Plumbing Contractors provide one of the most in-demand services in the construction industry.
Plumbing is a basic requirement within virtually all residential and commercial construction projects.
With every boom in the construction industry an increase in the demand of highly skilled plumbing services inevitably follows.
Plumbing Contractors who are professional, highly skilled and deliver excellent customer service can build a highly profitable business that services a basic human need.
This article will give you everything you need to know about the plumbing license, requirements, the California plumbing license test, study guides, and even how to fill out the C-36 License application.
What is a Plumbing Contractor?
The C-36 license is the classification required in the state of California for all persons looking to bid over $500 on projects that involve:
- Plumbing Installation
- Inspection and Maintenance
"A plumbing contractor provides a means for a supply of safe water, ample in volume and of suitable temperature for the purpose intended and the proper disposal of fluid waste from the premises in all structures and fixed works. This classification includes but is not limited to:
(a)Complete removal of waste from the premises or the construction and connection of on-site waste disposal systems;
(b)Piping, storage tanks and venting for a safe and adequate supply of gases and liquids for any purpose, including vacuum, compressed air and gases for medical, dental, commercial and industrial uses;
(c)All gas appliances, flues and gas connections for all systems including suspended space heating units. This does not include forced warm air units;
(d)Water and gas piping from the property owner's side of the utility meter to the structure or fixed works;
(e) Installation of any type of equipment to heat water, or fluids, to a temperature suitable for the purposes listed in this section, including the installation of solar equipment for this purpose; and
(f)The maintenance and replacement of all items described above and all health and safety devices such as, but not limited to, gas earthquake valves, gas control valves, back flow preventers, water conditioning equipment and regulating valves." - CSLB.GOV
Duties associated with the Plumbing License
Plumbing Contractors generally engage in wide variety of duties including:
- To obtain the C-36 plumbing license you will be tested on all areas of the trade so it will be essential to your success to make sure you are familiar and up to speed
Plumbing Contractors that hold the C-36 license can work in a variety of settings. They could be hired by a homeowner to do a simple repair.
They may also be subcontracted by a General Contractor who has placed a bid on a project that includes a full plumbing installation.
Check out this article for an in-depth look at the General Contractor License
The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is the governing body for all contractors in the state of California.
Their responsibility is to protect the consumer public and ensure that anyone charging over $500 for plumbing services is qualified and registered with the state of California.
The C-36 License is issued to plumbing contractors by the CSLB.
The State Board:
- Administers Exams
- Processes Applications
- Maintains a database of all active and inactive contractor license numbers
- Sets up Sting Operations targeting unlicensed contractors
How to get a Plumbing License in California
To get a C-36 license in California, you have to meet the following requirements:
What is a Journeyman Plumber?
A Journeyman plumber is someone who has gained experience working unsupervised full time for:
- Plumbing Company
- General Contractor
- Someone that holds the C-36 License
- Some Journeyman plumbers have also completed apprenticeship programs.
- A Journeyman plumber 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.
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-36 plumbing license:
Filling out the C-36 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:
Writing: “Bob is a great guy, he fixed our toilet” will not be enough.
The CSLB will want to see something like: "Bob has repaired plumbing problems, installed gas lines, sewer lines, installed bathroom fixtures, water lines, and re-piped buildings"
Work Experience for the C-36 Plumbing 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.
C-36 License 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-36 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-36 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, Embezzlement or Forgery
California Plumbing License Test
For more information on what will be on the Contractor LAW exam click here.
The Plumbing License (C-36 ) Examination is divided into five key sections:
1. Planning and Estimation (21%)
- Plan reading
- Pipe sizing
- Water conservation
2. Rough-in and Top-out Plumbing Systems (27%)
- Underground installations
- Piping layout
- Piping installation
- Fuel gas piping
- Residential fire sprinklers
3. Finish Plumbing Installations (14%)
- Plumbing fixtures
- Water heaters
- Shut-off valves
- Specialty installations
- Industrial piping
4. Service, Repair, and Remodel Plumbing Systems (20%)
- Troubleshooting plumbing
- Isolating leaks and damage
- Repairing plumbing
- Retrofitting plumbing
5. Safety (18%)
- Job site safety
- Personnel safety
- Public safety
CSLB Test Locations
Currently, there are CSLB testing locations in the following cities:
- San Jose
- San Bernardino
- San Diego
- The CSLB assigns you a testing location based on where you live when you apply for your license.
- You get 18 months after your application is accepted to pass both examinations.
- You must wait three weeks before retaking the state exam ($60 per retake)
Learn more about Contractor License LAW
C-36 license Study Guides and Exam Prep
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
I have helped plumbers from all over the country get licensed in California. Many are startled by how strange the questions on the exam are.
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-36 License.
An apprenticeship is an excellent way to learn your trade and set yourself for a lucrative career as a plumber
If you don’t have the 4 years required journeyman level plumbing experience to get a C-36 license, your journey begins here.
Generally, someone looking to get into this trade would begin by finding a union or plumbing apprenticeship program.
For a detailed explanation on this process, check out my article: Apprentice vs Journeyman.
Blueprint Reading Course
It is critical for plumbing contractors to be able to read blueprints or at least be able to recognize lines and symbols.
- Construction blueprints communicate important information about how a structure must be built as well as what materials are necessary for its construction.
- Being comfortable with construction blueprints is an invaluable skill for all tradesman but is especially important for those looking to get the C-36 license.
- See our Free Blueprint Reading Course.
Understanding how to safely contain lead-based paint when altering structures built before 1978 is required by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The most profitable plumbing contractors are ones that position themselves as the experts and are the most knowledgable and helpful to their clients.
Getting the C-36 License can be a huge step up in your career if you are looking to start your own plumbing company or become an RMO!
The key is to take action and follow these steps from beginning to end. If you are looking to get work in another state you can find information here about plumbing contractor licenses in: New Mexico, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Louisiana and Florida
If you have found this article helpful feel free to drop a comment below and be sure to check back for updates!