At average hourly wages of $26.02, hiring a handyman in Seattle to provide general home repair, improvement, and maintenance services will cost you at least 27 percent less than hiring a general contractor or a trade professional in the city. However, with contractor scams being one of the top complaints made by consumers in Washington State, you should always take precautions to ensure that you hire a legitimate handyman in the City of Seattle. Asking the following questions can help you determine whether your intended handyman is the best fit for the job:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as a Handyman in the City of Seattle?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Handymen in the City of Seattle?
- Do You Require a Permit to Complete This Work in the City of Seattle?
- What Works Can You Do Legally as a Handyman in the City of Seattle?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Handymen in the City of Seattle?
Handymen that wish to operate in the City of Seattle are required to register as Specialty Contractors with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Handymen that fail to do this can face gross misdemeanor charges, which are punishable by fines of up to $5,000, jail time of not more than 12 months, or a combination of both.
Interested parties that wish to complete this registration process will be required to fill out and submit an Application for Contractor Registration Form, along with the stipulated application fees, in person at the Seattle office of the Department of Labor and Industries located at:
- 2111 N Northgate Way
- Seattle, WA 98133
- Phone: (206) 515-2800
Note that contractor registration applicants are typically required to register their businesses with the Washington State Department of Revenue before submitting the application form. These parties must also provide proof of adequate insurance and bonding. Alternatively, parties that do not wish to complete the registration process in person may submit a notarized copy of the application form, along with the stipulated application fees and other relevant supporting documents, via mail-in to:
- Department of Labor and Industries
- Contractor Registration
- P.O. Box 44450
- Olympia, WA 98504-4450
Queries concerning state-mandated Seattle handyman registration requirements can be directed to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries via email. Inquiries can also be made by calling this department either at toll-free number 1-800-647-0982 or at (360) 902-5226 and selecting option two.
Note that, even though the City of Seattle does not issue occupational licenses to handymen that wish to operate within its jurisdiction, it typically requires these individuals to obtain local Business License Tax Certificates before they conduct business in the city. These certificates are issued by the Seattle Department of Finance and Administrative Services through its License and Tax Administration Office, and they are mandatory for all businesses in the city. However, exemptions are made for businesses that have an annual gross income that is not more than $2,000. Seattle business license tax certificate applications can be completed online or by mailing an Application for Business License Tax Certificate Form to:
- License and Tax Administration
- 700 5th Avenue
- Suite 4250
- P.O. Box 34214
- Seattle, WA 98124-4214
Inquiries concerning the Seattle business license tax certificate issuance process can be directed to the city's License and Tax Administration at (206) 684-8484.
It is your responsibility to ensure that any handyman you hire in the City of Seattle has complied with all necessary local and state-level regulatory requirements. To this end, you can confirm that your intended handyman possesses a current city-issued business license tax certificate by utilizing the Seattle License and Tax Administration Office's Find a Business portal. Similarly, you can verify that your handyman has been duly registered with the state's Department of Labor and Industries via this department's Verify a Contractor online portal.
When undertaking home repair, improvement, or maintenance projects in Seattle, requesting and comparing estimates from at least three different handymen in the city is a good way to ensure that you pay a fair rate for the required service. Depending on the nature of the job, handymen in Seattle may utilize either hourly or flat fee rates when calculating their cost estimates. Nonetheless, the total amount that you will have to pay for your home repair, improvement, or maintenance task is generally dependent on the following factors:
- The scope of the task
- The urgency of the task
- The cost of materials needed to carry out the task
- The amount of time and labor required to complete the task
Note that it is never a good idea to automatically hire the handyman that submits the lowest estimate, especially if this estimate is significantly lower than the others. This is because some unscrupulous handymen deliberately submit low cost estimates for the sole purpose of getting you to hire them, after which they either increase the cost of the project, perform a shoddy job, or abscond with the payment for the job. As such, always request an explanation for any submitted estimates that are noticeably different from the others and consider it a red flag if the handyman cannot satisfactorily explain the reason for this marked difference.
Seattle handymen earn an average wage of $54,120, annually. The table below compares and contrasts the average hourly wages of handymen and other general maintenance and repair workers in Seattle with those of workers in this industry across Washington State and major American cities:Seattle Handyman Average Hourly Wage$26.02Washington State Handyman Average Wage -$24.56Boston Handyman Average Hourly Wage$25.63Chicago Handyman Average Hourly Wage$24.56Los Angeles Handyman Average Hourly Wage$23.74New York City Handyman Average Hourly Wage$25.73Washington D.C. Handyman Average Hourly Wage$24.42
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Permits are typically required for most building and construction-related activities in the City of Seattle. These include work done in buildings that are located in environmentally critical areas and minor repairs and alterations that cost more than $6,000 within a six-month period. Permits must also be obtained for any work that involves load-bearing supports, reduces a building's egress, light, ventilation, or fire resistance, or results in changes to the building envelope, regardless of the size or cost of the project.
Nonetheless, exemptions are usually made for several types of tasks that are commonly performed by handymen. These include, but are not limited to:
- Chimney re-pointing
- Kitchen cabinet installations
- Surface finishing over existing wall and ceiling systems
- Insulation installation in existing buildings
- Installation or repair of on-grade patios and concrete slabs
- Construction or repair of fences that are less than eight feet high and do not have any concrete or masonry elements that are are higher than six feet
- Construction or repair of platforms, walks, and driveways that are less than 18 inches above-grade and are not over a basement or other building stories
- Roofing and siding repair or replacement in detached one and two-family houses, provided that the work does not involve making changes to the building envelope and is as good as the existing structure
- Limited in-kind repairs or replacements to deteriorated parts of a building or structure
The Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections is responsible for issuing permits for building and construction-related projects, and applications for these permits can be made online via the Seattle Services Portal. Note that first-time permit applicants will have to register a user account to properly access this portal. Applicants are also typically required to use a GIS map and other property information resources provided by the Department of Construction and Inspections to determine all relevant construction, land use, and zoning requirements and restrictions that may apply to their intended projects. Depending on the nature and scope of the construction activity, the department may also require site plans and other necessary documents before it issues the requested permits. Once all submitted documents have been reviewed and approved, applicants will have to pay a stipulated fee, after which they can print the approved permit and plans, and commence work on their projects.
It is important to note that all building and construction-related activities in Seattle must conform with the city's building codes and development standards, regardless of whether or not they require permits. Also, projects for which permits have been issued generally require inspections at various steps of the construction activity to confirm compliance with these codes and standards. It is advisable to contact the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections to get specific information on the permitting requirements that may apply to your home repair, improvement, or maintenance project before it commences. This department can be contacted at:
- 700 5th Avenue
- Suite 2000
- Seattle, WA 98104
- Phone: (206) 684-8600
Per Section 296-200A-016 of the Washington Administrative Code, handymen in Seattle that have been duly registered with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries can legally perform any type of home repair, improvement, and maintenance work that falls under the following criteria:
- The work is done solely by the handyman
- The work does not exceed a total value of $2,000
- The work is limited to minor and casual work on existing residential property
- The work does not require a building permit
Note that while these handymen can perform minor electrical and plumbing works, such as replacing faucets and light fixtures, work that involves installing, altering, replacing, or modifying electrical and plumbing systems must be done by state-licensed electricians and plumbers respectively.
Hiring a state-registered handyman provides you with a level of assurance that your task will be handled by professionals and that the work will be done satisfactorily. An added advantage to hiring registered handymen is that these professionals are more likely to recognize and inform you about tasks that require the attention of duly licensed specialty contractors.
