When to Use a Licensed Contractor?

February 13, 2023
When it comes to construction, projects come in many shapes and sizes. This may create uncertainty as a homeowner on who you need to reach out to about performing the work. Many of us know a friend who is handy and able to fix a sink or renovate a bathroom, but there is much more to properly and safely taking on a project. Understanding the difference between a handyperson and a contractor, sometimes referred to as a GC, will put your mind at ease and ensure that your project is done properly and safely.

So let’s dive into what makes someone a handyperson and when it is okay to go with one. A handyperson is someone you might think of as a “jack of all trades”. They most likely do not specialize in any particular trade, which also means they are limited on what work they can do without that specialization. Their work is categorized as smaller jobs such as fixing a leaky faucet, minor electrical, such as wiring a ceiling fan, patching drywall or repairing door trim or building shelves. As long as the project does not need permitting or requires a licensed professional, you are probably okay with utilizing a handyperson, but it is always best to check your local laws and regulations. Checking with your jurisdiction’s contractors board for information and support is a good first step.

If you decide that a handyperson is the way to go, it is always best to get references and reach out to them to ensure that what the handyperson has told you about their quality of work is true. You want multiple references so that you make sure you can accumulate reviews to truly determine which handyperson fits your expectations. You should also verify that the handyperson has workman’s comp or they are properly workman’s comp exempt before they start work. Many states require this as without workman’s comp or exempt status, injuries at your project may end up going through your homeowner’s insurance, which can be a nightmare.

Ensure that the handyperson gives you a written quote that clearly illustrates the scope of their work, the materials that they are responsible for and what you are responsible for. This quote should have the terms of payment and lay out the contingencies for changes in the work. If you decide to have them do further work while they are there, get it in writing so that memory is not the only resource for the final costs.

Ensure that you are comfortable with the handyperson that you choose. Personality, communication and relationship matter when hiring. There will be times that you need to make changes or the work may not be what you were expecting, so you will need to be able to express those concerns to get the final product you are wanting.

So to recap, a handyperson is good on those smaller projects that does not require a specialized trade. Ensure that you get references, actually call them, and spend time with the potential handyperson to determine if you two mix well. You want to be comfortable enough to voice concerns as they arise and know that the handyperson will be willing and able to make those changes to give you the finished project you desired. Have a written agreement that outlines the complete scope of work and finish.

We’ve discussed what a handyperson is and what they do, now we will cover licensed contractors.

A licensed contractor is a person or company that holds a state or local license to conduct the work that you are hiring for. In some municipalities, they allow contractors to be specialized in a specific trade like painting or drywall, but this will limit their scope of work. A building contractor or general contractor is licensed to work on residential and commercial projects. This can be renovations or additions and all the way up to new buildings. This designation is commonly called a GC or General Contractor. A Building Contractor or General Contractor must have a valid license, workman’s comp or exemption and insurance for both liability and personal damage. Each state has differing requirements on how to become a licensed contractor from having to pass a test to just filling out the paperwork, so check with your state on these requirements. It is very important to check references and past work history when hiring a contractor and verify that they are properly licensed and insured.

The contractor will be involved from start to finish on your project. They will work with you to define the budget, timeframe, and expectations. They will be the point of contact between you, the subcontractors, city and county officials, and anyone else that needs to be involved in your project. They are bringing years of experience to your project, so they will know the ins and outs of what is required in your area.

In most areas, the state will require the use of a licensed contractor for work above a certain dollar amount or when multiple trades are needed such as a bathroom remodel where you will be altering the plumbing and electrical as well drywall. A licensed contractor will be needed as the project gets larger from here. From building a new addition to a new home or office, contractors are needed to coordinate, execute and run the project to success. The contractor is the key person on the execution side of the project. When doing a large project, you may also bring on a designer, architect or others to help create the vision and your contractor will work with all of these parties.

So, if your project is large enough that it exceeds one person you should definitely look for a licensed contractor. If your project is small and doesn’t require any significant changes to electrical, plumbing, or mechanical you will most likely be okay seeking the help of a handyperson. As always, if in doubt, contacting a general contractor will allow you to find out if your project is within their realm of work or not.

And final advice, get references!

State of Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR)/Bureau of Education and Testing (BET):

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Shelby Construction, Inc.’s mission is to provide the finest renovations and new builds while keeping close communication with each client throughout the project, creating a trusting relationship from start to finish. Shelby Construction began as a vision of three friends to provide remarkable construction and build long lasting partnerships with their clients.

At Shelby, we know the first step to any project is to have sound planning. We leverage our more than 40 years experience in residential and commercial construction to offer an end-to-end client experience that starts with understanding your project and its needs. We then walk our clients through the steps timely and with full transparency so that their dream goes from concept to reality smoothly and confidently.

The information provided in this blog or website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available on this site are for general informational purposes only. Consult local and state rules and laws for more information.