In California, the Contractors’ State License Board tests and issues licenses for individuals and businesses to perform construction work.
The following is an excerpt from the Contractors’ State License Board website describing when a license is required and some of the risks associated with working with an unlicensed contractor:
In California, anyone who contracts to perform work on a project that is valued at $500 or more for labor and materials must hold a current, valid license from the CSLB. You can verify the license at www.cslb.ca.gov or call 1-800-321-CSLB (2752).
Doing business with an unlicensed contractor can pose a risk to you, for example, if a worker is injured while on your property, if your property is damaged, if the work is incomplete and/or faulty. Few, if any, unlicensed individual has bonding or workers’ compensation insurance. The quality of their work usually doesn’t compare to that of a licensed contractor. Don’t take the chance in order to save a few dollars. You’ll probably end up paying more in the long run.
The CSLB licenses contractors in 43 different classifications that ranges from general contractors to swimming pool contractors, landscapers, painters, electricians, plumbers and many more. It will be easier to decide the right type of contractor if you carefully plan your project in advance and clearly define what you want done to your property.
Understanding the difference between a general and specialty contractor.
General building contractors usually oversee projects and coordinate the licensed subcontractors for a job. Specialty or subcontractors are usually hired to perform a single job. For example, if you want only roofing or plumbing work, you may want to hire a contractor licensed in that particular specialty.
A general building contractor may also contract for specialty work, but must hold a specialty license for that work or actually have a specialty contractor do the work. The only exception is if the job requires more than two types of work on a building. Then it is appropriate for a licensed general building contractor to contract for and oversee the entire project. For example, if your kitchen remodeling will involve plumbing, electrical and carpentry work under one contract, you should hire a licensed general building contractor. Under these circumstances, a general building contractor may perform all of the work on a building, or subcontract parts of the job to contractors with specialty licenses.
Below are the specific license classifications authorized to do solar work and their license descriptions:
C46 – Solar Contractor
A solar contractor installs, modifies, maintains, and repairs thermal and photovoltaic solar energy systems.
A licensee classified in this section shall not undertake or perform building or construction trades, crafts, or skills, except when required to install a thermal or photovoltaic solar energy system.
General Engineering Contractor (A)
A general engineering contractor is a contractor whose principal contracting business is in connection with fixed works requiring specialized engineering knowledge and skill, including the following divisions or subjects: irrigation, drainage, water power, water supply, flood control, inland waterways, harbors, docks and wharves, shipyards and ports, dams and hydroelectric projects, levees, river control and reclamation works, railroads, highways, streets and roads, tunnels, airports and airways, sewers and sewage disposal plants and systems, waste reduction plants, bridges, overpasses, underpasses and other similar works, pipelines and other systems for the transmission of petroleum and other liquid or gaseous substances, parks, playgrounds and other recreational works, refineries, chemical plants and similar industrial plants requiring specialized engineering knowledge and skill, powerhouses, power plants and other utility plants and installations, mines and metallurgical plants, land leveling and earthmoving projects, excavating, grading, trenching, paving and surfacing work and cement and concrete works in connection with the above mentioned fixed works
General Building Contractor (B)
Except as provided in this section, a general building contractor is a contractor whose principal contracting business is in connection with any structure built, being built, or to be built, for the support, shelter, and enclosure of persons, animals, chattels, or movable property of any kind, requiring in its construction the use of at least two unrelated building trades or crafts, or to do or superintend the whole or any part thereof.
This does not include anyone who merely furnishes materials or supplies under Section 7045 without fabricating them into, or consuming them in the performance of the work of the general building contractor.
(b) A general building contractor may take a prime contract or a subcontract for a framing or carpentry project. However, a general building contractor shall not take a prime contract for any project involving trades other than framing or carpentry unless the prime contract requires at least two unrelated building trades or crafts other than framing or carpentry, or unless the general building contractor holds the appropriate license classification or subcontracts with an appropriately licensed specialty contractor to perform the work. A general building contractor shall not take a subcontract involving trades other than framing or carpentry, unless the subcontract requires at least two unrelated trades or crafts other than framing or carpentry, or unless the general building contractor holds the appropriate license classification. The general building contractor may not count framing or carpentry in calculating the two unrelated trades necessary in order for the general building contractor to be able to take a prime contract or subcontract for a project involving other trades.
(c) No general building contractor shall contract for any project that includes the “C-16″ Fire Protection classification as provided for in Section 7026.12 or the “C-57″ Well Drilling classification as provided for in Section 13750.5 of the Water Code, unless the general building contractor holds the specialty license, or subcontracts with the appropriately licensed specialty contractor.
Note that there is an additional provision applicable to certain license classifications: Solar System Work Within Scope of Class A, Class B, and Class C-61 (Swimming Pool Maintenance)
(a) The phrase “in connection with fixed works requiring specialized engineering knowledge and skill” in Section 7056 of the Business and Professions Code shall include but not be limited to an active solar energy system.
(b) An active solar energy system constitutes use of more than two unrelated building trades or crafts within the meaning of Section 7057 of the Business and Professions Code.
(c) C-61 (Swimming Pool Maintenance Contractors) currently holding the SC-44 supplemental solar classification may continue to perform solar work authorized by Class SC-44 until one year after the implementation of the C-46 Solar Classification. Thereafter, classification C-61 (Swimming Pool Maintenance) is authorized to repair active solar heating systems for swimming pools.
(California Code of Regulation 832.62, Authority cited: Sections 7008 and 7059, Business and Professions Code. Reference: Sections 7056, 7057 and 7058, Business and Professions Code.)
C10 – Electrical Contractor
An electrical contractor places, installs, erects or connects any electrical wires, fixtures, appliances, apparatus, raceways, conduits, solar photovoltaic cells or any part thereof, which generate, transmit, transform or utilize electrical energy in any form or for any purpose.
C20 – Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor
A warm-air heating, ventilating and air-conditioning contractor fabricates, installs, maintains, services and repairs warm-air heating systems and water heating heat pumps, complete with warm-air appliances; ventilating systems complete with blowers and plenum chambers; air-conditioning systems complete with air-conditioning unit; and the ducts, registers, flues, humidity and thermostatic controls and air filters in connection with any of these systems. This classification shall include warm-air heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems which utilize solar energy.
C36 – Plumbing Contractor
A plumbing contractor provides a means for a supply of safe water, ample in volume and of suitable temperature for the purpose intended and the proper disposal of fluid waste from the premises in all structures and fixed works. This classification includes but is not limited to:
(a) Complete removal of waste from the premises or the construction and connection of on-site waste disposal systems;
(b) Piping, storage tanks and venting for a safe and adequate supply of gases and liquids for any purpose, including vacuum, compressed air and gases for medical, dental, commercial and industrial uses;
(c) All gas appliances, flues and gas connections for all systems including suspended space heating units. This does not include forced warm air units;
(d) Water and gas piping from the property owner’s side of the utility meter to the structure or fixed works;
(e) Installation of any type of equipment to heat water, or fluids, to a temperature suitable for the purposes listed in this section, including the installation of solar equipment for this purpose; and
(f) The maintenance and replacement of all items described above and all health and safety devices such as, but not limited to, gas earthquake valves, gas control valves, back flow preventors, water conditioning equipment and regulating valves.
C53 – Swimming Pool Contractor
A swimming pool contractor constructs swimming pools, spas or hot tubs, including installation of solar heating equipment using those trades or skills necessary for such construction.