Handyman Vs General Contractor

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Should You Hire a Handyman or a Contractor for Your Next Home Project?

Unless you are in the business of renovations or home repairs, there is a very likely chance that you don’t know the difference between a contractor and a handyman. However, in most places—especially the state of California—there are a few key differences between these kinds of professionals. Fortunately, both handymen and contractors have plenty to offer homeowners. 

“Our baseboards are looking rough. We should call someone to fix them.”

“On Google, I found a handyman and a few general contractors. Who should we go with?”

“I’m not quite sure. What is the difference?”

“Uhhh…”

If you don’t know the difference between these two kinds of professionals, don’t worry. It is completely understandable, but knowing the difference can offer some distinct advantages. In fact, knowing who to call for a home project can be an incredibly important skill that will help you to maintain your home for the right price. In this article, we will break down the differences between these two groups.

What is a Handyman?

A handyman should be considered a homeowner’s best friend—and finding a good one is so important. These versatile professionals can offer a wide range of services because they tend to have a fair number of skills under their belt. You can call a handyman for a wide range of projects, but there are some limitations when working with them. 

What Do Handymen Offer?

Finding a good local handyman can really change your life as a homeowner. Around the house, we all tend to run into small pain points that we would like to see addressed. You might not have the technical skills to replace or patch up your baseboards, but a handyman will—and they can offer quite a bit more as well.

“We have so many small projects that we need help with around the house.”

“I know. The gate of our fence is broken from Fido’s puppy phase—and our wall still has a hole from the kids playing baseball inside.”

“I wonder if one person can help us with all of this?”

“Let’s find out!”

Your local handyman can bring a lot of convenience to your home. They tend to specialize in minor repairs, touch-ups, and simple upgrades. You can call a handyman for all kinds of different problems. They can repair fences, fix a leaky faucet, repair a damaged wall, provide painting and touch-ups—and more. These multitalented individuals are committed to being that one person who can address all of your general needs around the home. 

How Much Does a Handyman Charge?

A great reason that a lot of people like to work with a local handyman is that they tend to be fairly forgiving in budget. In fact, this is one distinct trademark of a handyman. They are given a specific ceiling that determines how much they can charge for a project. These limitations can be wonderful if you are looking for repairs on a small budget, but they can also influence what they can offer you. 

“I found this beautiful new door that I love. It’s a little pricey—$475–but, I think it will look amazing!”

“Maybe we can find a handyman to install it to keep the price fairly low.”

“Great idea—let’s make the call!”

These limitations vary by state, but California offers some of the lowest cost thresholds, which can be unfortunate for handymen. In California, handymen have a maximum limit of $500 per project. Based on these limitations, they can offer very little in terms of project variety—and they are essentially forbidden to work with high-end or more expensive items. The limitation of $500 applies to both the work itself and the materials being used.

“I called our local handyman, and he said that if he were to install our door, he would have to accept less than $25 as payment.”

“Well, that hardly seems fair!”

“Agreed. He recommended we work with someone else, but I told him that we would keep him in mind for some of the other work that we need done around the house!”

Depending on the nature of your project, you might find that working with a handyman isn’t an option for your needs—and that is fine. Your next step will be to call a general contractor to determine if they are a better fit for your home improvements. In fact, the handyman you speak to might be happy to recommend a local contractor to you!

What is a General Contractor?

A general contractor is who you will call when you want work done that is beyond the scope that a handyman can offer. As a general rule, general contractors also offer a wide range of services but they can operate without limitations. This means that they can offer some much bigger services with a little more variety.

“I don’t know if this floor can be saved. Maybe we should just replace it?”

“I’ll ask the general contractor for a quote for both options.”

Since general contractors do not have the same limitations that handymen face, they have a little more room regarding how to solve your problems. In a lot of cases, these individuals can provide you with multiple choices for your project—a lot of the time, they will give you options you didn’t know you had!

What Do General Contractors Offer?

General contractors can offer you the world in a sense. These individuals provide a long list of skill sets—and they tend to have talented team members that can offer that much more. It is fairly common for contractors to work with other teams as needed to see a bigger project through to completion. This means that general contractors can offer projects, even if they don’t manage one part of it in-house. Of course, the best teams bring a long list of talents that offer homeowners that much more!

“After talking to the general contractor, I realized that a new floor would be better. It will last longer and look nicer—but it does come at a higher price.”

“We should consider the price an investment if anything. A new floor will give our home a huge boost in value!”

Working with a general contractor can be exciting, particularly if you want to see a lot of big home upgrades. General contractors can offer all kinds of different projects, but they tend to specialize in a lot of the bigger ones.

A general contractor can completely redesign and rebuild your house. While a handyman will handle maintenance, contractors handle big maintenance projects and renovations. If your home takes on a lot of damage inside, you will likely want to call a general contractor to have it repaired. They can offer repairs that involve expensive tools and materials—and since they generally work with a team, your repairs can get done quickly!

“What if we didn’t just stop with the floor? Our cabinets are a little old too…”

“I know! I was thinking the same thing. It might be odd to have a brand new floor in this shabby kitchen.”

“Maybe we should consider a remodel instead!”

Remodels and renovations are where general contractors really shine. These are the professionals that you will call if you want to change your home in a big way. They can help remodel your kitchen or bathroom. They can install new floors, knockdown or add new walls, and install new permanent fixtures like shelves, cabinets, and more. Any time that you want to overhaul your living space, these are the professionals that can make it happen.

How Much Do General Contractors Charge?

One area where handymen and general contractors vary significantly is in the overall price. While a handyman will be limited regarding how much they can charge, contractors are not. Working with a contractor can cost anything from $1000 to $75,000 depending on the nature of the project.

“I looked up the price of the cabinets we want. They’re going to be thousands of dollars.”

“I guess this is another project for a local contractor instead of our new handyman friend. I’ll make the call!”

While you can almost always expect to spend more while working with a general contractor, you are also paying for significantly more. When you spend thousands of dollars while working with a general contractor, it is a combination of your own decisions and the intensive expertise and labor that is required to complete the job. 

The price that you will pay with a handyman or a general contractor will always be a combination of both materials and labor. In a lot of cases, when you work with a general contractor, you will find that the knowledge and labor involved are on a whole other level. The difference between patching a wall and building a new bathroom is notable. For this reason, you can expect to pay more for services this large.

While contractors often have higher labor costs, a big part of the cost will come down to your choices. When a general contractor works in your home, they will likely be working with specific materials. Cabinets, kitchen sinks, and new showers can all be included—and items like this can vary significantly in price. The choices that you make for the overall design can increase your overall quote by tens of thousands of dollars, especially if you want certain high-end materials. 

Finding the Right Fit

Handymen and general contractors are not enemies, and they are not competing. They are two kinds of professionals that each has plenty to offer homeowners. When you have a project that needs to be handled around your home, you might be wondering who to call. 

“It is definitely time to have that fence repaired now that Fido is through his teething phase.”

“I agree—should I call the handyman or the contractor?”

Consider Project Size

When deciding between these two professionals, consider the size of the project. In general, if a project seems like it will take a lot of work, it is more likely to fall on the contractor side of things. Large projects generally require a bigger budget as a standard. Minor repairs or simple projects are perfect for your local handyman. 

Look at Material Costs

If you are looking at home materials that cost thousands of dollars, you can safely assume that it is time to call the contractor. However, if the material cost seems reasonable—or even low—your local handyman will likely be happy to pick up the project.

Look for Expertise

Specialized projects can drive up the price significantly. While a handyman might be happy to fix your leaky faucet, they might be more hesitant to install a brand new sink for you if it is outside of the scope of their work. 

Make a Call

The best way to ensure that you have the right person for the project is simply to make a phone call and ask. A handyman or a contractor will tell you if they are not the right fit for your services, which can be beneficial. 

It is common for handymen and general contractors to recommend each other for certain projects if a person comes to them in need. A simple conversation can help you to determine who you should work with for your next project. General contractors and handymen are friendly people who love to hear from potential clients.

Conclusion

Choosing between a handyman and a general contractor can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for, which is why conversations are so important. Connecting with local professionals in your area can help you to find the right fit for the job on a budget that suits your needs. 

Your local handyman is a jack of all trades who can really improve your home. When your home needs more of a full makeover—or requires a notable repair—your local general contractors are ready to jump in. We never get tired of hearing from new clients, so feel free to reach out to us. We are always happy to help!

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