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Roofing License - When It Is Needed, and How to Get It In California

Roofing is a tough profession, and if you want to start working as a roofer, you will first need to consider your roofing license. That means becoming familiar with state and local laws, which can vary. California requires you to have a license, and even in states that do not require a license, some local areas will demand you have one.

While most states do not have specific requirements for registration and usually want you to have a general contractor’s license, California is an exception. States with specific requirements include Illinois, California, and Arizona. There might also be differences if you do commercial work versus if you do residential work, so it is always good to take a look and know what is expected of you in your area.

Another thing to keep in mind is that some states, including California, will want you to show that you have experience. They will also want you to pass an exam. Additionally, California and other states have requirements related to insurance, permits, or a bond before you can receive a license. All of these things will be covered below, with the requirements for California residents pointed out.

Learning the Requirements - State and Local

While details for California will be listed in the article, you will always want to look into it on your own. That is especially true at the local level, which might have additional requirements on top of the state requirements.

Almost all states are going to require you to pass an exam and have a certain amount of education or on-the-job training before you can receive a license, and California is particularly demanding. In other states, it might include an apprenticeship, which is seen in states like Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas.

The exact hours and education required will depend on the state. The same is true of how you can go about receiving that education, with some allowing online courses and others not.

In particular, California carries the most regulations of any state, though they all exist for a reason. California suffers from fires and earthquakes, among other natural disasters. There are even high winds that can impact structures in some areas.

Because of natural disasters and other factors, California pushes roofing contractors to be closer to specialists. That means requiring a license for any work that involves $500 or more in materials and labor, which is basically any job.

The Required License

There are 21 states that require professional roofers to hold a license, including California. It is called a C-39 license, and it is for specialty roofers only. Contractors working in other trades will likely need other licenses.

The California Code of Regulations explains roofing contractors as individuals who install and repair surfaces that deal with sealing, waterproofing, and weatherproofing structures. Moreover, during the work, a roofing contractor will examine and prepare surfaces and use various materials.

If a contractor plans to work with asbestos or other hazardous substances, there will be additional requirements. You will want to check out the detailed list of requirements on the official CSLB website.

Those Exempt from Licensing

As mentioned above, those working on projects of less than $500 do not need a license. Another exemption includes those working for a wage, such as employees who do not work in an independently established business. It also includes any employee without control over the end result of the work. Other exemptions include the following:

  • Public workers dealing with public projects.
  • Officers of the court operating within their office.
  • Public utility workers, assuming certain circumstances.
  • Oil and gas operations performed by owner or lessee.
  • Owner-builders working on pre-existing structures on their property.
  • Sale or installation of finished products which will not be a fixed part of the structure.

Other exemptions include sellers of installed carpets using a licensed carpet installer and security alarm company operators dealing with alarm systems. The same is true for those who only install antenna systems registered with the Bureau of Electronic and Appliance Repair.

Receiving the Required Education

Training and education are a requirement if you want to earn your roofing license in California, starting with four or more years of experience as a journeyman roofer, supervisor, or foreman. That being said, the C-39 license does accept qualification by a Joint Examination Board as well.

Up to three years can come from other forms of education, such as technical and vocational training, but at least one year must be practical experience. These avenues will require evaluation by the CSLB. Find out exactly what is accepted on the official CSLB website.

Contractor license exams often test individuals on roofing materials and installation. There are also times when requisite knowledge includes roofing construction law, such as building code requirements, permits, and regulations. There are specific materials and courses available to prepare you for any tests, so make sure you are prepared.

The Application Process

The Contractors State License Board (CSLB) exam requires thorough preparation, but you also have to worry about the application process. It includes completing the Application for Original Contractor’s License and requires you to follow a few steps you will find below. Keep in mind that only a single license classification can be applied for at any time, assuming there is an exam requirement.

When reporting and confirming journey-level work experience, use the Certification of Work Experience form. On the other hand, owner-builder work requires you to submit a Project List form for every one of the projects in addition to the aforementioned Certification of Work Experience form. Additional steps include the following:

  • Complete everything in ink, though you can also use a typewriter.
  • There must be a date and the signatures of everyone listed.
  • Proofread for omissions to ensure a smooth and quick application process.
  • Do not forget any of the documents or the processing fee.
  • Ensure there is a return address included on the envelope when you send it.

Additionally, you should avoid including bonds or initial licensing fees with the application. When you have succeeded in taking the exam, everything else you need to send in will be requested. Upon receiving the application, the CSLB will send an acknowledgment letter with the Application Fee Number and four-digit PIN that are used to check the application’s status. The official website explains things in more detail.

Taking the Exam

If the exam application is accepted, you will receive two things. The first is a Fingerprinting Live Scan packet, while the other is a Notice to Appear for Examination. The notice should come a minimum of three weeks prior to the exam date.

  • Those with a disability requiring special testing accommodations will need to fill out the proper request form to ensure they receive any accommodations needed.
  • If a translator is required, it can also be accommodated, but only translators approved in advance by the CSLB will be accepted.

Specific exam information will be provided, including what you should bring and will not be allowed to have with you. A safe bet is to have a picture ID ready and leave all personal belongings behind on the day of the test.

Exam results will be given to the examinees before they leave the site, and those who pass will be told so, though they will not be given specific information. On the other hand, those who fail will be provided information on their performance in each section to help them for the next attempt.

Exam Content

The exam is divided into two sections, with the first being a Law and Business exam. The other section will be a test covering a specific trade or certification area, such as roofing.

The Law and Business exam focuses on business management and construction law. Meanwhile, the other test will cover information related to the trade or certification area. Specific topics will be detailed in the study guide included with the Notice to Appear for Examination.

If you want to find study guides on a specific trade or certification area prior to applying, you can go onto the official site.


Every applicant will be required to undergo fingerprinting, which will then be used by the CSLB to conduct a criminal background check. The fingerprinting will take place at a Live Scan station, though you can find all details and required forms in the packet you are sent. During the process, applicants will be asked to disclose all past convictions.

Issuing of the License

Upon passing, you will get a bond and fee notification form, which will detail what you need to submit for insurance requirements. Here are some of the things that you might be required to provide:

  • Initial licensing fee
  • Contractor bond or cashier’s
  • Bond of Qualifying Individual
  • Completed asbestos examination
  • Certificate of Workers’ Compensation

There are other possible requirements, but those are some of the common ones. That being said, the required amounts change each year, with 2023 expecting increases in the contractor bond and Bond of Qualifying Individual to $25,000 each.

The license will be valid for two years after its initial issuance, and it can be renewed as an active license for two-year periods. Inactive licenses can be renewed for four years at a time.

Penalties for Contracting Without a License

It might seem like a lot, but working without a roofing license carries serious penalties. The first offense is usually a misdemeanor with up to six months in jail on the line, as well as a $500 fine. After that, the penalties increase. Additionally, areas designated as a state of emergency or disaster raise the stakes up to felony charges.

Bumble Roofing is a fully licensed and bonded roofing contractor that services all of Los Angeles.