As with many other areas of home improvement, the handyman industry has seen some significant changes in recent years. Due to the overall recessionary environment, we've seen an abundance of people advertising their services as handymen (and handy-women!) online, in local papers and even on bulletin boards at supermarkets and home-improvement stores. We've also seen a huge number of homeowners who are considering hiring a handyman, where before they would have gone directly to a licensed professional such as a plumber, electrician, or roofer.
There are negative and positive elements to these trends. In this article, we'll discuss some of the more common trends in the handyman world, how to keep yourself safe when hiring un-specialized help, and when it's best to hire a licensed and specialized professional.
What is a Handyman?
Very simply put, a handyman is anybody who advertises their services as such. There are handymen who specialize in a certain area or areas. There are also those who only do light work, those who do heavier and more complicated work, and those who stick to outdoor work. The work done by handymen is as varied as the number of handymen.
Some handymen are good enough, and stay busy enough, to make a career out of it. Others have regular day jobs and perform their handyman services on weekends or after working hours. This has no bearing on a person's skills or qualifications, however, remember that experience almost always leads to a higher quality of workmanship.
Never allow the appearance of a handyman's business affect your opinion. Remember that unlike specialized contractors, a handyman often has other jobs. If they show up in a rickety truck, don't worry. The quality of their work has nothing to do with the appearance of their vehicle or the size of their business.
How to Find a Handyman
Years ago, handymen relied on word-of-mouth recommendations and perhaps a van with their phone number painted on the side. Times have changed, and now handymen can be found on the same websites which feature specialized and licensed professionals.
You can find a handyman in many different ways. The manner in which you find your handyman does not indicate the quality of the work. However, on websites which offer former client reviews, you do get a peek at what others have thought of the handyman's overall performance.
Licensing and Insurance
Licensing and insurance are perhaps the two most common concerns which most homeowners have when hiring a handyman. After all, in some areas there is no such thing as a handyman's license.
Nearly all reputable handymen have a business license. This shows that they are serious about their work, and want to build a good name for themselves.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking that a handyman is not licensed. In fact, a great deal of handymen advertises themselves as such because they are licensed in many areas! There are handymen who are licensed plumbers, electricians, or contractors. If there is a license to be had, you can probably find a handyman who has that license. For many people who have a true talent for home repair and improvement, there's simply more money to be made by acquiring several licenses and then marketing themselves as a handyman.
Don't be afraid to ask if your potential handyman is licensed. Some repairs, such as plumbing or electrical work, can't be covered by insurance if they were performed by somebody without the proper license. This can mean some very large repair bills for you later on, so be upfront about your desire for a licensed worker.
If something doesn't go well during or after the job, an unlicensed handyman can represent a very different issue. A licensed plumber (for example) is required by law to stand behind his work, and make the necessary repairs should something go wrong within a specified amount of time.
Of course, ethically, anybody who completes a job should be willing to perform any needed repairs that were caused by their own mistakes. However, unfortunately, there are disreputable people in the handyman industry, just as in any other. A professional license helps you to stay financially safe.
Insurance should be carried in case the handyman incurs any injuries while working on your property. This ensures that the injury will be treated properly, and also ensures that you won't become liable for the medical bills.
New Trends in the Industry
A fairly obvious trend in recent years is that there are more handymen. There are a few different reasons for this. One is that due to the recent economic downfall, people began looking for ways to increase their income. Some lost their jobs and had to fall back on their skills as a way to provide for their families. Others simply recognized that many more people would be looking for less expensive home improvement work, and tried to capitalize on that need.
Another trend is the multi-licensed handyman. This is perhaps the most reliable handyman you'll find, although there are always exceptions. In general, however, a worker who has professional licenses in several different areas of expertise is going to be a dedicated and responsible person. In most cases, the work done by these professionals is extremely high-quality. This trend resulted from two things. Some professionals recognized the extra money to be made by branching out, and took the time to become licensed in another field. Others, starting with no licenses but with an inborn talent, acquired a few licenses in order to begin their handyman business with the most credibility possible.
When You Should Hire a Handyman
Obviously, any time you have a job that you don't want to do, or can't do, a handyman is an option. From the most complicated jobs to the simplest, you can most likely find a handyman who is qualified and very willing to complete it for you.
If money is a concern, consider a handyman. Their prices are almost always lower than those of more specialized workers, and in many cases their work is exactly the same or better! For jobs which don't require specialization, a handyman is almost always your best option.
Yardwork is a very common handyman job. While some homeowners enjoy working on their yards themselves, some simply don't like the time or dislike outdoor work. Planting trees, moving heavy objects like unwanted rocks, or general landscaping are all good examples. A handyman will nearly always charge you less than a specialized landscaping contractor. Be sure to check with your local offices about underground utility lines if your yardwork involves digging holes.
Painting is another common reason to hire a handyman. As with any job, check to see if your handyman has experience in painting. While it sounds simple, and some people believe that anybody can paint, this is untrue. Inexperience or sloppy work habits can leave you with a dreadful paint job. Ask about experience, and if possible, ask to see examples.
Flooring, especially hardwood, is one of those projects which often confuse homeowners. There are flooring contractors, but many flooring materials you'll see in a home-improvement store seem easy to install.
This is why many people end up turning to a handyman to help with their flooring project, or even to do the entire floor. As with any other job, ask about past experience.
Trust Your Instincts
Due to the irregularity of licensing laws and the broad number of skill levels, hiring a handyman to perform work in or around your home can be intimidating. If possible, begin your search on a website which recommends workers. Check the reviews of former clients, and look for licensure in the field you require. If the handyman comes highly recommended, you might consider hiring him for skilled work, but remember that you're taking on a risk. However, many people have done this and never regretted it for a moment!
Once you have your choices narrowed down a bit, start making calls. Ask about experience, licensing and insurance, even if you've already read about it online, just to verify. Always remember that it's your home that will be worked on, so don't be afraid to be a bit picky. Don't let a pushy worker pressure you into making a decision that you're less than fully comfortable with.
This is especially true when dealing with complicated work, such as plumbing or electrical wiring. If at all possible, insist on a handyman with a license in the field. Remember that without a professional license, you have no legal recourse if an issue should arise. When dealing with such delicate, skilled fields, a licensed professional is almost always the smart choice.
No matter how you find your handyman or what licenses they hold, remember that these workers have valuable knowledge in many different areas. It's not uncommon to hire a handyman for one job, only to have him perform two or three before leaving! This broad skill set is what makes handymen special in the world of home improvement and repair. Once you find a good handyman, you'll definitely feel less panic when something needs work around your house.Posted by: TrustedPros