The Carpentry License
The C-5 license is required for anyone looking to charge over $500 in California for services that include framing or rough carpentry.
Some of these services may include:
- Exterior Staircases
- Roof Decking and Overhead Doors
- Supports Structural Integrity of a Building
- Fundamental phase of the Construction Process
- Truss Members and Sheathing
- Framing Residential and Commercial Property
- Creating Frames for Concrete
- Cutting, Shaping and Measuring Wood
Duties associated with the Carpentry License
Framing and Rough Carpentry contractors are an essential part of the construction process.
Their duties include:
- Constructing Decks, Porches, and Gazebos
- Form Work, Sheathing and Bracing
- Structural Hardware
- Sub Flooring
- Constructing Wood and Metal Frames
- Maintaining a Safe Job Site
- Reading Blueprints
- Ordering Materials
- Constructing Wooden Fences
- Pulling Building Permits
- Constructing Window Frames
- Creating Invoices and Cost Calculations
Carpentry License Requirements
To receive an exam date with the Contractors State License Board you must meet the following basic 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 be on probation or parole
You must also have:
- 4 Years Journeyman Level Experience
- Signature from a Qualifying Individual
- A way to prove your experience if the CSLB asks
Journeyman Level Experience
Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for a construction company, a contractor that holds the Carpentry License, or Union.
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 from A Qualifying Individual
The following people may be used as Qualifying Individuals to sign off on your experience:
- Licensed General Contractor
- C-5 License Holder
- Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
- Current or Former Supervisor
- Business Associate
- Fellow Journeyman
- Union Representative
Proving your work experience for the Carpentry License
You must be prepared to submit documentation supporting the experience you claim to have.
The Contractors State License Board gives you many ways to prove your experience including:
- 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.
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.
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:
- Time of year (processing time slows down during the holidays)
- Criminal History
- Proving Experience
- Mistakes on your application
- State Application Fee – $330
- License Activation Fee – $200 (after you pass the exam)
- Bond Fee (What is a Construction Bond?)
Can you get a Contractors License with a Felony In California?
Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-5 Carpentry License.
Thousands of contractors get licensed each year despite their 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.
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.
Red Flags for the CSLB
In my experience, they are primarily concerned with criminal charges associated with:
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.
Carpentry License Exam
Contractor licenses are broken down into four categories:
1) A-General Engineering (LAW + TRADE )
2) B-General Building (LAW + TRADE)
3) C-Specialty Classes (LAW + TRADE)
4) C-61/D- Limited Specialty (LAW TEST ONLY)
The C-5 Carpentry License Exam consists of two parts:
- 115 Questions on Contractor LAW
- 115 Questions on Framing and Rough Carpentry
- 3 Hours To Complete Each Portion
- Closed Book Exam
Trade portion of the exam
The C-5 license Examination is divided into four major sections:
1. Planning and Estimation (27%)
- Project planning
- Blueprints, specifications, and shop/field drawings
- Three-dimensional drawings
- Math related to estimation
2. Structural Framing (36%)
- Load and span
- Shear and diaphragm
- Structural hardware
- Wood and metal framing
3. General framing (21%)
- Flashing and weatherproofing
- Siding, roofing, and flooring
- Doors, windows, and stairs
- Fences, decks, porches, and gazebos
- Squaring and leveling
- Access and ventilation
- Materials, tools, and equipment
4. Safety (18%)
- Cal/OSHA requirements
- EPA and AQMD regulations
- Asbestos and environmental hazards
- Transportation and traffic control
For C-5 contractor license exam prep resources, click here
CSLB Test Locations
The Contractors State License Board currently has testing locations in the following cities:
- San Jose
- San Bernardino
- San Diego
- You have 18 months after your application is accepted to pass both examinations
- You must wait 3 weeks to re-take the exam. ($60 Per Re-take)
- You must score 70% or more
What is on the Law & Business portion of the Framing and Rough Carpentry License exam?
Learn more about the LAW portion of the contractor license test!
California Contractor License Exam Prep
- 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.
Be as prepared as you possibly can
Studying just 15 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-5 License exam.
Generally, someone looking to become a carpenter would want to look into an apprenticeship program or work under a master woodworker.
There are several excellent resources online which can teach you the fundamentals of woodworking.
Being able to identify symbols, drawings, and specs on construction blueprints is a vital skill for carpentry contractors.
For contractors engaging in framing, finish carpentry, or any structural work having the ability to interpret the ideas an architect is trying to communicate is critical.
Carpentry contractors that aspire to hold a General Contractor License in the future will surely want to make sure their blueprint reading skills are up to par.
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 contractors are ones that position themselves as the experts and are the most knowledgeable and helpful to their clients.
Stay Compliant and get Certified
Becoming EPA Certified is a requirement for carpentry contractors 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.
For a complete guide on how to get the EPA Certification, check out this article.
OSHA Safety Certification
Statistically, 21% of all work-related fatalities are in construction.
That equals about 1 and 5 worker deaths on average. In the construction industry, the leading cause of worker deaths is reported as:
- Struck by an object
Framing and carpentry contractors have dangerous jobs, especially if those doing the work are not properly trained.
Learn more about getting an OSHA Safety Certification!
Getting the C-5 Carpentry License can be a huge step up in your career if you are looking to open your own shop, take on larger clients, or become an RMO!
If you have found this article helpful feel free to drop a comment below and be sure to check back for updates!