General Contractor vs. Handyman: Which is Right for Your Project?

An open attic space in a home being worked on by Springwood Builders

Navigating the Home Improvement Maze: Handyman or General Contractor?

Have you ever stood in the middle of a home project in Bangor, Maine, wondering if you bit off more than you can chew?

Or perhaps you’ve pondered over a list of minor repairs, unsure if they warrant calling in a big gun like a general contractor.

In this post, we’re going to unravel the often confusing choice between hiring a handyman and opting for a general contractor.

You’ll learn the key differences, when to hire a general contractor vs. a handyman, and how to make the best choice for your specific needs in Bangor.

By the end of this read, you’ll be equipped with the knowledge to navigate your next home improvement project with confidence, ensuring your time and money are well spent.

Key Points

Understanding the Basics

A professional paints cabinets as part of a remodeling project

What is a Handyman?

In the quaint neighborhoods of Bangor, Maine, a handyman is often the go-to professional for a variety of home maintenance tasks.

Think of them as multi-talented fixers who can handle a wide array of minor repairs and improvements.

From fixing a leaky faucet to patching up drywall, these skilled tradespeople are adept at tackling those smaller jobs that don’t necessarily require the extensive expertise of a general contractor.

Handymen in Bangor are known for their versatility, often capable of managing a diverse range of tasks.

However, it’s crucial to note that their ability to handle certain jobs might be limited by their skill set and licensing requirements.

For instance, while a handyman can effortlessly unclog your drain, they might not be legally permitted to rewire your home’s electrical system without the appropriate license from Maine’s Electrician’s Examining Board.

What is a General Contractor?

A general contractor oversees larger projects, like this new home construction

On the other hand, when larger, more complex projects are on the horizon – think major home renovations or building an addition – a general contractor becomes an indispensable asset.

Professional contractors can handle day to day oversight of construction, managing everything from initial planning to the final touches.

In Bangor and beyond, general contractors bring a higher level of expertise, especially for tasks that involve structural changes, extensive remodeling, or new construction.

General contractors are not just skilled craftsmen; they are also adept construction managers.

They often play a pivotal role in obtaining necessary building permits, ensuring compliance with local building codes, and coordinating the various stages of a construction project.

This includes hiring and managing subcontractors, overseeing the day-to-day progress as construction manager, and ensuring that the project aligns with the client’s vision and expectations.

In most states, general contractors are required to have specific licenses and insurance to legally manage larger projects.

However, as noted by the Portland Press Herald, Maine is one of 15 states that doesn’t require general contractors to be licensed.

This means that you, the property owner, are primarily responsible for ensuring that the general contractor you hire is reputable and that your project is in capable hands.

Key Differences

A general contractor oversees larger projects, like this new home construction

Licensure and Trade-Specific Knowledge

When deciding between a handyman and a general contractor in Bangor, Maine, understanding their respective qualifications is crucial.

Handymen are the jacks of all trades in the home repair world, adept at handling a variety of small tasks.

However, their ability to undertake certain jobs may be limited by state-specific licensing rules.

For instance, while they can perform basic carpentry work, more specialized tasks like plumbing are beyond their legal scope without the proper license from Maine’s Plumbers’ Examining Board.

As noted above, general contractors in Maine are not required to be licensed or bonded at the state level.

However, professional contractors are typically well-versed in the intricacies of building codes and regulations, making them the ideal choice for projects that require building permits or involve structural changes.

Project Types and Scale

The scale and type of the project are also key factors in your decision.

If you’re looking at minor home repairs or small-scale projects, a handyman is likely your best bet.

These might include tasks like fixing a door, painting a room, or simple garden work – jobs that typically don’t require extensive planning or multiple tradespeople.

On the other hand, for larger-scale endeavors – such as adding a new wing to your house, undertaking major renovation projects, or even building a new home from the ground up – a general contractor is indispensable.

These professionals excel in managing complex projects, coordinating with various construction contractors and subcontractors, and ensuring that every aspect of the project aligns with both local regulations and your personal expectations.

In summary, for smaller, less complex tasks, a handyman can provide a cost-effective and efficient solution.

However, for larger, more intricate projects that require a higher level of expertise and construction industry management, a general contractor is the way to go.

