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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

13 Secrets a Handyman Won’t Tell You—but Every Homeowner Needs to Know

The scoop on how to find the most trustworthy handyman for the job, the household things you can fix yourself, and your handyman's biggest pet peeve.


I can’t do it all

If your handyman says he can “do it all,” that’s a red flag. I’ve seen a guy who advertises handyman services on his truck that he mows grass, paints, does renovations, and builds houses. That’s not the guy you want to hire. Actually, a sure sign that you can trust me is if I tell you I’m not the best person to do a particular job and give you the name of someone else. Also, keep up with these things that smart homeowners do at least once a year.


Try to fix the problem yourself before calling me

Before you call me about your clogged sink or shower drain, try a plunger or a Zip-It drain-cleaning tool. Neither requires you to take anything apart, and both often do the trick in just a minute or two. These are secrets your plumber isn’t telling you.


Let me know if I can use the bathroom

Offering me water or some cookies is great, but if you really want to show me hospitality, let me know that it’s OK for me to use your bathroom. It’s always a pain to have to jump into my truck and drive somewhere to answer nature’s call. To avoid needing handyman services in the first place, make sure you never ever pour these things down the drain.


Choose wisely

The advantage of hiring a handyman from a national franchise is that he’s usually screened and trained and has a boss you can complain to if there’s a problem. But you may also end up with an employee who doesn’t care as much about quality, and you almost always will pay a higher price.


I don’t know everything

Sometimes I still have to look up how to do something before I do a job (YouTube is the best!). A good handyman stays up to date on new products and trends and is always open to learning something.


Houses don’t take care of themselves

It’s on you to inspect yours at least once a year: Do you need to caulk around your windows and doors? Do you have any rotted wood? Are any shingles loose? It’s a lot less expensive to hire me to address those things than to replace them after years of neglected maintenance.


If you see a lot of ads, it doesn’t always equal good service

If I’m any good, I really don’t need to advertise, because I get plenty of work through word of mouth. When I started my business, I put a magnet on my truck with my phone number. After about six months, I had to take it off because I was getting too many calls.


We price differently depending on the job

I may give you a different price than the one I gave someone else for the same job. Why? Some of us charge more when we’re really busy. Or if I go into a house and it’s positively filthy, I’ll raise the price because I don’t want to work there.


We’re pretty handy

Before you throw something out, ask whether I can repair it. I’ve fixed broken doors and window frames, furniture, toys, and even a medical bed. One time, my neighbor put his lawn mower out on the curb and headed to the store for a new one. I rescued and fixed it before he got home with the replacement.


On a budget?

Ask if there is any way you can help out in exchange for a lower price. Even if you’re not handy, I may reduce my rate on a big job if you can haul materials for me or if you are willing to clean up the work mess at the end of each day. Want to save more money? Try these habits of people who are great at saving.


Be cautious of paying in cash

If a handyman asks to be paid in cash, he probably doesn’t have a business bank account, or he might not be claiming all his income on his taxes. If I don’t have the integrity to pay my taxes, do you think I’ll have the integrity to do good work when you’re not looking?


I’ll charge you for those extra little tasks

Sure, I would be happy to fix your sticky door or tighten that faucet now that I’m here. But don’t act surprised when I charge you for it. We make a big part of our living from those “while you’re here” jobs.


Please. Do. Something. With. The. Dog.

And I don’t mean lock him in the bedroom, where he’ll bark all day while you’re gone. See if someone can keep him for the day. Try out these smart ways to keep your pets happy while you’re at work.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published in Reader's Digest