How to find a good handyman

5 min read

It's hard to find a good handyman.

And some of the best don't even like being called a good "handyman." They're Pros. Professionals. The cream of the crop and the best of the best. They can hang a French Door one day and run Romex through walls the next. They can put in plumbing that doesn't leak and install Cadet heaters that run quiet and smooth.

Then there are the others. Here's just a few of their names:
  • "Chuck in a Truck"
  • "Billy Bob and His Four Cousins named Larry"
  • "Jack With the Giant Crack Problem"
Call them what you want, but these characters are the kind of shade-tree contractors you want no where near your home.

Let's say you're ready to start looking. So, where do you look to find a good handyman (or handywoman). Here's my list of top three ways to find a good handyman:

Go Social:

I use Yelp to find good restaurants. In Portland, Oregon--Foodie Capitol of the West--there are tons of great eateries to choose from. Sometimes the reviews are spot on, and other times I wonder how in the world anyone could have recommended Bone Marrow Ice Cream as a good thing. Seriously. It's good for food, but based on the questionable nature of review source quality I wouldn't rely on Yelp alone.

Same thing goes for Angie's List. First of all, you have to pay to be a member, and only members can shop Angie's List reviews. Non-members can write reviews, but they won't factor in to a businesses overall ranking. A fairly new site is called Porch.com, and it groups home improvement projects by type and by geography. So if your neighbor has hired some work done, you may be able to find out what was done, and if it was done well. But Porch.com is still pretty new, and is under-resourced in many cities.

Big Box Stores:

Retailers like Home Depot and Lowe's keep lists of approved contractors. Since the reputations of these home improvement giants depends on the quality of work of these subcontractors, it's difficult to get on the list and very easy to get booted off. Especially if you're already buying materials and supplies from a hardware store, ask for their list of approved subcontractors at the Pro Desk. And you can find reviews of quality products too, like Cadet heaters.

Word of Mouth:

While this option drives marketers bananas, it remains the number one method most folks use to find a good handyman. Did your neighbor just have a great experience with a good handyman? Well, get her (or his) name! Is Uncle Bob raving about the awesome new Cadet Perfecto heater in his kitchen? Ask him who installed it. (And if he said he did, don't believe him--Bob is horrible around the house). Once, while working as a TV news reporter, I went looking to find a good tax specialist. Newsrooms are full of very difficult people. So, I set about finding the most cantankerous, mean-spirited, cheap Newsie I could. Then I asked her who did her taxes. That was 23 years ago, and Bernie is the best tax guy in the world (and don't you just HAVE to have a tax guy named "Bernie")?