Tag Archives: Contractors State License Board

Call your chimney sweep today

Autumn is the time of year to call your chimney sweepThe kids are back to school and life has returned to the normal routine. The leaves are starting to turn colors. Sunrise is later and sunset is earlier. Autumn is here. Soon enough you’ll be looking at the fireplace, wanting to light a fire on a cool evening. Then you realize that you can’t remember the last time you hired a chimney sweep.

Chimney-related businesses are very seasonal. The best time to contact a chimney sweep is in the spring and summer when the rates are the lowest and you can get an appointment within a short amount of time. Waiting until it gets cold will mean paying more and having to wait four or five weeks (sometimes more) for an appointment.

Call a chimney sweep today before the rates go up.

Six things to consider when hiring a chimney sweep

1) CSIA Certification – Make sure that you’re using a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep. These are highly trained chimney professionals, educated in current building codes and fire codes. They also have to sign a very strict code of ethics. This certification must be renewed every three years in order to stay up-to-date with these codes. To find a Certified Chimney Sweep, go to the website for the Chimney Safety Institute of America. Enter your zip code in the search box at the top. It’ll then give you a whole list of CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps from closest to furthest away within a 50-mile radius.

2) General Liability Insurance – Any contractor who steps on your property should carry general liability insurance. If a treeContractor with tool belt trimmer cuts down your tree and it lands on your neighbor’s roof, without insurance, the homeowner may be financially responsible for those repairs to the neighbor’s roof. Ask the contractor for a copy of his “Certificate of Insurance.”

3) State Contractor’s License – In California, any work that amounts to more than $500 (labor and materials) requires a contractor’s license. To check a contractor’s license in California, go to the website for the California State Licensing Board. In most cases, because chimney sweeping falls below the $500 limit, a contractor’s license is not required but having a license adds to the legitimacy of the business.

4) Workers’ Compensation – If an employee of a contractor becomes injured while on your property, workers’ compensation will pay for the employee’s injuries. This is very important protection for the homeowner. Imagine if an employee of a tree contractor cuts off his hand while cutting down your tree and the employee doesn’t have workers’ compensation coverage, the homeowner may be financially responsible for those injuries. To determine if the contractor carries workers’ compensation insurance, go to the California State Licensing Board website and enter the license number. The website will provide information on workers’ compensation coverage. Another way to verify coverage is to ask the contractor for a copy of his Workers’ Compensation Proof of Insurance.

5) References – To find a qualified company, ask your friends, family, and co-workers who they’ve used. Word of mouth is a great way to find a chimney sweep company. But be sure to check on the contractor’s certification, license and workers’ compensation.

6) Reviews – Check a company’s reputation by going to Google Reviews, Nextdoor, Yelp, Angie’s List, or Better Business Bureau. If you see a lot of bad reviews, it’s best to choose a different company.

Call your chimney sweep today before you start using your fireplace!

25 Important Tips to Hire a Contractor

Contractor with tool beltA true story: About ten years ago, a friend of ours decided to do a major remodel on his house, basically doubling the size of his home. He did his due diligence in researching contractors and he narrowed it down to three very qualified candidates. Then he went to the California State Licensing Board website to research the contractors and found that two out of the three contractors had suspended or revoked licenses. Of course, the contractors didn’t bother to tell our friend this critical information. This is why it’s imperative to check out your contractors. Fortunately, our friend was a very discerning homeowner and avoided potential issues from an unscrupulous contractor.

Here are 25 essential tips to know before hiring a contractor. These tips will protect you as the homeowner from scammer contractors. (This information pertains to California. If you’re in a different state, check your own state’s contractors state licensing board.)

1) Any work done to your home that amounts to $500 or more (combined labor and materials) requires the contractor to have a state contractor’s license.

2) Check the contractors through the California State Licensing Board (CSLB) website. You can check the license from the contractor’s license number, the contractor’s personal name or the contractor’s business name. This website is an exceptional resource and easy to navigate. The CSLB website will show the contact information for the contractor, type of business entity, the date the contractor’s license was originally issued and when it expires, the status of the license, the classification of the license, bonding information, workers’ compensation information, and personnel list.

3) If the work is under $500 but is part of a larger project, a contractor’s license is still required even for the work under $500.

