Checklist for Choosing Handyman

Collins is a Los Angeles free-lance writer

Here's some advice from experts for anyone about to hire a handyman:

--Plan to avoid surprises.

Plan exactly what you want done, how you want it to look and how much you want to spend. Meticulously prepared plans will be helpful for obtaining accurate bids. What is not shown on the plans will not be included in the finished product--or in the estimate.

--Shop around before hiring a handyman.

There are a number of places to find qualified handymen. Start with neighbors, your insurance agent or a local realtor. Local hardware stores often keep a bulletin board for posting business cards of local handymen. The H.O.M.E.S. Guild at (800) 647-3337 offers free referrals to tradesmen throughout the Los Angeles area.

--Ask for references.

Ask the handyman for a list of jobs he or she has completed recently in your area. A skilled worker should be proud of his work and ready to provide the information. Among others, the questions you might want to ask those references include: Did the handyman stick to the schedule? Did he offer suggestions and advice when appropriate? Were you pleased with the work and the way it was done? Did the handyman listen to you when you had a problem and help resolve it? Did he make any necessary corrections?

--Look at samples of the handyman's work.

Whenever possible, visit the handyman's previous work sites to determine whether the completed work meets your own standards. This is particularly important for cosmetic work, even if the recommendation comes from a next-door neighbor, because everyone's standards are different.

--Check licensing.

If the work to be done is in excess of $300, a handyman must have a license. Call the local Contractors' State License Board to determine if the handyman is properly licensed, either as a general contractor or for a particular trade, and that the license is in good standing.


Set a definite appointment time and determine a way to reconfirm to avoid being stood up, which is the biggest complaint coming from both sides of the handyman-client relationship.


Avoid making final payment for work that has not been completed. It is customary for a partial payment to be made before the work is begun if there are materials to be purchased for the project.

--Saving money.

If materials will be needed, it may be less expensive to purchase small items--smoke alarms, toilet seats, outdoor flood lights--yourself. If he has to buy them for you, the handyman probably will charge a premium to cover his own time.

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