Subcontractors are the people who work for builders, remodelers and ultimately take care of the many jobs that go into building, enhancing or repairing a house. Subcontractors aren't well known except for the ones homeowners rely on for critical repairs like roofing or tuning up a heating system.
There are more than 25 subcontractors or specialty contractors involved in building a house so for anyone who thinks they want to act as their own general contractor, you might want to rethink this. Depending on the state, many contractors must be licensed so when I stumbled onto this list of California contractor licensing, it seemed like the perfect time to write this article so …
Subcontractors and General Contractors
Subcontractors most often work for a general contractor (builder or remodeler) to perform a specific task which is part of a larger project. The subcontractor is paid by the general contractor when their work is completed, while the general contractor may not get paid for several weeks based on milestones completed per the terms and conditions specified in the customer contract. While many people association contractors or subcontractors with the construction industry, these terms are also used in other industries like information technology.
The use of subcontractors allows general contractors to deliver better service from specialists versus trying to maintain all required skills within their own organization. This reduces costs and risk, and the subcontractors are able to work for many companies to continually develop their skills through different types of jobs.
Some of these licensing requirements like landscaping, may surprise you because these contractors typically don't work inside a home. Other contractors listed here might not make sense until you realize the list covers all specialty (how the industry groups contractors who focus on a single skill or specialty) contractors, whether they work on residential homes or commercial buildings.
Subcontractor Licensing in California
Here is a list from California's Department of Consumer Affairs website, where they list all required subcontractor licenses. There are links to descriptions of the tasks performed by each of these contractors. For example, “A drywall contractor lays out and installs gypsum wall board and gypsum wall board assemblies including nonstructural metal framing members, and performs the taping and texturing operations including the application of compounds that adhere to wall board to produce a continuous smooth or textured surface.”
As most homeowners are unlikely to hire most of these subcontractors, we've highlighted the subcontractors you want to be aware of … although your state may not have the same licensing requirements as California. It's important to review this information periodically as New Hampshire where I live, recently added licensing for anyone working with gas. The license I'm surprised to not see on the list is for architects, as they're on the NH subcontractor list which is much shorter – asbestos, electrician, plumbing, architects, HVAC, landscaping, pest control and real estate.
Find your state's licensing requirements with this … list of state contractor boards.
- C-2 – Insulation and Acoustical Contractor
- C-4 – Boiler, Hot Water Heating and Steam Fitting Contractor
- C-5 – Framing and Rough Carpentry Contractor
- C-6 – Cabinet, Millwork and Finish Carpentry Contractor – might be hired by a homeowner to replace kitchen cabinets.
- C-7 – Low Voltage Systems Contractor
- C-8 – Concrete Contractor – may be the best person for a homeowner to hire when they have extensive problems with a foundation.
- C-9 – Drywall Contractor
- C10 – Electrical Contractor
- C11 – Elevator Contractor
- C12 – Earthwork and Paving Contractors
- C13 – Fencing Contractor – or company are geared to installing a new fence with the equipment and crews to get the job done efficiently.
- C14 – Metal Roofing Contractor [repealed]
- C15 – Flooring and Floor Covering Contractors
- C16 – Fire Protection Contractor
- C17 – Glazing Contractor – installs windows, sliding patio doors and more, although a handyman might do minor repairs.
- C20 – Warm-Air Heating, Ventilating and Air-Conditioning Contractor – is most often the company that delivers your heating fuel unless you're using natural gas. They offer service contracts to cover emergency repairs plus an annual service call to tune-up your system.
- C21 – Building Moving/Demolition Contractor
- C23 – Ornamental Metal Contractor
- C26 – Lathing Contractor [repealed]
- C27 – Landscaping Contractor – is the licensing your landscaper will need to create or maintain the landscaping surrounding your home.
- C28 – Lock and Security Equipment Contractor
- C29 – Masonry Contractor
- C31 – Construction Zone Traffic Control Contractor
- C32 – Parking and Highway Improvement Contractor
- C33 – Painting and Decorating Contractor – for homeowners wanting a professional paint job.
- C34 – Pipeline Contractor
- C35 – Lathing and Plastering Contractor
- C36 – Plumbing Contractor – is one of the key skills every homeowner needs, so find your plumber before you need them for an emergency.
- C38 – Refrigeration Contractor
- C39 – Roofing Contractor – is who homeowners find when their roof needs to be replaced.
- C42 – Sanitation System Contractor
- C43 – Sheet Metal Contractor
- C45 – Sign Contractor
- C46 – Solar Contractor – provide homeowners with a variety of solar systems from panels on the roof to the systems that convert the energy captured to electricity.
- C47 – General Manufactured Housing Contractor
- C50 – Reinforcing Steel Contractor
- C51 – Structural Steel Contractor
- C53 – Swimming Pool Contractor – is who you'll want to contact when installing a pool or spa.
- C54 – Ceramic and Mosaic Tile Contractor – means there's licensing required in California for home professionals installing tile.
- C55 – Water Conditioning Contractor
- C57 – Water Well Drilling Contractor
- C60 – Welding Contractor
- C61 – Limited Specialty
- ASB – Asbestos Certification
- HAZ – Hazardous Substance Removal Certification
- HIC – Home Improvement Certification [repealed]