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"A pool and spa maintenance contractor installs, replaces or repairs pool motors, pumps, filters, gas heaters and any above ground piping in connection with pools; includes electrical switches, breakers, pool lights, diving boards, existing solar systems that heat pools, pool and spa acid baths and applies vinyl liners to existing surfaces" - CSLB.GOV
The D-35 license is a classification required in the state of California for all persons looking to contract for pool and spa maintenance projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500.
The C-61 Limited Specialty License is an umbrella term for all licenses that may fall under a more obscure category of construction work.
They cover specific areas of construction and construction-related tasks.
Often if your skill set or business is limited to one particular portion of trade work, you could obtain a C-61 limited specialty license to contract over $500 for your services legally.
Pool and Spa maintenance is a pretty self explanatory term.
There is a separate license for those who are building and designing swimming pools as well as maintenance.
For a deeper look at the C-53 Swimming Pool Contractor License, check out this article.
Generally, D-35 contractors engage in duties including:
Due to the nature of the trade, contractors holding the D-35 license typically work directly with a homeowners. They perform routine maintenance and inspections most often.
However, they may also function as a subcontractor as part of a larger construction job.
For example, a General Contractor may subcontract someone holding the D-35 contractor license to revitalize a swimming pool as part of a larger remodel job.
As a result, a prime contractor ensures that the sub's duties are executed to code. For a deeper look at the General Contractor license, check out this article.
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.
They ensure that anyone charging over $500 for construction services is qualified and registered with the state. The CSLB maintains a statewide task force that engages in sting operations to stop un-licensed construction activity.
Getting caught contracting without a license in California is punishable with fines up to $15,000 and 6 months in the the county jail. The CSLB issues the D-35 contractor license in the state of California.
Companies offering swimming pool maintenance services should be able to read basic designs and symbols on construction blueprints.
If the services offered are part of a larger project, being able to execute their duties within the larger scope of the job is essential.
Construction blueprints communicate important information about how a structure must be built in addition to materials required.
They also communicate what materials were used for its construction. Reading blueprints is an invaluable skill for all tradesman but can be especially important for someone looking to get a D-35 license.
To get the D-35 contractor license you must prove a minimum of 4 years journeyman level experience and pass a law exam.
To qualify for an exam date you must meet the the following requirements:
You must also have:
Journey level experience is gained working un-supervised full time for either a general contractor, union, or a contractor that holds the D-35 license.
Certainly, some tradesman have also completed apprenticeship programs but not all.
A Journey level tradesman can perform all the duties associated with his or her trade. The state will want to see 4 full-time years experience within the last 10 years.
The years do not need to be consecutive, but they do need to be 4 years in total.
The following people may act as a Qualifying Individual when applying for the D-35 contractor license:
In addition, your Qualifying Individual will need to provide a brief but detailed description of your knowledge and skillset.
The way this description is written is critical to whether or not your application gets accepted. For example:
"Javier has been cleaning our pools for a long time” is not quite descriptive enough.
Your description will need to look more like: "Javier has cleaned our pools, and hot tub. He has used various types of equipment, replaced filters, and vacuums. He checks PH levels and has experience testing and replacing chlorine" etc.
For a full list of the exact verbiage to increase the likelihood of your application being accepted. Check out my article on filling out the CSLB application.
Most importantly, the description written by your qualifying individual has to include the core skills required for the D-35 contractor license.
There is a possibility that the CSLB will ask you to submit documentation supporting your experience.
The CSLB gives you many ways to prove experience including: Tax Returns, check stubs, receipts, invoices and even contracts.
Anything you have that can prove you have either run or worked for a company that offers swimming pool maintenance services. The state board receives thousands of applications every month.
There is a good chance they won’t request further documentation of your experience. However, if your application is chosen for review, you must be ready to submit something.
Once your application has been accepted, you should receive your exam date within a matter of weeks.
The average application processing time is between 6-8 weeks.
Typically, you receive your exam date with another 3-4 weeks notice before actually going to take the exam.
This time frame can fluctuate based on many factors including
In total the entire process should take 90 days assuming none of the mentioned issues arise.
The current state fees are:
1. $330 State Application Fee ( one time fee per application sent to the state board )
2. $200 License Activation Fee ( paid every two years )
You will also need to pay for live scan fingerprinting.
