Handyman vs. Contractor: The Real Difference

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Home improvement projects are becoming increasingly popular, and for a good reason. They add value to your home, make it more comfortable and stylish, and even improve your quality of life. However, before you start any home improvement project, it’s important to consider a few factors. The most significant one of them might be deciding “whom to hire.”

“A Handyman or a General Contractor?”

Both handymen and general contractors are home service providers. They both provide similar kinds of services from repair and maintenance to construction—but they are distinct from each other.

Ultimately, the easiest way to decide whether you need a handyman or a licensed contractor is to look at the scope of your project. If you have a simple task, hiring a handyman would be an ideal choice. If it is a home addition or complete home renovation that requires special permits, a licensed contractor is necessary for the job.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look into what the difference between a handyman and a general contractor is and the right person to hire. Let’s get started.

What is a handyman?

A handyman is a skilled person who handles small-scale residential repairs. They mainly focus on performing minor home repairs and maintenance jobs. Their skill usually covers a broad range of tasks and jobs.

Handyman engages in a variety of projects in the home, like fixing a leaky faucet, gutter maintenance, or basic drywall repairs. A handyman does not need to hold any particular qualifications or certifications. A handyman acquires skills by working on different repair and maintenance projects or as an assistant to a professional handyman.

What does a handyman do?

Handymen are jacks of all trades who can help with a variety of home repairs, including drywall repairs, plumbing, electrical work, carpentry, painting, furniture assembly, and general maintenance.

What is a general contractor?

A general contractor is a licensed professional who oversees the construction or renovation of a building. They are responsible for coordinating all aspects of the project. General contractors typically have experience in a variety of construction trades, and they can provide clients with expertise and guidance throughout the project.

General contractors are responsible for overseeing the entire construction process

  • Repair or install flooring.
  • Repair an HVAC system, electrical, plumbing, etc.
  • Take care of room additions or change the layout of your home
  • Repave driveways and walkways
  • Repair damage from pests and water
  • Remodel bathrooms, kitchens, and other rooms
  • Install fencing
  • Add or repair decks and patios
  • Repair or replace roofing

5 differences between a handyman and a general contractor

1. Licensing requirement

In a few states, handymen are required to acquire proof of insurance and pass an exam to get a license. Other states, however, do not have specific licensing rules for handymen. Handymen, however, are limited in the type of work they can perform and the cost of projects they can take on.

Home improvement contractors are required to obtain a license in order to work for different clients or perform repairs. This is because licenses help to ensure that contractors are qualified and insured and that they will follow all applicable laws and regulations. The licensing board may have different requirements that vary from state to state and can even be different between cities in the same state.

The same applies to general contractors, but licensing requirements for GCs can be more stringent. Some of those requirements may include:

• Proof of experience over a certain length of time

• Proof of a surety bond

• Proof of insurance such as a COI

• Passing trade, business, and law exams

• Registering with state or local departments

If a contractor does not have a license, they may be fined or even jailed. They may also be sued by their clients for damages.

2. Job size

Handymen and general contractors typically take on different-sized jobs. A handyman will usually take on small jobs that only require one person. The work they do is typically less expensive—in part due to price limitations set by your state or city.

General contractors, on the other hand, usually work on larger projects that require multiple people to complete. A general contractor may work on the project themselves while also coordinating with independent contractors such as electricians, flooring installers, or painters.

3. Contractor license bond

Contractor license bonds are typically required by state agencies to protect against fraudulent work and ensure that anyone who files a valid claim is compensated. Cities can also have specific bond requirements.

A bond is a legal contract binding all three parties together (a principal, an obligee, and a surety). The bond provides legal protection against fraud or poor workmanship and ensures that the contractor fulfills the terms of the contract.

A contractor license bond provides financial recourse to homeowners and enables them to claim compensation if the job is not completed. In the event that a job is incomplete or does not meet a customer’s satisfaction, the mandatory bonds signed by a general contractor can offer customers some financial recourse.

4. Contractor’s liability insurance

A contractor’s liability insurance covers claims arising from the physical damage or injury that a contractor causes to a third party. This is one of the most important coverages for a contractor to have because it covers the liability risks associated with ongoing operations (while at the job site).

Liability insurance covers employer costs when a workplace injury occurs and a suit is filed that isn’t covered by worker’s compensation. Any damages made to the customer’s property will be covered by the contractor’s liability insurance. Typically, coverage limits range from $50k to $200k.

5. Expertise

Handymen need to gain more knowledge in specialty trades. A handyman can handle small projects with low to medium costs or other odd jobs. However, a contractor who has specialized in a specific trade may be necessary for more complex tasks, as they know the ins and outs of their subject area.

Which one should you hire?

Consider a situation where you need a job done—but who would you hire, a handyman or a general contractor? Well, there is no clear answer to this as every home improvement or repair project is different, each with its own requirements.

A handyman could potentially handle small projects and will cost you less. They are restricted to particular types and sizes of jobs. Handymen are a good choice for small projects that are unlikely to cause structural damage.

Hiring a handyman costs less as they are not required to carry liability insurance. An experienced handyman can help complete small projects—like installing a new faucet, patching drywall, or installing a ceiling fan. But relying on a handyman for big projects will have significant drawbacks. It may be difficult to verify their integrity and workmanship as they are not registered with any regulatory body and do not carry any liability insurance.

On the other hand, contractors are the primary choice for any significant repairs or home improvement projects, and contractors are both knowledgeable and experienced. And it is mandatory for contractors to carry liability insurance. Whenever hiring someone to complete a project that requires a permit, a contractor is not only the better choice, required. The licensing of a contractor helps ensure state and building codes are met and any necessary permits are filed correctly.

Conclusion

When it comes to hiring a handyman or a general contractor for your home improvement or repair project, it’s essential to consider the scope and nature of the job. Handymen are skilled individuals who specialize in small-scale residential repairs and maintenance tasks. However, they may not have the qualifications or certifications required for more significant projects.

General contractors, on the other hand, are licensed professionals who can handle nearly all handyman services while covering a wide range of residential and commercial services. They have the expertise to oversee and coordinate larger construction or renovation projects.

Ultimately, the choice between hiring a handyman or a general contractor depends on the complexity and scale of your project. For simple repairs and minor tasks, a handyman can be a cost-effective option. However, for significant repairs, renovations, or projects requiring permits, it is crucial to hire a licensed general contractor.

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