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blog post about how to get the Suspended ceiling contractor license

What is a Suspended Ceiling Contractor?

An elegant suspended ceiling in a residential home. A suspended ceiling contractor works in a variety of different settings

C-61/D-50 Suspended Ceiling Contractor License

"A suspended ceiling contractor installs, modifies or repairs all types of suspended ceilings, including but not limited to the following: lay-in-grid and other types of systems involving solid, perforated or translucent ceiling panels (no electrical work)" - CSLB.GOV


  • The C-61/D-50 is the classification required in the state of California for all persons looking to bid on suspended ceiling projects where the cost of labor and materials exceeds $500
  • Typical duties of a Suspended Ceiling Contractor

    A Suspended ceiling is a type of secondary ceiling commonly found in residential and commercial architecture.

    Suspended Ceiling services may encompass a few different activities including:

    • Suspended ceiling installation and repair
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      Painting and tiling
    • Preventative maintenance
    • Custom ceiling design and integrated systems
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      Installation and repair of suspended acoustical tiles
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      Service and repair of existing tile
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      Servicing Tegular ceiling panels
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      Cost calculation and bidding
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      Adhering to environmental regulations
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      Maintaining personal and job site safety in accordance to OSHA standards
    A suspended ceiling system commonly found in an office building. A Suspended ceiling contractor works in a wide range of areas associated with ceilings

    Installation, repair and maintenance of suspended ceilings

    A suspended ceiling may be used for a variety of reasons most often for: 

    • Increased ventilation
    • Improved Sustainability  
    • To house concealed grid systems 
    • Improved acoustics

    This trade can be highly lucrative to any contractor that has the proper license and bonding.

    What is a subcontractor?

    Contractors that specialize in suspended ceilings are typically hired to work in a commercial setting. Property owners of office buildings and small business typically utilize suspended ceilings.

    However, they may also function as a subcontractor to General Construction Company. The General Contractor would oversee that the suspended ceilings phase of the project has been executed safely.

    Check out this article for an in-depth look at the General Contractor License!

    CSLB

    Logo of the contractors state license board. logo features an illustration of a paint brush, hand saw and cement truck with the letters CSLB above in white

    Contractors State License Board

    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 C-61 / D-50 Suspended Ceilings contractor license is issued to contractors by the CSLB. 

    C-61/D-50 Suspended Ceiling Contractor License Requirements

    To get a suspended ceiling contractor license in California, you 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:

    • Be at least 18 years of age
    • Have a valid Driver's License or USA Issued Identification
    • Have a Social Security or ITIN #
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      Not Currently be on probation or parole

    You must also have:

    • 4 Years Journey Level Experience
    • A Qualifying Individual to sign off on your experience
    • A way to prove your experience if the state asks for documentation

    What is a Journey level experience?

    Journeyman level experience means that you have worked unsupervised full time for a suspended ceilings company, or for a contractor that holds the D-50 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 suspended ceiling contractor license:

    • Licensed General Contractor
    • C-61/D-50 License Holder
    • Fellow Employee (within the last 10 years)
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      Former Supervisor (within the last 10 years)
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      Business Associate
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      Fellow Journeyman
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      Union Representative

    Filling out the Contractor 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:

    “Ted is a nice guy and very experienced” is not descriptive enough.

     The CSLB will want to see:

    "Ted has installed custom ceilings, T-bar, and suspended ceilings. He has experience with suspended acoustical tiles, paint tiles and preventative maintenance to existing ceiling systems" etc.

    The description written by your qualifying individual will need to include the core skills required for the ceiling contractor license.

    Work experience for the Suspended Ceiling Contractor License

    A yellow pencil and wooden ruler laying on top of a construction blueprint. A Suspended ceiling contractor must know how to read blueprints

    The CSLB may request to see documentation of your work experience

    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 which include:

    • Tax Returns
    • Check Stubs
    • Contracts
    • 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:

    1. Time of year (processing time slows down during the holidays) 
    2. Criminal History 
    3. Proving Experience
    4. Mistakes on your application 

    Contractor License Fees

    The Current CSLB fees are: 

    Can you get a Contractors License with a Felony in California?

    a pair of black handcuffs and keys laying on a white surface

    You will need to complete fingerprinting when applying for the D-50 license

    Having a criminal record in no way stops you from getting a C-61/D-50 Suspended ceilings contractor 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. Typically the CSLB is most concerned with Fraud, Embezzlement and Forgery.

    The Contractor License Exam

    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:

    • 115 Questions on Contractor LAW
    • 3 Hours to complete
    • Multiple choice, taken on a computer
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      Closed Book

    The Law Examination is divided into eight major sections:

    1. Business Organization (10%)

    •  Company organization
    •  Project organization

    2. Business Finances (15%)

    • Cash management
    • Budget and planning
    • Taxes
    • Financial reporting

    3. Employment Requirements (12%)

    • Employment regulations
    • Evaluation and record-keeping
    • Payroll

    4. Bonds, Insurance, and Liens (10%)

    • Bonds
    • Workers’ compensation insurance
    • Liens and other remedies
    • Other insurance

    5. Contract Requirements and Execution (23%)

    • Bidding
    • Cost control
    • Contracts
    • Payments

    6. Licensing Requirements (8%)

    • Business license
    • Contractor’s license
    • Activity regulation

    7. Safety (15%)

    • Training and reporting requirements
    • General safety
    • Hazardous/unknown materials

    8. Public Works (7%)

    • Prevailing wage requirements
    • Bonding requirements
    • Insurance requirements

    See our Complete Guide to Contractor License LAW!

    CSLB Test Locations

    There are CSLB testing locations in the following cities:

    • Berkeley
    • Fresno
    • Norwalk
    • San Jose
    • Oxnard
    • Sacramento
    • San Bernardino
    • San Diego
    • 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 test 
    • You must wait three weeks before retaking the state exam ( $60 per retake )

    Contractor License Study Guides and Practice Tests

    A white hand holding a pencil above a test with math questions on it. Suspended ceiling contractors must pass a law exam

    The Contractor License LAW exam has 115 Questions

    • Getting the suspended ceilings contractor license is a smooth process if you have the right information. 
    • 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.

    Ceiling Apprenticeships

    If you do not have the experience required to get the C-61/D-50 Suspended Ceiling Contractor license, not to worry! 

    Your journey begins here. Generally someone looking to become a contractor would want to look into an apprenticeship for find an experienced person to work with.

    For a detailed explanation on this process, check out my article: Apprentice vs Journeyman!

    EPA Certification

    Logo for the united states environmental protection agency

    Environmental Protection Agency

    When making alterations to or around structures built before 1978, ceiling contractors must know how to contain lead paint if it is present. Rules for Lead paint are set by the Environmental Protection Agency.

    Lead paint can travel miles through air, rest on soil, and enter air ducts causing potentially fatal respiratory damage.

    Ceiling Contractors looking to build profitable businesses 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.

    Learn how to get an EPA Certification in 8 hours!

    Blueprint Reading Course

    featured image for a blog post about how to read construction blueprints

    Learn How To Read Construction Blueprints!

    Ceiling contractors should be able to read designs and symbols on construction blueprints.

    If installation or repair is part of a larger project, being able to execute their duties within the larger scope of the job is essential. 

    Reading blueprints is an invaluable skill for all tradesman but can be especially important for ceiling contractors looking to get the C-61/D-50 License.

    Check out our Free Blueprint Reading Course!

    Conclusion

    Getting a Contractor license for suspended ceiling construction and repair 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 firm!

    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!

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