While handymen can handle many household repairs, they might not be licensed for some projects, like plumbing or electrical work.
If he or she isn't licensed, hire a specialized contractor who is, or you could be liable for damages. Or, if you try to sell the home, you could pay more to fix the issue so it meets local code requirements.
Large projects that take time, machinery and multiple workers, such as a kitchen remodel or home addition, often require a general contractor's license. These projects often necessitate multiple types of licensing and levels of expertise.
A qualified handyman, though, can often tackle in one visit several smaller projects that don't require licensing.
"A remodeling contractor and handyman are essentially the same thing in terms of ability," says Dirk Hoerr, president of Budget Right Kitchens in Oak Park, Ill. "Where a remodeling contractor and a handyman typically differ is the size and the scope of the work they perform."
THE HANDYMAN CAN
Handymen usually charge by the day or hour. They're often cheaper than a contractor because most small projects don't require multiple workers, and usually don't have much overhead cost.
Some states limit how much a contractor can do. In California, a handyman can perform up to $500 of work, including parts and labor. Because California doesn't offer specific licensing for handymen, any handyman who wants to surpass that limit must hold state licensing in the area of work he or she is doing. For example, a handyperson who does a bathroom remodel with minor plumbing work and floor installation would have to hold both plumbing and flooring contractor licenses to charge more than $500 for that project.
The cost of a handyman project can range from $75 to $5,000 or more, depending on the scope, but many are as low as $50 to $400, according to member reports.
TIPS FOR HIRING A HANDYMAN OR CONTRACTOR
Before hiring, interview several candidates. For handymen, pick one who you're comfortable with, because you'll be working closely with them around the house.
Be wary of any handyman or contractor who asks for full payment before doing any work. Ask for a written agreement that details the job, the cost and the payment schedule, and make sure to get a guarantee in writing.
Do your homework when hiring a contractor, especially since you may spend a lot of money on a project.
Home improvement experts say to get at least three bids. Because some contractors mark up the cost of materials, you may want to call the supplier to determine the cost of supplies to see if the contractor was reasonable.
Paying attention to how long it took the contractor to come up with the estimate is also important. If he or she says they'll get it to you Monday but you end up waiting until Thursday, that could be a reflection of how they'll perform the job.
Tom Moor is a reporter for Angie's List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.