featured image for a blog post about how to get the carpentry license

The Carpentry License

The C-5 license is required for anyone looking to charge over $500 in California for services that include framing or rough carpentry.

Some of these services may include:

  • Sub-Flooring
  • Siding
  • Exterior Staircases
  • Roof Decking and Overhead Doors
  • Supports Structural Integrity of a Building
  • Fundamental phase of the Construction Process
  • Truss Members and Sheathing
  • Framing Residential and Commercial Property
  • Creating Frames for Concrete
  • Cutting, Shaping and Measuring Wood

Duties associated with the Carpentry License

Framing and Rough Carpentry contractors a an essential part of the construction process.

Their duties include:

  • Constructing Decks, Porches, and Gazebos
  • Form Work, Sheathing and Bracing
  • Structural Hardware
  • Sub Flooring
  • Constructing Wood and Metal Frames
  • Maintaining a Safe Job Site
  • Reading Blueprints
  • Ordering Materials
  • Constructing Wooden Fences
  • Pulling Building Permits
  • Constructing Window Frames
  • Creating Invoices and Cost Calculations

Carpentry License Requirements

To receive an exam date with the Contractors State License Board you must meet the following basic requirements:

  • Be at least 18 Years of Age
  • Have a Valid Driver's license or USA Issued Identification
  • Have a Social Security or ITIN #
  • Not Currently be on probation or parole

You must also have:

  • 4 Years Journeyman Level Experience
  • Signature from a Qualifying Individual
  • A way to prove your experience if the CSLB asks

Journeyman Level Experience​

man using an electric sander on a piece of wood

Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for a construction company, a contractor that holds the Carpentry License, or Union.

The CSLB will want to see four full-time years over the last ten years. 

The years do not need to be consecutive, but they do need to be four years in total. 

Signature from A Qualifying Individual

wood frames for a house set up

The following people may be used as Qualifying Individuals to sign off on your experience:

  • Licensed General Contractor
  • C-5 License Holder
  • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
  • Current or Former Supervisor
  • Business Associate
  • Fellow Journeyman
  • Union Representative

Proving your work experience for the Carpentry License

You must be prepared to submit documentation supporting the experience you claim to have.

The Contractors State License Board gives you many ways to prove your experience including:

  • Tax Returns
  • Check Stubs
  • Contracts
  • Material Order Invoices or Receipts

The CSLB  receives thousands of applications per month so there is a good chance they won’t document your experience.

However, if you are one of the applicants that get reviewed you will need to be ready to submit something. 

The CSLB does not accept pictures of projects.

Application Processing, Fees, and Criminal History

The time it takes to get your application processed and assigned a test date fluctuates throughout the year.

Typically you can expect:

  • 6-8 Week Application Processing Time
  • 3-4 Week wait for an Exam date

I have seen some situations where applicants got their test date sooner and some where they got their test date much later.

The most common reasons your application would get held up are:

  1. Time of year (processing time slows down during the holidays) 
  2. Criminal History 
  3. Proving Experience
  4. Mistakes on your application 

License Fees

  • State Application Fee - $330

Can you get a Contractors License with a Felony In California?

wooden gavel

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-5 Carpentry License.

Thousands of contractors get licensed each year despite their criminal record.

The key is to be honest on the application, even if the felony or misdemeanor happened years ago and even if it was expunged.

BE 100% HONEST ON THE APPLICATION, because they will see everything anyway when you do fingerprinting. The CSLB handles criminal records on a case by case basis. 

Remember, their responsibility is to protect the public.

Red Flags for the CSLB

In my experience, they primarily concerned with criminal charges associated with:

  • Fraud
  • Embezzlement 
  • Forgery 

In the state of California, you are required to divulge any criminal charges when applying for any state license even if they have been expunged.

You will need to be prepared to submit anything they ask for regarding your criminal history. 

