how to get your C-35 plastering contractors license in California with the CSLB

C-35 License: How To Become a Plastering Contractor

Table of Contents

Lathing and Plastering contractor's services are commonly found in more expensive structures where there is an emphasis on maintaining historical accuracy.

Plastering Contractors have a very unique skill set which can be incredibly lucrative as they generally service the homes of higher-end clientele.

  • Mixing and Coating
  • Installation and Repair activities 
  • Wall Interior Finishing
  • Increased Structural Soundness
  • Fire protection
  • Better Acoustics

Jobs You Can Do With a C-35 License!

What is a C-35 Lathing and Plastering Contractor?

Construction worker wearing a white hard hat, plastering a way

“A lathing and plastering contractor coats surfaces with a mixture of sand, gypsum plaster, quick-lime or hydrated lime and water, or sand and cement and water, or a combination of such other materials that create a permanent surface coating, including coatings for the purpose of soundproofing and fireproofing. These coatings are applied with a plasterer's trowel or sprayed over any surface which offers a mechanical means for the support of such coating and will adhere by suction. This contractor also installs lath (including metal studs) or any other material prepared or manufactured to provide a base or bond for such coating“-CSLB.GOV

Duties of a Plastering Contractor

Plastering Contractor duties may include:

  • Applying various forms of interior and exterior coating
  • Preparing surfaces for lath and plaster applications
  • Installing and repair of plaster and stucco
  •  Sealing penetrations
  • Safe work practicing and adherence to CAL/OSHA Regulations
  • Maintaining job site safety
  • Estimation, Bidding, Accounting, Book-keeping

To get the C-35 license, you have to be familiar with all aspects of this highly specialized trade.


logo of the CSLB

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-35 License is issued to plastering 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. 

EPA Certification

logo of the United states environmental protection agency

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!

Online Practice Exams and Study Guides

Plastering Subcontractors

construction worker with tool belt and red helmet

Contractors that hold the C-35 license can work in a variety of settings. They could be hired by a homeowner to complete a specific task.

They may also be subcontracted by a General Contractor who has placed a bid on a project that includes specialized lathing and plastering. 

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

How to Become a Plastering Contractor

To get a C-35 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 a Journeyman level experience?

man with blue gloves applying plaster to a surface

Journeyman-level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full-time for a plastering company, or for a contractor that holds the C-35 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-35 license:

  • Licensed General Contractor
  • C-35 License Holder
  • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
  • Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
  • Business Associate
  • Fellow Journeyman
  • Union Representative

Work Experience for the C-35 License

a highly detailed crown moulding job in the victorian style

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.

Filling out the C-35 License Application

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

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

Writing: “Jim has created plaster walls” will not be descriptive enough for the CSLB

They will be looking for something more like:

Jim has done plaster/stucco installations and repairs, gypsum float coat finish, framed around door openings, maintained and repaired equipment,  and done pre-lath inspections” etc.

C-35 Application Secrets!

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 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-35 License

The Current CSLB fees are: 

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

hand filling out the C-35 license application

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-35 License. Thousands of contractors get licensed each year in California despite having a 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.

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 exam will include:

  • 115 Questions of Contractor LAW
  • 115 Questions on lathing and plastering
  • 3 hours to complete each portion
  • Multiple choice exam
  • Done on a computer
  • Closed Book

The Lathing and Plastering (C-35 license) Examination is divided into four major sections:

1. Planning and Estimation (18%)

  • Interpret Plans and Specifications
  • Estimate Material, Equipment, and Labor
  • Inspect Job Sites

2.    Preparation for Lath and Plaster Applications (20\2%)

  • Coordinate Lath and Plaster Installation
  • Prepare Substrates
  • Lathing materials and their Installation
  • Seal Penetrations

3.    Plaster/Stucco Installations and Repairs (40%)

  • Mix and Apply Scratch and Brown Coats
  • Plaster/stucco installations
  • Repairing plaster/stucco installations
  • Specialty plaster/stucco installations
  • Clean up of job sites

4.    Safety (20%)

  • Personnel Safety
  • Job Site Safety
  • Personal Protective Equipment
  • Cal/OSHA laws and regulations

Recommended Resources

CSLB Test Locations

logo of the CSLB

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.

You will be assigned a testing location based on the city you live in. Learn more about Contractor License LAW.

Contractor license exam prep

wooden panels in the process of lathing and plastering. preparing yourself for the contractor license exam by studying at least 15 minutes per day is highly recommended

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-35 License exam

Plastering Apprenticeship

featured image for a blog post about apprenticeships and journeyman. two contractors looking down at something. if you are looking to get the c-35 license, it could be beneficial to start with an apprenticeship if you do not have experience

Construction is a trillion-dollar industry and highly skilled plastering contractors 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 plastering 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 learning how to read construction blueprints. Contractors that hold the c35 license will need to know how to read blueprints if they want to add on a general contractor license

Knowing how to read blueprints is a valuable skill for virtually all tradesmen but especially for those looking to get the C-35 License.

Construction blueprints provide a visual representation of a project, which can be valuable for tradesmen making aesthetic alterations to the interiors.

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.


Getting the C-35 License can be a huge step up in your career if you are looking to start your own company, want to begin advertising your services, 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!