When To Hire A Handyperson And When To Hire A Contractor

When something breaks in your home, it’s easy to imagine dollar bills flying out the windows. Depending on what’s wrong, though, you might be able to save money by hiring a handyperson instead of a licensed contractor. Be careful, though, some jobs require licensed contractors. How do you know when to hire a handyperson and when to hire a contractor?

handyperson tool chest
Image CC 2.0, by Ryan Hyde, via Flickr

California has a law about it, actually. If the cost of your repair, including parts and labor, is over $500, you must hire a contractor. That’s the simple answer. The more complicated answer is that it depends on your repair.

Difference between handyperson and contractor

Contractors must pass rigorous exams and prove expertise in their field to earn a license. They are highly regulated, and must be bonded and insured. Anyone who owns tools can call themselves a handyperson. That’s not to say that there aren’t many, many skilled handypeople. If you check sites like your local NextDoor or Angie’s List, you’ll find plenty of referrals.

When you have a clogged drain, or if an electrical wire comes loose, by all means, hire a handyperson. If, though, your pipes explode, of if a wall collapses, call a contractor.

Handypeople are generally available with less notice. In some situations, you might hire a handyperson to prevent further damage before hiring a contractor to fix the problem. If you need to perform major work, a contractor will work with your city to get permits and to ensure everything is done up to code. All contractors should be insured, but before you hire one, verify it. While many handypeople warranty their work, in other words, they’ll come back if their fix doesn’t take, they don’t carry insurance. If they accidentally break a pipe or rip your drywall, it’s your responsibility to fix it.

Regardless of whether your job requires a handyperson or a contractor, do your due diligence. Get references and get at least three bids, if you can.

Image CC 2.0, by Ryan Hyde, via Flickr