A professional handyman takes on repairs and improvements of all types, and their diverse set of skills can be helpful for countless commercial and residential properties.
If you’re on the path to building a thriving business of your own, you may be seeking additional training and licensure, but also want to be able to do as much business as you can along the way. What types of skills should you be honing?
A handyman should be able to perform basic home repairs and improvements. They should be skilled in painting, drywall, roof, and siding repairs, unclogging drains, wall hangings, flooring, installing light fixtures, and basic carpentry. A handyman should be a generalist when it comes to home repair.
If you are interested in starting a handyman business, read on for a list of important skills to have.
Disclaimer: This article is not legal advice. You should consult your local building regulations and a qualified attorney for legal advice.
What Skills Are Necessary?
A handyman will always benefit from having a wide suite of abilities. Depending on the local market, it may also be useful to have a specialty to stay ahead of competitor handymen and contractors or to carve out a distinct niche — like specializing in roofing, for instance.
While licensing requirements vary, here are some types of work that are important to have skills in as a general contractor.
1. Basic Electrical and Plumbing Work
Both electrical and plumbing needs arise frequently for homeowners and businesses. In terms of electrical work, simple skills such as knowing how to change light fixtures are important for a handyman.
For more complex work, such as anything that has to do with the circuit breaker box or rewiring a circuit, substantial electrical training will be necessary as well as an electrical contractor’s license.
This type of license will allow you to do more complex jobs, including completing major rewiring projects, installing tubing, working with batteries and solar systems, and more.
In terms of plumbing, the approach is similar. Simple jobs, like unclogging a toilet or drain, can typically be done by a contractor without a license. However, more complex jobs, including installing new piping, working with a septic system, and more, may require a plumbing license.
2. Basic HVAC Work
Problems with residential and commercial HVAC systems frequently come up for a handyman, but they may not always be allowed to complete the project. Knowing how to clean vents, troubleshoot systems-level problems, and install new systems are all jobs that may be asked of a handyman. If you are unlicensed (do not have an HVAC-specific license) there may be limitations on the work you can do.
3. Walls and Floors
Projects involving walls and floors — whether repairs or renovations — are common jobs that need to be done in homes and businesses. Simple wall repair generally involves replacing or repairing drywall, and this can generally be done without a more advanced license.
Floors may be more complicated, depending on materials, and may require more skills or tools. However, installing carpet, tiling, or paneled floors can be lucrative, and this ability is a useful skill to have as a handyman.
4. Miscellaneous Interior Work
As a handyman, you should have a wide base of skills that encompass general interior work that comes up in the course of repair and renovation.
These may include installing new fixtures or appliances, painting, and more. Many of these jobs will be well within the range of a handyman; however, more complex jobs (for instance, electric work involving substantial rewiring) may require additional licenses such as a general contractor license.
5. Asphalt and Pavement Repairs
Knowing how to work on or around the exterior of a home or commercial building is also important for a handyman.
Asphalt and pavement repair are useful skills to have, and allow for work installing driveways, patios, and other features, as well as repairing existing ones. This requires working with concrete know-how and understanding basic dynamics of pressure, water flow, and other relevant details.
6. Exterior Cleaning
Basic cleaning work is also a common job for handymen. Work may include gutter cleaning, power washing, window washing, and brick washing, among other types of cleaning.
This work will often require specialized equipment as well as a level of comfort with heights.
7. Roof Repair and Other Work
Roofing work is another common need when it comes to handymen. Depending on the type of roof, location, and work needed, the details of roof work can vary widely. Accordingly, it helps to have diverse experiences doing roofing work.
You may need to repair leaks, fix vents, adjust dormers, and more. More complex jobs may include installing an entire roof (whether metal, asphalt, slate, or another material), or installing a skylight, though these jobs may be creeping into licensed contractor territory in your area.
Depending on the shape of a building, roofing work can often be riskier. It may require additional insurance to ensure you are being safe on the job and that both you and the client are well protected.
8. Window Repair or Replacement
Handymen may sometimes be called upon to repair windows or install new windows. Depending on the age of the house and the state of the windows, this can be either a relatively simple task or a more complex one requiring a level of finesse and delicacy.
9. Landscaping Work
In some cases, outdoor work for a handyman may involve basic landscaping work. This can typically be done without a license, so long as it does not involve major infrastructure work, like digging up the gas or electric lines.
This type of work may include installing or repairing fencing, building or repairing a deck, or even installing or moving certain plantings. Depending on the specific nature of this work, it is important to make sure all permits are in order before beginning.
How Much Work Can You Do Without a License?
Before considering necessary skills, it is important to know how much work you can do without a license. After all, working as a contractor without a license could lead to legal repercussions, or dissuade potential clients.
In some states, even a professional handyman needs a special license. This may be for anyone doing paid work for others, or it may be tied to a project’s value or the type of work being performed.
A license to become a general contractor has requirements that vary from state to state. If you are looking to stop working as a handyman or an unlicensed contractor and become fully legally licensed, it is important to look up requirements in your given state.
A handyman must feel comfortable completing a wide range of different types of jobs. But the more skills that you have — and the more professional licenses you obtain — the more capacity you will have to meet homeowners’ needs and regularly secure work.