a man sanding a piece of wood. featured image for a blog post about how to get the C-6 license for cabinet making, millwork and finish carpentry contractors in california

What is A C6 License?

Men using a saw at large woodworking shop

The C-6 License is the classification required in the state of California for all contractors looking to bid on residential and commercial finish carpentry projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.

Projects may include: 

  • Chairs
  • Couches
  • Staircases
  • Doors and Tables
  • Shelvings
  • Stairs, Baseboards and Hang Windows

A cabinet, millwork and finish carpentry contractor makes cabinets, cases, sashes, doors, trims, nonbearing partitions and other items of "finish carpentry" by cutting, surfacing, joining, gluing and fabricating wood or other products to provide a functional surface.

This contractor also places, erects, and finishes such cabinets and millwork in structures. - CSLB.GOV

Functional cabinetry, tables, and chairs are found in virtually every residential home.

Finish Carpenters are often paid top dollar to produce customized pieces as well as common household wood products.

Duties Associated with the C-6 License

Finish carpentry contractors engage in a wide range of projects. Some of their daily job site duties can include:

  • Using Glue and Mastics
  • Ordering Materials
  • Reading Blueprints
  • Inspection
  • Paint and Stain Finish Work

Finish Carpentry Subcontractor

A finish carpentry contractor holding the C-6 License may work directly with a client or homeowner to complete a very specific project.

However, they can also work with a General Contractor as part of a larger construction or remodel job. 

General Contractors may sub out the finish carpentry and millwork to a C-6 licensed contractor who has their own shop. 

The prime contractor ensures that the finish carpentry process is not only executed up to code but often times to the specific request of the client.

Check out this article for a deeper look at the General Contractor License!

How To Get A C-6 License In California

To Get A C-6 License In California you must meet the following requirements:

  • Be At least 18 Years of Age
  • Have a Valid Driver's License or USA Issued Identification
  • Have a Social Security or ITIN #
  • check
    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 State Board Asks

Journeyman Level Experience

various woodworking tools, pencils and rulers with wood shavings and dust on top of wood panels

Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for a construction company, a contractor that holds the C-6 License, or Union.

  • A journeyman finish carpenter can perform all of the duties associated with cabinet making, millwork and finish carpentry.

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

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

  • Licensed General Contractor
  • C-6 License Holder
  • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
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    Current or former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
  • check
    Business Associate
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    Fellow Journeyman
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    Union Representative

Proving Your Work Experience for C-6 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 but 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.

How to fill out the C-6 License Application

The person you choose to be your qualifying individual will need to write a detailed description of your knowledge and skillset.

The CSLB is strict on how this description has to be written. 

For example:

“Ricardo has done finish carpentry for many years”  will not be accepted

 The CSLB will want to see: 


"Ricardo has installed, erected and finished cabinets, cupboards, counters, stairs, baseboards trim, paint & stained, used glues and mastics" etc.

Application Processing, Time Frame 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 
Application Costs for the C-6 License

The Current CSLB fees are: 

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

man with handcuffs on

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-6 License.

Thousands of contractors get licensed and bonded each year despite their criminal records.

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.

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. 

Contractor License Exam: C-6 license

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)

Trade exam

The Cabinet, Millwork, and Finish Carpentry (C-6 License) Examination is divided into four sections:

1. Planning and Estimation (20%)

  • Planning cabinetry and millwork projects
  • Estimating cabinetry and millwork projects

2. Cabinetry and Millwork Fabrication (20%)

  • Milling cabinetry and millwork
  • Assembling cabinetry and millwork
  • Storing cabinetry and millwork
  • Transporting cabinetry and millwork

3. Cabinet Installation (24%)

  • Demolishing old cabinets
  • Identifying possible hazardous materials
  • Job site preparation
  • Installing cabinets
  • Finishing cabinets

4. Millwork Installation (18%)

  • Installing millwork
  • Installing stairs and mantels
  • Refacing cabinets and millwork
  • Installing windows and doors

5. Safety (18%)

  • Personnel safety
  • Job site safety
  • Recycling and disposing of materials


For 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
  • 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 Finish Carpentry Contractor License exam?

C-6 Contractors License Practice Tests and Study Guides

a modern kitchen with wooden cabinets
  • 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

Contractor License Practice Exams

Thousands of tradesman apply each year to take the contractor license exam. 

Most are startled by how different the subject matter on the state exam is from their years of first-hand experience. 

Be as prepared as you possibly can. Utilize practice tests

Studying just 10 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-6 License exam. 

Finish Carpentry Apprenticeship

A carpenter finish a piece of wood

If you don’t have the four years required journeyman level experience to obtain the C-6 License, not to worry.

Your journey begins here!

Construction is a trillion-dollar industry and highly skilled tradesman are always in demand.

Whether you are completely new or have some home carpentry experience already, there are resources available to you.  

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!

Blue Print Reading Course

A metallic ruler and black pen laying on top of a sample construction blueprint. Finish carpenters looking to get the C-6 License must know how to read blueprints

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

Having the ability to interpret the ideas that an architect is trying to communicate through blue prints is very valuable.

Blueprint Reading Skills are also critical to pass the C-6 license exam. 

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

EPA Certification

logo of the Environmental Protection agency. finish carpenters working in a residential setting should know how to contain lead paint

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

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

Becoming EPA Certified can help you expand your business 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.

Handyman License in California?

The term Handyman may refer to a non-licensed individual who offers household repair services including:

  • Fixing a broken toilet
  • Leaky Faucets
  • Replacing Doors
  • Mowing Lawns
  • Yard work 
  • Replacing Windows

 as well as potentially hundreds of other tasks. To learn more about handyman laws in California, click here!

Conclusion

Getting the C-6 Finish 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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