03 March 2010

The elusive handyman

I was in a colleague’s office a few months back; there were several female homeowners present and the anxious topic of discussion focused on finding a capable, reliable, affordable handyman. None of the homeowners had husbands, but that is somewhat inconsequential since I don't happen to believe that husband and handyman are synonymous. (And don’t go thinking that I’m a misandrist, guys, it’s just that some jobs require a person with a proper set of tools and experience.)

I have been working with contractors on residential projects, large and small, for over a year now, and I am nearly certain that the handyman is on the endangered species list. There are no shortage of painters, landscaping crews, carpenters, tiling installers, electricians and fence builders. And we’re not afraid to get our hands dirty either: we both have done a remarkable amount of work that could have been outsourced to a handyman or other contractor. Last spring I used a chisel and hammer to remove hundreds of pounds of ceramic tile from the floor of my old house. Cristy built a fence for a protected dog-run in our backyard. We have changed locks, doorknobs, air filters and garage door codes. Hung book shelves, shoe shelves, curtain rods and plastic bag dispensers.

But so much of the routine maintenance of home ownership is beyond our skill and experience. As a result, we joined the pursuit to find a handyman. This is not as easy as we first believed it would be. The first hurdle is to get someone to return my call when I happen to locate an individual that appears to be in the true handyman business (rather than a sheetrock/painting contractor). And when they do return the call, it is hard to get them agree to show up.

We’ve gone through three so far. All have performed some services, but it is a long list and after crossing off a few tasks, and going home with a handful of cash in their pocket, they just seem to lose interest.

I found the website for a possible fourth contender and clicked on the “Contact Us” button to send our list of tasks to see if they might be interested. Just wanted to be very upfront – it is a random list of carpentry-type chores, not a glamorous kitchen remodeling project. But someone called me the next day to say they wanted the job. Wow, I thought that was great. He wanted to come by and look at the particulars so we could agree on a price. Even better.

I proposed Saturday.

He hesitated. Said there wasn’t anything booked, but he just wasn’t quite sure. He’d get back with me.



  1. I have given up on that concept. I have come to the conclusion that I can do anything better than a person I could hire. The only constrant these days is time. If I had enough time I could build and maintain the Taj Mahal.......it is just this pesky thing called 'earning a living' keeps getting in the way.

  2. I am so grateful that Husband is handy. Because I make a mess of every home project--or correction--would if I tried. I love to see the brave souls on the variety of home makeover shows, getting greasy and daring with sledge hammers and tools, but my house would not be standing if I tried the same. Good luck--and wish you were here. We have some good ones in our little part of the world.

  3. For what it's worth I'd make for both a terrible husband and handyman. I'm thinking you need Schneider from the show "One Day at A Time."

    I think with the economy in the state it is in, many people would jump at this chance if they had the skills.

  4. I've had the same problem in my town. There are a few odd jobs around our house that exceed Husband and my skill sets. But I can't seem to find anyone able and/or willing to help us out for the right price. I agree with @Ricardo Lori, given the economy, I thought there'd be a glut of men and women looking to make some spare cash with their skills.

  5. There are still a few good handyman left. Being a professional myself I always hear the same things from my customers. The biggest problem I have is having the time to take on new customers. I wish you luck in your search.