A handyman typically has a diverse skill set and can offer clients a wide range of services, but there are legal limitations to the jobs a jack-of-all-trades may accept. Learn what jobs a handyman can and can’t legally do in most states.
Often, homeowners and small businesses like to hire a jack-of-all trades for small jobs, preferring to employ someone who can perform a variety of maintenance and upkeep tasks rather than hiring a different specialty contractor for each job. If you have a diverse skill set and can offer clients a wide range of services, starting your own handyman business can be a great way to earn a living. However, because certain types of projects require additional training, licensing, or certifications, there are limits to what services you can offer as a handyman. This article looks at the types of job a handyman can and can’t legally do so a prospective handyman can better understand the responsibilities that may come with the job.
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Contractors Vs Handymen
Although contractors and handymen may be hired to perform jobs that require similar skills, knowledge, and experience, there are distinct differences between these two types of home professionals:
The Scope Of Jobs Performed
Contractors often work on major commercial or residential construction projects such as new building construction, home additions, and room renovations. Handymen generally perform smaller tasks such as minor repair work on fences or decks, drywall patches, and home maintenance jobs such as yard work.
Handymen are generally jacks-of-all-trades, providing a diverse set of skills to home and business owners. Although general contractors may provide an array of home services, many contractors are licensed and certified in specialties such as:
- Hazardous waste remediation
Licensing And Certifications
Contractors typically must be licensed and insured, and depending on their field and the state in which they operate, they may also be required to maintain industry certifications. A handyman may maintain liability insurance to protect their business and customers, but they’re usually not eligible for a license, except in areas that require home improvement contractor’s licensing to operate a handyman business.
For specifics on applicable licensing requirements in your area, visit your state contractor’s board website.
Education And Experience
Because most states don't offer licenses to handymen, these home professionals don't have to meet educational requirements to operate a business. There are also no requirements regarding years of experience. Even a savvy self-taught DIYer may operate a handyman business with the right tools.
What Type Of Work Can A Handyman Do Legally?
The type of work a handyman can legally do typically depends on a state’s licensing requirements for construction jobs. In many states, only licensed contractors can legally engage in major home construction projects such as additions, room remodels, and electrical overhauls. Because most areas don’t offer contracting licenses to jacks-of-all-trades, there’s a limit to the types of projects a handyman can take on, which can make operating a business tricky.
In some states, minor work exemptions define the type and scope of work a jack-of-all-trades may legally do, which is why they’re often referred to as handyman exemptions. These exceptions to a state’s contractor licensing laws set the maximum amount a construction job may cost, including labor and materials, before it legally requires a licensed contractor. In some states, a handyman exemption may also specify the type of work a handyman may perform.
That still leaves plenty of work for jacks- and jills-of-all trades to legally engage in. For a handyman, fence repair and other basic household tasks that a homeowner can't or doesn't wish to do themselves and a contractor finds too small to be worthwhile can form the basis for a successful small business.
Examples Of Jobs A Handyman Can Do
In most places, a handyman may perform a variety of tasks in residential and commercial settings. The top tasks a handyman can do include:
- Power washing
- Yard cleanup and maintenance
- Trash removal
- Trim installation
- Furniture and cabinet assembly
- Aboveground pool setup and maintenance
- Paint touch-ups and deck staining
- Minor indoor and outdoor repairs such as fixing gates, removing dry rot, and replacing screens
Can A Handyman Do Electrical Work?
If a handyman is also a licensed electrician, they may perform electrical work. Otherwise, a jack-of-all-trades should never attempt a project that involves connecting directly to a home or business’s main electrical system.
In fact, in many states, such as Florida, it’s illegal to perform almost any electrical work without having a contractor’s license. This is primarily because the licensing requirements for electricians typically include training on residential and commercial building codes. Because most handymen don’t have this specific training, their work may leave a building non-compliant. Some insurance policies may also be considered void if a fire occurs due to electrical work completed by someone other than a licensed electrician.
