Do you need a Handyman, a Contractor or Something Else?

Handyman cutting plywood with a jigsaw

Handyman, Contractor, Tradesmen… How to Choose the Right Options for Your Project

A handyman is good for many small projects around the home but they are usually not licensed contractors. But many small projects do not require a license.

A Contractor is licensed by the State of Florida to perform larger projects that involved structural repairs or require multiple sub-contractors, or Trademen, to complete. Most kitchen or bath remodels require a licensed contractor. 

Tradesmen are specialists in specific trades like trim carpentry, framing, drywall or tile. Some Trades also must be licensed. Plumbers, Electricans and HVAC contractors for example all must be Licensed by the State of Florida. 

There is no licensing for other trades like tile setters, drywall contractors, painters and handyman services. 

Finding the Right Contractor is About Trust

The bigger or more expensive the project, the more trust you want to have. Most handyman services are “one man shows” without an office, website or even company t-shirts. They can dissappear, change thier phone and you could never find them again.

Of course there are very reliable handyman services out there but there are also quite a few unreliable ones as well. References can help but they are not fool proof either. Ideally you verify and build trust in several ways before hiring someone. 

Licensing Can Help

One good things about licensing is it can build trust. State licensed contractors and trademen are registered with the State, they can’t “dissappaer”. Not only can you always find their info in the State registry but there are consequenses if a homeonwer reports them. 

Still, there are some unreliable Licensed Contractors out there as well so you need to build more trust than just confirming they have a license number. 

Not every contractor is right for every project

There are pros and cons to every type of contractor, handyman and tradesman, so which type is right for you depends on the size and scope of the project as well as what you are comfortable with. Of course cost is a factor as well. Licensed contractors often cost more than Handyman services. 

Read on to learn about the different types of contractors, what they’re good at, and what to watch out for.

McManus Kitchen and Bath is a full service remodeling company with an in-house design team and showroom right here in Tallahassee, FL.

We work exclusively with homeowners to help them remodel using a design-build approach that saves time, avoids confusion and creates better results. You can schedule a discover call here:

What’s the Difference Between a Contractor and A Licensed Contractor ?

The language used in construction can be confusing. Everyone is called a contractor… tile contractor, drywall contractor, electrical contractor, general contractor etc… Then you have handyman services who perform the work of several trade contractors.

Contractor is both a general term and a very specific one. I like to think of it like there are big ‘C’ contractors and litte ‘C’ contractors.

Licensed Contractors are big ‘C’. They are licensed and registered with the State of Florida. In order to keep that license they have to maintain minimum levels of insurace, bank balances and take qualified continuing education courses every two years to renew thier license.

There are Only Two Types of Licensed Contractor

1. General Contractors. Certified General Contractors (CGC), Certified Building Contractors (CBC) and Certified Residential Contractors (CRC) are all types of general contractor, also called ‘builders’ by some people. Their license numbers all start with 3 letters (CGC, CBC or CRC) followed by 6 numbers.

2. Trade Contractors. The most common licensed trade contractors are roofers, electricians, plumbers and HVAC contractors but there are others. These are trade specialist that are also licensed by the State of Floriday.

Most trades, including handyman services, do not have license requirements.

No Other Licenses Exist in Florida.

There are no other licenses. If a handyman or tile installer tells you they are licensed and do not have a State Certified license number they are either confused or lying.

A Word About Bonds

Often you will see “licensed and bonded” on a contractors business card. This is also an indication they are either confused or intentially trying to deceive you.

You can not bond a contractor. You can only bond a project. If you want your project to be bonded you just ask and your contractor will contact an insurance agent to purchase a bond for the project. There are several types fo bonds to chose from but they are rarely used in residential work, they mostly used on commercial and civil projects.

And a Word About Insurance

All contractors, both licensed and unlicensed, should provide proof of insurance. There are 3 several types of insurance you should check for and a fourth that you want for larger projects.

General Liability Insurance protects you and the contractor in case of accidental damage to your home or bodily injury that occurs as part of the project.

Commercial Auto covers any damage a vehicle may do to your property. It also protects the contractor in case of accident. Regular auto insurance does not cover  work related accidents.

Workers Compenstaion. Any contractor with any employees should have workers compensation insurance on those employees. One man operations can be exempt from workers comp but it’s still a good idea for them to carry it.

When accidents occur it is common for insurance companies to sue all parties to start. If your contractors are properly insured then their insurance will make restisution. If they are not properly insured then your homeonwers insurance company may be sued for it.



A Certificate of Insurance. Ask any contractor working on your home to have their insurance company send you one. 

2023/24 Residential Contractors License for McManus Kitchen and Bath

Our Certified Residential Contractors License. 

When Do You Need a Licensed Contractor And Not A Handyman?

In general use a handyman service for smaller projects costing less than $2500 where no structural work is being done, including window and exterior door replacement. Also, handyman services should not do plumbing, electric or HVAC work except for very minor repairs. 

For projects larger than $2500 or for any electrical, plumbing or HVAC work you should contract a licensed contractor or licensed trade contractor. 

