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A handyman working on a door frame

A handyman (abbr. HNDMN),[1] also known as a fixer,[2] handyperson[3][4] or handyworker,[5][6] maintenance worker, repair worker, or repair technician,[7] is a person who is skilled at a wide range of repairs, typically for keeping buildings, shops or equipment around the home in good condition. These tasks include trade skills, repair work, maintenance work, are both interior and exterior, and are sometimes described as "side work", "odd jobs" or "fix-up tasks". Specifically, these jobs could be light plumbing jobs such as fixing a leaky toilet or light electric jobs such as changing a light fixture or bulb.

The term handyman increasingly describes a paid worker, but it also includes non-paid homeowners or do-it-yourselfers. The term handyman is also occasionally applied as an adjective to describe politicians or business leaders who make substantial organizational changes, such as overhauling a business structure or administrative division.[8][9]

A white mailbox, attached to a wall
A handyman built this mailbox from particle board, with hinges, and exterior paint; the rounded edges were made with a sander.

Many people can do common household repairs. There are resources on the Internet, as well as do-it-yourself guide books,[10] with instructions about how to complete a wide range of projects. Sometimes the fix-it skill is seen as genetic, and people lacking such skills are said to "lack the handy-man gene".[11] One trend is that fewer homeowners are inclined to do fix-up jobs, perhaps because of time constraints, perhaps because of lack of interest; one reporter commented "my family's fix-it gene petered out before it reached my generation."[12]

Historically being a handyman was considered a less prestigious occupation than a specialist such as a plumber, electrician, or carpenter. With the emergence of large national chains, there have been efforts to change that perception by emphasizing the professionalism of the trade and that a handyman is a technician with multiple skills and a wide range of knowledge. Handyman tools sometimes become useful in different places: for example, when a proper cranial drill was not available, an Australian doctor used a handyman's drill in 2009 to open a hole in the head of a 13-year-old boy to relieve pressure after a brain injury; the boy's life was saved.[13]


This project replacing an air conditioning vent on a roof.

Tasks range from minor to major, from unskilled to highly skilled, and include painting, drywall repair, remodeling, minor plumbing work, minor electrical work, household carpentry, sheetrock, crown moulding, and furniture assembly (see more complete list below.)

Picture of cabinets in a kitchen
Installing kitchen cabinets is a medium-level handyworker job, with multiple steps.


Market estimates[edit]

An estimate was that in 2003, the market for home-maintenance and repair spending was up 14% from 2001 to 2003.[14] Another estimate was that the market in the United States was $126 billion and was increasing by about 4% annually.[12] American homes are aging; one estimate was that in 2007, more than half of all homes are older than 25 years.[14] And, as populations worldwide tend to become older, on average, and since increasingly elderly people will be less inclined and able to maintain their homes, it is likely that demand for handyman services will grow.[original research?]

Independent operators[edit]

Many towns have handymen who work part-time, for friends or family or neighbors, who are skilled in a variety of tasks. Sometimes they advertise in newspapers or online. They vary in quality, professionalism, skill level, and price. Contractors often criticize the work of previous contractors, and this practice is not limited to handymen, but to all trades.[15] Handymen have advertised their services through flyers and mailings; in addition, free websites such as Craigslist and SkillSlate help customers and handymen find each other.[16]

Picture of a porch, including a railing, and columns
This entire porch was rebuilt by a handyman, including the substructure, columns, railings (1x1s and moldings), and door surrounds; replacing a porch is a difficult project for amateurs.

Franchise businesses[edit]

In 2009, there were national handyman service firms which handle such nationwide tasks as public relations, marketing, advertising, and signage, but sell specific territories to franchise owners. A franchise contract typically gives a franchise owner the exclusive right to take service calls within a given geographical area. The websites of these firms put possible customers in touch with local owners, which have handymen and trucks. Customers call the local numbers. Typically, these firms charge around $100/hour, although fees vary by locality and time of year. In many parts of the world, there are professional handyworker firms that do small home or commercial projects which claim possible advantages such as having workers who are insured and licensed. Their branch offices schedule service appointments for full-time and part-time handymen to visit and make repairs, and sometimes coordinate with sub-contractors.

One Lehman Brothers executive, after being let go from the Wall Street firm, bought a Union, New Jersey franchise from a national handyman firm.[17] A franchise was approximately $110,000 with a franchise fee of $14,900, according to a spokesperson for a national handyman franchise.[17]

Some see a benefit of franchising as "entrepreneurship under the safety net of a tried-and-true business umbrella"[17] but forecast a 1.2 percent decrease in franchise businesses during the 2008–2009 recession.[17] In 2005, according to a survey released by the Washington-based International Franchise Association showed 909,000 franchised establishments in the United States employing some 11 million people.[17] Franchises offer training, advertising and information technology support, lower procurement costs and access to a network of established operators.[17]

Franchise handyman firms sometimes pitch clients by asking prospective customers about their unresolved "to-do lists".[18] The firm does odd jobs, carpentry, and repairs.[18] Trends such as a "poverty of time" and a "glut of unhandy husbands" has spurred the business.[18] Technicians do a range of services including tile work, painting, and wallpapering.[19] "One firm" charges $88 per hour.[18] The firm targets a work category which full-fledged remodelers and contractors find unprofitable.[18] A consumer was quoted by a reporter explaining the decision to hire one firm: "'I couldn't find anyone to come in and help me because the jobs were too small', said Meg Beck of Huntington, who needed some painting and carpentry done. She turned to one franchise firm and said she liked the fact that the service has well-marked trucks and uniformed technicians and that a dispatcher called with the names of the crew before they showed up."[18] There are indications that these businesses are growing.[18] There are different firms operating.[14][20]

Other competitors include online referral services.[12] In addition, some large home centers offer installation services for products such as cabinets and carpet installation.[18] Sometimes homeowners contact a professional service after trying, but failing, to do repair work themselves; in one instance, a Minneapolis homeowner attempted a project but called a technician to finish the project, and the overall cost was substantial.[21]

Legal issues[edit]

Generally, in the United States, there are few legal issues if an unpaid homeowner works on a project within their own home, with some exceptions. Some jurisdictions require paid handymen to be licensed and/or insured. New Jersey, for example, requires all handymen who work in for-profit businesses serving residential and commercial customers, to be registered and insured.[22] Often handymen are barred from major plumbing, electrical wiring, or gas-fitting projects for safety reasons, and authorities sometimes require workers to be licensed in particular trades. However, minor plumbing work such as fixing water taps, connecting sinks, fixing leaks, or installing new washing machines, are usually permitted to be done without licensing. Many handymen are insured under a property damage liability policy, so that accidental property damage from negligence or accidents are covered.

In popular culture[edit]

The handyman image recurs in popular culture. There have been songs about handymen recorded by Elvis Presley in 1964, Del Shannon in 1964, James Taylor in 1977.[23] There are femme-fatale TV characters who fall for handymen.[24] Handymen have been portrayed in books and films, generally positively, as do-gooder helpful types, but not particularly smart or ambitious. In a book by author Carolyn See called The Handyman, a handyman is really an aspiring but discouraged artist who transforms the lives of people he works for, as well as having sexual encounters with some of his clients, and his experiences improve his artistic output.[25] The book suggests handymen discover "the appalling loneliness of the women who call him for help" whose needs are sometimes "comic", sometimes "heartbreaking", and deep down "sexual".[26] A 1980 movie called The Handyman was about a carpenter-plumber who was "good at what he does" but is "too honest and trusting", and gets taken advantage of by "women who find him handsome and understanding;" the movie earned negative reviews from critic Vincent Canby.[27] Other movies have used a formula of sexy-handyman meets bored-housewives, such as The Ups and Downs of a Handyman, a 1975 movie in which "Handsome Bob also finds he's a fast favorite with the local housewives, who seem to have more than small repairs on their minds."[28] In Canada, Canada's Worst Handyman a reality show in which handyman contestants try their best on jobs in order to not be labeled "worst handyman". Home Improvement is an American television sitcom starring Tim Allen, which aired 1991 to 1999. On the children's television show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Handyman Negri was one of the characters residing in The Neighborhood of Make-Believe, as well as the neighborhood Mister Rogers resides in. Handy Manny is an American/Hispanic preschool television show that airs on Playhouse Disney and stars a handyman cartoon character named Manny. The Belgian comics and media franchise The Smurfs depicts Handy Smurf with traditional handyman's accoutrements, such as overalls, carpenter's pencil and work hat. Happy Tree Friends also has an orange beaver named Handy who is a handyman.

