Secrets from a Home Handyman

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Jeff Eckes

Subject: Handyman do's and don'ts

A few suggestions from a 'handyman' who has been doing this for 40 years:

ASK you handyman/contractor if you should buy the materials. We have many things on hand and many times can buy it for less than you can. Also, in our company we also have a rule that we were forced to instituted after YEARS of practice; we don't allow clients to buy materials without signing an agreement that if those materials are defective, don't fit or for any other reason can't be used when we arrive, they must pay a days wages for my crew that was scheduled to do the work. We have had FAR too many items with missing pieces, broken in box or any number of other things and I've literally had to pay a crew to sweep floors for a day because of faulty materials, at my cost, when this has happened in the past.

When we buy materials, we check all of these things. If we screw up after that, WE cover the cost for blown schedules. We do charge a fee to handle these products, which varies with job size and is disclosed in advance and in detailed billing statements. Honestly, can you even organize all the materials we would need for a kitchen remodel? Or even a bath remodel? We do it every day and even we run into problems sometimes. Sure, buy your curtains, or your appliances, choose your paint, but leave buying the paint (big box store paint is pretty terrible, if you didn't know) and flooring and cabinets to the contractor. You'll thank yourself in the end.

To expect a contractor/handyman to not purchase his materials and then deal with any deficiencies that might arise with no fee, or to not charge for the time and expense of organizing and procuring those materials is in many ways short sighted and might preclude you from working with real, experienced professionals that KNOW this process is challenging, has costs and honestly incorporates them into a project's costs.

In the end, a true professional that understands these issues and deals with then openly and honestly will actually save you time, money and most of all aggravation in the long run.

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I second the original question (still unanswered). Speaking as someone who logged in today to try to find an attorney, I see this category as one that's exactly what I have my Angie's List membership for:

1. It's important that I find a good one
2. I'm not an expert enough to know myself who is a good one
3. The industry is full of advertisements and misinformation
4. I wish I knew what experiences other people have had

I don't care about lawns--I planted mine in clover and don't have to mow it. When I do need to mow I use a rotary Fiskars mower, which is great--or a scythe. That's right--a scythe (the European type, which is smaller, and it's very good exercise). Gas-powered mowers, chemical fertilizers and weed killers--all nasty stuff that gets into everyone's air, soil, and water. I'm sure my neighbor doesn't like my wildflowers, semi-wild pockets of fruit bushes, and unmown areas and yes, dandelions (I have 10 acres) but that's too bad. It's better habitat for wildlife, especially the pollinators on which our food supply depends. I think this obsession with the Great American Lawn is a waste of time and resources. Plant some food instead.

I'm not sure Angie et. al. want you to have a complete answer to this question. By re-subscribing at the Indiana State Fair in 2012, I think I paid $20.00 per year for a multi- year subscription. Maybe even less. At the other extreme--and I hope my memory isn't faulty about this--I think the price, for my area, for ONE year was an outrageous $70.00. And they debited me automatically without warning. I had to opt out of that automatic charge. I like Angie's List, but if some of the companies they monitor behaved the way they do in this respect, they'd be on some sort of Pages of Unhappiness. I'll be interested to see if this comment gets published or censored out of existence.

That's very difficult to answer without seeing the house. As one poster said, the prep is the most important part. On newer homes that don't have a lot of peeling paint, the prep can be very minimal even as low as a couple or a few hundred dollars for the prep labor.

On a 100 year old home with 12 coats of peeling paint on it, then the prep costs can be very high and can easily exceed 50% of the job's labor cost.

A 2100 sq ft two story home could easily cost $1000 just for the labor to prep for the paint job. That number could climb too. Throw in lots of caullking  or window glazing, and you could be talking a couple or a few hundred dollars more for labor.

Painting that home with one coat of paint and a different color on the trim could run roughly $1000 or more just for labor. Add a second coat  and that could cost close to another $1000 for labor.

For paint, you may need 20 gallons of paint. You can pay from $30-$70 for a gallon of good quality exterior paint. The manufacturer of the paint should be specified in any painting contract. Otherwise, the contractor could bid at a Sherwin-Williams $60 per gallon paint and then paint the house with $35 Valspar and pocket the difference. $25 dollars per gallon times 20 gallons? That's a pretty penny too.

That was the long answer to your question. The short answer is $2000 to $4000 and up, depending upon the amount of prep, the number of coats, the amount of trim, and the paint used.