Help! I Need a Handyman!

    Find yourself thinking “I need a handyman” when you’re facing down a household task? Handypeople can be fantastic for helping you out with projects large and small, and their added skill can be especially useful for tasks that are a little bit too complicated for you to take on by yourself. But before you take the plunge, carefully consider whether you truly need one, how to find one who will be reliable and get the job done right, and how to communicate with your handyman to ensure everything goes smoothly.

    If a job would take too long for you to do on your own, or involves tasks better completed by multiple people, you might want to consider hiring assistance. For example, many people need help with pouring concrete because the process is messy and time-sensitive, and it requires some familiarity with concrete. A handyman can help plan and execute the project in addition to managing the pour to get it done on time. Assistance can also be useful if you have a laundry list of items that need to be done and no time to do them, or some tasks that you don’t feel confident doing on your own, but don’t want to hire a fully licensed contractor to complete. For instance, a handyman might install curtain rods for you.

    There are several resources to turn to when you need a handyman. Phone books and online listings usually provide ample starting points, but it’s often better to start specifically with a review service to winnow out people with bad records or those who aren’t established yet. You can also turn to friends to see who they use and like, or consider asking a property management company or real estate agency about which handymen they prefer, as they have a lot of experience with hiring people for home renovation and maintenance projects.

    Using these resources can help you avoid hiring a handyman who isn’t competent, won’t finish the job, or could cause other problems for you. Hopefully you can generate a list of potential candidates based on word of mouth recommendations and ratings and call them for brief interviews. Outline the job and the level of complexity and ask for a bid as well as information about the handyman’s experience. The handyman will probably want to come for a site visit to take a look, and should be able to provide an itemized estimate that includes labor hours and materials. The handyman can also talk about how long the project will take given the parameters set forward.

    Labor arrangements with handymen are often informal, but you might want to consider taking the time to clearly spell out the scope of the project and sign a document indicating that you both understand what is expected. You should also keep the estimate in case there are disputes later about the charges associated with the work.

    The amount of legal protection available to you in the event something goes wrong can depend on the area and the nature of any contracts signed. Be aware that you may be liable for injuries a handyman incurs on your property, and that if you don’t have a contract and a handyman walks off the job or does it poorly, you might have to pay for it to be fixed or completed. You may want to consider working with a bonded and insured person who carries financial guarantees so that in the event of a conflict or problem, you won’t be left with a more expensive project than you anticipated.

    s.e. smith writes for Networx.com. Photo by wordjunky/Flickr Creative Commons.

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