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Understanding the difference between a handyman and a contractor

A lot of people don’t actually know the difference between a handyman and a home remodeling contractor, or they think they’re the same thing. It’s important to know the difference between the two, so the next time you have a project of some sort, you’ll know who to call. Knowing the difference will help you save some time and a little money too.


Although both handymen and contractors work on homes, there are a lot of differences between the two. One of the biggest differences is that a contractor is licensed to do work that a handyman isn’t. This includes things like the electricity, the plumbing, mold removal, and so on. Since this kind of work requires a state license, the cost to hire a contractor is usually much more expensive than hiring a handyman.

When hiring a contractor to complete licensing work for you, you’ll want to make sure that the contractor you’re wanting to hire is in fact licensed. Do your research. You can call your local licensing agency to see if the individual you hired is legit. By hiring an unlicensed worker, you can be held financially reliable for any damages that occur throughout the project. Plus, licensed contractors generally deliver better work with fewer accidents. Never hire an unlicensed worker to save money. You’ll more than likely regret it.

So, what can a handyman legally do? A handyman is usually hired to complete smaller jobs whereas contractors are hired to complete large, more complex projects. For instance, a handymen can legally perform some plumbing work like installing a toilet or replacing a facet but will need a license to change lines. When it comes to electrical work, a handyman can legally change a light bulb or install a light fixture but will need a license to mess with the circuit box. It really all depends on the complexity of the job.

What kind of work do general contractors do?

General contractors typically take on larger projects, and in most cases, perform work that requires a license. Some of the projects you might hire a general contractor to do can include:

  • Electrical work
  • Plumbing work
  • Mold removal
  • Extermination
  • Concrete work
  • Home building

What kind of work do small job handymen do?

Handymen usually are hired to take care of the small jobs that don’t require a license to complete. So, what are some general handyman services? They include:

Cost of Work 

If you have smaller projects you need finished that don’t require a license to complete, then calling a handyman is your best bet. Many times, handymen work for an hourly rate while contractors charge a specific price for the whole project. Not only that, handymen tend to work by themselves whereas contractors work as a crew or a team. With contractors, an overhead fee is common too. This is why it’s best to hire a handyman for small projects. You’ll usually save yourself some money in the long run.

You’re now probably wondering what the actual price of a handyman is compared to the price of a general contractor. Typically the price to hire a contractor is anywhere from $75 to $5,000 for larger projects and $40 to $500 for smaller ones. General contractors on the other hand can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $30,000 and up. This hike in price is attributed to the fact that contractors have specialized experience and can tackle all kinds of larger projects.

Hiring Process

Like mentioned above, before you hire a contractor or a remodeling company, you should do your research. Call your local licensing agency to make sure the company you’re wanting to hire is licensed and able to legally complete all parts of the project. You’ll also want to make sure their license is up-to-date, and that their company is fully bonded and insured.

On the flipside, when you hire a handyman for all your small projects, a license won’t be needed. That is unless you have you need licensed work completed. Then you’ll probably want to hire a general contractor. However, just as the contractor, you should make sure that the handyman you hire is insured. This is for your own protection.

When trying to find a handyman or a bathroom remodeler, you’ll want to pay attention to what past customers have said about their service experience. Since general contractors do much larger projects than handymen, they tend to have customer reviews on webpages like Yellow Pages, Facebook, and Yelp. Look at these reviews and pay special attention to the negative ones. That doesn’t mean you should necessarily dismiss a company with a few bad reviews, but customer testimonials say a lot about a company and will give you a good idea on what to expect.

Handymen on the other hand aren’t usually big enough to have reviews on these webpages. Instead, ask them for a sheet of references. Most established handymen who perform good work will be able to provide this for you. If they can’t, you may want to hire a different handyman.

Another thing you should do when you hire a handyman or a general contractor is acquire at least three bids before you choose the right candidate. This will ensure you’ll get the best deal for your money. Also look for contractors and handymen that guarantee their work. A lot of general renovation contractors in Northern Virginia provide their customers with strong warranties that cover both the products used as well as the work completed. Good handymen will also guarantee their work and redo it if the customer is not satisfied.

Lastly, pay attention to how fast the handyman or the bathroom renovation contractor you’re interested in gets back to you with an estimate. If this person or company takes a week to get back to you, then they just might take forever to get your project completed. However, if they respond quickly, then there’s a good change they’ll get your project completed in a timely manner. This is something that you’ll really want to pay attention to.

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