Things to consider when hiring a contractor/handyman

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Lots of people like to DIY (Do It Yourself) projects, but sometimes it is just too much for one person. People often don’t have the time, know-how, or tools to handle a big job. Here are some tips and resources to help you with your next project, big or small.

Should I hire a contractor or handyman:

A handyman is just what it says, someone who is handy with tools and has some know-how. Handymen tend to cost less since they aren’t true professionals. They are just “handy” with tools and small jobs. Often these sorts of people can be hired for less cost since they won’t have the overhead of a business. Hiring a handyman is a good choice if you are doing something small. Like mounting a tv bracket on the wall or hanging shelves. These sorts of projects just require ordinary tools and a little knowledge of what to do. Still, you should do a background check to make sure your handyman hire is above board.

A contractor is a professional project coordinator. Contractors should be insured, licensed, and have a more established business. Unlike a handyman, a contractor is more of an administrator. Even if the contractor is the only one doing the work you should expect billing statements, contracts, and a breakdown of parts and expenses in writing. Contractors often hire subcontractors to do work on big jobs. If you have a big job you should expect a team of people, otherwise, the work will take an exceptionally long time even if the quality of work is good. You should expect to pay more for a contractor as this is a professional and you are paying extra for the organization and project management skills.

Online contractor/handyman resources:

  1. Angie’s List (Now called Angi):

    This is listed first as it is one of the oldest and most commonly sought places to find contractors. Angie’s list is a trusted location with lots of tools and helps to match you up with a good contractor. It has cost guides, popular projects, and other advice to help you.

  2. Home Advisor:

    This site is powered by Angi so it is going to have the same engine that has to match clients and contractors. You should check it out and compare the two to decide which setup you like best. Either way, you’re going to get the same connectivity to a contractor but you might like one user interface better than the other.

  3. Task Rabbit: www.

    This is a great place to hire a handyman. You might be able to find contractors as well. But if you have a small job or numerous small jobs this might be a very good resource to find people.

  4. Craigslist:

    This is the granddaddy of all classified sites and is still going strong. You can find nearly anything on craigslist including contractors and handymen. You can place an ad asking for help or you can answer other people’s advertisements. There’s even a gigs section for one-off jobs.


You should consider hiring a specialist if you need a contractor for something out of the ordinary. A good example is if you are preparing a site to receive a manufactured home. A standard contractor is not going to know a lot of the little details. Like special permits, in-depth knowledge about how the home hooks up to the foundation, specifics about transport and moving the home onto the foundation, or local laws and ordinances. It would be better to pay more for a specialist than to have a standard contractor learning on the job at your expense.

Do your due diligence.

  • You should look into whoever you decide to hire before giving them the work. If someone is available immediately that is a red flag. A good contractor already has work and will probably not be available immediately. You should check with disciplinary boards, the Better Business Bureau, the local court records, and with friends and referrals to determine whether a contractor is a good hire.
  • Talk to the contractor about their experience. Have they done similar jobs in the past? Will they require subcontractors? If it is a big job and they won’t be using subcontractors it will take a long time to finish.
  • Hiring a large firm can have benefits of economy of scale. Large firms are generally set up to handle big jobs in a shorter amount of time. There will be efficiencies that arise from having a large readily available workforce and doing the same work over and over.
  • Before you sign a contract you should go over the specifics. The contract should lay out exactly the work to be done. It should include part numbers for the specific parts to be used. It should lay out specific payment schedules. The prepay for work to start should not be over 10% of the overall job. It should lay out time or location limits. Any changes in the contract should be in writing so there is no confusion. The contractor should provide photos detailing the progress of the work to keep you informed.

As a general rule cheaper is not better. Do some research, determine the going rate, and be willing to pay this rate. Saving some money could result in a much greater cost down the line.

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