The answer to this question can vary depending on many factors. Hiring a handyman can be a cost effective solution if you need minor repairs done quickly, like changing window screens, cleaning the gutters, caulking around the tub, or fixing a running toilet. If you’re planning to make substantial improvements that require skilled labor, you may consider the benefits of hiring a general contractor.
A handyman is like a jack-of-all-trades. Depending on the individual’s skill level, a handyman can complete a number of repairs quickly, usually at an hourly rate plus materials. A handyman is generally used for small jobs that require some, but not specialized, skills. For example, a handyman would be a good choice to repair a leaky faucet or plumbing, because the work will only require basic knowledge of external plumbing. You may also consider using a handyman for touch-up painting (make sure he knows what paint color and sheen!), repairing minor damage to the home’s exterior or decks, installing or replacing light fixtures, hanging blinds, or other small repairs that can be completed without any special training or permits. A good rule of thumb to follow: if you feel like it’s something you could do yourself (like replacing a broken board on the deck), then a handyman is a good option.
A contractor is a specialized construction professional with a license, insurance, and a diverse construction crew with specific skill sets. Some jobs that require a contractor are obvious, like an addition to your existing structure or an overhaul on the home’s electric wiring, but others may not be so obvious. Say, for example, you had a long term tenant that never let you know about leaks, broken electric plugs, or other mechanical failures. You walk into your rental and find that the tenant has destroyed the carpeting, paint, decks, and other fixtures on your property. Is this a job for a handyman? In this situation, it sounds like you’ll need general contractor. A general contractor will ensure each job is completed to code by a qualified professional. The flooring will be installed properly, electrical repairs will be made to code, improvements will have all necessary permits, and painting/patching will look professional.
Multiple Skill Levels: Does the work require more than one specialized skill (plumbing, electric, and painting)? If your job requires more than one specialized trade, you should consider hiring a general contractor. A general contractor will have connections in multiple industries, so you won’t have to spend the time and resources hunting down a qualified electrician, plumber, and builder. Plus, because the general contractor works with other trade professionals frequently, you’ll most likely get a better price when you use a general contractor (over hiring each professional individually).
Complexity of the Job: Does the work require special training (rewiring an electric circuit, building to code)? If the job requires work from someone familiar with building codes, electrical safety, permit requirements, etc., use a general contractor. Using a handyman who is unfamiliar with necessary building codes and safety measures could lead to government fines, additional repairs, or other problems that end up costing you more in the long run.
Quality of Work: Do you want the work to look professional and function correctly (even paint color, properly secured fixtures, quality craftsmanship on wall patching, properly installed floor or cabinets, ect)? It’s not to say that a handyman isn’t capable of doing quality work, but before you dish out several hundred dollars on upgrades and repairs, make sure that you’re hiring a person who can handle the full scope of work. Just because someone is capable of doing general maintenance, doesn’t mean s/he can handle professional painting, deck building and maintenance, wall patching, cabinet installations, electrical repairs, and more.
Your Budget: Does your budget allow for professional work? If your budget doesn’t allow for more than a couple hundred dollars, you may consider prioritizing your list and starting with the work you can afford. Then, save for other upgrades that you want completed on a future date. Hiring a low cost handyman to complete all the work may leave you wishing you had waited.