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California Roofing License: How to get certified as a roofer in CA

September 19, 2023 8 min. read
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If you are looking to enter the booming home improvement market, getting your roofing license in California might just lead to your next dream job. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, California ranks second in the nation in terms of employing roofers and fourth in terms of roofers’ annual earnings. 

Getting licensed in the Golden State will allow you to take part in a roofing industry worth an estimated $6.2 billion, so don’t delay. After getting your license, you can expect a starting salary of around $40,000, but that can increase to nearly $60,000 with experience.

We’ve broken down the entire process into simple, digestible steps that cover everything you need to know to get licensed as a roofing contractor in California, including:

Do I need a roofing license in California?

Yes, you need a license to work as a roofer in California. The only exception is if you work on a project with a value of less than $500, including labor and materials, which significantly limits your earning potential. It is important to note that you are not allowed to split a larger project up into smaller amounts worth less than $500 in an attempt to sidestep the licensing process.

In California, roofer licensing is overseen by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), a division under the umbrella of the Department of Consumer Affairs. 

Types of roofing licenses in California

There is only one type of roofing license in California, a C-39 roofing contractor, which falls under the classification of a specialty contractor.

California’s Code of Regulations defines a roofing contractor as one who installs or repairs materials to seal, waterproof, and weatherproof structures using any combination of these materials:

  • Asphaltum
  • Felt
  • Flax
  • Glass fabric
  • Metal roofing systems
  • Pitch
  • Roof tiles
  • Shakes
  • Shingles
  • Slate
  • Tar
  • Urethane foam

California roofing license requirements

To be eligible for a C-39 roofing contractor license, you will need to be 18 years or older and able to prove that you meet certain work experience requirements. You need to have at least four years of experience working in the specialty class you are applying for, and the experience needs to have been in one of the following categories: 

  • Journey-level: You are a fully qualified, experienced worker who can perform tasks without supervision, or you’ve completed an apprenticeship program
  • Foreman/Supervisor: You have journey-level knowledge and experience and have also supervised employees working as roofers
  • Owner-builder: You have built up the knowledge and skills of a journeyman by working on your own property. You’ll need to submit a Construction Project Experience form for each project.

All experience claims must be documented and verified by a qualified individual.

While there are no formal education requirements to get a roofing contractor license, the CSLB lets you count up to three years of schooling, technical training, or apprenticeship toward your license. Include transcripts of your experience with your application, and the CSLB will evaluate it to determine whether it counts toward the four-year minimum. 

Here’s how different types of education can count toward your experience requirement:

Type of EducationMaximum Contribution to Experience Requirement
Associate (A.A.) degree from an accredited college in building or construction management1 – 1 ½ years
Four-year degree from an accredited college or university in the following fields: 
• Accounting
• Architecture 
• Business 
• Economics
• Mathematics
• Physics
2 years
A professional law degree2 years

Completion of an apprenticeship from an accredited apprenticeship program
3 years
Four-year degree from an accredited college or university in the following fields: 
• Construction/technology management
• Engineering in a field related to contractor classification
3 years

How do I get a roofing license in California?

Once you have met all the requirements to get your license, follow the steps laid out on the state licensing page for contractors: 

  1. Ensure that you have the necessary qualifying experience and supporting experience documentation
  2. Submit the application for Original Contractor’s License
  3. Complete the fingerprint/ live scan process required by the California Department of Justice (DOJ) and disclose any convictions
  4. Pass both the Law and Business and trade certification exams
  5. Secure a $25,000 bond or file a $25,000 cashier’s check with the CSLB
  6. Obtain workers’ compensation insurance—all C-39 license holders must have a current workers’ compensation policy or a Certification of Self-Insurance even if they have no employees

Applications, forms, and payment can be submitted to the CSLB online portal or by physically mailing them to the CSLB Headquarters at:

P.O. Box 26000
Sacramento, CA 95826-0026

Once these steps have been completed, you’ll receive a letter of acknowledgment from the CSLB, including an Application Fee Number and a four-digit Personal Identification (PIN). This will allow you to track your application status.

California roofing license exam

You need to pass both the Law and Business and trade certification exams to get your roofing contractor license in California. Each exam is three and a half hours long, and you will find out if you have passed right after the exam.

