Bad idea to use handy man vs. licensed contractor?

14 Replies

During one of our remodels, we used a "handy man" to complete some work that was mainly cosmetic in nature. He started out okay but in the end we let him go. Not only did he take forever to finish a project but then didn't do it properly such as putting up crown molding without enough nails so it actually began to sag in some places or installing wainscotting without glue to adhere it to the walls properly. I also caught him claiming to be at the job when he was no where in sight (I had my suspicions prior so I went to the house during the time he is supposed to start work and called him to ask if he was there - GOTCHA!). Anyway, the long and the short of it is "no". In the end, I hired a licensed contractor who came recommended to me who finished the job in two weeks and repaired all the mistakes the handy man had made. The motto? "You get what you pay for".

You have good and bad licensed contractors or non-licensed contractors. It is always better to pay a little more and hire a licensed contractor that have insurance.

Joe Gore

After this week, I'm leaning more to a handyman that can do everything instead of specialists. Monday I had a plumber that found it easier to remove the finished wall in a bedroom instead of the unfinished wall in the bathroom on the other side of the pipe. On Tuesday my electrician found it easier to use a hammer to make a line of holes in the middle of a wall to run a new wire instead of running it lower where the holes would be behind the baseboard and not needing fixed. What do the specialists care about holes? They don't have to fix them or appreciate the time it takes to repair them. Whereas the handyman either will have to fix it himself or has had to fix them and will think about how to minimize future problems.

Obviously you will need permits and licensed contractors for some jobs.

Not sure this will help you or not but thanks for letting me vent :-)

I've had extremely poor and exceptional service, from handymen and contractors alike.

For me, the decision making process starts with the job at hand. Is it managing the complete rehab? Don't hire the handyman. If you're the project manager, and it's a job within the rehab: Is it a job that requires highly skilled labor? Does it include liability to the investor or the worker? How quickly does it need to be completed?

Next, it's nice to know the strengths and limitations of the worker. Not just in what trades they're capable, but their personality type. Where does their attention to detail fall? How right do they do the job? How complete do they leave a job? Are they committed to your job, or are they there late and half the time? How much of a surprise will they deal with before requiring a change order? How willing are they to come back and fix a mistake that they made? Will they try to charge to fix their mistake?

I like to hire guys for smaller jobs, and get to know their work style, attention to detail, quality, and business ethics. Knowing that, and knowing the job at hand, seems to make it much easier to place them correctly to jobs on bigger renovations.

And of course, with all new contractors or handymen doing anything bigger than tightening a screw on a door knob, there are some great ways to safeguard yourself:

-Hire top rated workers (Angie's List, Home Advisor, or referrals from other investors or contractors)

-Ask for and vet proof of license, bonding (if applicable) and insurance

-Get contracts with specific scopes of work, timelines, and payment schedules that match up to completed work.

Wow. Forgive the novel.

I see you've flipped a couple of houses, @Drew Denham . Awesome! I imagine you have thoughts on contractor vs handyman, as well?

I employ full time construction workers for facilities maintenance & remodels. Regardless of title, it comes down to the individuals capabilities.

The last three posts summed up my thoughts on this.

@William Sumnicht

Hi William! Thanks for the note.

My friend and I flipped two houses but in a different smaller city. I'm now in Grand Rapids mi (2nd largest city in mi) and the competition is crazy.

Back at home we had more luck w our handy man vs. a contractor ... The contractor didn't actually finish the job and we had to do it ourselves... The handy man charged $15 an hour and knew plumbing electrical roofing siding you name it! Makes me like my old market way better ! But I need a place to live in Grand Rapids... I'm looking for the best ways to protect my self ... The guy I met isn't licensed but is insured ... He's not on Angie's list... He quoted me 30k while a liscinced contractor quoted me $75k... Crazy

I use handymen for the most part. I've even used college students for painting and such.

@Drew Denham

First...welcome to West Michigan. I think it is the best part of Michigan, but then again I am a little bias.

Which city is the work in? I have used a guy on my properties that i really like. Good attention to detail and not someone that seems to price himself out of the running for projects.

If interested message me and I will send you his contact info.


@Drew Denham I love that, man.

And I love what @Adam F said - Regardless of title, it all comes down It all comes down to the individual's capabilities.

Maybe there is another way you can vet your handyman with his $30k bid?

I go with either a licensed contractor or handyman. The first thing to do is always write a scope of work and determine payment terms such as 50% at the completion. Always check their work prior to paying and set expectations up front.

If the job calls for a license to do it legally, make sure the person you hire has one. Otherwise I think you will find good and bad in each category.

I am a lic contractor and I have a handman on my pay role. I can tell you that the scope of the project the more complex go with a General contractor. If its a small area handy man or items that do not require a permit maybe a handy man .Go with someone who has a track record . Time line in out it will not be handy man you save in money but it will take a little longer.Ex we did a bun out with gut four walls to high end renovation in 60 days it was like a trapeze show with trades and the handy man painted a full house and did a kitchen in 45 days,Very small project with little liability handy man,bigger projects with liability and multiple trades a GC.Please note the more you use a GC the better the price he will give you are if you Ref us a few jobs we may give you our handyman or subs at cost . Ex : hay Ahmed remember that basement and kitchen I sent you this winter. I need your HVAC person and handy man for 2 weeks at cost. I say no problem he did something for me and I did something for him I have did that a few times and it will work with alot of General contractors but try to keep a relation ship with both.

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