Who's right for the job? A specialist tradesperson or a handyman?

When do you hire a handyman, and when do you need a licensed tradesperson? It depends on the job.
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When do you hire a handyman, and when do you need a licensed tradesperson? It depends on the job.

When you have a home improvement or maintenance job that's beyond your skill level, whom should you call?  

Building from new and extensive remodelling aside, not every job needs a specialist contractor or a licensed builder - for many smaller projects, an experienced handyman is the way to go.

Jeremy Wyn-Harris of Builderscrack.co.nz says that while handymen can handle many household repairs, there are certain tasks that require specialised knowledge and licensing.

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"Plumbing, gas-fitting, electrical and structural work should always be undertaken by a licensed contractor," he says. "Those are the jobs that will need to be code-compliant and require building consent."

Underneath the sink is no place for a homeowner or a handyman. Plumbing work needs to be performed by a licensed ...
123RF

Underneath the sink is no place for a homeowner or a handyman. Plumbing work needs to be performed by a licensed tradesperson.

A qualified handyman, though, can often tackle in one visit several smaller projects that don't require licensing.

"Handymen tend to be generalists," says Wyn-Harris.  "They're very practical people who typically have a broad base of knowledge, and not only will be able to do the job but can also offer some advice based on their experience."

What kinds of jobs can a handyman do? 

Fixing a leaky tap? Perfect job for a handyman.
SIMIN ZORAN

Fixing a leaky tap? Perfect job for a handyman.

"Anything from interior or exterior painting, laying down pavers, hanging the TV or building shelves," says Wyn-Harris. "Assembling and installing flat-pack furniture or cabinets... basically, anything that's bigger than a DIY job, or more than you can take on. I hired a handyman to build our treehouse."

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There are a few jobs for which Wyn-Harris suggests hiring a specialist – although that doesn't mean someone with a license.

"If you're tiling, or doing some pretty extensive painting or wallpapering - I'd hire someone who specialises in that. These jobs don't need someone with a license, but for highly detailed tasks that require a certain skill set or specific tools – you probably want someone who does it every day."

IS IT A JOB FOR A HANDYMAN OR A LICENSED TRADESPERSON?

1. Simple plumbing 

"The rule of thumb is, if you're doing anything below the level of the sink, you need a licensed plumber," says Wyn-Harris. So fixing or replacing the taps is fine for the handyman. Putting in a new hot water cylinder - that's for the plumber.

2. Replacing a window

Tile installers don't need to be licensed, so a handyman could do the job. But for this task, Wyn-Harris suggests hiring ...
123RF

Tile installers don't need to be licensed, so a handyman could do the job. But for this task, Wyn-Harris suggests hiring a someone who specialises.

If you're simply taking out an older window and slotting a new one in, that's a job for an experienced handyman. They'll be able to install the window, level it, patch and paint around the opening and replace any mouldings.

But, if you're taking out a window and replacing it with a ranch slider, that's a job for a licensed contractor. Why? Because now you're modifying the actual building envelope, and that's structural. 

3. Simple electrical 

Just like 'below the sink' requires a plumber, 'behind the wall' requires an electrician. A handyman can replace a light fitting, or hang a new TV; but anything beyond that, you need a licensed electrician.

TIPS FOR HIRING A HANDYMAN OR CONTRACTOR

Before hiring, interview several candidates. For handymen, pick one who you're comfortable with, because you'll be working closely with them around the house.

Check references, and ask to see photos of their work.

Be wary of any handyman or tradesperson who asks for payment before doing any work.

 - Homed

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