What a Handyman Does
Given the nature of their job, the answer to this question is usually a little bit of everything. A handyman can do everything from simple plumbing to yard work. They often have a wide variety of talents and skills.
Handymen and women offer their services in many different ways. We're all familiar with the image of a pickup truck packed with tools and ladders, the handy owner's name painted on the side along with a phone number. These handymen definitely still exist, and many of them are extremely good at their jobs. On the other hand, there are very professional and organized groups of handymen.
These differences make very little difference when it comes to the quality of work you'll receive. Simply because a handyman gives you a shiny business card, it doesn't mean they really know what they're doing. Likewise, the driver of a rusty, beat-up truck might be a gifted home improvement pro with talents in many different areas. Rely on references, not appearances, when it comes to choosing a handyman.
What a Handyman Can't Do
While the exact answer to this question is different depending on where you live, some general rules usually apply. Certain types of work are extremely dangerous and intricate. Due to the high degree of expertise required to safely perform these types of work, most areas require a license.
A few common types of work which typically require licensing include plumbing, electrical work, HVAC work and dealing with hazardous materials. Light plumbing, such as fixing a leaky pipe, doesn't require a license. However, anything larger than a minor leak should be addressed by a licensed plumber.
Hazardous materials are a tricky situation. Often, a handyman will accept a job such as painting, which can, of course, be done very easily and very well without a license. However, on many older homes, lead based paint is present and must be stripped away before a fresh coat of paint can be applied.
If you even suspect the presence of lead paint in your home, have the paint tested before having anybody (including yourself) strip, sand or do anything else to the area. Lead paint puts toxic chemicals into the air when it is stripped. Specially trained crews are needed to safely remove lead paint so that fresh paint can be applied. Even if your handyman tells you they don't mind the risk, or that they will wear a mask, don't take the risk.
Common Mistakes in Hiring a Handyman
Failure to See a Business License
A handyman can register themselves as a business, even though they may not have a specific area of expertise. Most reputable handymen take this step, for a few different reasons. Financially, it makes good sense. Professionally, it makes a better impression. In some cases, it may also make obtaining insurance less expensive. In general, a handyman who wants to be taken seriously in their profession will obtain a business license. This is a very simple step which make a much better impression, so it makes sense in every way. If a potential hire has no business license, don't be afraid to ask them why.
In many cases, a handyman has no license because they don't do much work. While they might still be skilled and talented, it's in your best interest to find a handyman with a business license. It shows a dedication to the craft, which is usually a good sign of reputability.
Letting a Stranger in Your Home
This may sound rather obvious, but it's a simple step which far too many homeowners fail to take. While nothing usually happens, it's always better to be safe than sorry. If you've seen a picture of your handyman online, use a peephole or keep the chain on your door until you can verify that the person at your door is the person you're expecting.
If you've never seen a picture of your handyman, ask them to hold their drivers' license up to the door when they arrive. A copy of their business license is also a good idea. You may feel a bit silly and paranoid, but nobody can blame you for being careful.
Not Asking About Specific Experience
Another common mistake homeowners make is failing to ask about specific areas of expertise. This happens most often when hiring for a simple, uncomplicated job like digging holes for new trees or stripping (non-lead-based) paint.
While it's true that very little experience is required to do these jobs well, you still want all the experience you can get. A handyman who has worked extensively installing hardwood floors, for example, may have literally never dug a hole in their lives. Now, digging a hole is far from complicated. However, a person who is extremely unfamiliar with outdoor work may overlook important things like checking for power lines. Before you make a final hiring decision, educate yourself and make sure that your handyman has at least a basic knowledge of the job at hand.
Skipping the Reference Check
Since you may be hiring a handyman for a rather simple job, it might not seem that important to check references. Unfortunately, many homeowners who have made this mistake have been extremely sorry.
If you don't ask for references, you're leaving yourself open for disappointment. While you may get lucky and end up with a talented handyman, you can get unlucky just as easily. Checking references can help you avoid handymen who may show up late, not show up at all, overcharge you or even steal from your home.
A reputable handyman will provide plenty of references. Don't make the mistake of not calling! Having a chat with a former client can give you incredibly valuable insight into how the handyman actually operates while on a job. Are they prompt? Polite? Did they stick to their estimate?
There is one question you shouldn't hang up phone without asking. Would they recommend this handyman to a close friend? By asking in this manner, you startle the reference a bit, and you're more likely to get an honest answer instead of a quick, hurried yes. It's easy to recommend somebody to a complete stranger. However, when you get a reference to think about their opinion, even just for a moment, their answer is much more likely to be reliable and accurate.
Not Insisting On Insurance
A disreputable may try to convince you that the job you're hiring for is so simple; they don't need to carry insurance. Don't be fooled. Accidents can happen during the simplest, easiest projects out there...your handyman could even slip and fall while walking to their truck! Any injuries which occur on your property can come back to haunt you financially, even if you're not really at fault. Insurance which is current and covers the handyman and any helpers is essential. If anybody should become injured, they will be treated promptly and you won't have to worry about the medical bills falling on your shoulders.
How to Find the Best Handymen
Hiring help for any type of home improvement can be intimidating. In the past, you had two options...choosing from the phone book or asking friends and family. While asking people whose opinions you trust is still a great idea, the days of choosing a name out of the phone book are, thankfully, long gone.
Websites which connect home improvement professionals with homeowners are a wonderful resource, especially if you're new to your area. You can look through handyman who are close to you, viewing important criteria such as licensing, insurance and years in the industry. On many sites you can even read reviews written by former clients and view pictures of finished projects, giving you valuable insight.
Once you've found a few licensed, insured handymen with great references, start making phone calls. Discuss the project with each professional. Go into detail. Be very clear about what you want done, and insist on seeing a written estimate and contract.
It's also important that you get along with your handyman, at least to a point. You don't have to become best friends, but try to choose somebody who you won't mind having around your house for the duration of the project at hand. While somebody you don't get along with can still do an excellent job, it's more enjoyable for everybody involved if you can at least get along with each other.Posted by: Diane