Their ability to navigate the complexities of larger construction projects, from securing permits to managing a team of skilled subcontractors, makes them invaluable for ensuring the success of your construction endeavor in Bangor, Maine.

Hiring Process

Springwood Builders professionals work on a major construction project

Finding and Hiring a Professional

When it’s time to bring a professional into your Bangor home for that crucial project, knowing where to start can be a challenge.

Whether you’re leaning towards a handyman or a general contractor, the first step is gathering recommendations.

This step is especially crucial in Maine, where there are no official licensing requirements for general contractors.

Talk to friends, family, or neighbors in Maine who’ve had similar work done.

Their experiences can guide you to reliable local contractors or handymen who have proven their worth.

Once you have a few names, it’s time to do a bit of homework.

Check online reviews and ratings – sites like the Better Business Bureau can be invaluable.

Remember, you’re not just looking for someone who can do the job, but someone who does it well, with a record of reliability and high-quality work.

Questions to Ask Before Hiring

Before you make your final decision, it’s important to have a clear conversation with your potential hire.

Here are some key questions to ask:

  • Are you licensed and insured? This is crucial for both handymen and general contractors, as it protects you, the property owner, in case of accidents or damage. Although general contractors in Maine are not required to be licensed at the state level, any contractor or handyman you hire should at least have liability insurance.

  • Can you provide references from previous clients in Maine? Hearing from others who’ve hired them can give you a sense of their excellent work quality and reliability.

  • What is your experience with projects similar to mine? Ensure they have the right skills and experience, especially for more complex tasks.

  • Can you provide a detailed estimate? Understanding the cost upfront can help avoid surprises later on.

Making the Decision

Once you’ve gathered all the information, weigh your options.

Consider factors like their experience, cost estimates, and feedback from their previous clients.

Remember, the cheapest option isn’t always the best. Quality, reliability, and a great experience are key, especially when it comes to your home.

Whether it’s a minor repair or a major construction project, taking the time to choose the right handyman or general contractor can make all the difference in the success of your project.

Pricing and Cost Considerations

When it comes to home improvement in Bangor, Maine, understanding the cost implications of your choice between a handyman and a general contractor is essential.

Budgeting correctly can make the difference between a smoothly completed remodeling project and an unfinished job.

Handyman Costs

Typically, handymen charge either by the hour or by the job. The hourly wage typically runs between $50 and $80 per hour.

This pricing structure makes them an affordable option for smaller tasks.

Whether it’s fixing a leaky tap, repairing a fence, or doing some basic carpentry work, a handyman can often provide a cost-effective solution.

Remember, though, while they might be cheaper, their scope is limited to smaller, less complex jobs.

General Contractor Costs

General contractors, given their expertise in managing larger construction projects, generally cost more.

General contractors typically charge between 20% to 40% of the total building project costs.

Follow the link to learn more about the pricing of a general contractor in Bangor.

This is due to their role in overseeing the entire project, from sourcing building materials to hiring and managing a team of subcontractors.

For significant projects like a home addition, remodeling, or new construction, a general contractor will provide a detailed estimate that covers all aspects of the job.

These estimates often include the cost of materials, labor, and any additional fees for permits or specialized services.

Getting Estimates

Before making a decision, getting estimates from several professionals is wise.

For handymen, these estimates are usually straightforward and can be provided quickly.

In contrast, general contractors might need more time to review plans and calculate the comprehensive cost of a larger project.

Comparing Quotes

When comparing quotes, it’s important not to focus solely on the bottom line.

Consider the scope of the project, the quality of materials proposed, and the timeline for completion.

A lower quote might not always be the best choice if it compromises quality or extends the project timeline significantly.

In Bangor, Maine, whether you choose a handyman or a general contractor, ensure that the professional you hire offers a clear and detailed breakdown of costs.

This transparency helps avoid any unexpected expenses and ensures that both parties have a clear understanding of the project’s financial aspects.

Insurance and Bonding

Navigating the world of home improvement in Bangor, Maine, involves more than just choosing the right handyman or general contractor.

A critical aspect often overlooked is the importance of insurance and bonding.

