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Licensed Handyman in Chicago, IL

How to Hire a Good Handyman in Chicago

Chicago handymen earn an average hourly wage of $23.38, which is at least 35 percent less than that of general contractors and other specialized trade professionals in the city. This makes them the financially prudent choice for speedily handling minor home repairs. However, considering that home repair-related scams are the most common complaints made in Chicago, and across the State of Illinois, it is advisable to ask the following questions before hiring handymen in the city:

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Handyman in the City of Chicago

  1. Are You Licensed to Practice as a Handyman in the City of Chicago?

    Individuals that wish to provide home repair services in Chicago are required to obtain a Regulated Business License from the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP). Applications for this license can be made online or in person at:

    • City Hall
    • 121 North LaSalle Street
    • Room 800
    • Chicago, IL 60602

    The BACP advises applicants to make an appointment with one of its Business Consultants before submitting license applications, and these appointments can be made by calling (312) 744-6249. Regulated business license applicants are typically required to meet certain eligibility criteria, such as providing proof of general liability insurance, registering with relevant state and federal agencies, and paying a licensing fee. Queries concerning the requirements and procedures for obtaining a Chicago Regulated Business License can be directed to the BACP at (312) 744-6060 and (312) 744-6249.

    Note that, per Section 4-6-280 of the Municipal Code of Chicago, any individual that wishes to provide home repair services and already possesses a city-issued General Contractor's License is not required to obtain a Regulated Business License. General Contractor Licenses are issued by the Chicago Department of Buildings, and they must be obtained by any handyman in the city that wishes to perform jobs that require permits. Examples of these types of jobs include drywall or plaster repair and replacement of more than 1,000 square feet and building fences that are more than five feet above ground.

    Chicago General Contractor Licenses are grouped into five classes based on the monetary limitations placed on the license holder. These are:

    • Class A Licenses: Handymen with this class of license do not have any monetary limitations placed on the types of jobs that they can perform
    • Class B Licenses: Handymen with this class of license cannot perform jobs worth more than $10,000,000
    • Class C Licenses: Handymen with this class of license cannot perform jobs worth more than $5,000,000
    • Class D Licenses: Handymen with this class of license cannot perform jobs worth more than $2,000,000
    • Class E Licenses: Handymen with this class of license cannot perform jobs worth more than $500,000

    Providing services outside the scope of a contractor license classification can result in fines of up to $5,000 per offense. Chicago handymen that wish to obtain a General Contractor's License may do so by contacting the city's Department of Buildings at:

    • 121 N. LaSalle Street
    • Room 900
    • Chicago, IL 60602
    • Phone: (312) 744-3449

    Inquiries concerning the procedure for obtaining this license can also be directed to (800) 359-1313 or via email.

    Before hiring any handyman in the City of Chicago, confirm that this professional possesses either a Regulated Business License or a General Contractor's License. You can do this by accessing the Business License Lookup Portal and the List of Licensed General Contractors provided by the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and Department of Buildings respectively.

  2. How Much Do You Charge Compared to Handymen in the City of Chicago?

    When searching for a suitable professional to provide home repair services in Chicago, getting and comparing estimates from several handymen near you is a good way to avoid falling victim to a scam. Handymen in the city typically charge hourly rates for their services, and these rates are determined by several factors, such as the nature of the home repair or improvement job and the urgency of the required service. Other factors that influence Chicago handyman hourly rates include the types of tools and materials that will be required for the job and the labor intensity of the job.

    Regardless of these factors, the estimates provided for a specific job should not greatly vary. Consider it a red flag if a handyman provides a quote that is significantly different from the quotes provided by other handymen that you reached out to, especially if the handyman in question cannot satisfactorily explain the reason for this difference.

    Chicago handymen earn an average wage of $48,620, annually. The table below compares and contrasts the average hourly wages of handymen and other general maintenance and repair workers in Chicago with those of workers in this industry across the State of Illinois and major American cities:

    Chicago Handyman Average Hourly Wage -
    $23.38
    Illinois Handyman Average Hourly Wage -
    $22.61
    New York City Handyman Average Hourly Wage -
    $24.50
    Los Angeles Handyman Average Hourly Wage -
    $22.77
    Detroit Handyman Average Hourly Wage -
    $20.28
    Houston Handyman Average Hourly Wage -
    $20.96
    Boston Handyman Average Hourly Wage -
    $25.61

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  3. Do You Require a Permit to Complete This Work in the City of Chicago?

