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 and 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 as well as how to fill out the contractor license application.
What is a C-54 Tile Contractor?
"A ceramic and mosaic tile contractor prepares surfaces as necessary and installs glazed wall, ceramic, mosaic, quarry, paver, faience, glass mosaic and stone tiles; thin tile that resembles full brick, natural or simulated stone slabs for bathtubs, showers and horizontal surfaces inside of buildings, or any tile units set in the traditional or innovative tile methods, excluding hollow or structural partition tile" - CSLB.GOV
The C-54 license is the classification required in the state of California for all persons looking to bid on ceramic and mosaic tile projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.
Do you need a license to lay tile?
Yes. 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
Sometimes referred to as tile or tile installation contractors, mosaic contractors or tile installers the duties of tile contractors often include:
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.
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:
You must also have:
What is journey level experience?
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:
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
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
- 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:
- Time of year (processing time slows down during the holidays)
- Criminal History
- Proving Experience
- 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?
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:
The Ceramic and Mosaic Tile (C-54 license) Examination is divided into five major sections:
1. Planning, Estimation, and Material Selection (19%)
- 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
5. Safety (12%)
- Personnel safety
- Equipment safety
- Environmental safety
CSLB Test Locations
Currently there are CSLB testing facilities in the following cities:
- San Jose
- 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
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.
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
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.
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.
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!