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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What does a handyman do?

A handyman is a skilled laborer who provides basic home repairs. Anyone can call themselves a handyman, although most who do so are skilled with repairs and home projects. Reading reviews is a good way to determine their fitness for your job. The tasks a handyman can perform include assembling furniture, painting interiors and exteriors, repairing fences, repairing broken doors or replacing trim, hanging lights, hooking up appliances, and much more. Handymen may have flat fees for certain services, or charge an hourly rate. Handyman rates are often lower than those of a contractor, as they don’t have the same specialization. Some states have no limit on the work a handyman can perform, while others do. For example, California’s Building and Professions Code section 7048 (small operations) permits handymen to provide work similar to that of a contractor (floor installation, painting, etc.) provided the total cost of labor and materials does not exceed $500. A handyman is a great resource for minor home repairs at a lower cost than a licensed contractor, but for more complex projects, it pays to hire a specialized contractor. Fore more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.

How do you find a good handyman?

Finding a good handyman can change your life. Within days, the endless list of insurmountable tasks that were either out of your skill range or impossible to fit into your busy schedule can be completed. If you know you want help but aren’t sure how to hire the right pro, ask these questions to find the right fit:

  • What is your work experience? If you are putting in a tile backsplash, you want someone experienced with the task, not someone who generally does painting and junk removal.
  • How much do you charge? Handymen often charge hourly rates that vary based on the complexity of the task they’re hired to do, as well as flat rates for standard jobs. Be clear about what they’ll charge before you hire them.
    • On that note, discuss payment details. It’s wise not to pay all the money up front, especially for larger projects. You may be able to pay a deposit for materials and pay the remainder upon project completion.
  • How long will the job take you to complete? If the handyman is as busy as you are and a fence repair is going to take months, you should probably find another qualified handyman for the job.

Read client reviews and follow up with references to make sure you’re choosing the right handyman for your projects. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.

Who fixes refrigerators?

Typically, appliance repair technicians who offer refrigeration repair also work with washers, dryers, dishwashers and other household appliances. While there is no formal training required to be an appliance repair technician, consider certification requirements, as the technician should know how to safely work with refrigerants (the chemical that keeps your fridge cold) and substitute refrigerants such as HFCs. You should also read reviews to get a sense of the pro’s experience and reputation. The appliance repair pro will come to your home, bringing all the necessary tools for diagnosis. They may need to order parts to complete the job, but all the work will take place in your home. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.

How long do fridges last?

Refrigerators can last 10 to 20 years, although the most common lifespan is about 13 years. If your fridge is acting up, consider its current age when deciding whether to invest in repairs or buy a new one. Common easy fixes include faulty thermostats, dirty coils and clogged drain lines. Thermostats and dirty coils can be generally be fixed for an average cost of $80-$100. Clogged drain lines, which usually cause leaks, can often be fixed for under $200.

More complex refrigeration repairs such as replacing a bad compressor or replenishing low refrigerant can cost more because of expensive parts and higher labor. A new compressor costs an average of $200, not including labor. If labor is an average of $75-$100 per hour, and the repair takes 3 hours, you’re looking at roughly $500. Consider the age and purchase cost of your fridge; investing $350 in a $600 fridge that is 8 years old may not be cost-effective.

Can a handyman do plumbing?

In some states, a handyman can provide plumbing services, but it may be in your best interest to call a plumber, particularly for issues more major than unclogging a drain or attaching a new sink. Hiring a plumber is important because mishandling your water and gas lines has the potential to do great damage to your home, your family’s health, or even the safety of your neighborhood. A handyman is not legally required to have any training or licensing in plumbing matters, while a licensed plumber has undergone years of education and on-the-job training. In some cases, homeowners insurance won’t cover damage caused by plumbing repair done by an unlicensed handyman.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, most plumbers learn their trade through a four- or five-year apprenticeship with 2,000 hours of paid on-the-job training. They also receive classroom education including “safety, local plumbing codes and regulations, and blueprint reading. They also study mathematics, applied physics, and chemistry. After completing an apprenticeship program, plumbers … are considered to be journey workers, qualifying them to perform duties on their own,” according to the DOL. Licensed plumbers should do continuing education to keep abreast of safety and technology changes. Poor plumbing can lead to sewage backups, a flooded home or even natural gas leaks, so it’s best to leave it in the hands of a specialized professional.

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