Few areas in the home are as important to maintain as its plumbing. Avoiding leaks is essential to protect your home’s underlying structure, avoid moisture damage and keep your family safe. It pays to take good care of kitchen and bathroom fixtures. When do you need a plumber vs handyman for plumbing tasks?
Which Is Better for Your Project — Handyman or Plumber?
The answer to the question of handyman vs plumber always depends on the work at hand. For complex plumbing issues, difficult repairs or large remodeling jobs, you should hire a plumber. When it comes to smaller plumbing tasks such as leaky faucets, a handyman can often show up right away, save you money and let you get on with your life.
Recommended: Plumbing License Requirements By State
What’s the Difference Between a Handyman vs Plumber?
A handyman is a jack of all trades. It’s a person who has some experience with a variety of small jobs around the home, including minor repairs or installation work. A handyman can perform countless DIY tasks. That way, you don’t have to get your hands dirty. Here are a few examples:
- Painting home interiors and exteriors
- Fixing siding
- Fixing small roof leaks
- Pressure washing driveways or deck areas
- Trimming trees
- Installing new curtains
- Repairing damaged drywall
- Changing light bulbs
In contrast, plumbers are generally licensed professionals with many years of education, on-the-job training, apprenticeship and expertise. In many states, a master plumber must have at least seven years in the industry, including two as a journeymen plumber. Plumbers perform jobs that would be difficult, dangerous or against the law to do on your own. They handle complex plumbing work every day.
What Plumbing Jobs Can a Handyman Perform?
Many handymen have experience with general plumbing tasks. For example, a handyman can fix leaky pipes in the kitchen or bathroom. If a toilet isn’t flushing correctly, a handyman can probably take care of the problem for you.
Here are several other basic plumbing fixes that don’t require a plumber:
- Replacing a sump pump
- Fixing a toilet that won’t stop running
- Installing a new sprayer for the kitchen sink
- Caulking a shower or bathtub
- Replacing shower tile or grout
- Fixing a jammed garbage disposal
- Replacing shower heads with water-efficient models
Note: The laws regarding handyman work vary by state, city or county. Before deciding between a plumber vs handyman, check your local guidelines.
Can a Handyman Replace Faucets?
Taking care of a leaky faucet isn’t a complicated task. A handyman can replace faucets and fix leaking pipes underneath the sink. The same goes for showerheads, faucet handles, bathtub knobs and other bathroom accessories. Some handymen are even willing to go to the hardware store and pick up the replacement parts for you.
Can a Handyman Unclog a Drain?
In many states, a handyman can perform cleaning and maintenance of home drains without needing certification. This includes getting rid of pipe clogs, removing hair from shower drains, fixing clogged toilets and snaking drainpipes.
Things are different for sewer lines, though. Generally, you need a licensed professional to work on your home’s main sewer line or septic system. This applies to dealing with sewer clogs, cleaning sewer pipes, draining septic tanks or performing other maintenance tasks.
Can a Handyman Install Bathroom Fixtures?
Handymen can usually install sinks and shower fixtures. Many also know how to install bathroom vanities and repair tiles.
That said, experience is vital. You don’t want a poor installation to cause your bathroom to flood or damage underlying surfaces. Installing a toilet is more complicated than replacing a sink or faucet. Tubs also require additional experience for a successful installation.
When comparing plumber vs handyman, it’s often best to err on the side of caution. Water damage can ruin floors, walls and furniture. Mold problems can also be extremely expensive to fix.
Can a Handyman Perform Installation of Water Heaters?
The surprising answer to this question is usually “no.” Water heater installation and repairs in many areas require a licensed plumber or certified water heater pro. This helps protect both homeowners and technicians from burns.
On the other hand, handymen can take care of washing machine installation, dishwashers, water filtration systems, soft water systems and similar appliances. Trained technicians can perform repairs as well.
What Are the Advantages of Choosing a Handyman vs Plumber?
A common mistake with plumber vs handyman is thinking that plumbers are “better” than handymen. In reality, people in both professions can be experienced, trustworthy and detailed. A handyman can even be a better fit:
- Availability: Well-known plumbers are sometimes booked for several weeks or months (though most make room for emergency calls). Many handymen have a flexible schedule, which means you can get that leaky faucet fixed ASAP and enjoy peace at night.
- Price: Handyman services can save you a lot of money for basic repairs. When you have a tight budget, having a relatively inexpensive alternative is excellent. It’s similar to a backhoe versus a shovel for planting flowers in your garden; hiring a plumbing expert can be overkill for small tasks.
- Convenience: Simple DIY jobs such as replacing a defective float for a toilet tank is something many homeowners can handle, but just because you can do it doesn’t mean you want to. Sometimes, calling a handyman is about making your life easier and or not having to take care of “gross” tasks.
A major advantage of handyman vs plumber is versatility — doing a little of everything. For small jobs, you can avoid having to hire multiple specialists.
When Should You Call a Plumber?
Some projects are too tricky or complex for a handyman to deal with. Here are several examples:
- Repairs: Unless the cause of a leak or plumbing issue is obvious, it’s better to contact a plumber than a handyman. Residential plumbers have extensive experience troubleshooting plumbing systems. They can find the real source of the issue instead of just slapping a bandage on it.
