The General Contractor License is required for anyone charging over $500 for construction or remodeling services in California.

General Contractors oversee a construction project from start to finish and are in charge of hiring subcontractors, estimating labor and material costs, ensuring job site safety and much more.

two general contractors holding construction blueprints

Primarily, general contractors work in a residential and commercial setting.

A client or homeowner would typically hire a general contractor to complete a remodel or construction project that requires two or more trades.

General Contractor License Requirements

To get the General Contractor License you must submit an application and wait for an exam date.

Before you submit an application, you must be sure that you meet the CSLB's basic requirements.

They are that you must:

  • Be 18 years of Age
  • Have a USA issued Identification
  • Have a Social Security or ITIN #
  • Have 4 years Journeyman Level Experience
  • Not currently be on probation or parole

Once your application is accepted, you will then need to pass the General Contractor exam.

There are four core trades that a General Contractor must be familiar with to have a realistic chance of passing the test.

This article will cover the 4 Trades You Must Know to Qualify for and Pass the Test!

1. Concrete

image features 3 concrete contractors placing and laying concrete

Concrete is a composite material made up of sand, gravel, crush stone and other aggregates that are bonded together and harden over time.

Concrete is mixed and poured after the foundation has been excavated and wood forms have been set.

Concrete is used to create a stable foundation surface on top of which the framing process can begin.

While this process is almost always subcontracted out to a Concrete Contractor that holds the C-8 license.

General Contractors are expected to have thorough knowledge building a concrete foundation supports a structure.

Those looking to get the general contractor license must prove that they have experience in this vital area of the construction process.

On the General Contractor exam you will need to know about:

  • Reinforcing concrete
  • Mixing mortar
  • Placing and setting screeds
  • Retaining Walls
  • Placing and pouring concrete
  • Forming and tamping finish
  • Concrete Footings
  • Concrete slab installation

2. Framing and Rough Carpentry

Framing is the process of fitting pieces together to give a structure its shape and support. This phase is fundamental to the structural integrity and safety of a building.

The frame is essentially a structure’s skeleton and supports everything that is built after it.

Framing happens after a site has been prepared and a foundation has been set. Materials used for framing are usually wood, engineered wood, metal, and structural steel.

Roof builders mounting prefabricated wooden roof construction. Construction industry concept.

Rough Carpentry

Rough Carpentry is a term that is often used interchangeably with framing.

Measuring, shaping and cutting wood, metal or structural steel are all duties associated with rough carpentry. Rough carpentry requires knowledge of:

  • Tools and Equipment
  • Mathematics
  • Safety

75% of the General Contractor License Exam

Framing and Rough Carpentry represents 75% of the General Contractor License exam along with Concrete, so it is critical that you understand this phase of the construction process.

Because framing and rough carpentry are the primary trade skills required for the general contractor license, they are allowed to perform these duties themselves and as a subcontractor on other projects.

  • Stacking
  • Installing Girders
  • Roofing
  • Sub Flooring
  • Form Work
  • Joisting, Sheathing and Bracing
  • Finish Carpentry
  • Wall Framing

General Contractor License Books

If you do not have a construction background but are looking to one day get a general contractor license, I would suggest you begin learning about framing.

To build a foundational knowledge of construction without committing to an apprenticeship program, I would recommend a home study course.

Many trade books can give you a solid understanding of the framing process.

3. Electrical

An electrical system distributes power throughout a house or building.

The electrical portion of a construction project includes making sure that all lighting, electrical systems, and wiring are installed safely.

There are generally two phases to the electrical process:

Rough Electrical

  • Happens after frame of structure has been set, roof is installed and Siding process complete
  • Includes Laying Electrical Conduits
  • Installation of Electrical Wiring, breaker panels, and sub panels
  • Drilling Holes for Circuit Wiring Connections to the electrical box
  • A building inspector will usually inspect this process to ensure that everything has been installed up to NEC code

Finish Electrical

  • Happens after plumbing, drywall, insulation, and HVAC have all been installed
  • Acquiring materials including lights, ceiling fans, floodlights, phone lines, tv jacks, etc
  • Installation of various fixtures and lighting
  • Troubleshooting and Inspection

Can a General Contractor electrical installations themselves?

A General Contractor can only do electrical installations themselves if they hold a C-10 license

With a general contractor license you can bid on a project that will need electrical work and oversee the process, but the actual work has to be done by an electrical contractor. 

an electrician making adjustments to a circuit box. to get the general contractor license, you must demonstrate an understanding of safe electrical installation practices

While a General Contractor isn’t personally executing this process.

They are expected to have a solid understanding of what a safe electrical system looks like.

The general contractor license exam will include many questions on the electrical process. 

You will need to know about:

  • Installing or repairing light fixtures
  • Connecting or troubleshooting communications equipment
  • A/C Wiring and D/C Wiring
  • Circuit Wiring and Conduits
  • Receptacles and Low Voltage Wiring
  • 110V and 220V Wiring

Electrical Contractor License Study Guides

Even If you have years of experience, it could help to check out some study material that covers the basics and more advanced math concepts of electrical systems.

As you will encounter questions on the rough and finish electrical process on the general contractor license exam, get a head start and be prepared.

Complete Contractor License Study Guides + Online Tests

4.    Plumbing

C-4 Contractors License

Plumbing is a system for distributing water and fluids throughout a structure.

Plumbing infrastructure is vital to public health and sanitation. While they are related to boiler, heating and steam fitting as well as HVAC systems but are performed as a completely separate trade.

This essential part of the construction process and consists of two phases:

Rough Plumbing

  • Takes place after drywall, plaster and interior finishing phase
  • Installation of water and sewer lines
  • Installation of tubs
  • Laying supply lines for each water fixture
  • Connecting utility lines
  • Soldering Pipes
  • Finish Plumbing

Finish Plumbing

  • Can begin during the framing and foundation setting process
  • Installing sinks and other fixtures
  • Using various saws and wire brushes to shape pipes
  • Installing valves and trim kits
  • Troubleshooting and Inspection

Plumbing Knowledge for General Contractors

a bath tub installed during the framing process. general contractors have to demonstrate a knowledge of plumbing

The plumbing phase of a construction project is to be subcontracted out to someone with a C-36 license

A general contractor will have to prove experience in plumbing.

There will also be several questions on the general contractor license exam. 

Areas you will need to be familiar with include:

  • Installing Gas and water lines
  • Installing Sewer Lines
  • Bathroom Fixtures
  • Water Heaters
  • Re-piping Buildings
  • Repairing plumbing problems

Conclusion

Understanding the core trades associated with the General Contractor License will help you qualify for an exam date and also be successful on the exam.

Take the time to study not only the trade section but also the law and business concepts you need to know.

Studying on a consistent basis is really the only way almost to guarantee your success. The General Contractor License exam will include questions on all aspects of the construction process. 

In addition to Framing, Concrete, Electrical and Plumbing you will also need to know:

  • Roofing
  • Painting
  • Finish Carpentry
  • Lathing and Plastering
  • Landscaping
  • Drywall
  • HVAC
  • Flooring
  • Glazing
  • Masonry

If you are a Spanish speaker looking to take the general contractor exam, be sure to check out this information

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