how to get your C-21 license for California demolition contractors looking to get registered with the CSLB

C-21 License: Full Guide for Demolition Contractors

Table of Contents

How to get a Demolition License

To get a C-21 license in California, you must prove a minimum of 4 years of journeyman level experience and pass a two-part state exam with the Contractor State License Board.

To qualify for an exam date 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 #
  • Not Currently be on probation or parole

You must also have:

  • 4 Years Journey Level Experience
  • A Qualifying Individual to sign off on your experience
  • A way to prove your experience if the state asks for documentation

What is Journeyman Level Experience?

Man with a yellow an orange hard hat, glasses, debris mask and ear protection smashing a wall with a sledge hammer

Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for a demolition company, or contractor that holds the C-21 License.

  • A journeyman can perform all of the duties associated with his or her trade.

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 of a Qualifying Individual

The following people may be used as Qualifying Individuals to sign off on your experience when applying for the demolition contractor license:

  • Licensed General Contractor or Engineering Contractor
  • C-21 License Holder
  • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
  • Current or Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
  • Business Associate
  • Fellow Journeyman
  • Union Representative

Documenting Your Work Experience for the Demolition License

Demolition contractor overseeing a bulldozer destroy a brick building

  • 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.

Filling out the C-21 License Application

Your Qualifying Individual will also need to provide a brief but detailed description of your knowledge and skillset. The way this description is written will be critical to whether or not your application is accepted.

For example:

“Fred has overseen various demolition projects”  will not cut it be accepted by the CSLB

 The state board will want to see a description like: 

Fred has operated heavy equipment including cranes, bulldozers, and graders. He has identified electrical and sewer connections before demolition, removed asbestos, has done excavating and underpinning” etc.

Online Practice Exams and Study Guides

What is a C-21 Demolition Contractor?

“A building moving/demolition contractor raises, lowers, cribs, underpins, demolishes and moves or removes structures, including their foundations. This classification does not include the alterations, additions, repairs or rehabilitation of the permanently retained portions of such structures” CSLB.GOV

C-21 Building, Moving, and Demolition Contractors specialize in safely raising, lowering, moving, or removing a structure including its foundation.

  • Demolition Contractors play a critical role in the safety of a construction site as well as the surrounding area where demolition is taking place.

  • It is in the best interest of anyone looking to demolish or move home to have this done by a professional as the legal and financial liability can be enormous if executed incorrectly.

  • In the state of California, safety and environmental protection are strictly regulated. There is a massive opportunity for any demolition professional that holds the C-21 license and bonding. 

The C-21 License is the classification required in the state of California for all persons looking to bid on the moving or demolition of any residential, commercial, or industrial dwelling where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.

Duties of a Demolition Contractor

Demolition Contractors engage in a wide variety of duties that include:

  • Site preparation, demolition of structures, disposal and clean-up 
  • Operating machinery including: Jackhammers, bulldozers, backhoes, cranes, and graders
  • Building transportation and raising
  • Excavation
  • Maintaining job site safety 
  • Evaluating plans, estimation, bidding and accounting
Demolition of a building

To get the C-21 license, you will be tested on all aspects of demolition and job site safety so it will be essential to your success to become familiar with all the areas of expertise that fall under the demolition license.

The C-21 license allows contractors to engage in projects as simple deconstructing a barn to demolishing a multi-story building in the heart of a metropolitan city.

C-21 License and the General Contractor

Man demolishing a wall with protective gear and a helmat

In some cases, a demolition contractor that holds the C-21 license may work directly with a homeowner or small business owner.

However, they may primarily function as a sub to a general contractor or general engineering continually engaging in demolition for multiple projects over an extended period.

General Contractors oversee that the C-21 Licensed Subcontractor has not only executed his duties with adherence to safety standards avoiding any possible legal liability that could arise from damage to property surrounding the demolition site. 

Check out these articles, to learn more about getting a General Contractor License or General Engineering License.