Listed below are cost estimates for common services offered by handymen in the City of Seattle:Artwork hanging$70 - $155Awning repair$100 - $500Cabinet repair$85 - $650Cabinet refinishing$400 - $2,000Drain unclogging$90 - $300Driveway sealing$100 - $350Drywall repair$100 - $500Electrical appliance installation$120 - $450Faulty fixture repair/replacement$100 - $400Gutter cleaning$90 - $300Home childproofing$150 - $500Lawn care/landscaping maintenance$70 - $350Patio/deck painting$100 - $600Room painting$150 - $700Snow removal$70 - $350TV mounting$70 - $240Residential handyman services$70 - $81 per hour (labor only)
Making sure that your intended handyman is properly insured is of utmost importance when undertaking home repair, improvement, and maintenance tasks in Seattle. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 23,400 nonfatal occupational injuries were recorded amongst general maintenance and repair workers across the country in 2020. A total of eight fatal occupational injuries were also recorded amongst this category of workers in Washington State alone during this period. Hiring an insured handyman ensures that you do not have to make any out-of-pocket expenses to cover the costs of these injuries or any other work-related accidents that may occur during your project.
Handymen that operate in Seattle must meet certain insurance and bonding requirements before they can complete the statutorily-required contractor registration process with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries. Per these requirements, handymen in the city must post a Washington Continuous Contractor Surety Bond of $6,000 and maintain a general liability insurance policy of at least $200,000 in public liability and $50,000 property damage or a combined single limit of $250,000.
Always request proof of this insurance and bonding from your intended handyman and contact the relevant issuing organizations to authenticate it. You can also contact the Department of Labor and Industries at (360) 902-5226 or toll-free number 1-800-647-0982 to make inquiries concerning its mandatory insurance and bonding requirements for handymen in the City of Seattle.
In February 2022, the Yakima Herald reported that a contractor had been cited by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries for scamming homeowners in Seattle and several other regions in the state out of tens of thousands of dollars. Every year, the Washington State Attorney General's Office receives thousands of written complaints from consumers across the state, and contractor-related scams continually rank amongst the top ten complaint categories made by these consumers. Fraudulent handymen in the City of Seattle typically utilize several schemes and tactics to try to deceptively obtain money from unsuspecting homeowners, and recognizing these schemes can go a long way in ensuring that you do not fall victim to them. Some signs that you be dealing with a fraudulent handyman include:
- The handyman shows up at your home unsolicited
- The handyman requests full payment upfront
- The handyman offers special repair discounts and offers that can only be claimed if you sign up for their services immediately
- The handyman is hesitant to provide a written estimate or contract for the job
- The handyman does not have a local address
Taking the following precautions when searching for handymen in the city can help protect you against contractor scams:
- Avoid unsolicited handymen. Always consider getting referrals to handymen from trusted relatives, friends, and colleagues. You can also lookup reputable handymen near you via online platforms like the Better Business Bureau website and Google Review
- Always verify the registration status of any handyman that you intend to employ
- Request cost estimates for your project from at least three different handymen and compare these estimates
- Interview your preferred handymen and request references from them. Be wary of any handyman that cannot provide you with local references. Also, make sure that you contact the provided references to get first-hand opinions on the handyman's services
- Insist on a written contract for the task and make sure that it includes the handyman's contact information, the cost of the task, and a description of the services that will be provided
- Always read and understand any contracts, as well as any other documents, that you are given before signing them. You should also never sign any contracts that contain blank spaces in them
- Never pay the full cost of the project upfront. If you have to make any advance payments, make sure that these do not exceed one-third of the total cost of the job
Complaints concerning handyman scams and other fraudulent or deceptive handyman activities can be filed with the Washington State Attorney General's Office either by completing an online general consumer complaint form or by mailing a duly completed pdf complaint form to:
- Office of the Attorney General
- Consumer Protection Division
- 800 5th Avenue
- Suite 2000
- Seattle, WA 98104-3188
You can also report suspected or confirmed handyman scams that take place in the City of Seattle to the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries online.