Loose banisters, a hole in a wall, a closet door that doesn’t shut right, a rotted board in the back porch. These are the tiresome little problems that can drive a homeowner crazy. In days long gone, we all knew a local person who we could call to fix such small, tedious problems.
Changing Times for the Modern Handyman
Today, the shift of workers to new professions has chipped away at the availability of the traditional handyman. Even when we actually do find one, we have concerns about insurance, workers compensation liability, social security taxes, licensing and a host of other complications.
During the booming eighties, about the only way to get a professional firm out to repair a porch was to have some major remodeling done and make the porch repair part of the job! Contractors had so much work they couldn’t be bothered with small repairs, which lacked the glory and big bucks associated with larger projects.
Times have changed. During the eighties, rapidly rising housing values gave homeowners a deep pool of home equity to tap into to pay for major renovations. Now, few people are in a position to do major remodeling projects. In order to survive, many of the firms who only did jobs over $25,000 a few years ago, will now jump at the chance to repair your porch.
It’s a common misconception to think hiring a handyman will always be cheaper than hiring a licensed appliance specialist, electrician, plumber, carpenter, etc. A handyman may not be the most economical way to go. In order to earn a living, professional handymen need to charge minimum of $25-$50 per hour and often have a minimum charge just to show up.
Also, professional contractors have more training and experience in their field, and usually carry more specialized parts on their trucks, to allow them to diagnose and fix problems quickly. Therefore, you could actually spend more having a handyman make one or more trips to the hardware store and go through a series of trials and errors than you would pay a specialist.
Also, in some states, it is illegal to hire an unlicensed worker for home improvement projects valued at $500 or over, including materials and labor.
Many home repair specialists need general contracting licenses, even if they do most or all of the work themselves, in order to handle larger repairs involving more than one trade, including carpentry, plumbing, electrical, drywall, painting, etc. If your project may cost more than $500, go back and submit a service request for Find A General Contractor.
There is something you can do to reduce the cost of repairs. By getting organized before you call a contractor, you’ll not only save money, but also reduce the hassle factor. Begin by walking through the entire house room by room. Then go outside and walk around the house looking at both the house and the grounds. Make a list of everything that needs attention. It sometimes helps to get a friend to help because he/she can offer an outsider’s perspective.
Now organize your list into logical groupings. Sections might include wall repairs, door repairs, weatherstripping, windows and so on.
Expect most firms to front load the first hour. For example, they might charge a $35 service fee just for showing up. Just like with plumbers, it makes sense to get everything done all at once so you only have to pay that extra expense once.
Many tasks, like drywall repair, involve several steps. Each step requires a certain amount of time and trouble to set up. The result is, it doesn’t take much longer to fix five holes than it does to fix one. This is because no matter how many holes there are, the worker only has to set up for each step once.
Offer Your Handyman a List
If you give the worker a full list of things you want done, you’ll reduce the time it takes to explain everything. Finally, if he has a good list to work from, he can organize his approach and the order of tasks.
In essence, you choose a home repair firm the same way you choose a firm for major work. In summary, the keys to getting small repairs done efficiently with minimum hassle are to get organized up front and to make sure you are using a carefully screened firm.