Handyman or Contractor?

Parent Q&A

Handyman to Build Compact Play Structure Nov 5, 2021 (3 responses below)
Medium-sized home repairs? Jan 27, 2021 (3 responses below)
  • Handyman to Build Compact Play Structure

    (3 replies)


    Does anyone have recommendations for a handyman who can build a compact play structure in our backyard?  I have a design (small tower with a swing) in mind but am hoping to hire someone to build (no one in my family is at all handy).  I would really appreciate any recommendations if anyone has worked with anyone for this purpose in the past!

    Thanks, Claire

    Good luck finding someone with the skills.  And have you looked at the cost for material?  Prices are double to quadruple what they were just over a year ago.  Why don’t you build it yourself?  Berkeley has a tool lending library with all of the tools you’ll need. 

    I can't help with a handyman, but we installed this space saver swing set in our yard a few years ago. https://gorillaplaysets.com/five-star-ii-space-saver-swing-set/  As our yard is so tiny, we didn't use the slide (it didn't fit), and instead of a sandbox at the bottom, bought some extra cedar from the store to make a floor on the bottom, giving the kids two play areas. They put their tiny table and chair set on the bottom deck and play restaurant all the time.

    As this was our first project of this kind, it took my husband and I four weekends to assemble it by ourselves! I think the directions say 2-3 days, as you have to let the concrete around the pillars dry. It's super sturdy and even I can hang out in the upper club house with the kids. We also purchased some other things to hang off the swing hooks (like spinners) to change the fun.

    I have other friends that have the larger Gorilla sets, and all are high quality.

    We searched high and low and learned that most reputable people did not want to design and build a play structure due liability. As part of a larger landscaping job, some designers will incorporate a play scape and I have seen beautiful play structures. Unlicensed people were willing to build but not many would be able to design to ensure safety and structural integrity. Most handyman/landscapers are willing to assemble a kit that is sold commercially (e.g. Gorilla brand). What we ended up doing is to find a design from Pinterest (not just a picture but with measurements, blueprint, instructions on recommended materials) and build it ourselves with the help of a handy relative whom we flew in from out of state. Our friend worked with a handyman and used different parts of the commercial play structure in separate areas of the yard. Swing in one part and tower in another part and the slide on the sloped part. Climbing wall on the side of their shed.  What your mind’s eye can see cannot easily translate into a detailed instruction for the handyman. A detailed design is critical. (We learned it the hard way after 2 failed attempts that cost $$$ and kept producing results that were far from my vision.)

  • Medium-sized home repairs?

    (3 replies)

    Hi folks. I’m a relatively new homeowner in SF. I have a number of things in my house that need repair that are probably bigger than a typical handyman job but I think smaller than the kind of thing a contractor would handle.

    I have no idea who to call! Or even where to start looking. Any suggestions? Fwiw the main concerns at the moment are French doors that don’t properly lock due to house settling (eeesh)—so more than a locksmith can fix—and a chronically leaking shower (needing new grout, and caulking...and replacing the wood floor next to the shower and probably repairs to drywall around and under the bathroom). There are other things too but these are the ones that feel urgent to me.

    I’ve only rented before and I feel totally overwhelmed. Would be endlessly grateful for any advice! THANKS

    RE: Medium-sized home repairs? ()

    I liked Bakari for similarly sized tasks:


    RE: Medium-sized home repairs? ()

    Congratulations on owning a house! You may have realized now that buying a new house is expensive--not only because of the price of a house (in SF too! eek!) but also because of the maintenance. My realtor told me that the rule of thumb is to set aside 1% of the price of the house EACH YEAR for home maintenance. If you don't spend it, save it, because there will be larger ticket items that come up later.

    As for your question, it's hard to find a handyman/contractor, and you are not alone. Even people who have owned a house for decades have a hard time finding a good handyman. Especially right now everyone is stuck at home and doing home improvements, so it's almost impossible to get a contractor. A good place to start is to ask the realtor who sold you the house to recommend people. Realtors have to make repairs all the time, and they are usually happy to share their referrals with their clients. Next, ask all your neighbors, friends, and relatives, and check on nextdoor (dot) com for recommendations within your neighborhood. Keep a list.

    I have also had VERY good experiences working with TaskRabbit for smaller jobs. I usually pick the Elite ones, and often if I have a choice, I pick women. They have all been excellent. TaskRabbits cost more than hiring a handyman directly, but it means someone will commit to coming out to your house even for a very small job, which many contractors won't do. If you really like the TaskRabbit often they will give you their card and you can hire them directly, but be aware that TaskRabbit covers damages if the handyman breaks something in your house. Most handymen don't offer that kind of assurance. So if you are totally new to this game, I'd stick within the TaskRabbit network for the first few jobs.

    As for your jobs, definitely pick your battles. If you can still close the French Doors, leave them. They will unstick when the weather changes again. Your shower sounds like a very expensive problem that you'll need a contractor for, and be warned, when they open up the floor and the wall I'd bet they will find more problems and it will cost more. For now, maybe get a TaskRabbit to recaulk and seal off the tub so the problem doesn't get worse. Then ask around for a contractor referral to fix the wood around the area, just be ready for some sticker shock. You should also see if your home owners insurance that you bought when you purchased the house will cover some of the water damage. Good luck!

    RE: Medium-sized home repairs? ()

    Hi, If you're looking for a good General Contractor I would happily recommend Emanuel with BuildMark. They did an amazing job on my kitchen and bathroom remodel, very happy with the outcome. I do live in Berkeley area, so I am not sure if he works in the city, but doesn't hurt to contact him and ask. His phone number is 510-484 5765 or email emanuel [at] buildmarkinc.com
    Hope this helps!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

When to use a handyman

April 1999

Since I use many different service providers to do work on an apartment building I thought I would pass along some advice. Handymen are great for the right jobs. Their prices are cheap (usually $20-$25 an hour) and they are willing to do work that is usually not desired by a general contractor: Things such as installing a light fixture, fixing a phone jack or light plumbing. My experience has been that their attention to detail is somewhat lacking and I don't use them to do anything that requires precision work (laying carpet, laying tile, carpentry, etc.) I know there are handymen that have these skills but this has been my experience. Precision jobs require people that have specific skills and expertise and they will charge accordingly. My advice for using a handyman if you haven't before is to first have them do something rather simple in order to test their competence and skill. As you get to know them over time you'll discover what they are best at and where their weaknesses are. If they botch a simple job you can mark it up to experience and continue your search for someone with the right skills for your job. -- Kathy