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Licensed Contractor or Handyman?


First, let's start by prefacing this post. We love handymen. We utilize handymen in our flips. The construction world is full of fantastic tradesmen of all levels of experience and capabilities. For a homeowner, you may not know the difference between the two or the pros and cons of hiring one or the other. For instance, what a handyman can do that a general contractor can't and vice versa. Let's help you navigate through your hiring process so that you can get your project started.


When it comes to home improvement projects, it's important to understand the difference between a handyman and a general contractor. While both can be helpful for various tasks, there are some key distinctions to keep in mind.


Handymen are often the go-to choice for small projects or minor repairs around the house. They have a wide range of skills and can handle tasks like fixing leaky faucets, painting walls, or assembling furniture. One advantage of hiring a handyman is they are usually easier to get quotes from since their scope of work is generally smaller.


In terms of cost, handymen tend to be less expensive compared to general contractors. They typically charge an hourly rate or provide a flat fee for specific tasks. This affordability makes them an attractive option for homeowners on a budget. It's important to note that affordability can sometimes come at a cost. Be mindful of the old adage, "You get what you pay for."


On the other hand, general contractors are licensed professionals who oversee larger construction projects from start to finish. They have expertise in managing subcontractors, obtaining permits, and ensuring compliance with building codes. General contractors also carry insurance coverage which provides liability protection for both themselves and their clients. While general contractors may come at a higher cost due to their level of expertise and insurance coverage, they offer peace of mind knowing that your project is being handled by professionals who take responsibility for their work.


It's important to note that handymen typically do not carry insurance nor hold any professional licenses. This means that if any accidents occur during the project or if there are issues with their workmanship, you may not have legal recourse or protection. It is vital to have written contracts signed by both parties to ensure that everyone's best interests are protected. Believe me, there are plenty of horror stories on both sides of this coin. Understand that your handyman or contractor has probably been burned by an irresponsible homeowner a time or two in their career and deserves the same respect and transparency you are expecting.


If you're undertaking larger renovations or require specialized skills and legal protection, hiring a licensed general contractor would be the recommended route to ensure quality workmanship and minimize potential risks. It is up to you to do your due diligence with vetting your professional properly.

  • Ask questions to see how they respond to you. Do they seem confident and easy to work with?

  • Do they have photos and references of previous work? Not their family, not their own home, actual verifiable work for other clients.

  • Are they understanding about your vision? Do you feel comfortable they can translate your needs and concepts into the project?

It's crucial to assess your specific needs and consider factors such as project size, complexity, and legal requirements before making a decision on which type of professional to hire. In the end, trust your gut. Professional relationships can be complex to navigate but with communication, transparency and realistic expectations, you both can walk away with a smile.


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