online Quotes and get coverage instantly

The coverage you need for your business.

Business insurance is divided into different policies. We offer 4 types so it's easy to design the coverage that fits your business.

Professional Liability Insurance

Get a quote

General Liability Insurance

Get a quote

Business Owner’s Policy (BOP)

Get a quote

Workers Compensation Insurance

Get a quote

Let's find

The coverage you need for your business

Professional Liability Insurance

Get a quote

General Liability Insurance

Get a quote

Business Owner’s Policy (BOP)

Get a quote

Workers Compensation Insurance

Get a quote

Friendly and very fast service!
Patricia S.
Jennifer Whiscombe, is an amazing agent. She was very knowledgeable, thorough and friendly. I highly recommend.
Ebony D.
They make it very easy to buy insurance and renew.
Bill N.
As a business owner I love not wasting time. Thank you so much for giving me more time
mario S.
Very straight forward, the cost of coverage amount made sense, simplicity was appreciated.
Jean H.
Always easy. Thank you.
Dave C.
A Company that is easy to deal with and that I have used for several years. I appreciate the continued support.
Sam M.
Very easy and affordable!
Volanda H.
Very easy to work with, cost effective, prompt renewal and easy to get certificates of insurance instantly. I use them exclusively for my professional and general liability insurance needs as a consultant.
Larry (.
Responsive and professionalCompetitive price. I highly recommend Bizlnsure as an insurance provider
Zynab B.
Your service is easy to renew as needed and your company informs the client in advance for renewal.
Henry B.
It has been a pleasure doing business with Biz Insure Llc.Their representatives are very courteous, helpful and customer service oriented.
Shonta I.
Quick and easy....
Tammy K.
I follow the instructions & would prefer to paid every month. I did not have the options to pay every month.
Alamo H.
Thank you, Amy, for making my experience enjoyable and funny. Thank you so much for your kindness!!!
George J.
I'm pleased with the business quote I received from Bizinsure LLC. Thank You!
Shanda J.
Very satisfied with the online experience
Nicole h
Been a happy customer for years! Easiest company to receive a quote and get insured. No hassles! Easy payment! Finance plans, if needed!
jodi H.
Love it
Hanna R.
Every year, BizInsure is my go to for general and professional liability insurance! Thenrates are unbeatable.
Calandra K.
The agent was quick and efficient in generating a quote for my needs.
Theresa F.
I enjoy working BizInsure they always answer all my questions and make sure i have the correct coverage for my business.
Prompt and professional service from Biz Insure. Thanks Leslie and Liza!
Bev G.
Very easy to sign up for insurance.
Great company
Brown G.
Fast and efficient!
Kim C.
It was great being able to get a policy that suits my company's need in less than 30 minutes. They were vey thorough. Very competitively priced.
Lynette C.
I worked with Andrea for another start up business. She was very knowledgeable and help me pick the correct policy. Amazed at how quickly the process went.
Representative was very kind, helpful, and educated me well. I appreciated today's prompt service with confirmation that I was satisfied with what was provided to me.
Tina P.
Great company for.your low cost business insurance needs.
constantin T.
Staff was very fessional and friendly. I was able to get a quote and move forward within 20 minutes.
Pebbles S.
Complete C.
Super easy process.
Ashley G.
It’s very easy to understand and at a very reasonable price.
Mary M.
Professionalism, Quality, Responsive and budget friendly
Great rates, easy to understand and select appropriate coverage, can get in a jiffy
Brie C.
I have been a customer of BizInsure for a few years now and I love it. There customer service is awesome and the prices are affordable.
Danyale W.
Quick easy experience! The rep was knowledgeable & pleasant. Customer care was awesome to respond and clarify my concerns.
Kathy Ann A.
Google Rating
Based on 262 reviews