By Lisa Flueckiger, Contributing Reporter

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Most apartments in Rio date from the 1950s and 1960s, and so when moving in to a rental or a newly purchased home, some renovation work is often called for. As a foreigner without a lot of personal contacts (or a full grasp of Portuguese), finding specialists to conduct everything from small repairs and installation to full-scale renovations can be a challenge.

Renovations and repairs, photo by James Lomas.
Major renovations work conducted in a Rio apartment, photo by James Lomas.

A popular route for many is asking the “porteiro” (building door/maintenance man), which should find someone trustworthy, but often they will not speak English. There is also little guarantee for the quality of work, especially for larger jobs.

“For me the good [handymen, builders] are the ones that are recommended through architects and professional contacts as opposed to your porteiro and they are expensive, but you get a good professional job,” James Lomas, from real estate investment firm Indigo tells The Rio Times.

As far as the language, “I haven’t found any English speaking builders at all. […] It’s a steep learning curve for construction terminology in Portuguese, [but] otherwise you just get left behind and subsequently, if you can’t explain what you want you will get ripped off or have the work not done quite as you wanted.”

For smaller “handyman” projects, a comprehensive solution is offered by the Marido de Aluguel (Rent-a-Husband) company. They cover services from hydraulic and electrical works, painting, gas installation and masonry, as well as installing air conditioners and putting up curtain rails.

They can be contacted via telephone at 3565-8025 or by email and will then schedule an appointment at your convenience. The company’s administrative assistant shares that they have personnel who speak English, but for English it “would be best to contact them via email.”

Finding the right people to conduct house renovations can be difficult, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil News
Finding the right people to conduct house renovations can be difficult, photo by Adrian Pingstone/Wikimedia Creative Commons License.

Sergio Roberto Santos, Marido de Aluguel’s technical supervisor, explains their business model as follows, “We serve businesses and residences; the client schedules one day and period in the morning, afternoon or during business hours, we send a professional who evaluates the needed service and the price and when it is approved by the client, it will be completed immediately.”

Diane Macedo experienced the company as reliable, when she had a problem in her bathroom. “[The handyman] arrived at 8AM on the dot – which, needless to say made an excellent impression – he worked fast and well and then charged something like R$40!” she tells The Rio Times.

Another option is “Dr. House” George Davison, a handyman who works in Barra da Tijuca and Zona Sul (South Zone) and is fluent in English. Davison will do “everything you need,” he said. This includes works from painting, plumbing, installing washing machines and hanging up pictures to installing home theaters and TVs, fixing appliances and doing woodwork.

Mr. Davison explains that he is mostly contacted before people move into a new place in Rio and asked to make everything ready for them, installing all appliances and making the necessary changes to the apartment. Davison can be contacted by phone at 9504-2899 or 8535-2520 or via email.

Expatriate Elyssa LeFevre Chayo had a great experience with Davison when remodeling her apartment, as he understood the needs of foreigners, such as wanting hot water in the entire kitchen. “George is handyman gold for the expat community. (…) He’s good, so he’s sometimes difficult to get, but when we had an emergency, he managed to come right over to help. He doesn’t charge an outlandish ‘gringo price’ either,” she continues.


  1. The Rio Times can create a list for all residents (locals and foreign residents) in the city of rio de janeiro, where trustworthy/licence contracters can list their name (for a small fee), name of business, what they do,contact information, perhaps prices, a space where people recommend him/her or not etc etc. A great example is in the US…angieslist.

  2. Or, do as I did with my 1950’s apartment in Praia do Flamengo, I did it myself, the problem I had was sourcing materials. If I couldn’t find it in Rio, I brought it back on my next trip to UK. You don’t have to become a Brasilian when you move to Brasil, your hands can still do more than phone a contractor. Says he who took all his 1950’s door hardware back to UK to be re-chromed! Yes, my Brasilian friends thought I was crazy, but they all asked me to do jobs in their homes. Best tip, buy all your screws, fittings etc. and drill bits outside, better quality and much cheaper. Good luck to anyone thinking of DIY, it is possible with a little help from a builder when knocking down walls!!!

  3. Juan Felipe Guzman is also very handy, pleasant, delivers more than you ask for, and speaks english!… he installed my hot tub on my terrace and did a beautiful deck around it, he also remodeled the servant’s quarters into an extra guest suite and opened a window in the the wall between the kitchen and dining/living area to bring light into the food prep counter/bar and finished by painting the whole apartment very neatly for a great price! He may be found on Facebook and his mobile is: 9481-8819


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

eighteen − eleven =