A handyman is a person skilled at a wide range of maintenance and repair work mostly associated with the home. Unlike a typical contractor that might take on larger jobs such as remodeling a home, a handyman is a person that excels at smaller tasks, normally those that do not require a building permit such as repairing a fence, adding a mailbox, and the like.
In most states, there are no licenses for handymen. Although they are considered contractors when taking on jobs and accepting money. Depending on their job description, a handyman might need a contractor’s license when working as part of a larger project. Plus, a handyman may perform certain types of work if they have the appropriate license, such as HVAC, plumbing, or electrical.
Although the laws in each state are different, for those who do more than minor repair or maintenance work getting a general contractor license may be desired.
How to Start
The first place to start is with your state’s laws about handymen and general contractor licensing. While every state has some type of licensing for handymen, it will vary depending on the extent of the work that is being performed.
In some states such as Alabama for example, a license is not required unless you are performing work on a project that costs at least $50,000. Most handymen will never come close to that type of work in the performance of their normal duties.
Other states such as California, for example, require a license for any work that may be priced at $500 or more. This is not just the cost of the parts or materials needed, but also includes labor and other expenses. Plus, there may be additional requirements depending on the state rules and regulations as well covering the tasks that you may perform.
So, if you never perform work that is over the set amount as dictated by the state, then you have no need to obtain a license. However, for low amounts such as $500, it probably pays to get a state license in case you want to expand your business to include larger projects.
Once you learn the requirements, you will now need to meet them if you want to obtain the proper license. This usually means getting the proper training at a licensed trade school, obtaining a certificate, and meeting any other requirements such as passing a test. Again, some states are stricter than others when it comes to applying for a license.
Keep in mind that work experience may substitute for having to attend a licensed trade school. For those who are just starting out, working for another handyman or company for a set period may be the answer. Real-world experience counts, so you may want to consider becoming an apprentice or the equivalent in getting the right training to become a handyman in your state.
You may be required to obtain a business license, so forming a Limited Liability Company (LLC) may be the answer. An LLC lets you create a business, but avoid business taxes by having it fall on your individual tax form.
In addition to state requirements, you may have to meet local or city obligations as well. this means that you will have to check out what you can and cannot do when performing work in your community. This means that you may need to register as a general contractor or obtain a handyman’s license even if it is not required by the state.
Depending on your state’s requirements and the work you perform you may be required to get multiple licenses for the following services;
- General Remodeling
- Waterworks and More
In addition, you may be required to get a license for residential work and another license for commercial work. This can be rather annoying but being licensed for both expands your customer base considerably.
If you want to expand your services to beyond what a handyman’s license can provide, then obtaining a contractor’s license for projects over a set amount is the answer. This is especially important if you want to specialize in work that might be well above the handyman limit. You will need to know what that limit is for your state and then research to see if what you want to do is above that limit.
Otherwise, if you are happy to work below that limit, then you may only need a handyman’s license or no license at all depending on your state and local community.
Professional Handyman’s Association
Your area may have such an association and if so, you can get the help needed to know how to obtain a handyman’s license. It’s also a great way to get more work as you can team up with other handymen or find out about more job opportunities in your area.
This is something that often gets overlooked but is important when seeking out a handyman or general contractor license. The insurance covers you in case you accidentally cause damage or injury to those on the property where you are working. Although accidents of this type are rare, they do happen which means that if the unexpected occurs, you will have the insurance to cover the damages or injury up to a certain point.
Keep in mind that some states may require you to carry handymen or general contractor insurance when performing your work. Plus, those who hire you for your services may expect that you are covering any potential damage that you have caused with the insurance. Having the coverage can actually help you sell your services to the community.
Gaining a handyman license in your state means doing the research to understand what is required. In some states, you may never need a license because the project requirements are simply beyond what you are expected to do. But if you find that you need a license, be sure to follow all the guidelines.
Founder of HandymanGuides.com and self-proclaimed “Mr. Fix-It”, Mike has countless years of experience building and tinkering with everything under the sun. He works as a local repair guy near Santa Monica, CA and when he’s not spackling drywall, he enjoys spending time with his wife and 2 daughters.