The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is the governing body for all contractors in the state of California.

Their sole responsibility is to protect the consumer public and ensure that anyone charging over $500 for construction services is qualified and registered with the state of California.

The C-21 License is issued to demolition contractors by the CSLB.

The CSLB administers applications, exams, and maintains a database of all active and inactive contractor license numbers which are public domain. Click the link, to learn more about the CSLB.

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 situations where applicants got their test date sooner and somewhere 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-21 License

The Current CSLB fees are: 

Can you get a C-21 License with a Felony in California?

wooden gavel commonly used by judges in court

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting an electrical contractor License. I have personally helped guys with all types of criminal records obtain multiple licenses.

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 are 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. 

Demolition Contractor License Exam

  • 115 Questions of Contractor LAW
  • 115 Questions of Demolition
  • 3 hours to complete each portion
  • Multiple choice exam done on a computer
  • Closed Book

The Building Moving and Demolition Examination is divided into five key sections:

1. Planning and Estimation (33%)

  • Evaluate plans and specifications
  • Develop job methods
  • Perform job-related calculations
  • Evaluate job site readiness

2. Project Preparation (19%)

  • Permitting and notification
  • Preparation to begin a project
  • Mobilization

3. Building Moving (6%)

  • Moving preparation
  • Building raising
  • Building transportation

4. Building Demolition (17%)

  • Pre-demolition site preparation
  • Demolition
  • Disposal and cleanup

5. Safety (25%)

  • Site safety
  • Personnel and equipment

Recommended Courses

What to study for your C-21 demolition license test?

In the above video, we take a quick look at the C-21 license exam contents.

It is very important to remember that in addition to your trade you will also need to pass a law & business exam that will include health and safety questions as well as math concepts.

We have a deep dive into the exam which includes sample questions which you can find here

CSLB Test Locations

Logo of the contractors state license board, an illustration of a paint brush, saw and cement truck. The C21 License for demolition is issued by the CSLB

  • Berkeley
  • Fresno
  • Norwalk
  • San Jose
  • Oxnard
  • Sacramento
  • San Bernardino
  • San Diego

How to become a Demolition Contractor

Getting your demolition contractor license can be a smooth process if you have the right information.

Understanding the difference between how things are done every day on the job site vs. how the state will expect you to perform your trade is a very important part of passing the exam. 

Some things to remember:

  • 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

Demolition Apprenticeship

demolition clean up site. a truck is being loaded with debris

If you don’t have the four years required journeyman level experience to obtain the C-21 Demolition contractor license, not to worry.

Your journey begins here!

Construction is a trillion-dollar industry and highly skilled electricians are always in demand. Whether you are completely new or have some experience already, there are resources available to you.  

Generally, someone looking to become a demolition contractor would want to look into an apprenticeship or certification program.

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

Blue Print Reading Course

a construction blueprint reading course

It is critical for the demolition contractor to be able to follow specific designs and plans when engaging in a demolition project.

A demolition contractor must ensure the safety of the surrounding area during the detonation of explosives, a visual representation of the project site is found on a blueprint.

The ability to quickly interpret construction blueprints is an invaluable skill for all tradesmen but is especially important for demolition contractors.

For a basic overview of Construction, blueprints be sure to check out our Online Blue Print Reading course.

EPA Certification

featured image for a blog post about how to to get the sign installation contractor license

Understanding how to safely contain lead paint when demolishing a structure built before 1978 are also critical skills for contractors looking to get the C-21 license.

Lead paint can travel miles through the air, rest on soil, and even enter air ducts causing potentially fatal damage to those that come in contact with it.

Demolition contractors looking to build a profitable business must position themselves as experts and the authority within their industry.

They must be a source of information beyond just demolition for their clients and community if they want referrals and repeat business.

Learn more about the Lead Safety Certification


Getting your California Demolition license can be a smooth process if you follow the instructions in this blog post. Be sure to check back in the future for updates!