Contractor Licensing

Contractor Licensing - Classifications of Licensing

Contractors' licenses are classified according to the kind of work that is done. The authority to classify the license has already been discussed. However, the courts have sometimes questioned and overruled the Board's regulations and interpretations. Essentially, licenses are classified as follows:

a. General Engineering Contractor ("A")

General Engineering Contractors do fixed work requiring specialized engineering knowledge and skill. They do work such as irrigation, drainage, water power, flood control, docks, shipyards, railroads, highways, etc. It should be noted that the word "persons" is not included in the description of the structures built by a general engineering contractor. The word "persons" is included under the definitions of structures built by a general building contractor. Therefore, the Contractors' State License Board has held that the structures being built by general engineering contractors cannot be structures that are intended to house persons.

An appellate court did not agree with this interpretation, stating that whether the structure houses persons is immaterial. The issue was whether the structure required specialized engineering skill and knowledge.

b. General Building Contractor ("B")

As a result of recent legislation which became effective January 1, 1998, a "B", general building contractor, can contract to take a project that requires in its construction two or more unrelated trades; however, in counting those two or more trades, one cannot count framing or carpentry. That is to say that a "B" cannot take a contract for only framing and plumbing. That is because in counting the number of trades, you would only count plumbing.

Despite what is stated above, a "B" can take a contract to do any single trade if the "B" subcontracts it to a properly licensed subcontractor.

c. Specialty Contractor ("C")

A specialty contractor is a contractor whose operation requires specific skill and knowledge in a particular craft or trade. A listing of the specialty contractors can be found on the CSLB website at

Contractors are prohibited from working in a classification unless they are licensed in that classification, or unless that work is incidental and supplemental to the work they are licensed to do. The definition of what is "incidental" and "supplemental" work has been an area of much confusion, and has been heavily litigated. The Board has determined that "incidental" and "supplemental" means that the work must be essential to the specialty of the contractor's license rather than the specialty of the project itself. This interpretation seems ludicrous. It means that a swimming pool contractor is not allowed to build a fence even though it is necessary to the project. This is because it is not necessary to the craft.

As of this writing, the issue of classification and regulation is being studied by the CSLB. Stay tuned.

Contractor Licensing - Probationary License

Every original license, except an additional classification, is a probationary license. The significance here is that the Registrar may issue an Order to Show Cause why the probationary license should not be revoked. This is different from filing an accusation to suspend or revoke a license. Further, a probationary license may not be renewed while a proceeding is pending. This is not true with respect to a license that is not a probationary license, which is the subject of an accusation.

The next two items, although not technically licenses, deal with another requirement in order to do work.

Contractor Licensing - Home Improvement Salesperson Registration

A Home Improvement Salesperson is one who is employed by a contractor to solicit, sell, negotiate or execute home improvement contracts or swimming pool contracts. In order to work as a Home Improvement Salesperson, a Home Improvement Salesperson must be registered and the registration must list the name of the contractor who employs the salesperson. A Home Improvement Salesperson can be employed by more than one contractor, so long as he or she is registered with each one.

An officer of a corporation, or the owner of any contracting company who is licensed, need not register as a Home Improvement Salesperson. Further, anyone whose sales are made pursuant to prior negotiation or buyer initiated service repair or emergency repair, need not be registered as a Home Improvement Salesperson.

Contractor Licensing - Certification

Again, this is technically not a license. In 1986, the Legislature passed statutes that required anyone who disturbed asbestos of 100 square feet or more, to be registered and pass an examination. Since then, the Board added a certification requirement for working with hazardous substances and removing of underground storage tanks.

This method of "licensure" is unique in that it crosses crafts or trades. The reasoning is that different crafts could run into the disturbance of asbestos and hazardous substances, etc. How else would you classify which trade would do that? The answer was that any trade could continue to do the same work that they were already doing. However, they would require an additional certification. In order to obtain certification, one must take an examination showing competence in the area.

It should be remembered that the certification does not allow one to perform work that he or she was not licensed to do before. However, it does allow people to continue work that they were doing previously, and in conjunction with that work, do work requiring a certification.

Visit the Contractor's State License Board web site at: