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Part I: Choosing Between a Handyman and a Contractor

Hey there, lovely readers!


So, I've noticed a bunch of you are curious about why I often mention, "I may not be your cheapest option," right off the bat. Well, let me spill the tea. As a licensed pro, and even back in the day with my previous construction company, we've always been in this constant tug-of-war with folks who aren't exactly playing by the rules - think unlicensed, un-bonded, uninsured contractors cutting corners to undercut prices. And yep, we're also up against handymen for the same remodel projects.


Now, don't get me wrong. It's not like they're dealing with the same financial hurdles to stay legit in the business like we do. Being a licensed contractor isn't just a fancy title. It comes with its fair share of responsibilities and, oh boy, the fees! We're talking license fees, business license fees, employer taxes, workers' compensation (this one's a real pain), general liability, and bonds. And let's not even start on how the working class bears the brunt of taxes. Did you know that last year, it became a thing where we had to offer an employer retirement contribution plan too?


Long story short, matching the price of a handyman or a contractor who skips out on these obligations just isn't in the cards for us. Legit, a handyman is only supposed to take on gigs that are $500 or less, including labor and materials, as per the rules.


But hey, let's dive a bit deeper into what you should really know when you're looking to hire someone. Even if they're licensed, there's a checklist they need to tick off for the California State License Board. Curious? I've got the scoop on the real deal between hiring a contractor vs. a handyman and what you need to keep an eye out for.  This is a lengthy read, but stay with me, I’ve got you!


When it comes to home repairs or renovations, homeowners often find themselves at a crossroads: should you hire a handyman or a contractor? Understanding the distinctions between these two options, including the legal bidding limits for handymen and the requirements for contractors, can help you make an informed decision that best suits your project's scope and budget.


Handyman: Flexibility and Convenience for Smaller Jobs

Handymen are the jack-of-all-trades in the home improvement world. They excel at handling a wide variety of small to medium-sized tasks, from fixing leaky faucets to patching drywall. In many jurisdictions, handymen can take on any single project that does not exceed a maximum bid amount of $500. This limit typically includes both labor and materials.


Benefits of Hiring a Handyman:


  1. Cost-Effectiveness: For smaller jobs, a handyman can be more economical than a contractor. Their rates are usually lower, and they can handle a range of tasks without the need for specialized subcontractors.

  2. Flexibility: Handymen can often accommodate your schedule and take on multiple small projects in one visit, saving you time and hassle.

  3. Convenience: They are well-suited for those jobs that are too complex for DIY but too small to justify the overhead of hiring a specialized contractor.


Contractor: Specialization and Expertise for Larger Projects

For more significant renovations or repairs, especially those that involve structural changes, electrical, plumbing, or specialized work, hiring a licensed contractor is often the best route. Contractors are required to be licensed and insured, which offers homeowners an added layer of protection and peace of mind.


  1. Licensed: Contractors must possess a valid license, indicating they have met the necessary qualifications and standards set by the relevant regulatory body. This ensures they are legally authorized to perform the work.

  2. Bonded: Contractors need to be bonded, providing a form of financial protection for the client against potential losses or damages caused by the contractor's failure to complete the project as agreed or meet contractual obligations.

  3. Workers' Compensation Insurance: It is essential for contractors to have workers' compensation insurance to cover medical costs and lost wages for employees injured on the job. This protects both the contractor and the employees by ensuring financial support in the event of work-related injuries.

  4. General Liability Insurance (Highly Recommended): While not mandatory, carrying general liability insurance is strongly advised. This insurance protects against claims of property damage, bodily injury, and other risks that can occur during the course of the work, providing an additional layer of financial security.

Benefits of Hiring a Licensed Contractor:


  • Quality and Safety: Contractors bring a level of expertise and specialization to your project that ensures it is completed to a high standard, adhering to all safety codes.

  • Project Management: They have the experience to manage complex projects, coordinating various tradespeople and ensuring the work is completed efficiently and to specification.

  • Legal and Financial Protections: The licensing, insurance, and bonding of contractors provide financial and legal protection to homeowners, offering recourse in the event of substandard work or disputes.


Making the Right Choice

Choosing between a handyman and a contractor boils down to the scope and complexity of your project. For small repairs and maintenance tasks, a handyman can offer a cost-effective and convenient solution. However, for larger, more complex renovations that require specialized skills, permits, and inspections, the expertise and legal protections offered by a licensed contractor are invaluable. Check the license: their name should match the CSLB. Additionally the website indicates if there are any issues with license ir if they are in an active dispute.


Ultimately, ensuring that your service provider is appropriately qualified, insured, and equipped to handle the specifics of your project will lead to the best outcomes. Whether you opt for the versatility of a handyman or the specialized skills of a contractor, due diligence in selecting the right professional is key to achieving the results you desire for your home.  Stay tuned for Part II, Understanding How a Contractor's Bond Benefits the Client.  This article will be posted on Thursday.



Stay savvy, folks!


A’mia Michele

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