Whether you need to repair something that has broken in your home or you need some help with a renovation project, there are times when you need to hire someone to do jobs around the house. It isn’t always clear which professional is the best choice. This is particularly true when the task involves the electrical system in your home.
On average, 1,000 people in the United States die from electrical injuries every year and 30,000 people are involved in non-fatal shock incidents. Many electrical injuries happen in the workplace, but approximately 20% of electrical injuries happen to children in their homes.
Additionally, electrical issues cause 51,000 fires every year that result in $1.3 billion in property damage, 1,400 injuries and almost 500 deaths. With so much on the line, it is vital that any electrical work done in your home be done properly.
When considering hiring an electrician vs handyman for an electrical job, there are several factors to consider:
- State and local regulations
- Qualifications and experience
- Complexity of the job
Because handymen usually cost less than electricians, you can save money by hiring handymen for jobs that do not require the skills and licensing of an electrician.
What Is the Difference Between an Electrician and a Handyman?
Before you can determine whether you need an electrician or handyman, you need to understand the types of jobs these professionals typically do.
What Does a Handyman Do?
A handyman is a prototypical “jack of all trades.” The types of jobs done by handymen depend on what they have the skills and qualifications to do and what they are legally permitted to do by state and local governments.
The exact regulations vary by location, but generally, handymen can do small jobs but are not permitted to work on large-scale renovation projects or do any work that requires a license the handyman does not have.
Do Handymen Need To Be Licensed?
Some states and localities require handymen to obtain a license to do work. Some do not. Check the regulations for your location before you hire anyone to do work on your property.
Even in states where handymen do not need to be licensed or registered, there may be restrictions on the type of work they can do. For example, many states require specific licenses for electrical, HVAC, plumbing and other types of work.
Recommended: Do You Need a Contractor License To Be a Handyman?
How Much Do Handymen Charge?
Costs vary depending on the local market and the skills and experience level of the handyman but typically range between $60 to $70 per hour for independent work and $125 per hour for handymen who work for a company.
Related: Is a Handyman Cheaper Than a Contractor? By How Much?
Can a Handyman Do Electrical Work?
When deciding when to hire an electrician vs handyman, you must find out if handymen are allowed to do electrical work where you live. In most locations, a handyman or electrician can do simple electrical work that does not require a specific license, such as setting up appliances or smart home devices and basic HVAC maintenance.
For example, a handyman can probably do simple tasks, such as installing a smart thermostat or a video doorbell. A handyman may be able to help you with HVAC maintenance tasks, such as changing filters and cleaning ducts but would generally not be allowed to do detailed HVAC work.
In most places, a handyman who is not also a licensed electrician can not do work that involves direct connections to your home’s electrical system. Examples of this type of work include replacing outlets, installing or repairing electrical boxes, replacing outdated wiring and rewiring interior light fixtures.
Can a Handyman Change a Light Fixture?
This answer depends on what types of electrical work require a license in your area and whether the handyman you are considering has an electrician’s license. In most cases, a handyman can change a light fixture that does not require any complex electrical work.
For example, if all your handyman needs to do is follow the instructions to remove the existing fixture and connect the new one to the existing wiring, a handyman can probably perform that task unless the regulations do not permit it. If the fixture requires rewiring your home, the job probably needs to be done by an electrician.
Can a Handyman Replace a GFCI Outlet?
Do you need an electrician vs handyman to replace a GFCI outlet? A ground fault circuit interrupter is a type of circuit breaker that is capable of shutting off power to an outlet whenever it detects an electrical fault. This type of outlet is commonly installed in damp areas, such as kitchens, laundry rooms and bathrooms.
Most homes have several of these outlets installed. If something goes wrong with one of yours or you need to add one to your home, you will probably need to hire a licensed electrician.
What Does an Electrician Do?
Electricians maintain, install and repair systems that use electrical power. Electricians typically perform a variety of tasks:
- Reading blueprints and technical diagrams
- Inspecting electrical components
- Repairing or replacing equipment, wiring and fixtures
- Installing and maintaining lighting systems, wiring and controls
- Troubleshooting electrical problems
- Following state and local regulations based on the National Electrical Code
While there are some electrical tasks that may be done by an electrician or handyman, electricians usually do not do non-electrical work.
Do Electricians Need To Be Licensed?
Different states have different requirements for electricians and some cities also have their own regulations. Most states have some type of requirement to either obtain a license or work for someone who has a license. Electricians usually need to be bonded and insured.
What Happens If You Hire an Unlicensed Electrician?
In most states, the legal penalties for unlicensed electrical work fall on the electrician. However, in some states there may be legal penalties for the homeowner as well.
