The Difference Between a Remodeling Contractor and a Handyman

For any home renovation project, whether it’s a custom home build, bathroom remodel, or kitchen upgrade, choosing the right partner to help you get it done is crucial.

While both handymen and remodeling contractors can handle various tasks, from minor repairs to plumbing work, there are significant differences between the two. The most important difference is that a general contractor holds a license to operate legally. Understanding why that matters will help you make an informed decision and ensure your project’s success.

Handyman vs. Remodeling Contractor

remodeling contractor vs handyman

While both professionals can assist with various tasks, they differ in terms of the scope of work, licensing requirements, insurance coverage, and employment structure.

A handyman is a versatile worker who can handle a wide range of small-scale tasks, such as minor repairs, painting, and basic drywall work.

On the other hand, a remodeling contractor is responsible for managing larger-scale tasks like building a new kitchen or leading the renovation of your home additions. Though many handymen claim they can handle those types of larger projects, there is a large gap in skill between a handyman and a remodeler.


A handyman is a jack-of-all-trades who can handle a variety of small-scale home repair tasks. They typically have experience in construction or are sufficiently skilled to tackle most items on your “honey-do” list. Generally, the projects they take on can be completed in a day or less and may include tasks such as fixing leaky faucets, patching roof shingles, or replacing electrical outlets.

While a handyman may have a broad skill set, they typically do not have the same level of expertise as specialized tradespeople like plumbers or electricians.

Handymen may not carry the same level of liability insurance as remodeling contractors.

A handyman’s versatility allows them to tackle projects like:

  • Minor plumbing repairs
  • Basic electrical work
  • Painting and drywall repairs
  • Door and window repairs
  • Small carpentry projects

Home Remodeling Contractor

A remodeling contractor, or general contractor, is different. They manage large-scale projects that require coordination between multiple tradespeople, such as plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians.

A home remodeler’s experience encompasses the holistic functioning of an entire house. With construction and project management expertise, a general contractor ensures that your project is executed according to the design plan. They primarily focus on larger-scale projects with longer timelines and are less likely to take on tasks that can be completed in just a few hours.

Key Differences between Handyman and Contractor For You

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Who to hire only matters in relation to what you want to get done. For the typical Charleston homeowner, a handyman will be useful for a very select group of projects. Any substantial, permanent renovation will require the expertise of a home remodeler.

Projects that don’t require a full-scale renovation but rather restoration work can be handled by either handymen or remodelers. In Charleston, these often include tasks like water damage replacement, mold remediation, or encapsulation.

Let’s go into detail on the true reasons you may choose a handyman or a remodeler.

Licensing and Certification

In Charleston, becoming a remodeler necessitates obtaining state-level licensing and certification for undertaking home improvement projects. This requires a thorough grasp of building codes and a track record of successfully completing projects of different scales. The licensing exam ensures that remodelers possess the requisite skills and knowledge to manage intricate renovations safely.

Conversely, typical handymen in Charleston are not mandated to hold formal licenses for minor jobs such as small wall repairs or basic plumbing tasks.

Remodeling ContractorHandyman
State-licensed and certifiedMay not require formal licensing
Handles complex renovationsPerforms minor repairs and tasks
Coordinates with subcontractorsWorks independently
Higher project costsMore affordable for small jobs

Permitted Work

Remodeling contractors are licensed to handle projects that require permits, such as structural changes, electrical work, or plumbing modifications.

These projects often involve working with concrete, installing new cabinetry, or designing a space with specific heat and ventilation requirements.

Handymen, on the other hand, typically focus on smaller tasks that do not require permits, such as minor repairs or maintenance work, at a lower price point.

  • Remodeling contractors are licensed to handle projects requiring permits
  • Handymen focus on smaller tasks that do not require permits
  • Permitted work often involves structural changes, electrical work, or plumbing modifications
  • Remodeling contractors work with concrete, install cabinetry, and design spaces with specific heat and ventilation requirements
  • Handymen offer services at a lower price point for minor repairs and maintenance work

Liability Insurance

Remodeling contractors carry comprehensive liability insurance to protect homeowners from potential damages or accidents during larger projects, such as electrical wiring or structural changes.

In contrast, handymen may have limited or no liability insurance coverage, making them a riskier choice for complex tasks that could impact the home’s overall value or safety, especially in states like South Carolina with strict contractor laws.

The key differences in liability insurance between remodeling contractors and handymen are:

Remodeling ContractorHandyman
Comprehensive liability coverageLimited or no liability insurance
Protects homeowners from damagesHigher risk for complex tasks
Covers accidents during larger projectsMay not cover damages or accidents
Complies with strict contractor lawsMay not meet legal requirements

Oversight and Coordination

In Charleston, it’s a stereotype but often true that a handyman operates as a solo entrepreneur or independent worker, without needing to organize a crew. This means there is minimal to no oversight, and the quality of work depends solely on the individual.

