General California Contractors

Attention! I will address some “general” questions for the troops. At ease! We brief contractors and conquer some misconceptions about the General Building license and how it can be used. Another contractor wants his son to take a big ‘stride forward’ to follow his father’s footsteps. However, we all learn that getting started may be tougher than they thought…

Q: I have a General Building (“B”) license and want to start a new company using the word “mechanical”. You wrote me a letter stating that the Contractors Board would not allow this. Why?

A: The CSLB has a policy, which specifies that only 5 classifications will be allowed to use the “mechanical” designation in their business name. These include: “C-4” (Boiler); “C-20” (HVAC); “C-36” (Plumbing); “C-38” (Refrigeration) and the “A” (General Engineering). While the “B” can handle much of the work in these specialty classes, the Board will not allow a company to use the word mechanical without one of these classifications being on the license.

Q: I have a General Building license. I recently was awarded a job where I intend on sub contracting most of the work. One of the other bidders complained that I was not self-performing enough work. Is there somewhere in the law that states which trades I can (or must) handle in-house and which I can sub out?

A: Other than the “C-16” (fire protection) and “C-57” (well drilling) classifications, there are very few restrictions. As a General Builder, you can choose to self-perform all trades; partially handle some and sub out others; or sub contract all work on a project. The other bidder is just ‘shadow boxing’, or like The Man of La Mancha, Don Quixote, he’s ‘tilting at windmills’ in seeing a battle where none exists.

Q: I’m a licensed “C-27” (landscape) contractor. I recently became a Responsible Managing Employee (RME) in a general contracting firm with the intention of getting my son licensed to qualify my corporation. My son who is 19 (but has worked for me for years) spoke with the CSLB and they said it might take 6 to 9 month for him to get licensed. Can I somehow get another license for me so I can continue my family business?

A: I think it will take quite a bit longer for your son to qualify for his own license. In my 27 years of handling applications I have never seen or heard of the CSLB granting a license to a 19 year old. In fact, just once have I even seen anyone under age 21 qualify a license. Your son can always apply; but expect the application to ultimately be denied (after 6-9 months).

Applicants are required to show 4 years of journeyman level (or above) experience in order to qualify to sit for an exam. Since it’s assumed that the applicant does not start from day one as a journeyman, he or she would need at least one year of apprenticeship training. The CSLB also does not normally count experience obtained as a teenager (assuming they are still in high school until age 18 and at best working part time).

In the meantime, if your priority is to continue your family business with your son on the license, you’ll need to remove yourself as qualifier of the General contracting firm. You can then add your son as an officer to your own corporation. The Board will not allow you to be RME on one license while also qualifying a second license.