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How Much Should you Tip a Handyman?

handyman tools

Tipping is loaded with stress and expectation.  Everyone wonders who they should tip, and who they shouldn’t, and how much, and when, and how.  Theoretically, tipping is provided to anyone who provides excellent service.  But some situations practically demand tipping, no matter how good or bad the service – your waiter – and others in which the idea of tipping is ludicrous – your oncologist.

There’s no one right answer, which is why if you ask someone, they’re likely to respond with something along the lines of, “Whatever feels right to you,” which is, of course, entirely unhelpful.  No matter which end of the transaction you’re on – tipper or tippee – confusion is rampant.

Tipping a handyman is a particularly thorny situation because so many of them are self-employed, which changes the rules.  But you can successfully navigate this treacherous territory!  Read on to learn more about how to tip your handyman.

To tip or not to tip – did you like what they did?

If you thought the service provided was above and beyond your expectations, or was done much faster than you believed possible, you should at least be thinking about tipping.  If he discovered a large, unexpected problem you were grateful to learn about, or if he let your three-year-old “help” install your new faucet, that should prompt you to think about tipping.  If anything about the encounter came as a pleasant surprise for you, it might warrant a tip for him.  But don’t feel like you need to tip if nothing extraordinary happened – this isn’t a restaurant situation.

handyman working on a jigsaw

You’ve decided you want to tip.  Now what?

You’ve probably heard that tradition dictates you do not tip the owner of a business.  The business owner is your social equal, goes the theory, and tips should only be given to those lower on the social ladder than you.  If you call Hal’s Hunky Handymen to have a ceiling fan installed, and Hal shows up to do it, you wouldn’t tip him – it’s insulting.  But if one of Hal’s employees shows up and does a great job, you can tip him.  The other idea behind tipping is to give something extra to the little guy, the employee who isn’t getting paid as much as the owner.  This is why tips often feel like something you give on the sly – you’re ostensibly hiding it from the boss man.

He’s not the business owner.  What are my tipping options?

Your average plumber or electrician isn’t expecting you to tip him regardless of whether he owns his own business.  But if he’s done something tip-worthy, there’s no reason not to hand him some extra cash.  If he’s done something truly remarkable, as much as $50 might be justified, but a more likely amount is in the $10-$20 range.  Below $10 is a little insulting.  There is no need to tip as a percentage of the job cost, either – no one is expecting that – because it could be a significant amount of money.

Amer Zaghlouleh, owner of says your average plumber or electrician isn’t expecting you to tip him regardless of whether he owns his own business.

handyman using a power drill

But I want to do something for a business owner I like – what can I do?

If you have a handyman in your home regularly but you don’t want to tip him because he’s his own boss, there are a few other ways you can express your gratitude.

  • Write a glowing online review. If you’re not sure where, just ask him.
  • Offer to act as a reference for his future clients.
  • Refer your friends to him.

If you decide that you want a more personal gesture, you might consider a bottle or two of wine, a batch of cookies around the holidays, or tickets to a ball game if you know he’s a fan.  But avoid a gift card – that’s too much like cash – unless it’s for something very specific or a shared interest that you’ve chatted about.


The idea of tipping your handyman for a job well done is an admirable one and in this era of slipping customer service standards, you want to be sure to reward a positive experience.  Tradition does dictate that business owners not be given tips, but if you know your handyman well, you might feel comfortable enough to flat out ask him: “I’d love to tip you – would you be ok with that?”  If he hems and haws, offer some of the above-listed non-cash ways to show your appreciation, but if his face lights up and he says, “You betcha!” then go ahead and hand him a $20.  You’ll sleep well at night knowing you did the right thing.

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