how to pass your C-23 ornamental metals contractor license examination california

C-23 License: Ornamental Metals Contractor

Table of Contents

Ornamental Metal Contractors are highly skilled craftsman who specialize in Metal:

  • Cutting 
  • Forging 
  • Fabricating
  • Welding and Shaping 

Ornamental metal contractors are often referred to as:

  • Metalworks Contractors
  • Metal Fabricators

There is a huge opportunity in this space for anyone who has the required experience, licensing, and bonding. Ornamental metal contractors are often referred to as metalworks contractors or metal fabricators.

Many of these tradesmen will spend a lifetime perfecting and honing their skills as this particular trade can involve a lot of customization and knowledge of various types of metals. 

This article will break down everything you need to know to get the C-23 License.

What Is an Ornamental Metals Contractor?

a highly detailed metal gate with bending metal features and a lions head

An ornamental metals contractor assembles, casts, cuts, shapes, stamps, forges, welds, fabricates and installs, sheet, rolled and cast, brass, bronze, copper, cast iron, wrought iron, monel metal, stainless steel, steel, and/or any other metal for the architectural treatment and ornamental decoration of structures. This classification does not include the work of a sheet metal contractorCSLB.GOV

  • The C-23 License is the classification that is a requirement for anyone looking to bid on metal works projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500. 
  • A Metal Contractor that holds the C-23 license is legally is not allowed to bid on a project that falls outside of the spectrum of fabrication or repair of ornamental metals.

Typical Duties of a Metal Contractor

Metalworkers can vary based on their particular area of expertise but generally, their duties:

  • Design and fabrication of filing cabinets, railings, grills, jail cells, window guards, etc.
  • Metal Fabrication, Cutting, Assembly, and Repair
  • Estimation, bidding, accounting
  • Troubleshooting, ordering materials, reading blueprints, Cost Calculation
  • Using Design Software Auto-Cad, Solid Edge, and Auto Sketch
  • Welding, cutting, shaping, and forging various types of metals
  • Maintaining a safe job-site
  • Using various types of design software

The C-23 license does not include steel fabrication or sheet metal.

To get the C-23 License you will be tested on all aspects of metalwork, so you will want to make sure you are familiar with all aspects of your trade.

Jobs You Can Do With a C-23 License!

C-23 License and the General Contractor

a metal contractor using ornamental metal design software in a shop

Metalworks Contractors that hold the C-23 license can work in a variety of settings. They could be hired by a homeowner to execute a customized piece.

They may also be subcontracted by a General Contractor who has placed a bid on a project that includes some kind of elaborate metal job.

The General Contractor would oversee the subcontractors and make sure their jobs are being executed to code.

Check out this article for an in-depth look at the General Contractor License


Contractors State License Board logo. Illustration of a paint brush, saw and cement truck

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-23 License is issued to metalworks contractors by the CSLB.

The CSLB administers applications and exams. They also maintain a database of all active and inactive contractor license numbers which are public domain. 

How to get the C-23 License

To get a C-23 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 #
  • Not Currently on probation or parole

You must also have:

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

What is Journey Level Experience?

A metal contractor wearing a protective mask, welding a large metal piece in a shop

Journeyman-level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full-time for a metal works company, or for a contractor that holds the C-23 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 Certifier

The following people may be used as a certifier to sign off on your experience when applying for the C-23 license:

  • Licensed General Contractor
  • C-23 License Holder
  • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
  • Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
  • Business Associate
  • Fellow Journeyman
  • Union Representative

Filling out the C-23 License Application

Your Qualifying Individual will also need to provide a brief but detailed description of your knowledge and skill set.

The way this description is written will be critical to whether or not your application is accepted. For example:

“Tim has done many handrails for us” is not descriptive enough for the CSLB

 The CSLB will want to see something like:

Tim has built ornamental iron fences, window guards, fences, gates, fire escapes he has ordered materials, built jail cells, inspected projects, and read” etc.

