What is a Landscaping Contractor?

  • Constructs, Maintains, Repairs, Installs and Develops Landscape Systems
  • Works on facilities for public and private gardens 
  • Architecturally and Horticulturally Improve grounds within or surrounding a structure
  • Prepares or grades plots and ares of land for installation of decorative treatment or arrangement
  • Landscaping contractors are some of the highest paid tradesmen in the construction industry. 
  • The Landscaping industry often times serves a segment of the public that has higher levels of disposable income 
  • Cost of maintaining a pristine landscapes are often factored into the operating expenses of brick and mortar businesses.

Do you need a license to do landscaping in California?

Man using a leaf blower on a lawn

Anyone charging over $500 for landscaping services needs a C-27 License

The answer is yes.

The C-27 License is a requirement for anyone charging over $500 for landscape services.

A landscape contractor is not allowed to bid on a project that falls outside of the spectrum of general landscaping and gardening work.

Duties of a Landscaping Contractor

The duties of landscaping contractors tend to vary on the needs of a client.

Typically they engage in a wide range of activities including:

  • Planting flowers, trees and shrubs
  • Installing retaining walls, sprinkler systems and low voltage lighting systems
  • Soil preparation and testing
  • Constructing decks, fountains and planters
  • Lawn repair and maintenance 
  • Bidding, estimating, creating invoices, accounting and book-keeping
  • Maintaining a safe job site
pristine landscape. Landscapers in the state of california need the C-27 license

Landscapers engage in a wide rage of duties

Landscaping services tend to deal directly with the consumer public.

The CSLB considers the C-27 license to be very important in order to protect the interests of:

  • Homeowners, Schools, and Churches 
  • Small businesses and Government Agencies

All of whom employ the services of a landscaping contractor. 

What is a Landscaping Subcontractor?

Typically landscapers work directly with home owners or clients.

However a landscaping business may also be subcontracted by a General Contractor.

Landscaping services may have been offered as part of a bid by a General Contractor.

Therefore, an individual or company holding the C-27 license would be in charge of executing the landscaping portion of the construction process. 

For a deeper look at the General Contractor License, check out this article.

California Landscape License Look Up

The CSLB allows the consumer public to check any license number at anytime.

To check the license number of a landscape contractor you can visit the Contractors State License Board official license look up page. 

The consumer public is encouraged to do extensive research before hiring any contractor.

Utilize the resources available to you. 

For landscape contractors, your reputation and license number are very important. Do everything you can to protect this number. 

How to get the Landscaping License

To get the C-27 License you have to  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 journeyman 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 Journey Level Experience?

Man holding shears with a lawnmower in the background

C-27 Landscapeing Contractors that are organized licensed and professional can become power players in this billion-dollar industry

Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for an electrical company, or contractor that holds the C-27 License.

  • A journeyman landscaper 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 can sign off on your experience:

  • Licensed General Contractor
  • C-27 License Holder
  • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
  • check
    Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
  • check
    Business Associate
  • check
    Fellow Journeyman
  • check
    Union Representative

Proving Your Work Experience for the C-27 License

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.

a pristine landscaped backyard. when applying for the C-27 license you may have to prove experience, the CSLB gives you several ways to prove your experience

The CSLB gives you several ways to 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.

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.

Filling out the C-27  License Application

This person you choose to sign for you will also need to provide a brief but detailed description of your knowledge and skillset.

How this description is written will be critical to whether or not your application is accepted.

For example:

“Jorge is a nice guy he has trimmed grass…”  is not going to be accepted by the CSLB

The CSLB will want to see something more like:

Jorge has prepared and tested soil, installed lawns, transplanted trees, maintained gardens, installed drainage systems, etc.

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 

Application Costs for the C-27 License

The Current CSLB fees are: 

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

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-27 License.

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
a wooden gavel laying on a wooden platform on a white surface. when applying for the C-27 license you need to be 100% honest on the application if you have a criminal record

Be 100% honest on the application

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. 

C-27 License Exam

Contractor licenses are broken down into four categories:

1) A-General Engineering                            (LAW + TRADE EXAM )

2) B-General Building                                     (LAW + TRADE EXAM)

3) C-Specialty Classes                                    (LAW + TRADE EXAM )

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

The (C-27 License) Landscaping Examination consists of six major sections:

1.    Planning and Estimation (26%)

  • Project planning
  • Botanical names of plants
  • Project estimating

2.    Construction Preparation (14%)

  • Pre-construction site planning
  • Pre-construction site demolition and preparation
  • Trenching and grading

3.    Hardscape Installation (16%)

  • Flatwork
  • Masonry
  • Structures
  • Water features

4.    Drainage, Irrigation, Lighting, and Plant Installation (24%)

  • Drainage
  • Irrigation
  • Lighting
  • Plant installation

5.    Maintenance and Repair (10%)

  • Landscape maintenance
  • Landscape repair

6.    Safety (10%)

  • Employee safety
  • Job site safety
CSLB Test Locations
logo of the contractors state license board. The image features a paint brush, hand saw and cement truck with the letters CSLB above in white

Contractors State License Board

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

Landscaping Contractors License Practice tests, Study guides and schools

  • 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 construction professionals from various backgrounds and experience levels get licenses, and 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 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-27 License exam. 

Landscaping Apprenticeship

amazing landscape with a bridge and pond

A landscaping apprenticeship is an excellent way to start a career in the industry

If you don’t have the four years required journeyman level experience to obtain the C-27 Contractor License, not to worry.

Your journey begins here!

Highly skilled landscapers 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 low voltage contractor would want to look into an apprenticeship  or certification program. 

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

Blueprint Reading Course

It is critical for the landscaping contractors to be able to follow specific designs and blueprints to identify exterior elevations correctly, site works and irrigation systems as well as other plans that affect the landscape work.

As their duties are limited to the exterior, identifying plot plans is a very important skill. 

Blueprint Reading Skills are also critical to pass the General Contractor exam.

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

a person holding a pen writing a construction blueprint

Blueprint reading is a valuable skill for landscapers

EPA Certification

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

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

Logo of the united states environmental protection agency

Environmental Protection Agency

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.

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