featured image shows several tiles with a yellow ruler and yellow pencil laying on top. blog post details the essential information you need to get the C-54 license for ceramic and mosaic tile contractors
Various colored rectangular marble and granite tiles laid out
  • Tile Contractors are specialty tradesman that engages in the design, installation, and repair of ceramic and mosaic tile
  • Tile contractors are creative tradesman that possess a unique and artistic set of skills
  • Tile construction can be incredibly lucrative as excellent tile work is usually the first thing people notice and is aesthetically pleasing

This article will teach you everything you need to know about requirements for the C-54 license,

  • The state exam
  • C-54 study guides 
  • Practice tests
  • Bonding and insurance 
  • How to fill out the contractor license application
  • Trade skills and more

What is a C-54 Tile Contractor?

Do you need a license to lay tile?

Yes you do. 

If your bid including cost of materials and labor exceeds $500.

The C-54 license exists in the state of California to protect consumers and ensure that anyone contracting for specialized services is qualified and registered with the Contractors State License Board.

Typical duties associated with the C-54 License

a construction worker wearing white gloves placing a brown tile against a wall

Sometimes referred to as tile or tile installation contractors, mosaic contractors or tile installers the duties of tile contractors often include: 

  • Design, installation, and repair of tile, marble, granite, limestone, slate, quartzite, porcelain, or travertine
  • Demolition, disposal and job-site clean up
  • Mixing mortar and grouting
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    Tile cutting and selection
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    Slabe stone and installation
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    Substrate preparation
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    Preparing invoices, accounting and book-keeping

To get a C-54 License you will be tested on various areas of expertise, so you will want to make sure that you are familiar with all aspects of this specialized trade.

A tile contractor is legally not allowed to bid on a project that falls outside of the spectrum of design, installation or repair of mosaic and tile.

CSLB

Logo of the CSLB. Illustration includes a paint brush, cement truck, and saw with the letters CSLB above

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-54 License is issued to flooring 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.

How to get a C-54 license in California

Tile contractors in California must prove a minimum of 4 years 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 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 #
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    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 journey level experience?

A construction worker using a buzz saw to cut a piece of tile in a shop

Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for a flooring company, or for a contractor that holds the C-51 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 C-54 license:

  • Licensed General Contractor
  • C-54 License Holder
  • Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
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    Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
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    Business Associate
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    Fellow Journeyman
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    Union Representative

How to fill out the C-54 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: 

“Alex did the tiles in our bathroom” is not descriptive enough.

 The CSLB will want to see something like: 

"Alex has installed and cut mosaic tile, he has done grouting, surface prep, mixed mortar, demolition, disposal, and slab installation" etc.

Work experience for the Contractors License

A luxurious bathroom with brown tile floors and jacuzzi

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 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-54 License

The Current CSLB fees are: 

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

two hardcover law books with a wooden gavel next to them

Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-54 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 primarily concerned with criminal charges associated with: Fraud, Forgery and Embezzlement

The C-54 License Exam

The exam will be:

  • 115 Questions on Contractor LAW
  • 115 Questions on Ceramic and Mosaic Tile 
  • You will have 3 hours to complete each portion
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    The exam is multiple choice and is taken on a computer
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    Closed Book

The Ceramic and Mosaic Tile (C-54 license) Examination is divided into five major sections:

1.    Planning, Estimation, and Material Selection (19%)

  • Planning
  • Estimating
  • Material selection

2.    Installation Preparation (19%)

  • Demolition, disposal, and job site preparation
  • Substrate preparation
  • Membranes and barriers

3.    Installation and Repairs (34%)

  • Installing tile and stone
  • Joint treatment for tile and stone installations
  • Repairs and restoration
  • Showers and steam rooms

4.    Specialty Tile Installation (16%)

  • Specialty tile installation
  • Slab and stone installation
  • Accessories

5.    Safety (12%)

  • Personnel safety
  • Equipment safety
  • Environmental safety

Recommended Resources

CSLB Test Locations

Currently there are CSLB testing facilities in the following cities:

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

The CSLB gives you 18 months after your application is accepted to pass both examinations.

You must wait three weeks before retaking the state exam ($60 per retake) A 70% score will be required to pass. 

Learn more about the Contractor License Law Test

C-54 license study guides and practice tests

Construction worker holding a belt with red hard hat and various tools in his belt. Studying for the C-54 license exam is critical to passing on your first try

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

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-54 License exam

Tiling Apprenticeships

Five ceramic tiles a ruler and a pencil

If you don’t have the 4 years required journeyman level experience to get a C-54 license, your journey begins here.

Tile installation is a highly lucrative industry and contractors that specialize in this trade command top dollar.

Generally someone looking to become a Tile 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

A yellow pencil and wooden ruler laying on top of a construction blueprint. Those looking to get the C-54 license for tile installation should have a functional knowledge of blueprint reading

Reading construction blueprints is a critical skill for tile contractors. The ability to quickly interpret designs and make cost calculations will greatly assist you going forward. 

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.

EPA Certification

logo of the united states environmental protection agency, blue lettering

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

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

Learn how to get EPA Certified in 8 Hours.

Conclusion

Getting the C-54 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 company!

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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