Two contractors review building plans at a construction site.

You’ve got the perfect project in mind for your home.  You can already see yourself showing it off to guests. Now, all you need to do is find someone who can make your vision a reality. You could hire a handyman, an individual who typically works on small projects and repairs. Or, you could go with a general contractor, a licensed professional who manages larger projects, often involving multiple workers and higher price points. Both have their pros and cons, so which should you use? To answer that, we’ll need to dive deeper into what sets them apart.

What is a handyman?

Have you ever hired someone who seemed to know how to do a bit of everything? That’s the essence of a good handyman – the ability to take on basic projects in a wide range of areas, from painting and staining to repairing leaks. They’re well-suited for the kinds of projects you might be able to do yourself if you had more time or a bit more know-how. This is reflected in the way they do business, too. Handymen typically conduct their work in a very simple, direct manner, getting new jobs through self-promotion and word of mouth and requiring no paperwork or documentation to get started.

Pros and cons of hiring a handyman

When you hire a handyman, you have to consider their limitations. Handymen usually work alone and aren’t licensed to do more complex jobs. Remember, most of them are masters of none, they can do a little of everything, but major projects fall outside of their expertise. On the other hand, they do provide an effective, flexible solution for any basic project. Being able to call the same person to stain your deck, fix a leaky faucet and install a light fixture is convenient, and handymen can usually work more flexible hours for these jobs than a licensed contractor.

How much does it cost to hire a handyman?

Every handyman operates more or less on their own terms, so rates will vary per person. Whether your handyman charges hourly or a flat rate will also impact what you pay. For flat rates, the average is around $400, with hourly rates varying anywhere from $40 to $140.1 But keep in mind that the kind of project you’re hiring for will have a big impact on cost, especially if your handyman charges hourly. Some also charge a minimum rate, so take that into consideration if your project is particularly small.

What is a general contractor?

General contractors are usually brought in to work on larger projects. Whereas you might hire a handyman to fix a loose cabinet door, you’d bring in a general contractor to completely replace all your cabinets, and maybe add a new kitchen island to boot. General contractors are licensed professionals who have the education and certifications to take on big-ticket projects like renovations and expansions. As you might expect, their work process involves more inputs than a handyman’s, with extra steps like contract signing and zoning permits.

Pros and cons of hiring a general contractor

When you hire a general contractor, you open the door to many possibilities outside the scope of what a handyman can offer. With access to subcontractors and a team of workers, general contractors can perform truly transformative work on your home. The downside, of course, is that bigger projects require more money and more inputs. If you’ve never had a major project done on your home, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the ins and outs of working with a contractor. Between the paperwork and the scheduling, the process can be a handful. You’ll also want to evaluate your insurance options before any large-scale project. Contractors are usually required to bring their own insurance to the table, but when it comes to the structure of your home, you can’t be too careful.

How much does it cost to hire a general contractor?

With such a wide array of projects available, the cost of hiring a general contractor is highly dependent on the work you want done. Projects range in size and complexity, and their cost varies based on many factors. Larger projects mean more materials and labor, so as the project scales upwards, so too do the costs your contractor will incur to handle the extra lift. Cost of materials and labor aside, however, most contractors charge between 10 and 20 percent of the total project cost as their own fee.2

Handyman vs. Contractor: How to decide which you need

Let’s take a moment and go back to the scenario described at the beginning of this article. You’re envisioning the perfect project for your home, something to be proud of for years to come, and all you need now is the right person for the job. You’re probably talking about a big project in this scenario – a renovation or something of similar scale, which means you’ll want to hire a contractor. General contractors are best for large projects with more labor and license requirements, and anything that demands additional support from a specialist like an electrician or a plumber. For smaller projects like quick repairs or maintenance, a handyman is all you need.

Whether you decide to go with a handyman or a contractor, every home improvement project offers a chance to reimagine your home – and how you’re protecting it. If you haven’t had an annual home insurance checkup, now is a great time to ensure you have all the coverage you need. Get an obligation-free quote on homeowners insurance from Nationwide, and keep your home protected through this renovation and beyond.

Get a free quote from Nationwide today and learn how homeowners insurance can protect your home, improvements and all. Discover more home improvement resources from Nationwide.


[1] “What Is a Handyperson’s Hourly Rate?” Ginny Bartolone, (Accessed May 2023)
[2] “Project Planning 101: What’s a Typical General Contractor Hourly Rate?” Leah Lopez Cardenas, (Accessed May 2023)