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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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News >  Pacific NW

The little things

By Joel Martin Columbia Basin Herald

MOSES LAKE – It’s not a very big job you’ve got in front of you. A fence with a few holes, a door to replace, something like that. Maybe you’re not very skilled in at-home repairs, or maybe you just don’t have time to do it yourself, but the project’s just not big enough to be worth bringing in a general contractor for. So you call a handyman.

“Here in Washington, according to the RCW, a handyman can do a job as long as it’s under $2,000,” said Logan Hickle of the Better Business Bureau in Spokane. There are some things they can’t do, he added, like electrical or plumbing, unless they have the appropriate licenses.

Hickle said a handyman is the professional to go to for jobs that involve simple things like fixing a window, repairing a hole in a wall with spackle, or other simple jobs that come up.

“But if we get in the realm of laying concrete, slabs, installing bathtubs, anything like that, the consumer is going to want to reach out to a specialist for that, because that’s probably going to go over that $2,000 mark,” Hickle said.

“I like to do the little things,” said Moses Lake handyman Robert Heslop, who does business as RH Repair. “That makes it easier so that I can actually get it done and get it out of the way. I don’t want to do huge remodels or any of that kind of stuff.”

Heslop is listed with the Better Business Bureau, which is a good way to find a handyman or any other home maintenance professional, Hickle said. The state also keeps license records, he added.

“Honestly, the best way when it comes to any type of trade job, whether it’s a handyman, whether it’s complete general contractor, or if you’re specializing, maybe it’s a roofer, or plumber, or electrician, just look at,” said Hickle. “Also, check to see if they’re a verified contractor license in the state of Washington. That would be with Washington Labor and Industries. You can always check that online.”

Heslop gets referrals from the online resource Angi, formerly known as Angie’s List, he said, but that site takes a fee for each referral which makes the jobs less appealing, he said.

Checking the history of any professional, regardless of project size, is important, Hickle said, because it’s very easy to be fleeced by an unscrupulous operator. Check that the handyman is licensed, insured and bonded, he said, before even considering hiring them.

“You just want to make sure that they have all their I’s dotted and their T’s crossed because you want to make sure that they’re not gonna walk off with anything,” he said.

One red flag, Hickle said, is when a handyman asks for money down, and then asks for more money before starting on the project. Another is if the handyman asks the customer to pull permits from the city or county, rather than doing it himself and charging it back to the customer.

“If a handyman is asking you to pull a permit for them or file for a permit, you need to take a step back and re-evaluate what the size of the job is, and what is actually getting done. Because if it’s big enough for a permit, that’s probably going to fall outside of a handyman service,” he said.

The need for a permit is usually a sign that the job the homeowner wants done is really more in the realm of what a general contractor, electrician, plumber or other more-strictly licensed professional should be doing, he added.

Both Hickle and Heslop said that analyzing the job in advance is beneficial all around.

Heslop said not planning in advance is one of the ways that customers end up with costlier bills than they need to.

“Know what you want, so that you don’t have to try to figure it out after I’m there,” he said. “Remember that as much as I would love to, I can’t do it for love. And so it’s gonna cost you something. I had a lady that I was doing some work for down in Crescent Bar. That’s 50 miles one way, that’s 100 miles every day, that I had to drive down there. And she really got upset when I gave her the bill for the travel time.”

“You need to have it in writing,” said Hickle. “What is he supposed to be carrying out? What is that cost? What are the materials involved? What does that payment structure look like? How much is down as a deposit? How much is left? And then when is payment due? Is payment going to be due every two weeks (or) every month? How long is that project going to take? All those questions need to be asked ahead of time.”

Hickle emphasized that it’s better to check out multiple professionals than just to take the first name that comes up.

“We always suggest at the BBB that the consumer … get three quotes from different businesses,” he said. “And make sure that they’re always comparing apples to apples. If you go to one handyman and say ‘I need my gutters cleaned.’ And then you go to the second handyman and say ‘I need my gutters clean, my lawn mowed, weeds pulled,’ obviously now, that’s going to be very different.”In the end, character matters as much as skill, Heslop said.

“I take pride in being honest, thorough and dependable,” he said. “I’ll figure out whatever needs to be done, and if I can’t figure it out, then I’ll be more than happy to admit it to whomever and they can find somebody else.”

Joel Martin may be reached via email at

To vet a handyman, try these resources:

Better Business Bureau:

Wash. Labor and Industries:


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