Hiring a Handyman
Not all home repair jobs require the help of a general contractor or specialized service provider. A handyman can be hired for a variety of small home improvement projects. The following guide explains how a handyman can fix your to-do list while saving time and money along the way.
What is a handyman?
A handyman or handywoman is a skilled "jack of all trades" who can be hired by the hour to complete a wide range of small home improvement work and repair.
A handyman, or handyman company, typically charges the client by the hour plus material costs, regardless of the task at hand. Many homeowners will compile a list of repairs and hire a handyman to complete the list in a single visit.
The term "handyman" is loosely defined. Some are self-trained, while others have more formal training in various aspects of construction and home repair. Some specialize in a few types of home maintenance, such as painting and carpentry, while others specialize in several areas of home repair.
There is no national standard or regulation for handymen. Licensing and regulation vary by state. New Jersey, for example, requires handymen who work for a profit to register with the state and carry insurance. California requires handymen to carry a license from the Sate Contractors License Board to work on any project that exceeds $500 in labor and material costs.
How do I know if I need a handyman or contractor?
The scope of the job and level of skill required to complete it should determine whether you hire a handyman or contractor.
"When trying to determine who you should hire for a particular job, consider the task," says Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. If it's a specialized trade, be sure you hire that tradesperson like a plumber or electrician, for example. If it's little things that you can do yourself, a handyman is probably the right way to go."
A handyman is not the best option for a large or complicated project that could take a long time to complete and require the help of multiple workers. A contractor or specialist should be utilized for remodeling work, room additions, projects that require heavy-duty equipment or licensed professionals like electricians.
Benefits of hiring a handyman
You've got an ever increasing to-do list of home improvements like changing out a bathroom faucet, replacing missing shingles on the roof and painting a kitchen wall. You could hire a plumber, roofer and painter who all would have conflicting schedules of availability and their own service charges, or you could hire a handyman to complete all three projects in one day for a single hourly rate.
A homeowner can save money on home improvement projects by hiring a handyman because it eliminates the need for multiple service providers and contractors. Many handymen charge by the hour so a homeowner only pays for one worker who can complete a wide range of projects. A service charge from a plumber or roofer to come to your home could equal or even surpass the price to hire a handyman for a few hours.
Hiring a handyman also prevents waste and overcharging, as the handyman will only charge you for hours worked. A contractor or specialist is more likely to price a job based on an estimated amount of time it will take to complete it. Handymen are able to keep their rates low because they don't have to pay additional workers and have lower overhead costs than contractors or large companies.
Many homeowners turn to handymen when they have a job but don't know who to call. Handymen have been known to do all types of work from setting up playground equipment and gas grills to hanging holiday lights and decorations.
Handymen are best utilized for small, "honey-do" types of home repair work. The following projects are ideal for most handymen.
Minor plumbing work: Many handymen are capable of completing minor plumbing work like installing new fixtures or repairing a leaky faucet. However, complex projects or jobs that require plumbing to be moved within the home should be left to a licensed plumber.
Caulking: Adding a fresh application of caulk to gaps between windows, doors and siding is a great way to improve energy efficiency and lower utility costs.
Decks and Porches: Over time, weather can take its toll on wooden decks and porches. A handyman can replace broken boards, apply a finish or sealant and make general improvements or repairs to upgrade your deck or porch's safety and appearance.
Gutter cleaning and maintenance: Although it's a simple enough task, cleaning gutters is messy and involves climbing on the roof. Avoid the risk of injury by hiring a professional handyman with the right equipment and experience for the task. A handyman can also install gutter guards to prevent seasonal clogging.
Home exterior repairs: If you have minor damage to your home's exterior, such as a loose piece of siding or a missing shingle, hiring a handyman to repair those items may prove to be more cost-effective than hiring a specialist.
Painting and touch-ups: A handyman can be hired to repaint a wall or garage door, touchup trim and scoff marks and repair small holes with spackle. Remember, a handyman typically charges by the hour, so larger jobs are better suited for a professional painting crew.
Hanging window treatments, pictures and mirrors and installing light fixtures: These small tasks can be easily accomplished by a homeowner, but hiring a handyman with the right tools and experience can help ensure these wall-mounted items are hung correctly without damage.
Handyman hiring tips
Homeowners should take the time to interview several candidates before making a hiring decision. A handyman will be working closely with you in your home so you want to pick one that you feel comfortable around. The following handyman hiring tips can help ensure you pick the right candidate.
- Define the project - start by compiling a list of the home repairs you would like completed. Remember, a handyman is best utilized for small jobs such as installing light fixtures, patching drywall and interior painting. If the job requires pulling a permit, or moving plumbing or electrical wiring, you should consider hiring a contractor.
- Shop around - check Angie's List reviews and interview a minimum of three handymen. Ask about years of experience and areas of specialization, and request references from homeowners who worked with the handyman in the past. Make sure the potential handyman has the skills and experience to complete your project.
- Watch out for scams - you want to avoid handymen who contact you with unsolicited phone calls or visits to your home. You should also avoid any handyman who refuses to guarantee the price of the job or asks for payment upfront. Reputable handymen don't expect to get paid before the project is completed.
- Get it in writing - insist on a written agreement laying out the job details, costs and a payment schedule. Be clear about the times you expect the work to be started and completed. It's extremely important to get all guarantees in writing.
- Ask for a guarantee - many handymen will guarantee their work for up to one year. Ask about guarantees before you make a hiring decision, and of course, make sure the guarantee is in writing.
- Inspect the work - inspect the completed work before making payment. Make sure that everything has been done to your satisfaction and at the agreed upon price. Most handymen will be happy to explaining the finished work because they want you to be satisfied.