What You Need to Know Before You Hire a Handyman

Hunker may earn compensation through affiliate links in this story.
Image Credit: RightFramePhotoVideo/iStock/GettyImages

The weekend is here, and you're ready to relax — until you realize the toilet's leaking, the back door is sticking, and the gutter is hanging off the side of the house. When that to-do list gets too long and eats up your entire weekend, a handyman can rescue you and leave you with more time to relax. A handyman can do those odd jobs around the house, from fixing the garbage disposal to patching the drywall. The extent of work that a handyman is allowed to do varies by state, but it's usually small repairs that aren't too technical and don't require special licensing.

Advertisement

Video of the Day

How a Handyman Can Help

Handymen can handle a wide range of minor repairs, installations, and maintenance tasks inside and outside your home. They typically do not perform major renovations or tasks that require specialized knowledge. Handymen have different backgrounds and experience levels, which affect the type of projects they're qualified to handle. Some might focus on a few types of projects, while others take on all types of work.

Some common tasks that a handyman can do for homeowners include:

  • Furniture assembly
  • Hanging art, shelves, etc.
  • Minor home repairs, such as drywall repair or caulking bathtubs
  • Appliance installation and setup
  • Painting and staining
  • Gutter cleaning and repair
  • Landscape maintenance
  • Seasonal maintenance
  • Minor repairs to decks, fences, and other outdoor structures

States often regulate what a handyman can do. In many areas, you need a licensed electrician to do any electrical work, but some areas might allow handymen to do simple tasks, like install light fixtures or ceiling fans. Even if the handyman has electrical know-how, it's often illegal for them to work on an electrical system unless they are also a licensed electrician.

Doing Your Homework

Before you hire a handyman, consider the scope of the home repair or home maintenance tasks you want to have completed. This helps you determine if a handyman is appropriate and if it's legal in your state for them to tackle these projects. It's also best to have the list of tasks available when you call handyman service companies. Bundling multiple tasks into one trip might be more cost effective than pricing them individually, so you can get a more accurate quote this way.

Consider the materials and finishes you want to use for your projects or the current materials for things you want to have repaired. For example, different types of siding can affect how the handyman needs to handle siding repairs, so providing that information helps them prepare a quote to give you an accurate estimate. If you want the handyman to install window coverings, it's helpful for them to know that you want wood blinds versus drapes or roller shades. This gives the handyman more information about what you want them to do and how much it might cost.

Advertisement

Also be sure to set your budget for the repairs before you start calling handyman services. When you get quotes from different candidates, you can compare their estimates to your budget to find a good fit. This can also help you prioritize the tasks if you can't afford to have everything done at once.

Why Hire a Handyman?

When you have home repairs or home improvement projects to complete, you have a few options. A DIY approach is usually the cheapest option, but it's time-consuming and can be dangerous if you don't have experience. It might take you longer to do the work since you're not a pro, so your home improvement projects will take longer to complete. If it doesn't turn out well, you might still have to hire a professional to fix your work. Plus, you have to buy your own tools, which can be expensive, especially if you're only using them for one project.

A handyman is usually the most affordable professional option. The hourly rate is typically lower than that of a licensed contractor, but a handyman might not be able to do larger or more specialized projects. The broad services available from a handyman are convenient if you mainly need lots of small tasks done. You can have one person knock out your entire to-do list instead of hiring multiple contractors.

If you have a large project, like a kitchen remodel or a room addition, you're better off working with a general contractor who can hire and manage multiple subcontractors. This is typically the most expensive option, but it is recommended for homeowners with little construction experience.

Image Credit: photovs/iStock/GettyImages

Choosing the Right Handyman

Even though a handyman doesn't have to be licensed, you still want to ensure the person or company you hire is qualified to do the work. Doing some research on different aspects of the handyman helps you make the right choice.

Advertisement

Independent Contractor vs. Handyman Service

Some handymen work as independent contractors, which means they work for themselves. They schedule their appointments and do all of the actual work on your home. You can also choose a handyman service that employs lots of workers. Some of these companies do a background check on its employees before hiring them, which can give you peace of mind. Both independent contractors and handyman companies can offer high-quality work, but you need to do thorough research to ensure they're qualified.

Finding a Handyman

Knowing where to find a good handyman helps you get your job done quickly and correctly. Word of mouth is a reliable way to find a handyman with the skill set you need. In addition to asking your friends, co-workers, and other locals, you can also use the Nextdoor app, which lets you connect with people in your neighborhood. It's a good place to ask for referrals for a handyman or for other home improvement services you need.