Can A Handyman Do Plumbing Work?
A handyman can generally execute simple plumbing-adjacent tasks such as installing a new faucet or adding a water filter to a preexisting fixture. However, many states have laws that prohibit handymen from performing more extensive plumbing work unless they have a plumbing license. If you’re starting a handyman business, you should understand your state’s licensing rules before offering even minor plumbing services to your customers. By engaging in major plumbing tasks without a license, you risk voiding a home or business’s insurance policy if the structure were to flood due to a flaw in your work.
What A Handyman Can’t Do
In almost every state, handymen must adhere to specific restrictions. These restrictions, which are meant to protect consumers from contractors with unscrupulous practices, may define the type and scope of work unlicensed home professionals can take on. Jacks-of-all-trades who don’t hold a contractor’s license in a specialty typically can't claim to be a contractor, and they can't advertise services they aren’t licensed to perform. They also may not accept projects that exceed the state’s minor work exemption amount or break a job down into smaller parts so they fit below the state’s minor work exemption amount.
Examples Of Jobs A Handyman Can’t Do
Although the rules vary by state, in most cases a handyman may not engage in the following tasks:
- Home additions
- Major plumbing repairs
- Rewiring and other major electrical jobs
- Foundation work
- Work on structural walls
- HVAC installation and repairs
- Asbestos abatement
- Alarm system installation, maintenance, or repair
It’s important to adhere to your state’s contracting rules because penalties for violations can be severe, and in some areas, investigators may visit job sites to check for illegal practices.
Rules Vary By State
Each state has different rules governing construction jobs and contractor licensing, so what a handyman can do in one state they may not legally be able to do in another. In some areas, contracting laws may even differ by county or city.
The minor work exemption amount, which often determines what work a contractor may accept, varies between states, typically ranging between $500 and $3,000. Some states may also require handyman businesses to maintain liability insurance. In other states, including Texas, a jack-of-all-trades must maintain a handyman license regardless of the services they offer. Some states may also prohibit handymen from taking on work that requires a permit. Handymen may also be prohibited from advertising services they aren’t authorized to provide without a trade license.
Unlicensed contracting is a crime in every state, so be sure to find out the rules in your region before opening a handyman business. Home professionals who violate a state’s contracting laws may be ticketed and fined by their regional contractors’ board and may also be held liable for any damages that result from a job. In some areas, contracting without a license can even result in a misdemeanor.
If you’re trained and licensed in a specific area of home construction, one option to consider is opening up a specialized handyman business. Because of their extensive training in a specific trade, specialty handymen can typically offer a more comprehensive array of services to customers than general jacks-of-all-trades as long as they adhere to state guidelines regarding contractors' licensing and certifications.
Handyman specialists may include:
- Electrical handymen
- Handyman plumbers
- Handyman carpenters
- Handyman roofing and roof repair professionals
- Handyman drywall repair specialists
Getting Your Contractor’s License
If you’d like to take your handyman business a step further so you can bid on larger, more complex jobs, you may be able to work towards getting your general contractor’s license. In fact, the years you spend as a handyman may count toward the industry experience requirements involved in licensing.
In most states, trade licensing requires education, experience, and insurance. Industry certifications may also be required for fields that involve health, safety, or environmental concerns. Essentially, you’ll need to prove your competency in your trade, which may require an established industry professional to vouch for you in addition to your years of experience. You’ll also have to pass a contractor’s exam, which generally covers business law as it relates to your field. A background check may also be required.
You can find out more about the licensing requirements in your state by visiting the contractor’s board website.
Getting Started With CraftJack
As companies such as Around the House — NWA and Ace Handyman Services in Lake Norman can attest, if you’re starting a handyman business, quality lead generation can be the ticket to success. When you work with CraftJack, the leads come from home and business owners with projects that are appropriate for your company. All phone numbers are verified for accuracy, so you get only high-quality leads. Plus, you’ll hear about new leads as soon as they come in, so you can start winning jobs right away.