    Per the provisions of Section 14A-4 of the Municipal Code of Chicago, a permit is generally required before most home repair jobs can be commenced in the city. However, some types of jobs that are commonly performed by handymen are statutorily exempt from the city's permits requirements, and these include, but are not limited to:

    • Painting, carpeting, papering, and other similar finish work that do not involve plumbing or electrical connections
    • Drywall or plaster replacement or repair that does not exceed 1,000 square feet and does involve an alteration of plumbing or electrical devices or systems
    • In-kind replacements of ceiling tiles that are not part of a fire-rated assembly or interior doors that are not required to have a fire-resistance rating
    • In-kind replacements of a structure's windows or glazing, either at the basement level or in the first or second story above grade plane
    • Work involving fences that are not more than five feet above the ground on both sides and retaining walls that are not more than four feet in height when measured from the bottom of the footing to the top of the wall. These retaining walls must also not be supporting surcharges or impounding liquids
    • Minor electrical work, such as the replacement of lamps or the alteration of low voltage electrical fixtures
    • Work involving the repair or replacement of any part within an HVAC equipment, provided that this work does not alter the function of the equipment
    • Repair work that does not involve cutting away or removing any portion of a building's exterior or interior walls, partitions, floors, roof, structural beams, columns, or load-bearing supports
    • Repair work that does not involve removing or changing a building's required means of egress or rearranging parts of its structure that affects its egress requirements

    The Chicago Department of Buildings handles the issuance of permits for works that are not considered permit-exempt by the city's municipal code, and these permits can be obtained by homeowners or individuals that possess a valid city-issued General Contractor or Trade License. Interested parties that wish to obtain these permits will be required to undergo a permit review process, which includes completing and submitting an appropriate permit application form. Depending on the nature and scope of the repair work, the submission of architectural plans and other relevant documents may also be required. Permit applications can be made in person at the Department of Buildings' main office located at:

    • City Hall
    • 121 N. LaSalle Street
    • Room 900
    • Chicago, IL 60602

    Permit applications can also be submitted online via a dynamic permitting portal provided and maintained by the department for this purpose. Note that first-time applicants will be required to create a user account before they can utilize this portal. Also, once permit applications have been reviewed and approved, the permitted work may be subject to inspection by city officials to ensure compliance with all applicable provisions of the Municipal Code of Chicago.

    It should be noted that it is your responsibility as a homeowner to ensure that all necessary permits for your repair job have been obtained before any work commences. You can contact the Chicago Department of Buildings at (312) 744-3449 to get additional information on the city's permitting requirements and procedures.

  4. What Works Can You Do Legally as a Handyman in the City of Chicago?

    Handymen in Chicago that possess a valid city-issued Regulated Business License are legally empowered to perform any type of home repair work that does not require a permit from the Chicago Department of Buildings. However, home repair work that requires a permit can only be performed by handymen that possess a General Contractor's License. Note that this does not include specialized work like electrical, plumbing, or masonry work, which must be performed by an individual with an appropriate Department of Buildings-issued Trade License.

    As such, when you contact any handyman in the city, you should find out the type of license that they possess and make sure that it is relevant to the nature of your required home repair or improvement job. It is also a good idea to provide the handyman with as many details about the job as you can, to enable them determine whether or not you will require the services of a specialized professional. Finally, find out how much the handyman charges for their services and make sure that you agree to these rates before any work begins. Listed below are cost estimates for some common home repair and improvement services offered by Chicago handymen:

    Artwork hanging
    $45 - $140
    Awning repair
    $180 - $750
    Cabinet repair
    $50 - $480
    Cabinet refinishing
    $750 - $2,500
    Drain unclogging
    $55 - $150
    Driveway sealing
    $75 - $250
    Drywall repair
    $85 - $550
    Electrical appliance installation
    $120 - $220
    Faulty fixture repair/replacement
    $55 - $315
    Gutter cleaning
    $95 - $340
    Home childproofing
    $150 - $450
    Lawn care/landscaping maintenance
    $55 - $380
    Patio/deck painting
    $180 - $500
    Room painting
    $250 - $600
    Snow removal
    $55 - $300
    TV mounting
    $55 - $250
    Residential handyman services
    $58.70 - $74.20 per hour (labor only)
    Commercial handyman services
    $69.15 - $80.10 per hour (labor only)
  5. Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Handymen in the City of Chicago?

