Do It Yourself or Call in the Pros?

Post date: Jun 28, 2017 10:09:12 PM

How to Decide What Jobs to Hire a Handyman For

A handyman, a contractor and a DIYer can share a lot of the same skills. However, there are times when you, the homeowner,

will have to decide whether the job is one you can handle, or if you need to call in the professionals.


Many small repairs or modifications can handled easily by a homeowner with a hammer and a screwdriver. But successful DIY is entirely dependent on the individual -- what one person considers a basic or simple task could be well beyond the abilities of another. So how do you decide if a project is a DIY or would be better served by bringing in a professional handyman. One way to start is to ask yourself what could go wrong and how badly.

  • Updating your kitchen cabinets with new handles is a pretty straightforward project with very few potential complications. Probably the worst that could happen is that you may not have screwed them in tight enough and they come loose. (I know this to be true from experience!)

  • Replacing an electrical outlet, however, can be very dangerous if you are an electrical novice and you do it wrong. If you don’t know about electrical currents and how they work in your house, step back and call someone who does.

Another consideration to think about is how large is the job and how many people it will take to complete it. One person can put on a home addition, sure, but it’s going to take a very long time and will be very difficult. On the other hand, installing insulation or drywall are things that can be handled quite easily by one person and require little in the way of specialized skills. The actual physical effort required on the job needs to be considered as well. Hauling, moving, lifting, toting, and generally maneuvering wood, bricks, concrete and other building materials can be very exhausting when done alone.


Some jobs may seem simple enough on the surface, like turning your attic into an office or a adding a spare bedroom in the basement, or replacing the picture window in your living room with a bay window, but often require quite a bit more knowledge. A good rule of thumb is, if your project is going to cost over $500 a day and take more than a day or two, you might want to hire a contractor. Since these projects are usually fairly large, there is a higher likelihood that the job will require permits and inspections, and will often require a crew of workers to accomplish.

If your project requires any of the following, you probably need a contractor:

  • New plumbing

  • Modifying existing plumbing such as replacing lines

  • New electrical work

  • Repairing an electrical system such as replacing a breaker box or replacing wiring in the walls or ceiling

  • Installing or repairing gas lines

  • Any HVAC work beyond routine maintenance

  • Adding livable space such as a room addition or converting an attic or basement into a livable space

  • Major remodeling

  • Anything that affects the structure of your house.

This list is by no means complete. Before beginning any home remodeling or construction project, check with your local regulations to see if your project is required to be done by a licensed contractor or requires any special permits. Although it’s more expensive than hiring a handyman, hiring a contractor is a way to make sure that things are done safely and up to code.


A handyman is the happy medium between DIY or hiring a contractor. As mentioned above, there are some jobs a handyman isn’t allowed to do. This is why some handymen are also licensed contractors. A handyman can take care of numerous small jobs and sometimes works with contractors on large projects, especially when time is critical.

  • A handyman is extremely versatile and can help with everything from replacing your thermostat to repairing your gutters.

  • They can handle most jobs that you may not have the time or ability to do yourself.

  • They can also do jobs that may be trickier than you might think like replacing the toilet or installing a garbage disposal.

To determine if you can use a handyman instead of a fully-licensed contractor, ask yourself the following:

  • Could I do it myself if I only had the time?

  • Could I do it myself if I only had the knowledge or ability?

  • Should this take less than a day?

  • Should this cost less than $500?

  • Can this be done by only one or two people?

  • Can this be done without a permit?

Answering “yes” to these usually means that your project can be done by a handyman. If you are looking for bids, be sure to give as much detail about the job as possible. A reputable handyman will tell you upfront if the job requires a contractor or if the work is outside their comfort zone.

Contractor vs. Handyman

A contractor is a specialist in his or her field: electrical contractor, plumbing contractor, construction contractor, etc. They often oversee a team that may consist of subcontractors who handle specialized jobs within the larger project. They are expected to be knowledgeable about permits and other such technicalities.

Handymen specialize in odd jobs. It could be replacing a broken cabinet hinge, stopping a leaky faucet or sanding down a gouge in your wood floor. The handyman is a trained generalist. He/She is the true Jack of all Trades, and your Right-Hand Handyman.