This is not just a formality; it’s a crucial safeguard for both the homeowner and the professional you hire.

Understanding Insurance in Home Improvement

Insurance in the construction and home repair sector is a safety net, ensuring that both you, the property owner, and the professional working on your project are protected against unforeseen incidents.

Handyman Insurance

A handyman typically carries liability insurance, which covers accidental property damage and injuries.

This is essential even for smaller jobs, as accidents can happen, and it’s important to know that any damages or injuries will be covered.

General Contractor Insurance

For general contractors, the insurance requirements are more comprehensive.

They usually need a combination of general liability, workers’ compensation, and professional liability insurance.

This extensive coverage is crucial for larger projects, as it not only protects the contractor but also ensures that you, as the homeowner, are not liable for on-site accidents or damages.

The Role of Bonding

Bonding is another key component, especially when working with general contractors.

A surety bond provides financial assurance that the contractor will fulfill their obligations and complete the project as agreed.

Although bonding is not a legal requirement in Maine, the best general contractors can acquire their own bonding from a surety company.

If the contractor fails to complete the job or does not meet the contractual obligations, the bond can compensate for financial losses or damages.

This is particularly important for larger projects, like major renovations or new construction, where the financial stakes are higher.

A bonded contractor gives you peace of mind, knowing that your investment in your home improvement project is secure.

Why Insurance and Bonding Matter

Opting for a fully insured and bonded professional for a construction project is a smart choice.

It not only safeguards your interests but also ensures that the work done on your property is backed by a safety net in case of any mishaps.

This level of security is invaluable, especially when undertaking significant home improvement projects.

Advantages and Disadvantages

A new deck installed by a general contractor.

When it comes to home improvement in Bangor, Maine, choosing between a handyman and a general contractor comes with its own set of pros and cons.

Understanding these can help you make an informed decision that suits your project’s needs.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a Handyman


  • Cost-Effectiveness: Generally, handymen charge less than general contractors. This makes them a budget-friendly option for smaller jobs.

  • Flexibility: Handymen can often accommodate your schedule, making it easier to get those small tasks done promptly.

  • Variety of Skills: A handyman can handle a wide range of minor repairs and maintenance tasks, from simple construction services to basic carpentry work.


  • Limitation on Scope: Handymen may not be suited for large-scale projects or jobs that require specialized licenses, like plumbing and electrical work.

  • Less Formality: While many handymen are highly skilled, they might not offer the same level of formal contracts or guarantees as a general contractor.

Pros and Cons of Hiring a General Contractor


  • Expertise in Larger Projects: General contractors are ideal for significant renovations, new construction, or any project that requires coordination of different trades.

  • Management Skills: They have the experience to manage complex projects, including obtaining building permits and coordinating with subcontractors.

  • Legal Compliance: General contractors are more likely to be bonded and insured, providing a level of security and professionalism.


  • Higher Cost: Their services usually come at a higher price, reflecting their expertise and the scale of work they manage.

  • Potentially Less Flexibility: Large projects require more planning and may have less flexibility in terms of scheduling and changes.

Making the Right Choice

In Bangor, your choice between a handyman and a general contractor should be guided by the size and complexity of your project.

For simple home repairs or small updates, a handyman can provide a cost-effective and convenient solution.

However, for more extensive remodeling, renovations, or new construction, a general contractor’s expertise and construction management skills are invaluable.

Understanding these advantages and disadvantages ensures that you, as the homeowner, can align your project needs with the right professional.

Whether it’s a minor repair or a major overhaul, making an informed choice will lead to a smoother project execution and a result that meets your expectations.

Discover the Springwood Builders Difference in Your Next Home Project

Throughout this guide, you’ve gained valuable insights into choosing between a handyman and a general contractor for your home improvement needs in Bangor, Maine.

We’ve covered everything from cost considerations to the importance of insurance and bonding.

Springwood Builders stands ready to meet all your general contractor needs with expertise, reliability, and a commitment to high-quality work.

Whether it’s a major renovation or a new home construction project, our team has the skills, experience, and resources to bring your vision to life.

Ready to start your next home project with confidence?

Fill out our contact form today, or give us a call, and let Springwood Builders make your home improvement dreams a reality.

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