General Contractor Versus Electrician Versus Handyman: Which Do I Need?

Many homeowners struggle to discern what tradesman or professional they need to call for their project.  In the world of electrical repairs it can be confusing to know whether you need a general contractor, electrician, or a handyman to affordably and correctly get your job done.  And figuring out which one is right isn’t always so simple.

What is a General Contractor?

A general contractor or ‘GC’ is a construction specialist.  They’re licensed to oversee larger projects that involve multiple trades and facets.  Their work is often associated with more expensive jobs like building a new home or major renovations within one.

What is an Electrician?

An electrician is a specialist tradesman.  Licensed specifically for electrical work, electricians often work under the direction of a general contractor as part of a larger project being overseen.  The electrical contractor will only work on their trade-specific items that their licensing allows.

What is a Handyman?

The term ‘handyman’ is not an industry term, nor is it a licensed trade.  Often the word is used to describe a carpenter, drywall expert, or general repairman.  It is sort of an all-encompassing description of someone who is not licensed but provides repair services, sometimes right up to the fine line where a license would be required.

Which Do I Need for My Electrical Project?

Not all electrical projects require a licensed electrician.  These requirements depend on the laws where you live, but in most cases simple things like replacing a light fixture, swapping a single breaker, and replacing an electrical outlet will not require a licensed electrician.  In this cases of smaller repairs, particularly replacements of existing fixtures, a handyman or savvy homeowner can legally take care of it.

For larger projects, especially when permitting is required, you’ll need someone with a license.  Electrical panel upgrades, rewiring an entire home, and the installation of a home generator are a few examples of where you’ll need a licensed electrical contractor.  If this electrical work is being performed as a part of a greater project like a home renovation or new build, a general contractor will need to be overseeing the job but will still use an electrician to perform the work.

When In Doubt, Make a Call

Anytime you’re unsure what expert you need to get the job done right, call your local inspections office.  Describe your project to a local inspector and they will inform you of what requirements there are in the individual or company you can use to perform the work.  This is a free service, paid for by tax dollars, so be sure to take advantage of it.  City inspectors are knowledgeable and friendly and are always happy to help.

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