Even if you are not violating the law, you may be putting your property and safety at risk by hiring an unqualified person who may also not be properly insured and bonded. In some states, knowingly hiring an unlicensed electrician may mean that you can’t sue for damages that result from an unlicensed person’s electrical work.
How Much Do Electricians Charge?
Rates vary depending on the type of work, the skill level of the electrician and where you live. Most electricians charge between $50 and $100 per hour.
When Should I Hire an Electrician vs Handyman?
Some jobs can be done by either an electrician or a handyman. Some can only be done by an electrician.
When To Hire a Handyman
Hire a handyman if you need simple electrical work done that does not require an electrician’s license. Handymen will usually be less expensive to hire than a licensed electrician. Additionally, if you have more than one type of job that needs to be done, hiring a handyman may save you from having to hire multiple contractors.
Services Commonly Performed by Handymen
There are several types of services commonly performed by handymen:
Handymen can complete minor plumbing jobs in most states, though some may have more restrictive requirements about when you need a licensed plumber. Plumbing jobs commonly performed by handymen include replacing a garbage disposal, installing a new faucet fixture, replacing pipes and unclogging toilets.
Cleaning and repairing gutters is a task that can be done by the homeowner, but many homeowners either do not have the time or don’t want to risk falling off a ladder and injuring themselves.
Painting and Patching
Painting can be done by the homeowner or by a professional painter, but a handyman may be able to do the job more efficiently and at a lower cost.
Repairing a deck is often beyond the skills of a typical homeowner, but may not require a general contractor. A handyman can often make repairs at an affordable price.
Drywall Installation and Repair
Drywall can break down over time or be damaged by impacts, smoke, rodents or moisture. A handyman can replace or repair damaged drywall.
An electrician or handyman may replace light fixtures that do not require rewiring. Additionally, handymen may replace broken or missing knobs, handles, faucets and other fixtures in your home.
Poorly laid tile can ruin the appearance of a room, peel up or cause other problems. An experienced handyman can tackle this difficult task for you.
Reasons Not To Hire a Handyman for Electrical Work
Hiring a handyman to do work that requires a licensed electrician comes with multiple risks:
- Work may not be up to code
- Increased fire risk due to improper electrical work
- Insurance claims for damage caused by unlicensed handymen may be denied in some states
- Your home could be damaged by the work
Additionally, if you decide to sell your home, it may not pass the inspections required by lenders. This could result in you having to pay to have the work done again.
When To Hire an Electrician
Your local city or state regulations may require that certain work be performed by a licensed electrician. You probably need an electrician if you are having any sort of major electrical work done or if you have an emergency, such as a breaker that won’t reset after tripping or outlets, breakers, light switches or electronics that are hot to the touch.
Both a handyman and an electrician may have the required skills to do some types of jobs. They may also both have insurance to cover any damage that occurs to your home because of faulty workmanship, know how to obtain the proper permits, conduct necessary inspections and provide a guarantee for their work. However, it is more common for these things to be a requirement for an electrician to get licensed than for a handyman.
Most Requested Electrician Services
In addition to repairing electrical problems there are several other popular reasons people hire electricians:
- Install new lighting
- Replace or add circuits and wiring
- Install ceiling fans
- Replace or add outlets
- Add surge protection
- Upgrade smoke detectors
Electricians are also commonly hired to perform inspections and do work on electrical panels, replace breaker boxes or install electric vehicle chargers.
Reasons Not To Hire an Electrician
The primary reason not to hire an electrician vs handyman is the price. If you have a simple job that can be done by a handyman, it may not make sense to pay extra to have an electrician do that job instead.
Scenario Where You Could Hire a Handyman
Your home doesn’t need any major repairs, but it is time to do some annual maintenance and you would like to spruce your home up a bit. You hire a handyman to change the filters in your HVAC unit and clean out the vents. You also have him clean out and repair your gutters and caulk some leaky windows. Some of your interior walls have holes from nails and scratches from your kids and pets, so you have him patch and paint the walls. The paint has faded on your deck, so you get him to paint and seal the wood.
Scenario Where You Should Hire an Electrician vs Handyman
While the handyman is doing work around your house, he notices that a few of your outlets aren’t working. He notes that he does not have an electrician’s license, which is required in your state to perform that type of work, so you call an electrician to replace the outlets.
While the electrician is there, he inspects your electrical systems for any other problems that need attention. He finds some faulty wiring in your HVAC unit and repairs it. You decide you would like to install a ceiling fan in your living room. The electrician runs the new wiring for your fan and then installs it.
Electrician vs Handyman: Final Thoughts
There are several factors to weigh when deciding to hire an electrician vs handyman. If the laws of your state or city do not require you to hire an electrician or handyman, base your decision on your budget and the type of work you need to be done.