4) Projects cannot be broken down into smaller jobs to get around the $500 limit.

5) Ask to see the contractor’s license badge issued by the CSLB.

House made from contractor tools6) Verify that your contractor is not “borrowing” someone else’s contractor’s license. This is more common than you think and is illegal. A contractor cannot do any work with a license unless he is listed as the owner of the company or is a bona fide employee of that contractor. When you check the contractor’s license on the CSLB website, there is a page on the license detail that shows a list of personnel with the company.

7) The CSLB website will show if the contractor’s license is active, inactive, revoked, suspended or expired.

8) Check the license history of your contractor as well as any pending or prior disciplinary actions. Here’s how you do that:

Pull up the contractor’s license
Click on “License”
Click on “Complaint Disclosure. This will show you any citations that the contractor has received.
Click on the citation number and it will give you a detailed list of citations.

You can also find out a list of citations by calling the Legal Action Disclosure telephone number for the CSLB.
California – Northern Region: 916/255-4041
California – Southern Region: 562/345-7656

9) If a contractor has a contractor’s license, the license number must be shown on ALL forms of promotion and advertising. This includes all documents including letterhead, contracts, business cards, telephone yellow pages, newspaper ads, vehicle lettering and any other form of advertising. It also includes website, social media, TV and radio commercials.

10) Contractors who are NOT licensed must state in all forms of advertising that they are not licensed and cannot perform any work greater than $500.

11) Make sure contractors have the proper contractors license for the work they’re doing. As an example, you don’t want a contractor with a specialty license in landscaping to be doing your electrical work.

In California, there are 4 types of contractor’s licenses: “A” (General Engineering Contractor); “B” (General Building Contractor); or “C” and “D” (Specialty Licenses). The general contractors licenses can work in any field whereas the specialty licenses are limited to the type of work the license is issued.

Typically in the chimney industry, the specialty licenses would be C-29 (Masonry) or C-61/D-34 (Limited Specialty – Prefabricated Equipment). There is no specific category of contractor’s license for chimneys and fireplaces.

12) The California Contractors State Licensing Board website provides information about the contractor’s workers’ compensation insurance. In case of an employee’s injury or death on a job site, the homeowner potentially would be liable to pay for any medical bills. Workers’ Compensation is for your protection as a homeowner!

13) If the contractor does not have employees, the CSLB website will indicate an exemption from having the workers’ compensation insurance. If the contractor with an exemption on file then shows up at a homeowner’s property with employees, those employees are not covered in case of injury or death, leaving the homeowner potentially liable to pay for any medical bills.

14) All roofing contractors in California must carry workers’ compensation insurance even if they do not have employees.

15) Contractors are required to have a Contractor’s Bond in the amount of $15,000. This bond guarantees the work and performance of the contract. A homeowner should make sure that the contractor’s bond is current and not expired.

16) Ask to see proof of general liability insurance in the form of a “Certificate of Insurance.” Verify that the insurance is current and has coverage of a minimum of $1 million aggregate.

17) If building permits are pulled, the contractor must have a valid state contractor’s license that is in full force.

18) If building permits are required, the contractor must verify workers’ compensation coverage or have an exemption from coverage if the contractor doesn’t have employees.

19) Get at least three bids from contractors. Don’t be rushed into making a decision. Look online for reviews and do a Google search to ensure that the contractor is not a scammer.

20) It is against the law for a contractor to demand more than $1000 or 10% of the full contract price, whichever is less, for a deposit on any home improvement project.  Pool contractors have different requirements for deposits.

21) Pay the contractor according to the schedule of payments stated in the contract. Do not let payments get ahead of the work. This is for your protection as a homeowner.

22) Certain work in a home also requires that the contractor has a special Asbestos Certification if they are performing any asbestos-related work.

23) It is illegal for a contractor to do work in a declared disaster area without a state contractor’s license.

24) Here’s a valuable check-off list to screen contractors.

