How to choose between handyman, contractor

  • Monday, December 23, 2013 5:16pm
  • Life

Whom should you hire: handyman or general contractor?

The answer largely depends on the scope of the work. If you need help with a honey-do list, consider a handyman or handywoman. If the project is rather complex, consider a contractor.

A general contractor and a handyman may offer similar abilities, but in general, the handyman focuses on smaller jobs that can be done in a few hours, a day or a couple of days.

A contractor typically manages larger projects that require significant coordination over weeks or months.

Specialized trades, such as plumber or electrician, require specific training and, in most states, a license. If you hire someone who isn’t appropriately licensed or trained and experienced, you could end up with problems, including eventually having to pay to have work redone to meet local code requirements.

Someone with a general contractor’s license may be your best bet to manage a project that requires extensive time, specialized machinery and multiple workers with varying levels of expertise and licensure requirements, such as a kitchen remodel or home addition.

A qualified handyman, though, can often tackle in one visit several smaller projects that don’t require special training or licensing.

Some handyman businesses employ licensed electricians or other pros, or feature an owner or manager with a general contractor’s license.

These companies will have more flexibility to handle a wider range of jobs.

Handymen can be less expensive to hire, in part because they usually have less overhead. They often charge by the day or hour.

Be aware that some states restrict how much work a handyman can do. California, for example, limits handymen to $500 worth of work per day.

The cost to hire a handyman can range from $50 to $400, depending on the scope of the job and how long it takes.

A general contractor, meanwhile, should be comfortable handling projects costing thousands of dollars.

Before hiring a handyman or contractor, get multiple bids and confirm that the person you hire is appropriately licensed, insured and bonded.

Be wary of a handyman or contractor who seeks full payment before starting work. Ask for a written agreement that details the job, cost and payment schedule, and get guarantees in writing.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care; www.angieslist.com.

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