December 6, 2022

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What is the difference between a handyman and a contractor?

A homeowner may have different repairing or renovation needs around the home. A business owner is not exempt from such renovation and repairing needs. Whether it is a minor plumbing issue or a major renovation, there are handymen and contractors to get the job done.

Given the similar job profiles of handymen and contractors, it can be confusing to understand the scope of each occupation. But there are some key differences between a handyman and a contractor. Factors such as licensing, job size and qualifications are different for these service providers.

Handyman vs. Contractor: Job Profile

A handyman or handyperson is usually proficient at handling a wide range of small household repairs. A leaking tap, toilet repairs, setting up appliances and changing bulbs, a handyman can perform minor to moderate repairs and maintenance tasks.

Some jobs a handyman performs include:

·      Installing a TV on a mount

·      Wall repairs and painting

·      Changing bulbs

·      Other minor electrical works such as installing a fan or light

·      Furniture assembling

·      Pressure washing

·      Gutter maintenance

·      Caulking, especially shower caulking

·      Fixing cupboards

·      Fixing kitchen appliances such as setting up a thermostat

·      Repairs related to patios and decks

·      Mounting shelves

·      Installing shades, blinds and curtain rods

Handymen take up jobs that are small in size and do not impact the structure of a building. So, if a homeowner wants a kitchen sink to be fixed, then a handyman is the best person to hire. But if a homeowner wants to renovate his/ her kitchen, then services by a contractor are more relevant.

In summary, minor jobs in carpentry, home maintenance, plumbing, repairs and electrical systems, generally fall within a handyman’s expertise.

A contractor, on the contrary, is the go-to professional for large-scale expensive projects in a residential or commercial building.

A contractor performs specialized tasks, which can include:

·      Electrical tasks

·      Plumbing jobs

·      Gas-fitting work

·      Jobs involving carpentry

·      Roofing jobs

·      HVAC tasks

·      Bricklaying and masonry tasks

A contractor may be assisting a general contractor on large projects such as renovations. In such cases, the contractor reports to the general contractor. The general contractor hires sub-contractors to spread the work. But it is the general contractor that is responsible and accountable for the whole project.

A general contractor supervises the project, decides deadlines and project budget and orders materials apart from delegating work to sub-contractors. Whether you are a contractor or a handyman, relevant insurance equips you against risks of lawsuits and financial stress. Know more about insurance here.

Handyman vs. Contractor: Qualification & Licensing

Handymen do not usually need a license or training to do their job. This is because of the nature of their jobs, which involves only minor repairs, installations and general maintenance.

But a license may become necessary if a handyman works on an expensive project of more than a specified value. For example, a license may be essential if a project value is above $1000. A handyman license may also be necessary in cases where the individual offers such services as part of a larger project.

Handyman licensing requirements differ from state to state. In some states, a license may be necessary regardless of the project value. If you offer specialized services such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC or carpentry, then you are required to have special permits and extra training.

A liability insurance such as a handyman liability insurance is necessary in some states as a protective measure. Whether necessitated by state laws, or not, it is always advisable to get a handyman liability insurance. An insurance protects your business from lawsuits and financial liabilities that can arise from damage to client’s property.

Approach your state contractors’ board for more information on handyman licensing requirements pertaining to your state.

A license is mandatory if you want to work as a contractor. Depending on the state of operation, you may have to:

·      Provide proof of professional experience, often amounting to a specific number of years

·      Be registered with the local contractors’ board 

·      Submit insurance proof

·      Show proof of registration with the Department of Labor of the respective state

·      Succeed in specified exams

·      Complete specified training programs

In case you are aspiring to be a contractor in a specialized field, then a formal education, apprenticeship and supervised training experience, may be additionally necessary.

Your local contractors’ board is the best place to get accurate information. 

Handyman vs. Contractor: Limits of Expertise

You may want to choose a profession that best fits your qualifications and career goals. Choosing between a contractor and handyman requires you to be aware of the extent of expertise.

A handyman job may be the best profession for you under the following conditions:

·      You aspire to deal in multiple trades instead of a single one

·      You are not interested in working for others and are more passionate about setting up your own business

·      You are more interested in taking up small jobs that are a straightforward deal

·      You are already experienced in home maintenance, repairs, and handling other odd jobs around a household

·      Residential projects are more your terrain

In addition to experience, you need the following skills to excel at your job:

·      Honesty

·      Punctuality

·      Promptness

·      A problem-solving attitude and resourcefulness

·      Hygiene-conscious

·      Well-equipped with basic tools

·      Good negotiation skills

You are more likely to excel as a contractor if you are of the following mindset:

·      You aspire to be a success in a single trade

·      You like to work on large-scale and specialized projects

·      You want to work on a range of projects, both in commercial and residential settings

·      You are interested in gaining knowledge and experience through formal certification programs.

You would like to expand your expertise with on-the-job training such as working as a sub-contractor or an employee

Additional skills you need to out-perform others in your profession, include:

·      Solid knowledge of laws at local, state and national level

·      Good communication

·      Excellent people management

·      Technological expertise

·      Brilliant problem-solving skills

·      Good industry relations

Even as a contractor, you can set up your own business. But the process may take time as there are legal requirements you need to fulfil before starting your business. You may have work for another professional, sometimes for a specified number of work hours, to gain relevant experience in your chosen field.

In Conclusion

The services of handymen and contractors are both invaluable in maintaining residential and commercial spaces.

The market for both these professionals is competitive. Handymen are the best to get urgent domestic chores done faster. Contractors are skilled at completing highly specialized projects. Both professionals succeed in their chosen profession with due attention to quality and service.