Home repair or improvement projects often become time-consuming and cumbersome. With the help of a professional, you can move through the process faster and avoid tedious tasks. To start, ask yourself some necessary questions:
- How big is the scope of this project?
- Can a handyman do it, or do you need a contractor?
- Is a handyman cheaper than a contractor?
In most cases, a handyman is cheaper than a general contractor by thousands of dollars. This is due to the size and types limitations of projects they are each allowed to take on, not because contractors simply charge higher rates. A handyman is limited to small-budget projects with limited scopes.
Comparing the costs of a handyman vs a contractor is in some ways an apples and oranges comparison since they don’t always do the same type of work. Let’s explore how costs vary between a handyman and a contractor as well as the differences between them.
Is a Handyman Cheaper Than a Contractor?
Comparing the cost of a handyman vs. contractor is difficult at times. To get an accurate depiction of costs, you have to consider the scope of your project. If you need several minor repairs, a handyman will be the cheaper choice. If you have a combination of minor and major repairs or projects, you may need to do a little math to determine the best option. For major construction projects, a licensed contractor is generally the best choice.
Most handymen freelance their services and set their own rates. Freelancers typically charge between $30 and $50 an hour in areas that are less densely populated, where the cost of living is lower. In cities and urban areas, you may pay between $40 and $60 an hour for a freelance handyman.
These rates are estimated and vary based on location and the services needed. If you hire a handyman through a professional company, the costs can reach $125 hourly with a set minimum charge and additional fees.
The average experienced general contractor makes between $70,000 and $95,000 annually. This is, of course, what they take home after all their business and project expenses.
Most people do not need a general contractor unless they are planning a new build or a substantial remodel. An electrical contractor profits an average of $27 an hour for residential projects, and a plumbing contractor averages $26.50 an hour. The hourly labor rate they charge is usually much higher, near or above that of an average handyman. This markup is how they cover business expenses.
What Is a Handyman?
A handyman has extensive experience in a variety of home repairs. People often hire them to take care of things around the house that they cannot do themselves or do not have time to complete. Apartment buildings keep a handyman or team of handymen on call for small fixes.
Licensing requirements for handymen can differ drastically from state to state. For example:
- Arkansas requires a Home Improvement License for handyman services valued at $2,000 or more in a single residence. Workers’ compensation insurance is the only requirement for the license.
- Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, and Kentucky have no state-level requirements for handymen. However, you need to check local regulations.
- Tennessee does not require a license for services valued under $25,000, but you need a home improvement license for remodeling work that costs more than $3,000.
Before hiring a handyman, check your state and local requirements to ensure that the person you hire has proper licensing.
Types of Jobs
Not all handymen provide the same services, but most of them have some experience in standard maintenance and minor home repairs, including plumbing, electrical, and carpentry work. Examples of handyman jobs are:
- Installing shelving, blinds, curtain rods, television mounts, thermostat, kitchen and bathroom fixtures, appliances, and insulation
- Repairing drywall, a leaking toilet or faucet, wall trim, doors, disability ramps, decks, patios, and minor electrical issues with an outlet or light switch
- Checking standard home maintenance, such as replacing air filters, pressure washing, and cleaning dryer vents
When any task is too complex for handymen, they will often refer you to a specialty contractor.
Is a handyman cheaper than a contractor? To answer that question, you have to look further at what services a contractor can provide. Then compare that to what services you need.
Recommended: What Services Do Professional Handymen Provide?
What Is a Contractor?
General contractors oversee home improvement and building projects from start to finish. They communicate all updates to the property owner and manage all vendors and subcontractors. Other duties include:
- Securing all the proper permits and documents to keep the site in compliance with code regulations
- Ensuring that all work is completed without voiding any product warranties
- Keeping the workplace and supplies secure
- Disposing of all trash from the site
- Supervising the workers to ensure that everyone is using best safety practices
If you have already designed and created your home improvement plans, you need a traditional contractor to execute those plans. A design-build contractor would work with you to develop a concept and design before acting as the project overseer.
Types of Contractors
General contractors are not the only type of contractors. There are several specialties in the construction industry, including electric, plumbing, roofing, landscaping, carpentry, and heating and air-conditioning (HVAC). The most used contractors for a home improvement project are electrical and plumbing contractors.
If your project requires any major electrical work, you may want to hire a professional electrical contractor. Proper wiring is often enforced by code, and improper installation could result in an unsafe home. The same is true for a plumbing contractor.
Licensing requirements vary from state to state. Typically a general contractor only needs a high school diploma. He or she can then take the exam for licensing if required.
In some states, that is enough. Others have additional requirements, including:
- A business tax ID number
- Proof of a business address
- Proof of insurance, typically liability and worker’s compensation
General contractors often have degrees in related areas, such as civil engineering or construction management. Design-build contractors study architecture as well.
Recommended: How Much Work Can You Do Without a Contractor License?
How Do You Decide Which One To Use?
If your home improvement project entails mostly electrical or plumbing construction, hiring the respective contractor is the sensible choice. They have more expertise and professional experience in their field, not to mention the licensing.
Minor repairs and installations are probably best left to a handyman, who often has a diverse set of skills. Comparing the cost of a handyman vs. contractor and weighing that against the needs for your project is the best way to determine what you should do.
Investing in home improvements can be a costly venture. Ensuring that your project is completed correctly the first time around saves time and money.
Comparing the cost of a handyman vs. a contractor works best in the specific context of your particular construction needs. In short, a handyman is often cheaper and more appropriate for minor residential projects, and a contractor is best suited for more specialized projects that require major work or repairs.