In contrast, oversight and organization are crucial for remodelers. These contractors often manage a team or multiple teams to complete projects comprehensively. Expect your remodeler to navigate a dynamic schedule, coordinate material orders, and orchestrate multiple trades working in confined spaces.

As a customer, you should anticipate varying levels of organization and potential chaos with each type of contractor. Not all Charleston homes can accommodate ongoing full-scale renovations. However, hiring an individual to handle tasks like repairing rotted siding may be a more manageable option physically.

It’s important to note that handymen typically do not have extensive project management experience. They provide a different type of service that suits many homeowners in Charleston well.

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Cost and Budget Considerations

There is a big difference in how different workers charge for their time.

Handymen typically charge hourly rates for their services, especially when working solo or in small teams. This approach simplifies on-the-spot accounting and allows them to settle payments directly with customers without the complexity of detailed project estimates or invoicing.

Remodeling contractors often take more time to provide estimates because they gather information from various trades involved in the project. Their quotes usually present a single comprehensive figure that encompasses the entire job, including reasonable contingencies. This investment covers labor and materials across all trades involved in most cases, providing clarity and convenience for the customer.

Homeowners should consider the project’s scope, complexity, and potential long-term value when deciding between a handyman and a remodeling contractor.

  • Handymen charge lower hourly rates for minor tasks
  • Remodeling contractors offer cost-effective solutions for larger projects
  • Project scope, complexity, and long-term value should be considered when deciding between a handyman and a remodeling contractor

Expertise and Specialization

Contractors often have specialized expertise in specific areas, such as roofing, deck building, or masonry work. They may charge a higher fee for their specialized knowledge and experience but ideally complete the job quicker and to a higher level of quality. Their specialization allows them to invest in specific tools that make delivering the work easy.

In contrast, handymen typically have a more general skill set and may not have the same level of expertise in specific trades, making them better suited for minor repairs or maintenance tasks.

  • Remodeling contractors have specialized expertise in areas like roofing, deck building, and masonry
  • They may charge a higher fee for their specialized knowledge and experience
  • Handymen have a more general skill set and are better suited for minor repairs or maintenance tasks

Looking for an expert for your home remodeling project? Try Oak Angel Builders

oak angel builders remodeling contractors

Choosing the right partner is the key to unlocking an exceptional custom home experience in Charleston. With our expertise in helping customers settle on a design and running construction, Oak Angel Builders is the best remodeling contractor in Charleston for custom home design projects.

From concept to completion, we specialize in helping customers in West Ashley homes streamline the construction process, ensuring that every detail is meticulously crafted to your specifications. With the region’s best 5-year workmanship guarantee, we confidently back up our claims on every job.

Elevate your home-building experience and partner with Oak Angel Builders today.

Frequently Asked Questions

When choosing a contractor for a remodel, research their qualifications, experience, and references. Schedule consultations with potential contractors to discuss your project in detail and ensure they are a good fit for your needs and budget.

Remodeling contractors are best suited for projects that involve making changes or improvements to an existing structure or space within a home or building. These types of projects typically require a broad range of construction skills and expertise, as well as the ability to work within the constraints of the existing structure. Here are some examples of projects that are well-suited for a remodeling contractor:

  • Kitchen remodels: This can involve reconfiguring the layout, replacing cabinets, countertops, appliances, flooring, and sometimes even relocating plumbing or electrical systems.
  • Bathroom remodels: Similar to kitchen remodels, bathroom projects may involve replacing fixtures, tiles, vanities, and sometimes reconfiguring the layout or relocating plumbing lines.
  • Room additions: Adding new living spaces, such as a sunroom, family room, or bedroom, often requires structural changes and integrating the new space with the existing structure.
  • Basement or attic conversions: Finishing an unfinished basement or attic space to create additional living areas or recreational spaces.
  • Interior renovations: Reconfiguring the layout of existing rooms, removing or relocating walls, updating flooring, or making other substantial interior changes.
  • Exterior renovations: Projects like replacing siding, windows, doors, roofing, or modifying the exterior structure or façade of a home.
  • Aging-in-place modifications: Making changes to improve accessibility and safety for elderly or disabled residents, such as installing ramps, widening doorways, or adding grab bars and other safety features.
  • Historic renovations: Remodeling projects on older homes or buildings that require special care and expertise to preserve historical integrity while updating and improving the structure.

Remodeling contractors have the skills and experience to navigate the challenges of working within existing structures, as well as the ability to coordinate various subcontractors and trades required for complex renovation projects.

The costs of hiring a handyman are generally lower than those of a remodeling contractor. Handymen are restricted to specific types and sizes of jobs. Handymen are a good choice for small projects that are unlikely to cause structural damage.

The scope of work a remodeling contractor can handle is far more extensive than that of a handyman, as they are equipped to manage large-scale construction projects on a property, such as complete kitchen or bathroom renovations, room additions, or even replacing an entire air conditioning system that uses refrigerant.

In contrast, a handyman typically focuses on smaller tasks that do not require a contractor's license exam, like basic repairs or maintenance.

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