So maddening. The glitches. A flickering bathroom light. How long has it been doing that? The unopened flat pack in the shed. Pictures that cost an eye-watering sum to frame but are still waiting to be hung. One year on. These aren’t just snags. They’re snide little reminders that you’re Not. Quite. Coping. The root of weekend arguments and stubbed toes. Get someone in we say. Who? These guys. We’ve found 20 great handymen personally recommended to us. They’ll mend the wobbly bits, build the other stuff and make things feel a bit less broken.
1. Have-a-Go Hero: Martin Grogan, Sutton Coldfield
Your pet hedgehog gets stuck under the dishwasher (true story). It panics and spikes up. Who to call? Martin, a.k.a the House Martin. And yes he saved the day. This, we’re told, is typical of his can-do (pretty much anything) approach. When he’s not saving endangered wildlife he’ll tackle most jobs big and small. He’s been doing this for more than 30 years so he knows his stuff. From fitting a shower to mending a flushless loo or creating a garden pond, he’s on it. He’ll even install a fountain.
Charge: £28 an hour / 07949 448 786 (www.housemartinservices.com)
2. Handywoman Whizz: Spruce Handywoman (Angie Clemson), Sheffield
Angie loves a list– who doesn’t? If you book her she’ll make you list everything you want doing no matter how small. That way she can really pack the jobs in. As well as hooks, pictures and so on she’ll bring her mower and sort your garden. She does bathroom refits too – she’s just finished one for ex-Green Party leader Natalie Bennett. She has a degree in design and technology and taught in a university for a while, but this is her best job ever. Yes, she gets men in transit vans gesticulating idiotic things when they see her handywoman van. But Angie gets the last laugh. More than 90% of her customers are women so she’s found herself a niche, is in constant demand and loves it.
Charge: £25 an hour or £65 for a half day / 07929 139 566
3. Old-School Odd-Jobber: Jonathan Parker, Norwich
His motto is ‘Honest helpful handyman’ and – for once – you get what it says on the tin. An old-fashioned man-about-the-house, Jonathan turned his lifelong DIY skills into a profession when he was made redundant in his 50s. He isn’t interested in renovating or refurbishing your place, but he’ll tackle any odd jobs you want to throw at him. As well as hanging mirrors, putting up shelves and smoke alarms you could try him on the garden too. He’ll cut overgrown grass and hedges, put up fencing and guttering, no problem. *cries with relief*
Charge: £20 an hour (depending on the job) / 07715 358 445
4. The Handy Hunk: Duncan Haynes, West London
West London-based Duncan Haynes always vacuums the place afterwards, we’re told. Nice. But can he fix stuff? Very well. He’ll do all the usual small bits like adding an extra socket, mending cupboards and hanging a shelf, but he’ll do bigger work like flooring an attic too. Duncan is, how do we put this politely, easy on the eye too. Our spy says her mother-in-law always pops round when he’s booked in. He once was flagged in The Sun newspaper as “Dunc the Hunk”… “A knight on the tiles”… We’ll stop now.
Charge: £60 for the first hour then £40 after that / 07971 046 553 (www.handy-haynes.co.uk)
5. The DIY Master: Chris Rice, London
Bit of a guru, this one. He has over 30 years under his tool belt and it shows. From changing light bulbs and hanging things to basic plumbing and whole refurbishments, he was recommended to us by four different Midults, no less. He travels all over South London and Surrey. Or if you fancy actually learning to do some of this stuff, you could enrol in the home improvements course he teaches at Sutton College, £120 for 10 two-hour sessions, covering everything from hanging a picture to wallpapering a room.
Charge: £35 an hour / 07957 901 166 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
6. Dr Fix It: Clive Overlander, London
Clive really does answer to Dr Fix It (so his mum can say, “My son, the doctor”). Fixit by name, fixit by nature, he does the jobs you don’t want to, from flat packs to fridge repairs. Before this he was a BBC film editor and optician practice manager, so when he says, “I’ll try my hand at most things,” we believe him. He works mostly around North West London and is a gem, sometimes refusing to take money from old ladies whose light bulbs he’s changed. He was once paid to pick 1,000 blobs of Blu Tac off a ceiling so we reckon he’s pretty patient too.