Upon passing the exam, the state board requires you to have a Contractor Bond number. A construction bond is a security deposit issued by a surety company. Bonds are designed to protect the consumer public against contractor default.
They act as protection mechanisms for clients from unethical or illegal actions performed by contractors.
Bonds also ensure that subcontractors get paid for their work. Furthermore, they ensure or that a contractor performs his duties as stated in a contract.
Construction bonds protect employees, suppliers, sub-contractors or clients against a contractor's failure to abide by an agreement.
For a deeper look at bonding and fees, check out this article.
Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting the D-35 license.
Thousands of tradesman get licenses each year despite their criminal records. 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 the CSLB sees everything when you do live scan fingerprinting.
The CSLB handles criminal records on a case by case basis. Remember, the state board's responsibility is to protect the public.
In my experience, the CSLB are primarily concerned with criminal charges dealing with fraud, embezzlement, forgery, and financial related crimes.
If your conviction does not fall under these categories most likely, you will have no issues when applying for the D-35 contractor license.
Be prepared to submit any court documents or prove rehabilitation at the state’s request.
California requires you to divulge all criminal charges when applying for a state license even if they have been expunged.
Contractor licenses are broken down into four categories:
1) A-General Engineering
2) B-General Building
3) C-Specialty classes
4) C-61 / D-Limited Specialty classes
Each category of license except the D-Limited Specialty license class requires that you pass a TRADE exam. C-61 Classification licenses do not have trade portions.
You must only pass a LAW exam. The exam is:
The Law Examination is divided into eight major sections:
1. Business Organization (10%)
2. Business Finances (15%)
3. Employment Requirements (12%)
4. Bonds, Insurance, and Liens (10%)
5. Contract Requirements and Execution (23%)
6. Licensing Requirements (8%)
7. Safety (15%)
8. Public Works (7%)
You will take the Contractor LAW exam on a computer at a state testing facility.
Currently, the CSLB testing locations are in Berkeley, Fresno, Norwalk, Oxnard, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Jose. The CSLB will assign you a testing center based on your location. The test is not available online.
The CSLB allows you to bring a pre-approved translator with you.
The CSLB will grant you 18 months after your application is accepted to pass the examination. You must wait three weeks before retaking the state exam ($60 per retake).
Getting your C-61/D-35 contractors license is a smooth process if you have the right information. Understanding the difference between how it is everyday on the job versus what the state expects of you is critical.
I have been told by many contractors with decades of experience that they were not expecting the questions they saw. It can be confusing to see un-familiar terms used to describe tools or job site practices.
The Contractor LAW exam covers a number of different topics. Questions are presented to you as if you are running a large scale remodeling business with multiple employees.
Being prepared and knowing what to study is the most important thing you can do in ensuring your success on the contractor license exam.
Looking at some practice tests a long with explanations for as little as 10 minutes a day is a small investment to make, but will increase your likelihood of success.
If you don’t have the 4 years required journeyman level experience to get the D-35 contractor license, your journey begins here.
Pool maintenance is a lucrative industry that offers unlimited income opportunity.
Whether you are brand new or worked for a swimming pool company in the past, there are books and courses available in most cities and online to get you up to speed.
Someone looking to get into the trade should absolutely consider an apprenticeship.
After completing your program and gaining the necessary 4 years journeyman level experience, you would then be able to apply for the C-61/D-35 contractor license.
For information on courses in your area or books to get you on the right path click here.
When making alterations to structures built before 1978, swimming pool maintenance contractors must know how to contain lead paint if it is present.
Knowing the correct procedures required by the Environmental Protection Agency is critical for tradesman working in a residential or commercial setting.
Lead paint can travel miles through air, rest on soil, and enter air ducts causing potentially fatal respiratory damage.
Furthermore, contractors holding the D-35 license must position themselves as experts and the authority within their industry.
Contractors must be a source of information for their clients and community if they want referrals and repeat business. For more information on adhering to EPA Standards when dealing with Lead Paint check out my article on lead safety.
Getting started with your contractor license is often the hardest part.
This blog post was put together not only to educate you on the process of getting a license... but also to inspire you to TAKE ACTION.
If you are tired of earning what you are earning and feeling like the years are passing you by, then click the link below!
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