General and specialty contractors in California are required to obtain a license from the state to perform most types of construction and home improvement projects. The licenses ensure that contractors are qualified to perform their work and establish standards and regulations they must follow.
In this guide, we’ll outline who requires a California contractor license and how you can complete the application process.
What are the requirements for a contractors license in California?
The California License Law and Reference Book defines a contractor as any person or business that constructs or alters a building or highway within the State of California. There are some exceptions to this rule including:
- Public utility companies
- Projects with a total cost under $500
- Government personnel working on public projects
- Individuals working on their own property or partnering with a contractor working on their property
- Court officers
- Retail furniture dealers that contract with carpet installers
- Licensed security alarm installers
Contractors must meet the following requirements to be eligible to receive their license:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Have a valid social security number
- Have a minimum working capital of $2,500
- Be able to manage the daily duties of construction business
Steps to get your contractors license in California
To get your contractor license in the State of California, you must submit an application to the Contractors State License Board (CSLB). The CSLB is the government agency responsible for ensuring contractors comply with all safety and ethical standards while performing their work.
Here are the steps you must take to receive your California contractor license:
Designate a Qualifying Individual
The CSLB requires that at least one owner or employee of the contractor business is designated as a qualifying individual for each license class. A qualifying individual must have four years of experience within the past 10 years.
Determine what license class you need
There are three types of California contractor licenses you can apply for:
- Class A: General Engineering Contractor – contractors that complete fixed works projects requiring specialized engineering knowledge, such as irrigation, water supply, docks, railroads, etc
- Class B: General Building Contractor – contractors whose principal contracting business deals with building structures and framing, or the use of at least two unrelated building trades or crafts
- Class C: Specialty Contractor – contractors that perform specialty work requiring a specific skill set, such as fire extinguishing systems, carpet installation, or roadway work. There are 42 different specialty contractor classifications
Submit your contractor license application
New contractor license applicants must complete the Application for Original Contractor License (Form 13A-1). There are three ways to access the form:
- Easy-fill: complete the form online and then print it
- PDF: print out a blank form, fill it out, and mail it in
- Order: you can request blank application form which will be mailed to you
You’ll need to provide the following information on your application:
- Full business name
- Business address
- Type of classification requested
- Business entity designation (sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation)
- Information for Qualifying Individual
- Personnel information
Your application must also include the following documentation
- Certification of Work Experience
- Construction Project Experience
- Additional personnel form
- Disclosure Statement Regarding Criminal Plea
- Accommodation Request for Examination
- Workers’ Compensation Insurance or an exemption form
Be sure to complete your application accurately and in full. A significant number of applications submitted to the CSLB are returned to correct and resubmit.
After completing the application, you can mail the forms and all supporting documentation to the following address:
California State License Board
9821 Business Park Dr.
Sacramento, CA 95827
Pass the knowledge examination
After submitting your application, you must pass several different exams before receiving your contractors license. This includes:
- Law and regulations exam covering California general contractor law
- Online Asbestos exam
- Trade exam specific to the classification of license needed by the contractor
Contractors that are qualified and have worked under the same classification for at least five years can submit a waiver instead of taking the exam.
If you fail the exam and need to reschedule it, or if you do not appear at the scheduled date, you will need to pay a $60 fee to reschedule.
Get your contractor license bond
The CSLB requires contractors to post a Contractor License Bond as part of the licensing process.
The bond provides financial protection to the public in the event the licensed contractor fails to comply with licensing regulations. If the contractor violates the license regulations, causing damage to any individual, business, or government entity, the damaged party can file a claim against the total value of the bond.
The surety company issuing the bond will pay out the damaged party and collect reimbursement from the contractor.
The required bond amount for California contractor license bonds is $25,000. Contractors do not need to pay the entire bond amount but rather a small premium (a percentage of the total amount). The surety company issuing the bond determines the premium based on the contractor’s industry experience, credit score, and other factors.
If you select a limited liability company (LLC) as the business designation on your application, you’ll need to post a $100,000 surety bond along with the $25,000 contractor bond.
Contractors also have the option to place a $25,000 cash deposit in place of the bond.
**Effective January 1st, 2023, the CA Contractor License Bond, Bond of Qualifying Individual, and Contractors Disciplinary Bond will increase to a $25,000 bond amount as a result of Senate Bill 607. This post has been updated to reflect that.**
How much does a contractor license cost in California?
The California contractor license includes a $450 application fee. There is also a $32 DOJ processing fee for the live fingerprint scan as well as a $17 FBI fee.
The cost of your California contractor license bond will vary on an individual basis.
Contractors must pay a $450 renewal fee to keep their license active. All licenses are valid for two years from the issue date. If you do not renew the license prior to the expiration date, the renewal fee increases to $675.
Get your California contractor license bond online with EZ Surety
When you’re ready to get your California contractors license, EZ Surety can offer you a free online quote for your contractor surety bond. We provide competitive premiums and quick turnarounds for individuals of all financial standings. Get in touch today to learn more.