Sites like Angi (formerly Angie's List) and HomeAdvisor are also good sources for finding qualified handymen. They provide reviews and detailed information about local handyman options. If you're heading to the hardware store for supplies anyway, chat with the employees there. They might be familiar with local handyman services and may give you recommendations.

Verify the Handyman's Qualifications

Next, verify that the handyman has liability insurance that covers the work they do. The handyman should provide you with a certificate of insurance if you ask. You can also ask for the insurance company's phone number to verify that the policy is still valid. Never hire a handyman without liability coverage, as it protects you in case something goes wrong during the job.

Look for experience in the type of repairs you need to have done. For example, if you're renovating your bathroom, look for a handyman who has installed tile, replaced faucets, or painted vanities. You might ask about what types of projects the handyman does regularly or where he got his experience. For licensed contractors, such as electricians and plumbers, there is typically an apprenticeship that the person completes. Anyone can call themselves a handyman, so finding out if they are self-taught or if they have some type of formal training can help you decide.

Advertisement

Ask Specific Questions

Asking questions helps you learn more about the handyman's qualifications. Some questions to ask a handyman you're considering for the job include:

  • Do you specialize in a certain type of job?
  • Is there anything you can't or won't do?
  • When do you have availability?
  • How long will the job take?
  • Have you done this type of work before?
  • Can I have a detailed estimate?
  • Can I provide the supplies, or can you provide the supplies?
  • Do you price your work on an hourly or flat-rate basis?
  • What form of payment do you accept, and when is the payment due?
  • Do you guarantee your work?

Check on References

You can ask the handyman directly for references from past clients or photos of previous jobs. Don't be afraid to call past clients to get their take on the handyman, from professionalism to quality of work.

Online reviews and ratings are easier to find than ever if you don't want to ask for references. Be sure to check for red flags. Just one bad review could be a disgruntled client who wouldn't be happy with anything, but multiple negative reviews about the same issues should make you wonder if there's a reason for concern.

Review the Contract

Ask the handyman for a copy of the contract so you can review it before you sign anything. Having a contract protects you and the handyman by defining the scope of the project and specifics of the work. If the handyman fails to provide the services the way he promised, the contract can be useful if you decide to pursue legal action.

Do a Small Test Run

Before you set a handyman loose on your entire house, consider a trial project. Pick something small and relatively easy for them to do for you. This gives you the chance to see how the person interacts with you, treats your home, handles payments, and does the job. If you like what you see, schedule time for the handyman to do the rest of the tasks on your to-do list.

Advertisement

Image Credit: Sinenkiy/iStock/GettyImages

The Cost of Hiring a Handyman

Some handymen charge an hourly rate, while others charge a flat rate for different types of jobs. The average hourly rate is between $50 and $80 for a self-employed handyman or $75 to $125 for a corporate handyman. This price doesn't include the materials, which can be cheaper to buy yourself. Handymen often mark up materials prices by 20 to 50 percent or charge you $30 to $80 for the trip to the hardware store.

Pricing can vary based on the project. For example, furniture assembly averages between $85 and $200, leaky faucet repair averages $65 to $150, and painting a room is usually between $350 and $850. The average costs give you some idea of what to expect, but always ask for a quote for your home projects before hiring someone.

Handyman Licensing and/or Certification

Many states don't require handyman licensing, but most states limit what a handyman can do without a license. In Louisiana, a handyman needs a license if the project exceeds $7,500. In Minnesota, a license is required if the handyman makes over $15,000 per year. Some cities have their own requirements for handyman licensing. For example, New York City requires a home improvement contractor license for any person or business doing construction, repair, remodeling, and home improvement work on residential land or buildings.

Check with the contractors' board in your state to determine the licensing requirements. Check with your city government to determine if it has special handyman licensing requirements. For example, you might not be able to use a handyman for a project that requires building permits or exceeds a certain dollar amount. This research helps you know what to look for when comparing handyman services.

A handyman can have certifications or licensing in specific areas even if he's not required. Someone who has worked as a plumber for a plumbing company might offer handyman services, for example. That person might still hold a plumbing license. Ask about any licenses and certifications the handyman holds to learn about his qualifications and to determine if they can handle more advanced tasks.

Advertisement

references

Shelley Frost combines her love of DIY and writing in her freelance career. She has first-hand experience with tiling, painting, refinishing hardwood floors, installing lighting, roofing and many other home improvement projects. She keeps her DIY skills fresh with regular projects around the house and extensive writing work on the topic.