- Flooding emergencies: When dealing with burst pipes or major leaks, it’s urgent to contact a plumber right away. Plumbers can shut off the home’s main water line, assess the damage and tell you the right way to fix the problem. Don’t walk around in standing water or wastewater. Contact a plumber immediately and follow the instructions provided.
- Lead pipes: Homes built before 1986 may still have lead pipes. Replacing these pipes is a major renovation that needs to be handled by a licensed plumber (and a general contractor).
- Installing or replacing shutoff valves: Some older homes or apartments lack valves in the kitchen or bathroom to turn off the water supply. This can make it difficult for a handyman to replace leaky faucets or shower heads without making a mess. Installing shutoff valves is something a plumber needs to handle.
- Bathroom or kitchen remodeling: Many remodeling projects, even smaller ones, involve moving drains and water pipes. Any time the job requires changing the placement of fixtures, integrating new lines or modifying the home’s plumbing layout, you have to hire a plumber.
- Sewer backups: Dealing with wastewater, backed-up sewer pipes and damage to your home’s sewer lines is serious business. There are dangerous bacteria and gases that your family shouldn’t breathe, much less touch. In addition, sewer pipes are vulnerable to leaks if cleaned incorrectly.
What Factors Help You Decide Between a Plumber or Handyman?
Finding the right professional for the job isn’t always a question of plumber vs handyman. Sometimes, you need to research the specific qualifications and experience of the individual plumber or handyman. Besides asking friends for recommendations and checking online reviews, consider these important factors.
A plumber wouldn’t be a plumber without a license. This license is proof of rigorous training, many years of education and on-the-job experience, and successful completion of the state’s detailed license exam. An apprentice can’t even become a plumber without working alongside an experienced professional for years. Hiring a licensed plumber can give you peace of mind, knowing that your home’s pipes are in good hands.
It’s important to make sure any professional you hire carries the appropriate general liability insurance. That way, if they make a mistake that damages your house or causes injuries, you’re covered.
It’s also smart to ask for proof of a work bond, which means that the work is guaranteed by a large sum of money. It’s not easy to complete the bonding process, so it’s a good sign when you find a business that is fully bonded.
Plumbers are required by law to be bonded and insured. Handymen in some states must comply with similar requirements, but not in others.
One of the biggest differences between a plumber and a handyman is the cost of the work. On average, plumbers charge $45–$200 per hour depending on the amount of experience. Flat fees for simple fixes such as unclogging a drain range from $100 to $400.
Handymen usually charge $60–$125 an hour for the same work. A small job may cost you $75–$150.
Keep in mind that there may be extra fees for emergency visits. Some plumbers charge anywhere from one and a half to three times as much for service visits at night or on the weekend.
Due to the cost of specialized equipment, plumbers may have access to tools that handymen who only perform general tasks don’t. Hydro-jetting for home sewer lines and pipes is one example. Hydro-jetting can clean the inside of pipes instead of simply punching a hole through blockage like a simple drain snaking tool does.
Other specialized tools can allow a professional to cut through tree roots. With these advanced services, you may not need to schedule sewer cleaning again for a long time.
Another way plumbers and certified drain cleaning companies can help is by preventing problems with your home’s drain pipes and water pipes before they occur. Handymen can unclog a drain, but they generally lack the specialized camera equipment needed to check the condition of drainpipes.
On the other hand, plumbing professionals performing a CCTV inspection may catch signs of cracks before pipes burst and cause flooding. That way, you only pay for re-lining or repairs instead of major water damage problems.
On average, licensed plumbers have more experience than handymen in plumbing work. They have the certification to prove it. With a handyman, there’s generally no way to completely verify how much experience they have. The more complex the job, the safer it is to go with a professional you can trust.
Hiring an experienced pro can also save you money in ways you may not expect. True, handymen charge less per hour, but if it takes five times as long to find the problem, or they damage pipes in the process, you may end up having to call a plumber anyway.
Some handymen guarantee their work and have you sign a professional work contract. Others simply show up and perform whatever task you assign to the best of their ability. Without a guarantee, you may end up with short-term fixes that require you to schedule repairs frequently.
With a plumber, you should expect (and require) at least a one-year guarantee on work performed. These warranties should require the plumber to return and correct any issues, covering both materials and labor.
The regulations around plumbing permits vary significantly by state and on a county level. That said, in many places, handymen aren’t allowed to perform any work that requires a permit, including building permits and plumbing permits.
A handyman is more likely than a plumber to offer personalized services to clients. For example, a handyman can assemble and install bathroom accessories, clean fixtures, fix minor drywall damage in the bathroom and swap cabinet door handles with newer styles.
In the kitchen, a handyman can clean out your garbage disposal, check the smoke detector, replace light fixtures, etc. Plumbers only focus on the job at hand.
Many handymen work alone. For larger repairs or installation, it may take a handyman longer to finish the job, especially if something unexpected appears. On the other hand, it’s not always easy for a busy plumber to fit you into their schedule, so you may need to make your appointment far in advance.