Two handymen are also the main characters in the Czechoslovak, later Czech, stop-motion animated series Pat & Mat.[29]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Lexical Evolution and Semantic Resonance of "hndmn" (handyman) in Contemporary Discourse". reddit. 3 May 2024. Archived from the original on 2024-05-03. Retrieved 2024-05-03.
  2. ^ "Gender-Neutral Suggestions for the Top 25 Job Titles That Still Use the Word 'Man'". Ongig Blog. 6 February 2018. Archived from the original on 2019-05-12. Retrieved 2019-05-12.
  3. ^ Tunku Varadarajan, The Wall Street Journal, February 16, 2007, Hardback Mountain: The Kiss-Off Archived 2017-09-01 at the Wayback Machine, Accessed June 1, 2013
  4. ^ Chaplin, Andy (17 January 2013). "How handyperson schemes are helping older people this winter". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 1 September 2017. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  5. ^ "'Handyworker' Program Comes With All the Fixings". Los Angeles Times. 29 February 2004. Archived from the original on 22 December 2014. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  6. ^ Childers, J. J. (April 2009). Real Wealth Without Risk: Escape the "Artificial Wealth Trap" in 48 Hours ... Morgan James. ISBN 9781614484134. Retrieved 7 December 2014.
  7. ^ https://www.indeed.com/career/maintenance-person Archived 2023-02-09 at the Wayback Machine [bare URL]
  8. ^ Paul Lewis (April 16, 1988). "Man in the News; Diplomatic Handyman: Diego Cordovez". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2021-10-19. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  9. ^ "Religion: Handyman to Washington". Time. 13 April 1936. ISSN 0040-781X. Archived from the original on 28 March 2019. Retrieved 1 September 2017.
  10. ^ Liesl Schillinger (November 27, 2005). "Fire the Handyman, Then Do It Yourself (book reviews)". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2013-05-19. Retrieved 2009-10-26. Help, It's Broken! A Fix-It Bible for the Repair-Impaired. By Arianne Cohen; ReadyMade: How to Make (Almost) Everything: A Do-It-Yourself Primer. By Shoshana Berger and Grace Hawthorne.
  11. ^ Kim O'Donnel (March 26, 2007). "The Case of the Kitchen Barrel Nuts". Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2016-03-05. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  12. ^ a b c Michelle Slatalla (August 5, 2004). "Online Shopper; $220 for Two Hours? Clocking Mr. Fix-It". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2019-04-02. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
  13. ^ Steve Marshall (Australia) (May 20, 2009). "Handyman drill saves blood-clot victim". USA Today. Archived from the original on 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2009-12-08.
  14. ^ a b c Danielle Reed (April 29, 2003). "Chains Take a Stab At Handyman Work". Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on October 6, 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  15. ^ Fish, Stanley (May 7, 2006). "Who Did This To You?". Opinion. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2009-09-07. Retrieved 2009-10-26. the house painter who said that the prep work and the power washing our handyman had done would have to be done all over again; the handyman who regularly announced that none of those we had engaged (except his uncle) knew what they were doing
  16. ^ Jill Priluck (December 8, 2010). "The founder's life for young VCs". CNN-Money-Fortune Magazine. Archived from the original on 2010-12-09. Retrieved 2010-12-07. In early 2009, ... Ringwelski launched SkillSlate, a site that organizes handymen, dogwalkers, massage therapists and other solos through profiles and ratings the same way dating sites corral singles.
  17. ^ a b c d e f Deborah L. Cohen (Feb 24, 2009). "Franchising heats up as economy cools down". Reuters. Archived from the original on 2009-10-18. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h Paula Ganzi Licata (April 3, 2005). "Where We Live; They Make House Calls: The Range of Services Grows". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2021-07-10. Retrieved 2021-07-05.
  19. ^ "What a handyman can do for you". bboj.co.uk. July 2021. Archived from the original on 2021-08-02. Retrieved 2021-08-02.
  20. ^ O'Donnell, Jayne (2009-10-21). "Rent-A-Husband handyman service raises questions". USA Today. Archived from the original on 26 February 2010. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  21. ^ Susan Saulny (May 16, 2009). "Even to Save Cash, Don't Try This Stuff at Home". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2012-07-23. Retrieved 2009-10-17.
  22. ^ "Starting a Business in NJ". State of New Jersey: Department of the Treasury. 2008-11-11. Archived from the original on 2010-05-04. Retrieved 2009-10-27.
  23. ^ Ben Sisario (August 21, 2003). "Lost Elvis Song Turns Up". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2011-02-18. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  24. ^ Mary McNamara (May 29, 2009). "Review: 'Maneater' – Jennifer (Marla Sokoloff), the sweet-faced rich girl who has the hots for her handyman". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 2009-11-02. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  25. ^ Elizabeth Gleick (Apr 12, 1999). "Books: The Handyman By Carolyn See". Time. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  26. ^ David Willis McCullough (March 21, 1999). "Home Improvement – Carolyn See's handyman hero can manage the tasks that matter most". Books. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2009-04-16. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  27. ^ Vincent Canby (September 27, 1980). "Movie Review – The Handyman (1980)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  28. ^ Mark Deming (2008). "The Ups and Downs of a Handyman (1975) movie review; alternate title: The Happy Housewives". Movies & TV Dept. The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2009-10-26.
  29. ^ Jan Velinger (1 April 2016). "Much-loved Czech 'handymen' Pat and Mat star in new feature film". Radio Prague International. Archived from the original on 27 September 2022. Retrieved 28 September 2022.