Welcome to the State of California

Change the text size:
Small | Medium | Large

What Kind of Contractor Do You Need?

This step helps you get started determining what type of contractor you need, and making sure they are qualified and properly licensed.

Here are some guidelines to use when you begin searching for licensed contractors. By using them, and the other steps that follow, you could save yourself from financial risk and other future problems with unlicensed contractors.

Determine what type of contractor you need.

The CSLB licenses contractors in 43 different classifications. This ranges from General Contractors to Landscapers, Painters, Electricians, Plumbers and many more. It will be easier to decide the right type of contractor if you carefully plan your project in advance and clearly define what you want done to your property. In California, anyone who contracts to perform work that is valued at $500 or more for labor and materials must hold a current, valid license from the CSLB.

Alert symbol ALERT Unlicensed operators pose a risk to you and your family's financial security. They expose you to significant financial harm in the event that a worker is injured while on your property, or if your property is damaged. Few, if any, unlicensed operators have bonding or workers' compensation insurance. The quality of their work usually doesn't compare to that of a licensed contractor. Don't take the chance in order to save a few dollars. You'll probably end up paying more in the long run.

Tip symbol TIP Click Contractor License Classifications to read the definitions of contractor specialties.

Understanding the difference between a general and specialty contractor.

General building contractors usually oversee projects and coordinate the specific subcontractors for a job. Specialty or subcontractors are usually hired to perform a single job. For example, if you want only roofing or plumbing work, you may want to hire a contractor licensed in that particular specialty.

A general building contractor may also contract for specialty work, but must hold a specialty license for that work or actually have a specialty contractor do the work. The only exception is if the job requires more than two types of work on a building. Then it is appropriate for a licensed general building contractor to contract for and oversee the entire project. For example, if your kitchen remodeling will involve plumbing, electrical and carpentry work under one contract, you should hire a licensed general building contractor. Under these circumstances, a general building contractor may perform all of the work on a building, or subcontract parts of the job to contractors with specialty licenses.