The Basics about Contractor Licenses
In both California and Nevada, licensing of contractors falls in three main categories: General Engineering Contractors, General Building Contractors, and Sub-Contractors. Each licensed contractor is given a number for identification purposes. Based on the category of license, a letter code will also be assigned.
What's a General Engineering Contractor?
Although each state has its own laws and descriptions relevant to the type of work allowed under the different licenses, a General Engineering Contractor usually performs infrastructure work such as excavating, trenching, grading, and surfacing to install water or sewer pipelines, build highways and streets, etc. In both California and Nevada, these contractors have an "A" license.
What's the difference between a General Building Contractor and a Sub-Contractor?
A General Building Contractor usually oversees a multi-faceted project and coordinates the specialty contractors or sub-contractors for a job. Specialty or Sub-Contractors are usually hired to perform a single kind of work. For example, if you need only roofing or plumbing work, you may want to hire a sub-contractor licensed in that particular specialty. Both states have divided the specialty license into more specific classifications. There are more than 40 different classifications, ranging from landscapers, window installers, to painters, electricians, plumbers, etc.
A general building contractor may also perform the needed specialty work, such as roofing or plumbing, 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 needed work (plumbing, electrical, and carpentry), or subcontract parts of the job to those contractors with specialty licenses.
In both California and Nevada, General Building Contractors have the letter "B" with their license number and Sub-Contractors have the letter "C" with their number. California has added a "D" letter code to further define a specialty license (i.e. awnings, paperhanging, hydroseed spraying, etc.).
ALWAYS CHECK WITH THE CALIFORNIA OR NEVADA LICENSE BOARD TO MAKE SURE YOUR CONTRACTOR HOLDS A LICENSE IN GOOD STANDING AND IS PROPERLY LICENSED FOR THE TYPE OF WORK TO BE DONE. Contact the respective board by phone or visit their website: