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To DIY or Not to DIY?
By Tracy Dickinson
home :: home & garden :: home trends

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To DIY or Not to DIY?

When—and how—to let a professional handyman do the work.

The popularity of HGTV, DIY magazines, and Pinterest has contributed to a rise in confident homeowners tackling all sorts of home improvement projects. But the large number of and obsession with viewing “Pinterest fail” photos is also an indication that not all of us are qualified to be handling power tools.

How do you know whether to take on a project yourself or call in a professional? How big does the job have to be to justify that call? And how do you find that professional that is right for you?

We have answers.

Is this a job for a professional?

According to Tracy Kaufman of KC Handyman, that all depends on the homeowner. “There’s no job too small to turn over to a qualified handyman,” she says. “Some homeowners are perfectly comfortable handling regular maintenance or repair work. Others either don’t feel comfortable or prefer not to spend their limited free time working on their homes.”

Kaufman says KC Handyman breaks potential projects into three categories—maintenance, repair, and minor updates—and has crews that can handle any of those jobs. “All of our handymen are well-rounded professionals who can handle any project they’re given. But each has a specialty, which improves efficiency and allows for cross-training. We want to be a one-stop shop. If a homeowner has a leak, we can fix the leak, repair the drywall, and handle the painting instead of the homeowner having to call each trade individually.”

She adds that when a project requires the skills of a licensed professional, such as an electrician or plumber, KC Handyman can hire a trade contractor for that portion of the project and oversee the work. “Homeowners appreciate having just one call to make and trust us to take it from there.”

Is the job a big enough one to warrant professional help?

Although a skilled handyman service like KC Handyman is qualified and willing to handle larger projects, such as replacing flooring, building decks, and making bathroom updates, Kaufman says the company gladly assists homeowners with even the simplest jobs. “We’ve done everything from replacing batteries in smoke detectors and changing light bulbs to cleaning gutters, caulking windows, and replacing doors. Really, it’s whatever a homeowner needs.”

She says KC has customers who contact the company for these types of jobs for a variety of reasons: They don’t have a ladder tall enough or aren’t comfortable on ladders, or they simply want a professional to rely on.

“We have regular clients who have KC Handyman take care of ongoing maintenance needs for them because they don’t want to worry about whether they’re missing a repair that could turn into something bigger,” she explains. For example, peeling paint could just be an indication that it’s time to repaint. But it could also be a sign of moisture damage. If a homeowner simply repaints without addressing the moisture issue, there will be more-costly consequences later.

How do I find a qualified handyman?

Even if you only plan to hire a handyman or company for simple, minor projects, Kaufman says it’s important to ask good questions ahead of time. Some information, such as how long it’s been in business, whether it’s registered with the Better Business Bureau, whether it’s insured, may be available online. But “interviewing” the person or company before hiring is key.

“We get a lot of customers through referrals, and many of our handyman clients are homeowners we’ve done remodeling work for. But we get calls every day from potential clients who are looking for a handyman, and they aren’t even sure what to ask,” she says.

KC Handyman goes over the following details with its customers. Kaufman suggests homeowners always get answers for these questions up-front:

  • How long has the company been in business?
  • Is it fully insured?
  • Who will be doing the work? Does the company have the manpower to complete the job or be subcontracting portions of it?
  • If it’s a larger project, what will the estimate look like? How detailed and specific will it be?
  • Will the company address all related aspects of the project? For example, if replacing a toilet that has leaked, will the company take care of any drywall or painting repairs needed or simply replace the fixture?
  • How will the company be communicating with the homeowner before and during the job?
  • What are the expectations for cleanup during and after the project?
  • Does the company have a warranty and stand behind its included work?

After working in the handyman business for more than 15 years, Kaufman says she understands why homeowners struggle with the decision to hire a professional. “A lot of homeowners hesitate because they feel like they should be able to handle small jobs themselves. Or they’re afraid their project is too big for a handyman but too small for a remodeler. We remind our clients that a skilled handyman just takes one call. DIY can often mean 10 trips to the hardware store and a lot of frustration in between.”


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