25) Here is contact information for the California Contractor’s State Licensing Board.
Website: www.cslb.ca.gov
Toll-free automated Assistance – 1-800-321-2752
Disaster Hotline – 1-800-962-1125
Northern California General Complaint Information – 1-800-321-2752
Northern California to report unlicensed activity – 916-255-2924
Southern California General Complaint Information – 1-800-321-2752
Southern California to report unlicensed activity – 562-466-6017

Contractor’s licenses, workers’ compensation insurance, contractor’s bonds and general liability insurance are all for the protection of the homeowner. Hiring unlicensed contractors is asking for potential problems that, in the end, will cost far more financially and emotionally.

Always check out your contractors!

[Photo credits: Adobe Stock Photos]

A house on fire

5 Things to consider when hiring a Chimney Sweep

A house ablaze due to a chimney fireImagine watching the local evening news that shows a story of a hapless victim of a chimney fire, resulting in a house burned to the ground. It makes you realize that it’s been far too long since you had your own chimney looked at, and you make a mental note to call a chimney sweep to set up an appointment. The next morning, you get on the internet to search for a chimney sweep and you realize that you don’t even know what to look for.

Many people aren’t aware that in most of the United States, there are absolutely no regulations on the chimney sweeping trade. This means that anybody can go out and claim they’re a chimney sweep and start a business. They may know little or nothing about chimneys, so it’s imperative to hire a chimney sweep company that has been specifically trained and is experienced with chimneys and fireplaces. Your family’s lives, pets and belongings may depend on hiring a qualified chimney sweep.

So what do you consider when hiring a chimney sweep? Certainly not someone dressed like Dick Van Dyke from Mary Poppins!

What to consider in finding a qualified Chimney Sweep


There are a number of chimney sweep certifications in the U.S. but by far thLogo that reads "Certified Chimney Sweep"e most mainstream is the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). To become certified, an individual is required to take a test every three years based on the International Residential Code, the National Fire Protection Association 211 Manual, the Successful Chimney Sweeping Manual, and then sign a strict code of ethics. To find a CSIA Certified Chimney Sweep, go to the CSIA website at www.csia.org and put in your zip code in the upper left corner. It will then provide you with a comprehensive list of all the CSIA Certified Chimney Sweeps within a 50-mile radius.

General Liability Insurance

Whether it’s a tree removal company, a plumber or a chimney sweep, make sure that any contractor working on your property always carries general liability insurance. Ask to see the proof of insurance. This is for your protection as a homeowner. As an example, if a tree removal company chops down a tree and it lands on your neighbor’s roof, if that contractor doesn’t have insurance, guess who pays for the damage to your neighbor’s roof? YOU!

State Contractor’s License

In California, any work that amounts to $500 or more (labor and materials) requires a contractor’s license. This protects the homeowner. Find out the statusLogo for the California State Licensing Board of a contractor’s license by going to the California State Licensing Board website at www.cslb.ca.gov. You can check the license by license number, contractor’s name or name of the business. An average chimney sweeping service falls well short of the $500 limit, but if the chimney sweep performs any repairs, it could exceed that limit and it’s best to know in advance. The contractor’s license also adds to the legitimacy of the business.

References by friends, family, or co-workers

One of the best ways to find a reputable chimney sweep company is word of mouth. Find out from your friends, family or co-workers if they were happy with the chimney sweep they’ve used, but be sure to follow up by checking the status of their certification, insurance, and contractor’s license.

Reviews and Reports about the Company

Check out the company’s reputation on Yelp at www.yelp.com, Angie’s List at www.angieslist.com or Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org. If you see a lot of bad reviews, it’s best to go to the next company on the list.

Caveat Emptor – Phone Scams

This is Latin for “Let the Buyer Beware” and this is especially true for any homebuyer who receives a phone call from someone, anyone, who calls you on the phone to solicit your business. You have absolutely no way of knowing who is actually calling you. Even though you are on the Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov, that won’t stop an unscrupulous company from lying to you and convincing you that they are your chimney sweep company and it’s time for a chimney sweep. We’ve even had these unscrupulous companies call our loyal customers. Our customers have even responded by saying that they use our company and these unscrupulous companies have said that we were no longer in business. Remember: NEVER do business with anybody who calls you on the phone!  And this rule of thumb doesn’t just apply to a chimney sweep service.

In conclusion…

Spending a few minutes of extra effort will ensure that you find the right chimney sweep company and that your house won’t end up on the local evening news!