How to Choose a Handyman

There are 3 general categories of handymen or women:

  1. Licensed Handymen – those that have contractors licenses or are licensed to do handyman work.
  2. Unlicensed Legal – no license, but work strictly within the state laws governing incidental home repairs.
  3. Unlicensed Illegal – handymen who work under the table, ignoring the construction laws and regulations.

The Licensed Handyman or Contractor


Let’s explore the three categories further:

  • Their contractors license number will be included on all of their signage and business cards.
  • Will be easily identifiable by their telephone manner, their vehicles and their uniforms.
  • The handyman will usually be a worker who is operating under his employer’s general contractors license or on rare occasions will be the contractor himself.
  • This category of handyman will be the most expensive from a rate standpoint but will carry liability insurance and workman’s compensation insurance.
  • Workers will have at least a minimum required level of training and experience.
  • The contractor will pull building permits when required and can do any job that fits under their contractors license.
  • If something goes wrong, you have legal recourse and the contractors license board to turn to for assistance.
  • Will have contracts for you to sign before the work is started and upon completion.

Unlicensed – Working Within the Law

  • Will be less expensive than a licensed contractor, sometimes significantly less.
  • Usually have business cards, will supply references and may have a sign on their vehicle.
  • May or may not be easily identifiable by their telephone manner, their vehicle signage and their uniforms.
  • Will carry liability insurance that will cover jobs performed up to their legal limit.
  • Will not do jobs that are outside of their legal limits. ($500 in California, all inclusive) Staying within the law, they will not ask for a large deposit before starting work.
  • Some will have contracts for you to sign, many will not.
  • May or may not pull building permits if required.
  • Will usually have at least the minimum amount of skills required to do the work they are agreeing to do.

Unlicensed – Not Working Within the Law

  • Will be the least expensive quote you receive.
  • May or may not be willing to give you references.
  • Usually will carry no business cards, have no signage and no uniforms.
  • They will do any work you ask them to do.
  • May or may not be experienced or trained in the work you are hiring them to do.
  • Size of the job won’t matter – remodel a bathroom, remodel a kitchen, build a garage.
  • Will not pull building permits.
  • Will often ask for large deposits to start the work – this is illegal.
  • If the work was illegally performed or contracted, no agency will stand behind you if there is a problem with the work or the worker.
  • No contract will be enforceable if the work performed fell outside of the law.