California Handyman License: A Complete Guide

You are here:

Do you know that a skilled handyman is in high demand in California? In 2022, the size of the global handyman service market was around $339.10 million, and it has the potential to reach $1.65 billion by the year 2032 with a CAGR of 17%.

In California’s booming housing market, you might find that homeowners are seeking handyman services to repair, remodel, and maintain their homes.

When you decide to start your own small business and want to become a part of this trend, you may wonder if you need a handyman license in California to do so. A handyman could benefit from adhering to the law and expanding their business.

This article lists the steps for getting a California handyman license, from determining whether you need the license to obtaining one.

Do You Need a Handyman License in California?

The California license law does not require a license for you to work as a handyman. Despite this, certain conditions need to be met. It is permissible for an unlicensed contractor to perform most services without getting penalized if the job does not cost more than $500 (including labor and materials).

The unlicensed handyman in California can complete the following tasks:

  • Make fences more secure
  • Door repair
  • Patch drywall and hang it
  • TV mounts
  • Appliance repair
  • Fan installation
  • Fix faulty toilets

CSLB requires general contractors to obtain a California license if their project exceeds $500. Below is a list of requirements:

  • Work experience of four years
  • An insurance certificate
  • $15,000 bond for the contractor
  • The completion of the trade, business, and law examinations

It is not advisable to break down projects into smaller amounts to remain under this threshold. As a result, your projects will be limited.

Imagine you are renovating a dining room. For the entire project, the Contractors State License Boards (CSLB) will consider the material costs, labor costs (including your own), and expert fees. This way, the project’s total cost is determined; hence, determining whether you need a contractor license.

Steps for Getting California Handyman License

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) is responsible for issuing California general contractor licenses. To get a license, you must follow these steps:

1. Getting to know the different types of contractors licenses

There is nothing wrong with working on smaller projects as an unlicensed handyman, but getting your license is an excellent way to gain the trust of your customers and work on larger projects.

Where do you get your license from? How do you get it? An excellent place to begin is by researching what different types of California contractor licenses are available. Licensing by CSLB (Contractors State License Board) is issued by the California Department of Consumer Affairs.

The classifications for a general contractor license include the following:

Class A: Engineers and technical experts specializing in general engineering and technological problems.

Class B: General Building Contractor—When larger projects require the skills of at least two different types of trade specialists, a general contractor can hire subcontractors and specialty contractors.

A licensed professional contractor is classified as follows:

Class C: Specialty Contractor – A contractor with specialized skills

43 different subclassifications within class C correspond to different trades. Contractors in this field include carpenters, HVAC specialists, roofers, electricians, and swimming pool builders.

2. Get contractor licensing information

The requirements for each classification of license differ slightly. However, some California handyman license requirements are common to all license types, such as

  • Age proof of 18 years and older
  • Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Business entity and owner information
  • The qualifications of the qualified individual (who meets the requirements for work experience)
  • A form for certifying the work experience of a qualified individual

The process of obtaining a handyman license in California does not end when you submit your license application. Additionally, you will need to

  • Obtain fingerprints.
  • Take a state examination and pass it.
  • A surety bond of $15,000 is required.
  • Worker’s compensation insurance for anyone you hire or an exemption if you do not hire others.

3. Obtain the required training and experience

Contractor’s license in California must meet strict requirements for professional experience.

There is a requirement in this application that you have at least four years of experience as a journeyman, foreperson, or supervisor in the field.

To be valid, it must be from within the last ten years. For your application, a qualifying individual who has the required experience must be listed on the application.

This person may either be you or someone with the needed expertise.

It can count to three years of experience if you have completed an apprenticeship program or an accredited school’s training program in the construction industry.

In the form of tutor or specialist names, you should include a list of individuals who can verify your training or work experience.

If you have military training and experience, you can also meet this requirement. Documentation and transcripts will be required.

4. Fill out and submit your application for a contractor license

To submit the California handyman license application, you must collect all the necessary documents and then complete it. Send it by mail or online:

California Contractors State License Board
P.O. Box 26000
Sacramento, CA 95826

You will have to pay the following fees:

  • An application fee of $330 must be paid at the time of application.
  • When approved, the license fee is $200 for a two-year term.
  • If you are approved for a new license, you will be charged $75 for the additional license you are applying for.

A California contractor license costs $530 when you apply for just one.

5. Get your license after you pass the exam

The notification of your appearance for the examination will be sent to you once your California handyman license application is complete.

Get your license after you pass the exam

You will have ample time to prepare for the exam about three weeks before the exam date.

You’ll have to pass an examination to obtain your California law and business license.

A few topics will be discussed, including construction safety, project contracting, budgeting, and financial management.

Keep in mind the tips in the Study Guide provided by the Board when preparing for your exam.
Upon passing the exams, the Board will issue your license. It will take one week for you to receive both your certificate and card. Once you’ve earned your license, you can begin working.

Contractors must renew their licenses every two years.

If an unlicensed contractor is caught commencing an offense for the first time, they will be fined or to be sentenced to imprisonment. If the offense is done continually, the penalties and fines increase.