Work Experience for the C-23 License

metal worker using a machine to cut a large piece of metal, sparks flying

You must be prepared to submit documentation supporting the experience you claim to have. The Contractors State License Board gives you a few ways that you can prove your experience.

  • 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.

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 that 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-23 License

The Current CSLB fees are: 

Can you get a Contractor's License with a Felony in California?

two law books and a wooden gavel. getting the C-23 license requires that you do live scan fingerprinting

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-23 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.

See the CSLB's verbiage below:

Just because you have been convicted of a crime does not automatically mean
your application will be denied. CSLB's Criminal Background Unit (CBU) reviews
all criminal convictions to determine if the crime is substantially related to
the duties, qualifications, and/or functions of a contractor. Since no two
conviction records are the same, they are reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The
criteria used by CSLB include whether the crime shows the present or potential
unfitness of an applicant or licensee to perform the functions authorized by
the license in a manner consistent with the public health, safety, or welfare.
In addition, CSLB reviews and considers any evidence of rehabilitation
submitted by the applicant or licensee. Please see the above link to the
California Code of Regulations sections 868 and 869 for more specific
information on the criteria for determining substantial relationship and

Learn more about the Background Check Process here:

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, and Forgery.

Contractor License Exam

The contractor license exam will be:

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

Recommended Resources

What is on the C-23 Ornamental Metals Exam?

The Ornamental metal (C-23 license) Examination is divided into five major sections:

1. Planning and Estimation (24%)

  • Review project information
  • Design ornamental metal products
  • Evaluating Job Sites
  • Fabrication preparation
  • Cost calculation

2. Fabrication (21%)

  • Cutting Metals
  • Building Jigs
  • Forming metals
  • Welding and Mechanical Applications

3. Installation (21%)

  • Digging Postholes and Installing Posts
  • Fences, Railings, and Gates
  • Staircases, stringers, and Treads
  • Miscellaneous products

4. Finishes and Repairs (14%)

  • Preparation and application
  • Inspecting and repairing

5. Safety (20%)

  • Personnel safety
  • Job site safety
  • Loading and transporting material

CSLB Test Locations

The CSLB has exam centers all over the state of California. Once your
application is approved you will be given a list of locations you can go and
take the exam based on your zip code.

These are proctored facilities with cubicles where you take the exam on a
computer. The computer will have a calculator for your use. You will not be
able to bring in a phone, notes, or personal calculator to the exam center.

Learn more about Contractor License Law

California C-23 license exam prep

a calculator and pencil laying on top of a piece of graph paper

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

I have helped all types of tradesmen from various backgrounds and experience levels get licenses. 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. Studying just 10 minutes 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-23 License exam.


Metal Fabrication Apprenticeships

If you don’t have the 4 years required journeyman-level experience to obtain a C-23 license, not to worry. Your journey begins here.

Ornamental Metalwork is a highly specialized trade with an unlimited amount of opportunity. 

Generally, someone looking to become a metalworks contractor would want to look into an apprenticeship or find a skilled tradesman to learn under. 

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

Blueprint Reading Course

featured image for a blog post about the fundamentals of blue print reading for metal works contractors looking to get the c-23 license

It is critical for metal contractors to be able to follow specific designs and plans.

Design is a large part of the metal fabrication process and being able to comprehend a visual representation of the project is vital. 

Quickly interpreting construction blueprints and executing your duties safely is an invaluable skill for all tradesmen but is especially important for metal contractors. 

Check out our Free Blueprint Reading Course!

EPA Certification

Metalworks contractors working in structures built pre 1978 may encounter 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 plastering contractors are the ones that position themselves as the experts and are the most knowledgeable 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 to the safety of your customers.  

Learn how to get an EPA certification, in 8 hours!


Getting the C-23 License can be a huge step up in your career if you are looking to start your own company or become an RMO for an existing firm!

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!