As the weather warms up and you’re looking to get some projects completed around the house, people start looking for help. In California, it is good for homeowners to know who they should look to for this help. So should you hire a Handyman or licensed contractor?
Well, let’s start with what each can provide. A “Handyman” who is not a licensed contractor (some licensed contractors do use this label to help with getting found in local social media groups) is someone who can do small odd jobs. These jobs are usually in the areas of drywall repairs, plumbing fixture (not the actual pipes) replacements, and small carpentry jobs (fixing stuck drawers, putting up shelves, etc). All these jobs must be under $500.00 including labor and materials if they are unlicensed. There is currently no “Handyman” license recognized by or issued by the State of California. If they are doing business in the Cities of Davis or Woodland, they should have a business license, but that license does not authorize them to act as a contractor.
A licensed contractor is a person or company that carries a license issued by the California State Licensing Board. There are several classifications for contractors that allow them to perform various trades. The most commonly sought-after for home repairs are electricians, plumbers, and roofers. General Contractors are also utilized by homeowners for larger projects that require multiple trades to complete a project. Technically a contractor cannot perform a job or take the lead on any contract that they don’t have the specific license to perform the work unless they subcontract that portion of the job to a licensed contractor of that trade.
So because electrical repairs and plumbing repairs have their own classifications, technically any repair that involves these trades should be performed by a licensed contractor in these trades. But why? Well because there have been enough well-intentioned and sometimes dubious people who have performed these tasks only to have to call a professional licensed contractor to redo the work performed by the “handyman.”
What about certifications? There are no certifications or licenses recognized or issued by the state of California for the handyman trade.
Well, a handyman is often less expensive than a licensed contractor, won’t I save money on these small projects? Maybe. But if something goes wrong or the repairs are not done correctly, you have little legal recourse. Most handymen don’t carry liability insurance or a bond that is required by the State to make sure homeowners are protected. And if you need to have the job done twice, did that really save you money?
When you’re looking to get a project done, make sure you are dealing with someone who knows not only how to get the project done, but also knows the local building rules, especially for things that require permits. Handymen, especially those that are unlicensed, are unable to pull the required permits at local building departments because they do not have the required CSLB license number to enter on the applications. Not having your project or repair permitted could lead to serious issues down the road if something happens, and unpermitted work can lead to insurance claims being declined.
So when should I use a handyman? Use a handyman when you know for sure the project will not require permits, will not go above $500 including materials, and when it doesn’t require a specialty trade such as an electrician or plumber to complete the job. If you’re not sure, go to the CSLB website and look up the different trade classifications to get an idea. You can even get a list of licensed professionals to contact that are in your area.