C-11 Elevator Contractor’s License: A Comprehensive Guide

A man wearing a hard hat and holding a yellow tape measure.

Thinking about getting into the small but lucrative world of elevator installation, maintenance, and modernization?

Good idea!

As California continues to address its well-documented housing problem, elevator contractors will continue to be in high demand. Just think about all the new apartment complexes you’ve seen in your area in recent years – all of them need someone to do their elevator construction work, right?

Well, why not you?

In this guide, we’ll cover all the ins and outs of the C-11 Elevator Contractor’s license, so California contractors like yourself can kickstart their elevator journey and start making more money as a C-11 contractor. As an elevator operator might say, “going up!”

What Is A C-11 Elevator Contractor’s License?

The C-11 Elevator Contractor’s License in California is the license required to work on elevators in California. Governed and enforced by the Contractors State License Board (CSLB), a contractor’s license is necessary for the state to do certain types of construction work.

A C-11 Elevator Contractor’s license is required to legally install, maintain, and repair elevator systems of any type. This includes a wide range of equipment such as elevators, escalators, moving walkways, and similar devices.

Who Needs a C-11 License?

A C-11 license is required for any contractor in California looking to undertake projects that involve the installation, maintenance, or modification of elevator systems.

You cannot work on elevator construction, maintenance, repair, or any sort of other job unless you have a C-11 license. Even if you’re a general contractor with a Class B license, you can’t work on elevator jobs without this special license.

When Do You Need a C-11 Elevator Contractor’s License?

There are basically three main legal definitions of jobs that require a C-11 license. You need a C-11 license whenever you want to:

What qualifies as an elevator, then? What kinds of machinery should you expect to work on? Does the C-11 license only apply to elevators?

Luckily for C-11 license holders, your license isn’t limited only to elevators – it includes basically any type of automated people mover. Here are the specific types of machinery you can work on as a C-11 contractor in California:

How to Get a C-11 Elevator Contractor’s License

Step 1: Verify Your Experience
Like all other CSLB licenses, C-11 applicants must have at least four years of relevant experience working specifically on elevators within the last ten years. Proof of experience can be documented through tax returns, check stubs, contracts, and material order invoices or receipts​.

If you don’t have four years’ experience, you must gather it by working under a licensed C-11 contractor and gaining hands-on experience. You may also qualify by doing three years of accredited education and one year of hands-on experience.

Step 2: Submit Your Application
Complete and submit the CSLB application with accurate business information, business entity selection, qualifying individual identification, and work experience certification​.
Step 3: Pass the Examination
You’ve probably heard of the dreaded CSLB exam. It’s not as bad as it sounds – especially if you have experience.

The C-11 license exam consists of two parts: the Law and Business exam, and the trade-specific exam which covers a comprehensive range of topics related to elevator installation, safety, and maintenance.

Step 4: Background Check and Fees
Applicants must undergo a background check and pay associated fees, including application, license activation, and fingerprinting fees​.

It’s a pain, but it is what it is – this is just part of the process, unfortunately.

Complementary Licenses for C-11 Contractors

As always with specialty classifications, you can benefit from holding complementary licenses that combine several crafts together, allowing you to take on more, bigger jobs – for more money. Here’s some good licenses to hold as a C-11 contractor:

Daily Tasks for C-11 Contractors

The day-to-day work life of a C-11 contractor involves a variety of tasks that require technical knowledge, problem-solving skills, and attention to detail. It’s really not that different from any other construction job, but usually, you are a solo contractor, working as your own boss.

Here’s what you can expect as a C-11 contractor:


With the amount of high-rises, condos and apartments being built in California in 2024 and beyond, C-11 work is a great niche with little competition and lots of opportunities for contractors.

Demand is only going to increase for C-11 work. Especially if you already do electrical work, or are familiar with complex machinery, this is a great license to hold for any contractor.