Requirements for Getting Handyman License

Before applying for your contractor’s license, your experience and documentation must be in order before you start handyman work.

Handyman license applicants and examinees must meet the following basic requirements:

  • A minimum age of 18 is required.
  • Obtain a driver’s license, state identification card, or individual taxpayer identification number.
  • Experience at the journeyman level, including up to 3 years of technical training gained in attending a college or trade school or taking part in an apprenticeship program.
  • You must have a bond of $15,000 in place with the CSLB or file a cashier’s check for $15,000 with the agency.

As defined by the CSLB, a journeyman has the experience of completing an apprenticeship program or that of being an experienced worker, not a trainee, and he’s capable of performing a specific trade without supervision.

It’s a comprehensive definition that could be used in various ways. Your help as your parent’s licensed employee could add up over time.

Adding a formal education could put you well on your way to passing.

Before applying for a contractor’s license in California, handymen should possess a few skills. A minimum set of skills that you’ll need (whether you’re looking for a job or starting your own business) includes

  • Assembling furniture
  • Maintenance of exteriors and interiors
  • Installation and repair of doors and windows
  • Repairing tiles
  • Painting and staining of the interior and exterior
  • Repairing drywall
  • Maintenance and installation of lighting
  • Installation of ceiling fans
  • Carpentry, plumbing, and electrical tasks of a minor nature
  • Services for winterizing interiors
  • Maintenance and repair of yards and fences

How Much Does it Cost to Get Handyman License in California?

California contractor’s licenses cost at least $699. Rescheduling fees are not included.

  • Licensing costs $450.
  • Licenses are valid for two years and cost $200.
  • Fingerprints are needed to verify your criminal history. It usually costs $49 to have your fingerprints taken.
  • There may be fees associated with additional fingerprint rolling.
  • In case you have to reschedule your exam, there will be an additional charge of $60 if you have to do so for any reason.

Renewal fees

Maintaining your handyman license with the CSLB is a requirement once you have it.

An active California handyman license expires every two years, while an inactive license expires every four years.

Approximately 60 days before the expiration of your license, the CSLB will send you a renewal application. Forms must be filled out, and fees must be mailed back.

Your renewal depends on timing. An active renewal costs $450 if you submit your application on time, and an inactive renewal is $225.

Late applications will cost you $675 for active applications and $337 for inactive applications.

After 45 days of your license’s expiration, the CSLB recommends you order a renewal online.

What Kind of Insurance Does a Handyman Need in California?

You will need the right general contractor insurance to obtain a handyman license in California. As long as you only do small jobs, you should have handyman insurance.

For a handyman services provider, the following types of insurance are recommended:

1. Workers’ compensation insurance

It’s essential to have workers’ compensation insurance if you have employees, and it covers lost wages, medical expenses, and other costs associated with on-the-job injuries.

2. The general liability insurance policy

The liability insurance you need will cover your liability for bodily injury to third parties and accidental loss or damage to property. This type of insurance will be asked for as proof by most clients.

3. Tools and equipment insurance

Tools and equipment insurance

If your work gear, tools, and equipment are damaged or stolen, insurance coverage can provide repair and replacement coverage for your equipment and tools.

4. Commercial auto insurance

As handymen are likely to drive to different job sites at different times, you must obtain insuring your auto for commercial purposes to cover any expenses related to an accident, such as towing, repairs, and rental reimbursements.

5. Commercial property insurance

Whether you own or rent a commercial property, your equipment and inventory are covered by your commercial property insurance.

Commercial property insurance

Here, we discussed different types of insurance that any handyman needs to run his business in California. Apart from insurance, we also discussed the requirements, steps, and penalties to get a handyman license in California.

Once you successfully get a license and start your own independent business, then you will definitely need an estimate and invoice software. The software allows you to create estimates and invoices in real time, saving you time and effort.

Frequently Asked Questions
  1. Do contractor’s licenses take long to process?

    Upon receiving a form or document, it is processed in the order it is received. By visiting the CSLB website, it is possible to check the status of your contractor’s license application.

  2. When I don’t have the correct license, what happens?

    It is possible to face hefty fines and even criminal charges if you fail to obtain a California handyman license. In case you don’t have a contractor’s license, it can result in a fine of between $100 and $5,000, depending on the severity of the violation.


A contractor’s license isn’t always required in California, but it can help you get new customers and grow your business.

A handyman who possesses a contractor license can accept large projects, and potential clients can be amazed at how professional the handyman appears.

Getting a handyman license could be a great investment if you plan to run your handyman business in California.

Author Bio
Jeel Patel
Jeel Patel

Jeel Patel is the founder of InvoiceOwl, a top-rated estimating and invoicing software that simplifies the invoicing and estimating processes for contractor businesses. Jeel holds a degree in Business Administration and Management from the University of Toronto, which has provided him with a strong foundation in business principles and practices. With understanding of the challenges faced by contractors, he conducted extensive research and developed a tool to streamline the invoicing and estimating processes for contractors. Read More

United States