Charge: £38 an hour / 0208 959 8091
7. The Shrink: Albert Smith, London
He’s from Latvia, his name is Albert Smith but he calls himself Alex as apparently we Brits can’t say ‘Albert’. A handyman for over 20 years he’s skilled in 8 trades including plumbing, carpentry and painting. There’s nothing about your house he doesn’t understand. Up for travelling all over London, he’ll come out at 2am if you’ve got a leaking pipe. A bit of a Renaissance man, he’s also a photographer, loves fashion, architecture and was a youth priest. Did we mention he’s a psychologist? After years of hearing clients talk about their problems he started studying psychology, specialising in depression. “It has become part of what I do,” he says. “My passion is to help people in whatever way I can.” Be it via your mind or broken shower head.
Charge: £69.50 an hour / 07894 014 999
8. The Rockstar: Neal, Bristol
Fitting stair gates and picture frames are his bread and butter but he’ll stretch to putting in a new bathroom. He was a wood machinist and window fitter so carpentry is his strong point. His prices are great for Bristol. And if you don’t need any shelves fitting, you could book him for a gig. A bit of a local rockstar, he’s a guitarist with the Emperials, ‘The South West’s favourite ska band’ who play in pubs and festival. He’s built a recording studio in his attic and does a bit of web design too. Plus he’s the most easy-going, chatty chap out West.
Charge: £45 for the first hour then £15 after that / 07786 616 359 (email@example.com)
9. The Marriage Mediator: Johnny Haik, London
He gets many married woman calling him to moan about how useless their husbands are. “I’m a second husband to some clients,” he explains. So when things get heated in a ‘Why the hell haven’t you done the things on the list?’ kind of way he’ll step in and do them. He’ll do whatever it takes. His dad was a builder so he grew up living and breathing this work. As well as the odd job stuff he’ll do plumbing, electrics, tiling and has just done a big refurbishment on a 3-bedroom semi in North London. He covers all of Hertfordshire. Bit of a workaholic this one and energetic too, so you get a lot for your money.
Charge: £45 plus VAT an hour / 07845 359 125
10. The Thrifty Northerner: Phil Starkey, York
A real Mr Nice Guy, Phil does his fair share of flat pack building and hanging pictures though these jobs are such a piece of cake for him he feels bad charging for them. Don’t be surprised if he tries telling you how to do the job yourself to save you some cash. As well as fitting bathrooms and kitchens, 13 years with an electrical company means he’s a whizz with electrics and basic plumbing. He’ll travel out of town if need be and his charges are, frankly, too low. Though when a film crew was filming in the Artful Dodger Pub in town recently Phil was called to put a single screw into the wall and they paid him £50 for the task, which tickles his Yorkshire humour.
Charge: £15 an hour / 07826 847 596
11. King of the Castle: Max, London
Max is a rock. He’s reliable, has skills coming out of his ears, knows how your house works inside out and comes up with great ideas you’d never have thought of. He’s building his own house in his spare time which is encouraging. Some guys don’t get why you want that picture moved up one inch. Or why that light switch simply can’t be in that place. Max does. He’s interested in what you’re doing and why. Better still he’s a down-to-earth bloke you can talk to without having to slip into your awkward builder-chat voice. When friends tell us, “We’ve got Max,” we know all will be well.
Charge: Call for quote / 07077877577 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
12. Makeover Man: Graham Houliston, Edinburgh
He’s the toast of many an Edinburgh-based Midult having just transformed a Mid Man’s one-time man cave into a charming couple’s corner. Graham is an all-rounder, fine to fix handles and hang pictures but also good on the big stuff like kitchen refitting. He’ll stretch to roofing and has just built a beautiful cedar greenhouse at the Botanical Gardens, if you want to think big. Midults are his mainstay. They’re working so hard they don’t want to spend weekends doing DIY, he says. So he does it for them. Apart from flat packs. There he draws the line.
Charge: minimum £50 plus VAT an hour / 01316 644 356 (email@example.com)
13. Go-to Glaswegian: Mark Lavery, Glasgow
Some guys hate the bitty stuff, the whole ‘Oh while you’re here there’s this shelf/flickering light/wonky handle’, but Mark is up for anything. “Big stuff, little stuff, throw it at me,” he says. He worked for a big building contractor then in double-glazing which is where he learned the joinery. All his other handy skills he acquired with a bit of nouse and some courses. Distance isn’t a big issue and he’d hit the road if you were offering a good few hours of work. Best thing about Mark? When he walks away he leaves you a happy customer. Every time. He’s never had a complaint in three years, a record he’s fiercely proud of.
