Remodeling Contractor, Kitchen Remodeling, Bathroom Remodeling Kitchen Cabinets

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When to Hire a Contractor and When to Hire a Tradesman

There are lots of situations where you don’t need a contractor and hiring a tradesman or handyman is more economical.

Problems arise when the terms are confused. Many people will call tradesman a contractor and while this might be true in a generic way, legally only a contractor has a professional license issued by the state.

Having an tradesman perform work on your home that should be handled by a certified contractor can affect your homeowners insurance, cause problems with the sale of your home as well open you up to poor workmanship.

What is a contractor?

A Contractor is a licensed professional. To get a license a contractor must pass an exam that covers things like building codes, insurance and contract law, accounting practices, project management, OSHA standards and more.

They also must undergo a background and credit check, carry a minimum amount of liability insurance and earn continuing education credits.

If you have a complaint against a licensed contractor you can file it with the state and they could lose their license.

There are 3 types of contractors license:  General Contractor, Building Contractor and Residential Contractor.

General Contractors are able to work on any type of structure and usually focus on large projects and commercial work. Building contractors can work on smaller commercial buildings and any residential structure. Residential Contractors are limited to working on residential structures of 2 stories or less.

Each type of contractor specializes in different types of work and you want to hire one that specialized in the type of work you want done.

Benefits of a Licensed Contractor

A contractor’s license issued by the DBPR ensures 6 things:

  1. They are registered with the DBPR and any complaints could make them subject to fines or even losing their license.
  2. They have passed a background check – they are not criminals
  3. They have passed a credit check – they are not bankrupt
  4. They have at least the minimum required liability insurance
  5. They must earn continuing education credit each year.
  6. The contractor has passed the contractor’s exam. The exam is really a big pain in the butt. You don’t it if you’re not serious about being a contractor.


What is a tradesman?

A carpenter is a tradesman, as is a painter drywall or tile installer. People will often refer to these people as contractors (Painting Contractor, Drywall Contractor) but in the legal sense of the work they are not. Handymen are also tradesmen even though they may work in several trades.

Tradesman are a valuable part of the construction industry and play an important role in many construction projects large and small. The majority of tradesman work as sub-contractors for Builders (another term for Certified Contractor).

Tradesman generally work in one trade (painting, tile, carpentry etc..) though some with experience in more than one trade will work as a “handyman” or home repair specialist.

Tradesmen or handymen are not allowed to hire sub-contractors, pull permits or do any remodeling in excess of $1000, where walls are being moved or structural changes made to a building.

But the business card said “licensed and insured”

It gets confusing when you see the the signs on trucks and business cards that say “Licensed and Insured”. What they are referring to is an occupational license issued by the city or county. Every business, from restaurants to hairdressers have to acquire an occupational license and there are not pre-requisited, you just pay a fee and get the license.

A Certified Contractors license is very different and a Certified contractor must display their license number on all signs, advertising and promotional material. My license number, for example is CRC1331326.

If you see the words ” licensed and insured” don’t assume they have a contractors license. In fact the probably don’t unless the license number is listed.

When to hire a contractor and when to hire a tradesman / handyman

Tradesmen generally specialize on only one trade. There is no professional licensing required, no insurance requirement and in general their overhead costs are lower so their prices are lower.

If you only need work in one trade like painting, carpentry etc… then you should hire a tradesman. Trades like carpentry are further divided into categories like framing and trim carpentry.

For more complicated project that require multiple trades you should hire a contractor. A contractor may do all the work himself or they may subcontract parts of the job to tradesmen, also referred to as sub-contractors.

Only a licensed contractor is legally able to hire sub-contractors and pull permits for a project.

Thanks for reading! We’d love to be a part of your next remodel. Check out our design services page.

Paul McManus

Certified Residential Contractor (Lic# CRC1331326)


McManus Kitchen & Bath

Phone: (850) 354-8090


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1241 West Tharpe St. Suite 8 Tallahassee, FL

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