How to choose the right handyman/handywoman?

Handyman / Handywomen

How to choose the right handyman/handywoman?

There are a hundreds of smaller jobs around the house that sometimes need the attention of a knowledgeable tradesman/helper, and a good handyman/handywoman should be able to turn his attention to many of them.

Whatever small job it is you need doing, given the range of potential tasks it is essential that you find the right handyman/handywoman to perform the work. So how do you choose the right handyman/handywoman? We spoke to some of the experienced tradesmen/helpers to find out the key things you should know in order to make the right choice:

  • A little research can go a long way
  • Find out if they have relevant experience
  • Make sure you are comfortable with them
  • Get like for like quotes if needed, and make sure everything is included

Keeping these points in mind can help you focus on what to look for when you’re meeting with tradesmen and getting quotes for the work. Carry on reading for more details on how to go about finding the right tradesman/helper for your job.

A little research can go a long way

There are a huge variety of small tasks that a handyman/handywoman can come and do, anything from fixing leaking taps, to putting up shelves, assembling furniture, or sanding floors. Many of these tasks might count as DIY for some people, but if the job is beyond your experience or confidence level, an experienced handyman/handywoman is the best way to ensure it’s done properly.

However, even if you are not taking on the task yourself, a little bit of research into the subject can go a long way to helping you ensure the job is done well. Reading up on how a tradesman/helper might approach a particular issue will give you an insight into how much work is involved, and how long it might take. It can also give you an idea of questions to ask when meeting tradesmen/helpers and getting quotes, as you will have a better idea of what the job requires. Even better than reading about the topic is watching videos on it – YouTube has a wealth of videos showing many common household tasks. 

Andrew Kelly is an advocate for homeowners arming themselves with knowledge before starting out on a home improvement project. He said:

“I always tell people to go on YouTube and give themselves some idea of what a job will involve. When it comes to something like fitting floating shelves, people have all sorts of ideas about how it’s done, and how easy it is to do. With a bit of research, you can find out about it and how feasible it is, so when a tradesman comes, you can have a proper chat about it and get the best possible work done.”

Find out if they have relevant experience

Given the range of jobs a handyman/handywoman can carry out, one of the most important things you can do when hiring one is to make sure that they have particular experience for the task you are hiring them for. As well as finding out what they can do, you should also be aware of what they cannot do, especially when it comes to work such as gas and electrical work.

There are various ways of finding out if their skillset matches your job. As well as being able to read feedback from previous clients on the site before you hire your potential tradesmen/helpers, you can also see previous examples of their work on their profile. 

While many handymen/handywomen will have some form of qualification or have spent time working with other building firms, many will have learnt on the job. Although qualifications can be a good way of assessing if a tradesman/helper has a basic grounding in their field, it is often experience that is the surest sign of a tradesman’s/helper’s competence. Andrew said:

“Being able to show off my feedback is invaluable to me. People can see that I do my work on time, to price, and am conscientious about how I go about it. Likewise, if you see negative feedback, you can see why something has gone wrong. It’s all about honesty and integrity. . When it comes to qualifications, they’re all well and good – if you can go to college, do an apprenticeship or get a qualification and so on, it shows you’ve dedicated yourself to learning the business. But I think real competence comes with experience, doing the jobs again and again over years and learning everything about it.”

While many handymen/handywomen cover a wide range of jobs, many have particular areas of expertise – be that carpentry, or landscape gardening. However, if your job involves gas work, such as repairing a boiler, you must hire a tradesman/helper who is on RGI (registered gas installer) list, and ask to see their RGI ID card when they come to perform the work. Similarly, with electrical work, the majority should only be carried out by electricians who are qualified to self-certify their work through an official competency scheme. 

Make sure you are comfortable with them

As well as knowing if they are familiar with your kind of job, you should simply assess how comfortable you feel with the potential tradesmen/helpers. You can do that from your first contact with them; are they polite in their replies, do they arrive for meetings at the scheduled time, do they ask lots of questions about the project? No matter how big or small the job is, a tradesman/helper should not be dismissive of the work, and you shouldn’t feel as though they will rush it. 

Most handyman/handywoman jobs won’t take a long time to carry out, but being able to maintain good communication throughout the project is essential. You shouldn’t aim to become best friends with them, but you should be able to have a professional relationship – you must feel comfortable speaking openly about any concerns that may arise, and dealing with any issues.

You should also ask about what other work a tradesman/helper is currently undertaking – while tradesman/helper who take on larger projects may have more clearly defined schedules on their jobs, handymen/handywomen may take on more work and thus find themselves stretched thin. You should feel confident that the tradesman/helper you hire will spent an appropriate amount of time on your job. Andrew said:

“You have to be able to trust the person you hire. I always make sure I go in person to see the job and speak to the homeowner. It’s difficult to price things up over little description of work, you have to ask a lot of questions. Photos and detailed description from clients part always help. For me, the main thing is turning up on time – punctuality is very important.”

Get like-for-like quotes if needed, and make sure everything is included

With larger jobs, it’s advisable to meet with, and get as many quotations from tradesmen/helpers as possible. With a very small job, this may not be necessary, but the detail and scope of their quotation can tell you a lot about their process. It’s important to make sure that all the quotations are like-for-like, including materials and labour, and make sure they cover the whole scope of the job, from beginning to end. 

Receiving many quotations can can help you spot any that seem unreasonably low – if this is the case, it could be the sign of a tradesman/helper who wants to win the job, but will make up the true value by adding on extra costs during the course of the build, or is using cheaper materials that may not be up to scratch. Another handyman Gary said:

“My quotes include everything, and I stick to them. I won’t undersell it, and try and make up the cost at the end. It may sometimes look higher than someone else’s quote, but I know that it’s accurate and isn’t going to change – sometimes it might even come down, if the work goes quicker than I think.”

When it comes to payment, both Andrew and Gary warn people away from paying anything upfront in cash. Gary added:

“I never take a deposit in cash, and can’t see any real need to, especially with smaller jobs around the house. Even if materials are needed, nearly all reputable tradesman/helpers will have trade accounts with suppliers so they won’t need to pay upfront for them. I take all my payment after the work is finished and the client is happy with it or else they can pay through the site Helpers.ie which holds the payment until my work is done and once they leave me feedback I can withdraw it from there.”

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