Charge: £25 an hour (net yourself a deal if you want longer) / 07891 328 421
14. Mr Nice Guy: John, London
Our source called John to change those fiddly recessed spotlights which you’d think he’d sneer at seeing as he’s building an entire cottage. But no. He’s fine to build your Billy bookcase or fix your doorbell because the way he sees it, the little jobs lead to bigger ones. Plus that’s where he started out, doing odd jobs and he’s keen to stick to his roots. So hooks turn into bathroom installations which may one day become a three-bedroom house refurbishment. He’ll travel all over North West London if the job’s right. Get him to paint, he’s a dab hand as decorating is where he started out. He’s sociable and decent, someone you’d welcome into your home with open arms.
Charge: £140 plus VAT for a day / 07813 130 253
15. The Local Legend: Mike Baker, London
A bit of a local favourite, Mike has lived in West London all his life and he doesn’t need to stray far from the nest to find work. His many regulars talk of him in reverential tones and one of our sources practically had to undergo water torture to even hand over his details, lest his notoriety become too widely known. He’ll put a flat pack together, do carpentry, and painting jobs big and small. When it comes to big refurbs, he knows all the best plumbers, electricians and so on you’ll need. He knows everyone and is an incredible source of local knowledge about everyone and everything. All in all, a cracking old-school local handyman.
Charge: No set rate, he insists on seeing the job first for a realistic quote but is reasonably priced / 07830 222 127
16. Moonlighting Man: Dave, Leeds
If Dave had his time again he’d have done this 20 years ago. He fits the handyman work around his day job for the council to earn some extra cash and genuinely loves DIY. To him it’s a hobby. He’s genuinely mystified that some of us ‘can’t be bothered’ to put a flat pack together but is happy to help. Hanging a mirror, putting down flooring, Dave will tackle most odd jobs. He’ll go anywhere around Leeds, mostly on weekdays and in the evenings. He’s been single for a few years now and this has become a bit of a social life for him too, as he’s a friendly guy who loves to chat.
Charge: £35 for the first hour then £20 after that or £120 for a day / 07784 246 370
17. The Force for Good: Chris, Reading
We’re in awe of Chris. A policeman for 30 years, he has an air of authority that’s rare in a handyman. He’s done DIY all his life so putting up a curtain rail, painting a room or mowing the lawn are second nature. The man’s an optimist – and honest. When he underestimates how long a job will take (often) he sticks to his original quote. As when a recent one hour stairgate job turned into a 7-hour marathon (dodgy builders having done a shabby masonry job, if you must know). Chris works for Trust in Blue, which matches retired police officers with handyman jobs. A useful caution in case you want to give your place the once-over before he arrives.
Charge: No set fee, quotes tailored to the job / 0800 255 0255 (www.trustinblue.com)
N.B. www.trustinblue.com also lists other handymen around the country
18. Do-It-All Developer: Keith Wheeler, Tunbridge Wells
He may be based in Kent but Keith is a Londoner born and bred and thinks nothing of going as far as North London for a day’s work. A carpenter by trade, he’ll do anything from putting up a hook to rebuilding your kitchen. Anything he can’t do, he knows a man who can and has endless electricians, plumbers and other tradesmen at his fingertips. Sharp as a tack, Keith’s a bit of a property whizz – he and his partner do up a house every 18 months and he’s about to sell his latest. “There’s not much I can’t do,” he says.
Charge: £230 a day (he doesn’t stop for lunch) though he prefers to quote for jobs. Around £27.50 an hour for small jobs / 07786 575 062
19. The Keen Machine: Stephen Galloway, London
A ball of energy this one, he’s nowhere near 30 but already has a ton of electrical and building experience in his tool box. He has a 6-year-old, will travel wherever the work is even if that means crossing London to get to it and his evenings are spent packing in the handyman jobs to make some extra cash. He won’t turn his nose up at putting together a flat pack but he’s more than skilled in the loft conversion department too. Nothing is a problem for Stephen. He’s easy going, conscientious and will call a spade a spade.
Charge: Minimum £40 a job, quotes on application / 07740 796 534 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
20. P.S. FlatPack Favourites
Why this urge to build every piece of furniture ourselves? So dull. Then we found www.weloveflatpacks.co.uk. And they do. You put in the job and your address and it gives you a quote. A bright young thing arrived with his tools, shut himself in the bedroom, shoved his headphones on and sat building our chest of drawers. Two hours later he emerged, took payment and disappeared into the night. Magic. We love weloveflatpacks.
Charge: POA online / www.weloveflatpacks.co.uk