Hiring for Home Repairs: Handyman or Contractor?

Does your project require a licensed contractor or a handyman? Know the difference so you can make the best decision for your home repair.

Hiring for Home Repairs: Handyman or Contractor?

  If you need a home repair, you may be faced with the question of who to hire to complete the work. This is one of the most important decisions you’ll make throughout the home repair, as you could be working closely with this person over the course of several weeks or even months.

 Depending on the type of home repair, you can choose to hire either a handyman or a licensed contractor (also referred to as a general contractor). The most considerable difference between these two choices is the word “licensed,” and it’s a very important distinction.


What is a Licensed Contractor?

Licensed contractors must be either licensed by the state or registered with the state, and must also maintain their license through licensing and registration requirements. Licensing involves passing exams, meeting certain criteria to prove reasonable competency in a trade and obtaining liability insurance. This means they have the background and training necessary to complete home repairs in accordance with state regulations.


How is That Different Than a Handyman?

A handyman, on the other hand, is not required to keep up with any state regulations. In fact, anyone can call himself a “handyman.” But to be fair, most handymen are skilled individuals who can accomplish a range of home repairs. What’s important, though, is that some projects require a licensed contractor to complete the work, otherwise you could face fines from the state or the state could force you to remove the project without compensation.

Some states mandate a licensed contractor perform the work if it totals a certain dollar amount. For example, in California, use of a licensed contractor is required if the work, including labor and material, exceeds $500. Other states have no minimum or maximum and determine mandates based on the type of work.


So Who Do You Hire?

Again, it depends on the type of project. Generally speaking, the larger the project, the more likely you’ll need to hire a licensed contractor. A handyman is perfectly acceptable, and often the economical choice, for small home repairs, such as unclogging sink pipes, patching drywall or fixing the fence in the backyard. He’s an extra set of skilled hands around the house. Although, if you hire a handyman, keep in mind that this person isn’t required by the state to have any formal qualifications, so you may want to screen them by asking for references before allowing them to enter the home.

The time to hire a licensed contractor is when you’re in need of a home repair that totals a dollar amount you’d be uncomfortable forfeiting, should something happen that might compromise the work. Since many licensed and general contractors carry large insurance policies, the work is safer than with a handyman who may not carry insurance at all. Confirm that the contractor carries insurance before hiring them to complete the job.

Licensed contractors are also highly specialized in specific fields. It’s important to note that the actual licensed contractor may not perform the work, instead employing a team of sub-contractors to tackle each task. For example, in a kitchen renovation, a contractor may call upon a plumber and cabinet installer as well as an electrician to manage wiring. While it may be tempting to hire a handyman at a low cost who promises to quickly complete the work, it’s important to understand the value of a licensed contractor who completes it to state regulations and stands behind it with quality insurance. 


At Resolve, every contractor in our network undergoes a thorough screening to ensure he or she is licensed, insured and well qualified to work on your home. With experts from coast to coast, Resolve is committed to creating the best nationwide network of home service professionals.


The information and advice contained in this article is intended as a general guide for informational purposes only. It does not take into account your personal situation. While we at Resolve have significant experience and history operating in the home restoration industry and working closely with construction contractors, we are not licensed as a general or specialty contractor. We encourage you to consider the information we’ve provided but urge you not to rely upon it in place of appropriate professional advice from a licensed, experienced construction contractor.






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