Shutterstock
BrandView
This story is sponsored by KSL Classifieds. Click to learn more about KSL Classifieds.

Let’s face it: the genuinely handy people of this world are greatly outnumbered by people who think they’re handy. Even though YouTube and blogs have made home improvement a lot more accessible to DIY enthusiasts in recent years, some things should still be left to the experts.

If you’re considering doing a home project on your own, take some time and (objectively) assess whether or not you have the ability, time and energy to complete it. If you have doubts about those three, it’s almost always better to hire a competent pro. They’ll have the right tools, the right expertise and will do the job right — and you’ll have peace of mind.

But once you’ve made the decision to hire someone, there are still a few important questions to answer. First of all, can a handyman actually complete your project (both legally and in terms of ability)? How do you separate the contenders from the pretenders? We’re here to answer those questions and more, with the help of the Utah Department of Professional Licensing (DOPL) and Robert from Allpro Handyman in West Jordan.

What can a handyman do for you?

Before we get into what a handyman can do, we need to establish what a handyman is. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a handyman license — it’s actually an exemption. This exemption, which does not require any formal training, gives its proprietor the right to work on projects valued at greater than $1,000 but not exceeding $3,000. There are numerous rules that apply to what kind of home repairs an unlicensed person can do. They are stringent, but for a reason: Any mishap working in those fields and they could seriously damage your property and/or injure themselves. Here’s an overview of those rules:

Plumbing

Unlicensed plumbing work is restricted to the following tasks, which DOPL refer to as “minor” and “incidental”:

Installation, repair or replacement of the following appliances:

  • Dishwashers
  • Refrigerators
  • Freezers
  • Ice Makers
  • Stoves
  • Ranges
  • Clothes washers
  • Clothes dryers.
Repair or replacement of the following appurtenances, fixtures and systems (not to exceed $300 in total value):
  • Tub or shower trim
  • Tub or shower valve
  • Toilet flush valve
  • Toilet removal and reset
  • Garbage disposal
  • Kitchen or lavatory sink P-trap
  • Kitchen or lavatory faucet rebuild and install
  • Supply line replacement after the fixture valve.
Electrical

Quote: For handymen, anything in the walls or in the floors is off-limits.

Similarly to plumbing, handymen are only allowed to perform “minor electrical work.” Anything in the walls or in the floors is off-limits — no modifications or repairs to circuitry or service panels. Here are more details on what “minor electrical work” entails, according to the Electricians Licensing Act Rule:

  • Minor electrical work means the electrical work involved in installation, replacement or repair of appliances or machinery that utilize electrical power.
  • Minor electrical work does not include modification or repair of “Premises Wiring” as defined in the National Electrical Code, and does not include installation of a disconnecting means or outlet.
  • Electrical work is minor and incidental only when wiring is extended no more than ten feet in length from an outlet or disconnect provided specifically for the piece of equipment.
HVAC

This one is easy. HVAC work is just like massage therapy: No license = no touching. Any HVAC repairs, installations and replacements must be performed by a licensed HVAC contractor.

Other regulated projects

Any work on alarm systems, radon mitigation system and soil depressurization must be performed by a licensed professional, according to the Utah Construction Trades Licensing Act.

So what can a handyman work on?

Even with the restrictions above, there are still tons of miscellaneous home projects handymen can tackle. The Utah Construction Trades Licensing Act states that the following activities don’t carry any public danger and can be performed by anyone:

  • Sandblasting
  • Pumping services
  • Tree stump or removal
  • Installation within a building of communication cables including phone and cable television
  • Installation of low voltage electrical
  • Construction of utility sheds, gazebos or items which are personal property and not attached
  • Power washing
  • Central vacuum systems installation
  • Concrete cutting
  • Interior decorating
  • Wallpaper hanging
  • Drapery and blind installation
  • Welding on personal property which is not attached
  • Chimney sweepers other than repairing masonry
  • Carpet and vinyl floor installation
  • Artificial turf installation
  • General cleanup of a construction site which does not include demolition or excavation.
How do I pick a handyman?

Your home is sacred and only the best of the best should walk through your doors. Would you want your teenage daughter to bring home a boy with a GPA that’s a fraction? The same principle applies to handymen. Bad boyfriends may wreck your home figuratively, but bad handymen can do so literally.

Selecting a qualified handyman can also be tough because virtually anyone can pose as one — as we said earlier, no license is required.

Reviews

Checking out reviews is key when you’re hiring any type of service business. Review sites like KSL Services are a good place to start. As a rule of thumb, a business that has good reviews on a large sample size is trustworthy. However, there are (rare) cases where businesses doctor their reviews, so make sure to read through them to verify their authenticity. Look for photos of finished projects akin to the one you’re looking to complete.

Word-of-mouth referrals are also invaluable, even in this day and age. If everyone at church is singing the praises of young Adrian who never misses curfew and is a permanent fixture on the honor roll, maybe give him a chance with your daughter. And if your neighbor constantly raves about his new bathroom tile, ask him who did it for him. Leaky faucet? Consult friends, family and social media network for recommendations. People are always happy to share good experiences.

Expertise

If Adrian hasn’t dated a ton before, well — that’s actually probably a good thing. But if your prospective handyman can’t answer your questions decisively or accurately, be wary. Robert notes: “You don’t have to spend a whole lot of time thinking about (answers); the words should just flow off your tongue because you’ve revisited that situation time and time again.” Be as specific as you need to in your inquiries too — information is never a bad thing.

Professionalism

The way a person conducts themselves is often reflective of the quality of their work. In addition to being knowledgeable, your handyman candidate should be responsive, clear and transparent — pay close attention to what they say and how they say it. Some red flags include:

  • Lack of communication
  • Too-good-to-be-true offers
  • Muddy contracts
  • Pushiness
  • General rudeness.
As for Adrian, judge him ruthlessly on his manners. Does he not say “please” when asking for the Tabasco sauce? Then you won’t have to say “please” either when you kick him out of your house Uncle-Phil-style.

Customers: don’t be pushy

The customer is always right.

Wrong. Yes, it makes sense for companies to be accommodating and friendly to their customers. It creates loyalty, helps brand publicity and in the long-term is good for business. This customer-first mentality is even more necessary today where one faux-pas can go viral and immediately destroy a company’s reputation. But Robert warns that customers can sometimes push their luck: “Often, the biggest thing the public wants is a good deal. The public can be just as much at fault as the handyman when they know someone’s not licensed but ask them to take them on the job anyway.”

Please don’t do that. Asking a handyman to perform a job they are unqualified for puts everyone in jeopardy: they can get in legal trouble and you can cause some serious damage to your home. If they are telling you they can’t do something, don’t insist. No means no. (That applies to you too, Adrian.)

Need some work done around the house? Browse reviewed and rated handymen on KSL Services today.