What Is the Difference Between a Handyman and a Contractor?

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Sometimes it can be confusing to tell the difference between a handyman vs. contractor. After all, both of these professions do home repair work. So how can you tell whether you need a handyman or a contractor? 

Let’s look at the differences in several key areas.

How big is the job?

Generally, a general handyman service provides a wide range of services and skills designed for smaller jobs. And a residential contractor is licensed to handle bigger home improvement jobs that are potentially more dangerous or that require a higher level skill set.

A handyman company generally handles small jobs

  • Small plumbing jobs
  • Deck and porch repair jobs
  • Repairing drywall
  • Small paint jobs or touch-ups.
  • Gutter cleaning and pressure washing.
  • Hanging blinds, drapes, or heaving paintings/mirrors.
  • Installing fans, smart home equipment, lights, or televisions.
  • Doorknob, hinges, or cabinet hardware replacement.
  • Door or window installation.

Essentially, a handyman can do minor electrical or plumbing work. And they can usually do small carpentry or paint jobs, as well as many home maintenance jobs.

A general contractor may do more involved types of work

This includes work they hire out to subcontractors.

  • Carpentry work, including building a new deck, adding on a new room, doing major structural renovations to an existing room or house plan.
  • Major plumbing work like replacing all the pipes under the house, plumbing a new room, moving a sink or toilet, etc…
  • Major electrical work like replacing the wiring in the house or rewiring a room, installing a new electrical panel, etc…
  • Larger projects around the house.
  • New construction.
  • Major structural renovations or additions.

Home Advisor shares some helpful information to discern the difference between when to hire a handyman and a general contractor (GC):

Tips when deciding between a handyman and general contractors:

  • If the job is going to take more than a week, hire a GC.
  • If the job requires several different pros to complete, hire a GC.
  • If the job requires a few permits, hire a GC.

Some handyman businesses are licensed and some are not. All contractors should be licensed in the state of SC, although other states may have different licensing requirements. Even though finding a home improvement service may be challenging, it is wise to hire a licensed and insured local handyman for smaller jobs or a licensed general contractor for bigger jobs.

How Much Does the Job Cost?

A home handyman costs a lot less, generally than a contractor, because he doesn’t have to have as high a skill set as the contractor does, the jobs are smaller, and he doesn’t have to carry as much liability insurance or pay as much for training and licensing. He is doing the small jobs, not the big jobs so a handyman charges less money. 

If you hire a general contractor to do routine maintenance in your home, you may find you end up paying a lot more than you need to for his handyman service list. Save hiring a general contractor for the really big things, a residential contractor is not the best handyman option. 

Hiring a contractor for small jobs is like hiring a neurosurgeon to sew up a few stitches on your forehead. Of course, he can do the job. But you are going to pay a lot more than you would if you had a family doctor do it.

So if you just need a small job done, it makes sense to find a good handyman near you. You can save a lot of money by finding a handyman to work on a honey-do list or other home maintenance projects that you have been putting off because you don’t have the time, desire, or experience to do them yourself.

Often, you can ask a handyman for hourly rates so he can knock out a lot of jobs for you in just a few hours. Other times for certain small jobs, a handyman may provide a flat rate upfront.

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