Here’s an overview of each exam:

ExamExam Information
Law and Business• Business Organization and Licensing (13%)
• Business Finances (15%)
• Employment Requirements (20%)
• Insurance and Liens (12%)
• Contract Requirements and Execution (21%)
• Public Works (5%)
• Safety (14%)
Roofing (C-39)• Planning and Estimating (22%)
• Job Site Preparation for Roof Projects (13%)
• Low-Slope Roof Projects (17%)
• Steep-Slope Roof Projects (26%)
• Safety (22%)

Does California reciprocate roofing licenses?

Reciprocal licenses allow contractors from out of state to apply directly for a license in California. 

The CSLB currently has a reciprocity agreement with Arizona and Nevada for roofing contractors who have held an active license for at least five years before applying.

You can find out more about California’s reciprocity requirements on the CSLB website.

How much does a roofing license in California cost?

The cost of getting your C-39 roofing contractor license varies depending on whether you are applying as an individual (sole owner) or part of a business (non-sole owner). You can expect to pay between $700 and $900 for the initial license.

Here’s a list of all the CSLB’s fees:

Licensing StepFee
Original Application$450
Initial LicensingSole Owner: $200
Non-Sole Owner: $350
Active Renewal Sole Owner: $450
Non-Sole Owner: $700
Active Renewal (Late)Sole Owner: $675
Non-Sole Owner: $1,050
Inactive RenewalSole Owner: $300
Non-Sole Owner: $500
Inactive Renewal (Late)Sole Owner: $450
Non-Sole Owner: $750
ReactivationSole Owner: $450
Non-Sole Owner: $700
Fingerprinting$49 + Live Scan fee

Renewing your California roofing license

You need to renew active roofing contractor licenses every two years in California, while inactive licenses need to be renewed every four years. 

The CSLB typically sends the renewal application out two months before it expires, giving you lots of time to renew. If you haven’t received the application 45 days before expiration, you can order the renewal form online

You can then mail your renewal form to the CSLB office or submit it online, along with the corresponding fee for the type of renewal. 

What happens if my roofing license expires? 

If you think your contracting license has expired, stop all work immediately and check the status of your license using the CSLB “check a license” portal. If your license is expired, fill out the renewal form or renew online and pay any late fees. If your license has lapsed for longer than five years, you’ll have to go through the initial licensing process again.

Continuing to work without an active license will open you up to penalties and legal action. There is even a California fraud team that conducts regular investigations to uncover unlicensed contracting. 

  • First-time offenses are usually a misdemeanor and carry a potential sentence of up to six months in jail and/or a $500 fine. You’ll also face an administrative fine that can run anywhere from $200 to $15,000.
  • Second-time offenses carry a fine of 20% of the contract price for the work performed or $4,500 and mandatory jail time for at least 90 days.

How to start a roofing business in California

Once you’ve secured your C-39 roofing contractor license and built up experience in the industry, you’re ready to take the next step: starting your own roofing contractor business.

The Secretary of State (SOS) has a dedicated web page and checklist explaining everything you need to know about starting a business in California. Here are the main steps outlined on the New Business Checklist

  1. Develop a business plan
  2. Secure any necessary financing
  3. Decide on a type of legal entity and business name
  4. Register your business with the SOS
  5. Register a fictitious business name (if applicable)
  6. Choose your business location and identify zoning regulations
  7. Secure any necessary licenses and permits
  8. Get your Employer Identification Number (EIN), workers’ compensation insurance, and other employer responsibilities completed
  9. Meet all your tax obligations
  10. Stay aware of ongoing SOS filing requirements

On top of these legal, financial, and tax requirements, there are some practical areas that you’ll also want to address, like choosing a good roofing company name, learning how to make estimates and price your roofing services, getting all the necessary equipment, hiring the right people, and using the right apps.

Check out our guide to starting a roofing company to learn about the ins and outs of running a roofing business.

Does a roofing license increase your earning potential?

Yes, getting your roofing license in California absolutely increases your earning potential. Without a license from the CSLB, you are limited to projects with a value under $500. But by applying for licensure, you can take on bigger projects and build your skills and reputation.

With experience and time, roofing contractors in California can earn close to $60,000 per year. You also stand to earn even more than that if you open up your own roofing business. 

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