    According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 4,700 fatal and 2.7 million nonfatal work-related injuries were reported across the country in 2020. Choosing a handyman that is properly insured ensures that you remain financially and legally protected in situations where on-the-job injuries or other detrimental work-related events like property damage occur during your project. To this end, handymen that operate in the City of Chicago are required to meet certain insurance requirements, and these requirements are primarily dependent on the type of license that they possess.

    Handymen that possess a Regulated Business License issued by the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection (BACP) are required to maintain commercial general liability insurance coverage of at least $300,000 per occurrence for bodily and personal injury, as well as property damage. Note that this mandatory minimum coverage is a combined single limit per occurrence. On the other hand, handymen that possess a General Contractor's License issued by the Chicago Department of Buildings must maintain a minimum commercial general liability insurance coverage of between $1,000,000 and $5,000,000 per occurrence for bodily injury and property damage.

    Ask any handyman that you intend to hire to provide you with a copy of their insurance certificate and contact the issuing organization to confirm its authenticity and also to find out if the coverage is adequate for your repair work. You can also contact the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and the Chicago Department of Buildings at (312) 744-6060 and (312) 744-3449 respectively to make inquiries concerning the mandatory insurance requirements for handymen in the city.

How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Handyman in the City of Chicago

In February 2020, Chicago news house WGN9 reported that a local home repair company was being investigated by the Illinois Attorney General's Office in connection with scams affecting over 12 homeowners in the area and involving thousands of dollars. With home repair and improvement-related complaints continually topping the list of consumer complaints made in the State of Illinois, it is important to protect yourself from fraudulent handymen when searching for home repair services in Chicago. Some red flags that indicate that you may be dealing with a fraudulent handyman include:

  • The handyman shows up at your home uninvited
  • The handyman claims to have been just completed work nearby and offers to use leftover materials from this alleged work to fix up your home
  • The handyman insists on complete payment before beginning any work
  • The handyman refuses to provide you with a written contract
  • The handyman submits an estimate for the job that is significantly different from other estimates that you receive
  • The handyman drives a vehicle with out-of-state plates

Taking the following steps before finalizing agreements with any handyman in Chicago can help you avoid falling victim to a home repair scam:

  • Avoid unsolicited handymen. It is always a good idea to get referrals from trusted sources when you wish to undertake home repairs or improvements. These sources include friends, relatives, and online directories provided by organizations like the Better Business Bureau
  • Get and compare estimates from multiple handymen
  • Be wary of any handyman that cannot provide you with up to three local references. Make sure that you contact these references to get their reviews on the handyman
  • Confirm that the handyman possesses either a valid Regulated Business License or a valid General Contractor's License via the Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection's Business License Lookup Portal and the Chicago Department of Buildings' List of Licensed General Contractors respectively
  • Access the List of Businesses/Individuals Found Liable for Consumer Fraud in Past Three Years provided by the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection and make sure that the handyman is not featured on it. You can equally lookup the handyman online via third-party review websites like the Better Business Bureau, Google Review, and Yelp
  • Confirm the handyman's insurance status
  • Never make full payment for the job until it has been satisfactorily completed. If you have to make an advance payment, limit this to a maximum of 15 - 30 percent of the job's total cost and avoid cash payments
  • Request a written contract for the job that includes a description of the work that is to be done and its cost. Make sure that you read and understand this contract, and any other documents that you are giving, before signing them

Consumer complaints concerning home repair and improvement scams in Chicago can be filed with the city's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection either by calling 311 or via the city's CHI 311 online platform. Note that complainants that wish to utilize this platform will be required to create a user account. Consumer complaints can also be filed at the state level with the Consumer Protection Division of Illinois Attorney General's Office through its online complaint submission portal or by completing and submitting a printable consumer complaint form to:

  • Office of the Illinois Attorney General
  • Consumer Protection Division
  • 500 South Second Street
  • Springfield, IL 62701