Handyman or ContractorSpring is in the air, and you’ve got a few projects that you either know you can’t quite get to, or know you can’t quite manage yourself. It’s time to look for someone with a little more expertise and time to help you get the house in shape for the warmer weather. But then you run into a question: Do you need to hire a handyman or a contractor? And what’s the difference, anyway?

The Handyman
In general, the handyman will complete projects you probably could do yourself if you had more time. These are jobs that can be completed in a day or two and encompass small home repairs or maintenance projects. Painting, fixing a gate, changing locks, installing a mailbox, hanging pictures or other light repair or replacement jobs would fall into the handyman category. A handyman will charge by the hour or the project but will cost less than a fully licensed contractor. If you have a list of odd jobs that you want completed, this is the guy you call.

Always make sure you check references when you’re hiring a handyman. Since no licensing or oversight is required, you’ll want to be sure the person you hire is capable of the work and trustworthy to have access to your home.

The Contractor
For bigger projects, or ones that involve electric or plumbing systems, you’re better off going with a licensed contractor. Contractors work on one specific project rather than a handful of jobs. They have training and experience in specific areas, and they use specialized subcontractors to get all parts of a big project moving at once. For building an addition, rewiring or running plumbing, and large landscaping jobs — especially ones requiring heavy machinery—you should go with the contractor. You’ll pay more, but if something were to go wrong, you’ve got recourse to get things fixed and back on track with a licensed professional.

All licensed contractors are required to pass testing to get a license and are subject to oversight by the commission that grants their license. You can check the status of the contractor’s license and usually find information on any complaints against them by contacting your state license board.

It’s important to hire the right person for the job, to ensure you get what you want, how you want it. Getting a referral from friends, family, or from a trusted real estate professional who has a lot of knowledge of and contacts with both handymen and contractors is a great way to start.