Fire Sprinklers, Electrical Signs & Scam Warning

An eternal question requires the ‘wisdom of the ages’ to answer. With only 30 years experience helping contractors I’ll give it my best shot. You will also ‘witness’ some expert assistance as a contractor battles a city over their license classification. We wind up with a warning to all contractors about a new wrinkle in a ‘scam’ I’ve alerted you to in past years…

Q: I understand there are new requirements for installing fire sprinklers. This is an area I would like to expand into; however, when I called the CSLB they said I would need 4 years experience to qualify before taking the “C-16” exam. I have a plumbing license but I’m not allowed to install fire sprinklers so how do I get the experience?

Beginning January 1, 2011, an automatic fire sprinkler system will be mandatory in all new one and two-family dwellings throughout the state. This is in line with the 2009 International Building, Fire and Residential Code, and comes from modifications to the California Building Code through the State Building Standards Commission.

The CSLB has issued a warning to “A” General Engineering, “B” General Building, and “C-36” Plumbing contractors that only the “C-16” Fire Protection classification is legally permitted to lay out, fabricate or install fire protection systems. The new residential code does not affect home remodel, only new construction; however, I understand there are currently about 100 local ordinances related to residential fire sprinklers so it would be a good idea to check with your local jurisdiction before beginning any projects.

This is an ‘ages-old’ question; How do I get the experience if I cannot perform the type of work required by the State? Unless you have been installing fire sprinkler systems with your “C-36” or have been working full time for 4 of the prior 10 years for a “C-16” contractor, you may want to consider a partnership or joint venture with a licensed fire sprinkler contractor.

Q: A City is questioning our ability to install electrical signs with a “C-10” license. They are also separately questioning the manufacturing of electrical signs without the “C-45” explicitly stated on our license. What is covered with the “C-10”?

A: As my company is often called on as an “Expert Witness” when the complex rules of licensing wind up in court, I have heard this type of question many times. According to the CSLB, a “C-10” (Electrical) contractor can perform all “C-45” (Electrical Sign) work. This being said, you’re not required to have a contractor’s license to simply manufacture the signs. A license is only necessary if installing, erecting or servicing the signs. The City may be confused since the definition for the “C-45” uses the word “fabricates” but this does not mean you need a license if only handling the “fabrication” (i.e. manufacturing). The installation is what triggers the need for this classification.

Readers of my column may recall that in 2009 and 2010, I issued a warning not to fall for a scam whereby companies were sending bogus Information Statements to file for the CA Secretary of State. Well, now according to the CSLB and Better Business Bureau, these companies have reportedly been doing the same thing with some CSLB renewals.

The Contractors Board sends renewal notices to a contractor’s address of record approx. 60 days before it is due to expire. If you have not received your renewal or suspect that you’ve been sent a fraudulent form, contact the CSLB or call my office (866-443-0657) for help.