Carpentry License Exam

Contractor licenses are broken down into four categories:

1) A-General Engineering                            (LAW + TRADE )

2) B-General Building                                     (LAW + TRADE)

3) C-Specialty Classes                                    (LAW + TRADE)

4) ​C-61/D- Limited Specialty                     (LAW TEST ONLY)

The C-5 Carpentry License Exam consists of two parts:

Trade portion of the exam

The C-5 license Examination is divided into four major sections:

1. Planning and Estimation (27%)

  • Project planning
  • Blueprints, specifications, and shop/field drawings
  • Three-dimensional drawings
  • Estimation
  • Math related to estimation

2. Structural Framing (36%)

  • Formwork
  • Load and span
  • Bracing
  • Shear and diaphragm
  • Structural hardware
  • Wood and metal framing

3. General framing (21%)

  • Flashing and weatherproofing
  • Siding, roofing, and flooring
  • Doors, windows, and stairs
  • Fences, decks, porches, and gazebos
  • Squaring and leveling
  • Access and ventilation
  • Materials, tools, and equipment

4. Safety (18%)

  • Cal/OSHA requirements
  • EPA and AQMD regulations
  • Asbestos and environmental hazards
  • Transportation and traffic control


For C-5 contractor license exam prep resources, click here

CSLB Test Locations

Logo of the contractors state license board, image features a paint brush, hand saw and cement truck with the letters CSLB above in white

The Contractors State License Board currently has testing locations in the following cities:

  • Berkeley
  • Fresno
  • Norwalk
  • San Jose
  • Oxnard
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego
  • You have 18 months after your application is accepted to pass both examinations
  • You must wait 3 weeks to re-take the exam. ($60 Per Re-take)
  • You must score 70% or more

What is on the Law & Business portion of the Framing and Rough Carpentry License exam?

Learn more about the LAW portion of the contractor license test!

California Contractor License Exam Prep

a contractor sawing a large plank of wood
  • The questions you will see on the exam may use outdated terms
  • Processes may be completely different from how things are done on the job site
  • You will see questions about things you may have never done before
  • Questions will be presented to you as if you are running a large scale construction business with several employees and jobs happening all at once. 
  • Know all aspects of your trade

Be as prepared as you possibly can. Utilize online practice exams.

Studying just 15 mintues a day consistently can dramatically increase your chances of passing the test on your first try.

Focus on and study ONLY the information that you need to pass the C-5 License exam. 

Carpentry Apprenticeship

wood shop with various tools hanging on a wall

Generally someone looking to become a carpenter would want to look into an apprenticeship program or work under a master wood worker.

For a detailed explanation on this process, check out my article: Apprentice vs Journeyman

an image of a construction blueprint with a yellow pencil and wooden ruler. Blueprint reading is a major skill required of anyone looking to get the carpentry license

Being able to identify symbols, drawings, and specs on construction blueprints is a vital skill for carpentry contractors.

For contractors engaging in framing, finish carpentry, or any structural work having the ability to interpret the ideas an architect is trying to communicate are critical. 

Carpentry contractors that aspire to hold a General Contractor License in the future will surely want to make sure their blue print reading skills are up to par.  

Check out this Blue Print Reading Course for a basic introduction to the concepts you will want to know about.

Understanding how to safely contain lead-based paint when altering structures built before 1978 is required by the Environmental Protection Agency

The most profitable contractors are ones that position themselves as the experts and are the most knowledgable and helpful to their clients. 

Logo of the EPA
Stay Compliant and get Certified

Becoming EPA Certified is a requirement for carpentry contractors and can be completed in a one day, 8 hour course.

Staying EPA compliant is not only important to the survival of your business but also the safety of your customers.

 For a complete guide on how to get the EPA Certification, check out this article.

OSHA Safety Certification

Statistically, 21% of all work-related fatalities are in construction.

That equals about 1 and 5 worker deaths on average. In the construction industry, the leading cause of worker deaths is reported as:

  • Falls
  • Struck by an object
  • Electrocution
  • Caught-in/Between

Framing and carpentry contractors have dangerous jobs, especially if those doing the work are not properly trained. 

Learn more about getting an OSHA Safety Certification!

Conclusion

Getting the C-5 Carpentry License can be a huge step up in your career if you are looking to open your own shop, take on larger clients, or become an RMO!

The key is to take action and follow these steps from beginning to end.

If you have found this article helpful feel free to drop a comment below and be sure to check back for updates!

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