Need a handyperson?
When considering a renovation or a home repair, the big question for most homeowners is who should do the job and how much they should pay. Those questions are tied closely together; the more specialized and experience required, the higher the fee.
Should you hire a general contractor, a specialized tradesperson, or will a handyperson do? There are exceptions to every rule, but here are a few general considerations when deciding on the people who will be working on your home.
The scope of the project is the first thing to consider. If this is a job that will require building permits, you will want to go with a general contractor who knows building codes, and who has experience reading building plans and dealing with licensed sub-contractors and municipal building inspectors. Typically this person has a formal education in the building trades, or has decades of experience.
Obviously, big projects where you are building an addition, building another storey, modifying foundations or moving in- terior walls will require a team of specialists. Then the whole renovation needs to be overseen by a general contractor.
Projects that involve cosmetic improvements or replacing or modernizing what was already there, is squarely the domain of the handyperson. Typically, these kinds of jobs can be done by just one person. A handyperson can have a wide range of skills but there is always a limit to what he or she can do. If you have ever heard the expression, “jack of all trades, master of none,” this applies to handymen. It’s great to hire someone who has experience in many areas - just keep in mind that not everyone can be good at everything.
The thing that separates a good handyperson from a bad one is knowing to not overstep his or her bounds. A good handyperson knows if they are a good fit for a project and knows when a specialist would be better suited. By “specialist” I mean someone who does just one type of installation, such as roofer, or a window installer. These days, many types of products such as fibreglass exterior doors require a factory-trained installer, or the product loses its warrantee.
A specialist can also mean a licensed trades person such as a plumber, electrician or HVAC contractor. Does this mean that a handyperson should never touch anything to do with these areas? Not exactly. When is comes to plumbing, a handyperson can replace fixtures such as sinks, taps and toilets; just as long as the job doesn’t go beyond the emergency shut-off valves.
With electrical, once again, changing lighting fixtures is fine, but any work that modifies the wiring in any way, needs to be done by a licensed contractor. HVAC is the one area that a handyperson should never touch. The only thing that a handyperson can fix in this domain is the humidifier, and replacing the filters.
There are many types of renovation projects that fall into the grey area; jobs that appear to be too small for the skills and expense of a general contractor but could be within the limits of a handyperson. Projects like this would include finishing a basement. In this case, homeowners might think the wiring can be easily accomplished with the assistance of a licensed electrician and the insulation, framing, drywall, trim and paint would be in the ballpark of most handypersons with experience.
I feel strongly that there is no way a handyperson should take on this job. It might seem do-able, but the project is too complex and requires an experienced professional.
The decision to use a general contractor with grey area projects comes down to how long do you want the renovation to take. The advantage here, is that general contracting companies typically have more manpower at their disposal and should get the job done that much quicker.
If you use a handyperson, and the job is estimated at 150 to 160 man-hours, the job will take one person a month to complete. Now, the real world variables would dictate that a general contracting company has multiple projects going on at one time and they also overlap projects. In the end, even with the perceived extra manpower, the job could also be extended to a month, but spread over a fewer number of actual working days.
If you have found a handyperson that you like and trust, it is a small point that the job should take a month to complete. After all, the advantages of having one person do the job, is that the renovation becomes far less complicated for the homeowner, and the success of any project depends on the good working relationship between the contractor and homeowner. General contractors come into play when an army of trades people are required and the GC becomes the point person with the homeowner.
Projects that involve cosmetic improvements or replacing or modernizing what was already there, is squarely the domain of the handyperson.