“A” vs “B”, License Exemptions for Sales & Installations

Demolishing misunderstanding while building real knowledge of contractor license law is the idea here.  Two contractors’ today show why not being correct is truly not an option…

Q: Am I inaccurate with regards to my company having the “A” (General Engineering) License versus the “B” (General Building) license? The issue has come up and we need to get clarification.  Our understanding was that Class “A” was the highest we could get and that it would cover “B” activities.  Please advise if this is or is not the case.

A:  Actually that is not a true or accurate statement.  Unlike ranks, as in the military, one license classification is not “higher” than any of the others they just allow you to perform different types of work.  The “A” license is General Engineering and it allows you to perform heavy construction such as highways, roads, streets, sewage systems, power plants, parks and other recreational areas, excavating, trenching, etc.

The “B” license allows you to construct and build any type of structure from the ground-up such as residential homes, office buildings, retail spaces, etc.  With the “B” or General Building license you must be doing at least two unrelated trades on the same job.

There are certain instances where a General Engineering project will include some “B” work, such as construction of power plant that would also have some structural buildings on site.  The “A” contractor would be permitted to construct the buildings, even without holding a “B” classification, since it is part of the overall General Engineering contract.


Q:  My question involves exemption from the State’s licensing requirements.  If our company installs communication equipment (including satellite internet) on private structures are we required to hold a contractor’s license?  I was reading the CA license law book and discovered code section 7045 which says, “this chapter does not apply to the sale or installation of any finished products…that do not become a fixed part of the structure…” Since, in theory, anything we install can be removed from the building at a later date, do we really need a contractor’s license?

A: B&P Code Sections 7040 – 7054.5 address a wide variety of exemptions from the CA license law.  For instance, these include license exemptions for public utilities regulated by the PUC if they’re working on their own property (7042.1); a home owner who builds or improves a structure on his or her property (7042.1); and “any person registered under Chapter 20 if that person’s activities consist only of installing satellite antenna systems on residential structures or property” (7054.5).


I believe the primary function of the Code section you quoted –7045 – is its application “to a material supplier or manufacturer furnishing finished products, materials, or articles of merchandise who does not install or contract for the installation of those items”.  The CSLB would very likely rule that simply because you install communication equipment on a building which can “in theory” be removed years later would not entitle you to an exemption from licensure.

For example, a person purchasing drapes or awnings or wallpaper or metal gutters who will not be installing these products would be exempt from licensing.  On the other hand, the person who is installing these same products would be required to have a “C-61” license.   You could make an argument that each of these may be temporary and subject to removal; however, you would still need the proper license (assuming the job is $500 or more).  Likewise, installing communication equipment such as satellite dish antennas or cell receivers, would fall within the State’s licensing law

I would strongly recommend that you apply for a “C-7” (Low Voltage Systems).  While in theory you might ultimately be able to make your argument stick in an administrative hearing or court of law, do you really want to take that chance?