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Whether you're standing around the water cooler, talking shop in the garage, or sipping wine at a dinner party, there's a lot of talk these days about which home remodeling projects are a good investment, and which ones are best left for better economic times. That said, the smartest choice for you, your home, and your bank account might be shifting your attention away from major remodels, and giving your local handyman a call instead.
Playing the Handyman Hand: Smart Moves for Hard Times
What advantages does a handyman have that your average G.C. is lacking during times of economic hardship? Let's take a look.
- Bigger Isn't Always BetterTo put it simply, why pay to remodel your entire bathroom when installing a new sink and upgrading your shower fixtures will do? We live in a society where the reigning mantra is "more, more, more," and the world of home improvement is no exception. Handymen specialize in just the opposite: smaller jobs that cost less money, but that make a big difference, nonetheless.
- Reasonable PricingBecause handymen focus on smaller jobs around your house, they usually charge less for their services than a big-time contractor would. Sure, Joe General Contractor might deserve the big bucks if he's coordinating work between your architect, framers, concrete guys, drywallers, and painters, but if you're opting for home improvements on a smaller scale it doesn't make sense to pay all that extra money for services that you just don't need.
- Quick ServiceWhile you often have to schedule appointments with other contractors weeks or months ahead of time, most handymen will bend over backwards to fit you in as soon as possible, especially if you have a pressing need, such as a plumbing leak, frozen pipes, or a failed heating system. In fact, once you find a good handyman, it's not a bad idea to put his number on speed dial. You won't find better peace of mind as a homeowner than knowing you've got competent Mr. Fix It just a phone call away.
- One-Stop ShoppingA handyman, by definition, is a jack-of-all-trades. That said, you can save yourself a lot of money, time, and frustration, by calling a handyman to tackle all of your household needs in one visit, rather than paying separately for the high prices and big egos of specialized contractors like plumbers, painters, and carpenters, to do the same jobs.
- Solutions that Save You MoneySome of the smartest home improvements when it comes to raising energy efficiency and cutting energy costs are the most commonsensea fact that's important to remember as winter sets in. Simple green upgrades that are well within the ability of most handymen include weatherstripping, caulking and sealing doors and windows, maintaining your heating system properly, and upgrading insulationall of which can dramatically lower your utility bills during cold winters and tough times.
The Handyman Can!
In fact, since we're on the subject, there's almost nothing that a handyman can't, or won't, do. The short list includes (but isn't limited to!):
- Plumbing installation and repair
- Electrical work, including hanging ceiling fans, light fixtures, and installing new outlets
- Home maintenance tasks, such as gutter cleaning, power washing, and chimney sweeping
- Roof repair
- Drywall patching
- Interior and exterior painting
- Small scale installations, such as replacement windows, shelving, sinks, countertops, vanities, and cabinetry
- Basic carpentry
- Insulation upgrades
- Tile, laminate, hardwood, and other flooring installations
Doing Your Handyman Homework
If you do decide that hiring a handyman is the right choice for you and your home, make sure you do your homework ahead of time. Unlike specialized contractors like plumbers, electricians, and even general contractors, handymen aren't required to pass any tests or obtain licensing to go into business. That means that anybody with a toolbox, a tool belt, and a phone number in the yellow pages can call themselves a handyman, whether they know what they're doing or not. In order to make sure that your attempt to save money doesn't end up bleeding you dry, be sure that you get bids from at least 3 handymen, and ask for, and check, references before you hire. It's the only way to ensure that your handyman hire is going to provide you with the tip-top service you deserve.
Matt Goering, formerly a carpenter and house painter, is a freelance writer for the home improvement industry who has published over 600 articles.