5 Reasons Remodeling Projects Go Wrong

Using the wrong contractor is one of 5 reasons a project can go wrong but there are others. We break it down in this blog post. 

When To Hire Which Contractor

If you have a lot of small repairs a handyman could be a good choice. If you need a lot of work in one specific trade, like flooring an entire room or painting the house, the call a trade contractor. If you need larger projects like a kitchen remodel call a licensed contractor. 


If you have a lot of small jobs in different trade areas (a piece of drywall that needs patching, a loose gutter, a fan that needs to be replaced, etc), a handyman is the right person for you.

A handyman can often do small repairs adequately but usually do not have the skills for larger or more complex repairs. Most are self taught and many only work part time. 

But he probably won’t have the expertise to handle large repairs or major upgrades. And if you need someone to do plumbing, electrical, or HVAC work, you probably don’t want to call a handyman.

Trade Contractor

This term refers to someone who is skilled in one trade area, like tile, carpentry, or drywall. These specialists often work for licensed contractors.

If you only need work done in one area, a single tradesman will be able to help you.

But if your project involves multiple areas (for example, remodeling a bathroom requires work to be done in plumbing, tile, drywall, HVAC, electrical, etc), you’ll have to do the work of a general contractor yourself if you hire single tradesmen. There’s a reason the homeowner usually hires the GC job out: it’s a lot to keep track of! 

Check out these guides if you want to learn more about hiring single tradesmen for shower tile installation, backsplash tile installation, and floor tile installation.

Licensed General Contractor

General contractors are licensed to manage larger projects. They are the only type of contractor that can legally hire other trade contractors (usually called sub-contractors). 

There are a few approaches that General Contractors use:

The One Man Show

Many general contractors are one man operations. They run the company and do much of the work themselves. They subcontract the licensed trades (electric, plumbing, HVAC) but do all the other work themselves, much like a handman service. 

One man show operations are a great options for simpler project that require a licensed contractor. Things like window and door replacement, exterior siding and simple additions like a garage. 

Being a “jack of all trades” means they can tackle these simpler project and provide a good level a quality. However for larger projects they often do not have the skill required to do quality work. You are better working with a contractor who hires trade speciailists. 

The Traditional Contractor

A traditional contractor is a builder. He can manage a team, handle different types of projects, and get bigger jobs done. He has knowledge about many different trades and has tradesmen working for him to do the job. He schedules his subcontractors, makes sure the work is done well, and communicates with you.

What a traditional contractor won’t do is design the project for you. He will refer you to a designer or ask you to find your own. He will not usually help you with materials selections, and sometimes it won’t be clear who orders and stores the construction materials. 

A traditional contractor is a great choice for exterior work, and for additions and remodels that don’t include a bathroom or kitchen.

Design-Build Company

A design-build company combines many of these types of contractors into one package. Rather than hiring a designer, architect, showroom, contractors, and tradesmen, if you hire a design-build company, you get all of those services in one place.

Design-build is the most popular and fastest-growing process to handle construction projects in America. You as the homeowner only have to talk to one point of contact–your design-build company–and that company handles everything else. The benefits are many: costs are generally lower, work is completed faster, everyone who works on your home is part of a team that can collaborate and problem solve, and you end up more satisfied with your remodeling experience.

Building Trust

No matter which type of contractor you choose the most important thing is to get to a point where you trust them. Like we already discussed licensing can help with trust building but there are other things you should look for as well.

 Professional Appearance

Do they have company shirts and company branding on their truck? Do they have a professional website and company email address? Or do they rely on a FB page and gmail account?

Many poor quality handyman services and contractors are ‘fly by night’. They work for a while and then shut down or move on to a different area.

They change company names if they get bad reviews so they don’t want any professional branding and don’t want to invest in a webiste or professional email address. Nothing that can help you track them down.

A Separate Office or Home Office

Do they have office space or at least list their home address if they have a home office?

Again better contractors will do this. Less reliable ones do not want you to be able to track them down.


Getting proof of insurace is key. Have their insurnace compnay email you thier insurance certificate. Do NOT accept a copy from the contractor as their is not way to know if its valid or not.

It is common for unreliable contractors to pay for 1 month of insurance to get proof of converage but then cancel. They hand out photocopies of their insurace certficate. Having the insuarnace compnay send you the certificate if the best way to make sure it’s valid.


Referals are a good place to start but keep in mind unreliable contractors do good work sometimes. Just because they did good work for one person is not a guarantee they will do it for you. Plus everyone has different expectations and standards.

Read Our Ultimate Guide

We actually wrote a great guide for evaluating contractors. You can read it here:

Want Some Inspiration In Your Inbox? 

McManus Kitchen and Bath is the only licensed residential contractor in Tallahassee that has a full-service showroom and an in-house design staff. We work in Golden Eagle, Betton Hills, Southwood, and other Tallahassee area neighborhoods. We provide you with a team of designers, project managers, contractors, and support staff so you can be sure your remodel or addition will be handled with excellence, professionalism, and care. If you’re ready to start on your addition or remodel, or you’d like to talk about your ideas for your home, give us a call. We are ready to make your home the perfect place for you and your family.

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