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Handyman vs Contractor

Though their abilities may sometimes overlap, knowing the difference between a handyman and a licensed contractor is important for anybody who wants to complete renovation work on their house. When it comes time to hire one of these professionals, it is always best if you know which one is right for the job. You may spend more than necessary to get a job done if you don’t choose the right professional accordingly.

Below, we’ve outlined the jobs that each professional is best at to help break down each individual profession and examine when they  would be used. The simple fact is that a licensed contractor should never have to perform the work of a handyman, and a handyman should never be performing the work of a licensed contractor. Keep in mind that neither a handyman nor a licensed contractor is a plumber or electrician. If you need specialized work done in one of these areas, you should always hire the appropriate specialist.


The term ‘Handyman’ is the most appropriate name for the job. With no formal qualifications, licenses, or certificates needed, a handyman is simply someone who is exceptionally skilled at performing certain tasks around the house. The main factor to distinguish a handyman is that he will typically take any job, no matter how small.

Typically, a handyman will be an individual, have a few assistants, or work for a handyman management company. Regardless of where you find your handyman, just keep in mind that without formal qualifications needed, it is best to screen candidates to make sure they can do what you need done. Ultimately though, a handyman should be able to tackle just about anything you throw his way.

These professionals are used to doing anything from painting a room to patching a hole in a wall to changing a hard-to-reach light bulb. Ultimately, the handyman is like the utility player on a baseball team. They may not be the best at any one thing (though they may be!) but he will be good at a large variety of small jobs, a jack of all trades.

The bottom line is that a handyman can be a relatively inexpensive asset to help you overcome of the basic household problems that arise. On the other hand, larger renovations or major overhauls should be referred to a contractor. A handyman will rarely work with more than two people, and any job that sounds like you would never be able to do, is probably not a job for a handyman.

Licensed Contractor

A licensed contractor acts as a ring leader for larger construction projects for your home. If you want to remodel a kitchen, bathroom, or basement, a licensed contractor is the individual you will contact to get the ball rolling. Unlike a handyman, these professionals have to keep up with licensing requirements and consider the big picture of construction projects.

In most cases, a licensed contractor will have the assistance of a team of people, which varies depending on the project. For example, if the contractor needs to work on a kitchen renovation he will need to have a plumber and a cabinet installer at the very least, and most likely he will also have the help of an electrician, a floorer and some demolition crew members. On the other hand, if a home entertainment center is being installed for a basement renovation, the contractor will probably just need an electrician, a builder, and a floorer.

When it comes down to doing the actual work, the licensed contractor will typically be on the sidelines managing. Think of the contractor as a kind of coach, and the formation of his team depends on the project that he needs to work on. If the project is something that one or two people can handle, it is probably not right to be contacting a licensed contractor.

The bottom line is that a licensed contractor is really someone reserved to performing full projects or renovation jobs rather than single tasks. They will usually carry much larger insurance policies, and give you a much more detailed plan. At the same time, the service of a licensed contractor is understandably much more expensive than those of a handyman.


Ultimately, the easiest way to decide whether you need a handyman or a licensed contractor is to look at the scope of your project. If you are considering a simple task that you could perform yourself, you definitely do not need a contractor, and in some cases the insurance that a contractor holds will not even cover should he mess up in this capacity. Instead, if you are looking to do a major renovation, a handyman will typically not even be qualified to help with your project.

Always keep the key differences in mind whenever you consider hiring any service professional. When you need a quick job done, hire a handyman. When you need a large project, consider a contractor. In the end, just remember that one does not equal the other, so choosing the right one can make a difference.

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