Pick the right pro for your project - MoneySense

Pick the right pro for your project

Picking the right tradesperson is an integral part of sticking to your project’s budget and time-line. Here’s a few tips on when to call the specialists, the contractors and the handymen.


Planning a small upgrade? Or undertaking a major renovation? The most important decision you’ll need to make — after you’ve set your budget — is whether or not to get a specialist, a contractor or a handyman. This choice can have a dramatic impact on your project cost. Here’s how to figure out who to hire and when.


Specialists: Specialists are tradespeople who concentrate on one area of expertise. These include electricians, plumbers, and gas & pipefitters (needed for furnace installation and repair, among other things). These specialists typically command the highest per hour wages — often ranging from $75 to $150 per hour (depending on the specialist and the job).

Contractors: A contractor isn’t a specialist in any one area. Instead you can consider this type of tradesperson an experienced generalist that, very often, has a master’s license, is bondable and holds insurance. Contractors come armed with a breadth of knowledge and experience that allows them to see how small projects tie into the bigger picture. This is an important skill particularly if you want to keep costs low and you want the project to be finished in a professional, safe manner. Contractors are often the go-to trade for more complex jobs and will often act as your quarterback: coordinating labourers and specialists to make sure your project is completed on time and on budget. Contractors typically charge $35 to $100 per hour, depending on their experience, the job requirements and complexity.

Handymen: These tradespeople are also generalists, but often work alone and do not have the experience or breadth of expertise as a contractor. Handymen are excellent for smaller jobs, such as hanging light fixtures, installing window A/C units or repainting a room. Independent handymen typically charge $25 to $50 per hour, while handyman franchises, such as Mrhandyman.ca, can charge up to $100 per hour (but this usually comes with a bonded and insured crew).


The type of project dictates the type of tradesperson. If you have a larger project, such as a sunroom addition, adding a second floor or a kitchen or bathroom makeover, then you’ll want to contact a contractor. That’s because these types of jobs come with complexity: you’ll need to consider structural elements, electrical components, plumbing, insulation, demolition and debris removal, appropriate finishes and how to stay on time and on budget. On top of this you’ll need to deal with permit applications and fees. General contractors excel at this type of work. They’ll know when to call in the $20 day labourers, and when to call in the specialists and they’ll be able to do all the work in-between at a fraction of what a specialist would cost.

If, however, you have an isolated project, such as swapping out a bathtub, or changing from an electric to a gas stove, or you want to hardwire a room, than call a specialist. Since the project is specific a specialist can best tackle the modification and at the highest standards. It will cost you a bit more than using a contractor, but will save you time and give you peace of mind, knowing the job is completed by a  professional, licensed expert.

Finally, if you have a small job (or a few small jobs) consider using a handyman. To get the best deal wait until you have a few smaller projects that require completion. Then, when the handyman comes to work, you won’t be charged an extra fee for a small job (a fee that is quite standard within the industry).