What Is a Carpenter?

Carpentry
Additions and Remodels
Cabinets and Countertops
By Contractors.com Team June 09, 2021

Woodworking is one of the main professions of the construction industry, and for good reason. Carpenters have a very important role in the construction of all manner of things, from homes to tables. A skilled woodworker is essential for the success of projects big and small, and any project that involves working with wood will probably need one. 

With that in mind, it’s important to understand what a carpenter is, what they do, and how they can be of help in your next big project. 

What Is a Carpenter? 

Woodworking is a historic profession that requires a lot of skill and experience to do right.  Carpenters are responsible for constructing, installing, and repairing structures that are made using wood. 

Projects A Carpenter Can Work On

They can be involved in a huge range of projects, from something as simple as building home furniture to the construction of complex bridges. In many ways, a carpenter is a builder and a contractor in one because they have to take a client’s blueprints or instructions and use their expertise to translate these wishes into a physical structure. 

Skill Level Required for a Carpenter

There are multiple designations for carpenters that define their skill level. A master carpenter is essentially a carpenter who is at the top of their game, and whose work is of a high standard and quality. While German and Japanese carpenters must go through an intense government-run test to be certified as master carpenters, North American carpenters are usually recognized as masters by their carpenter’s unions. Novice carpenters are sometimes referred to as apprentices, and those with middling skills are called journeyman carpenters. These of course are general terms and aren’t on their own directly indicative of the skill of a woodworker.       

Projects You Might Need to Hire a Carpenter For

Projects You Might Need to Hire a Carpenter For

What Does a Carpenter Do? 

Also known as woodworkers, carpenters are experts at cutting and shaping wood with tools such as chisels, saws, sanders, and hammers. Common jobs for a carpenter include framing a house, building a staircase, building a roof structure, formwork, trim work, cabinet installation, paneling, and much more. In general, a carpenter's purview can be divided into three areas: woodworking, finish carpentry, and rough carpentry.

Woodworking refers to the various nuances of cutting and shaping wood when building a structure. Finish carpentry is a pretty common skill used in home improvement work, because it entails trim work, the installation of paneling, building decks, and the installation of fixtures. Rough carpentry is larger in scale and refers to anything big like framing a house or building other structures of grander scale. Many carpenters will choose to specialize in one of these areas, but general or “residential” carpenters will be well versed in all woodwork that can take place in the home.   

What Does a Carpenter Do

What Does a Carpenter Do

When Do You Need a Carpenter? 

There are a number of home improvement projects which will require a carpenter in addition to contractors and other craftsmen. 

Home Renovation

Over the course of a home renovation, a carpenter’s main job will be to bring your wants and needs into the real world. Whether it's a new staircase, custom furniture, modernized trim, or a number of different projects, they will start by drawing up some rough plans. Once these plans have been revised and perfected, your woodworker will begin the construction and installation process.

Depending on what you want to build, this may require cooperating with contractors, craftsmen, and laborers to bring the blueprint to life.  

Kitchen and Bathroom Cabinets

For example, after taking down your preferences and devising a blueprint for your bathroom or kitchen cabinets and trim, your carpenter will coordinate with a plumber and/or electrician. This will ensure that the cabinet design makes room for plumbing and wiring so that installation goes off without a hitch.  

There are trim carpenters, framing carpenters, and even those that specialize in custom-made furniture. These are usually referred to as finish carpenters and are the best people to get in touch with if you want some custom cabinets for living room furniture built. 

When You Might Consider Hiring a Carpenter

When You Might Consider Hiring a Carpenter

Roofs and Walls

Alternatively, if you hire a carpenter to insert a wall partition in one of your rooms, or to work on the framing of your roof, it will require cooperation with other professionals. Since major changes to the roof can affect the structural integrity of the home, a woodworker will have to work with a structural contractor to ensure that the modifications do not cause structural problems. Your carpenter may also work with electricians and plumbers, especially if making changes to the structure or walls of your home will also affect wiring and plumbing.

Why Do You Need a Carpenter?

For Peace of Mind

Of course, this is all a question of safety and what you are comfortable taking on yourself. Some DIY projects, such as building furniture or installing cabinetry may not require a carpenter. However, if you want to be sure that you get a quality installation, or if the job is something significantly more complex, it's a good idea to get a woodworker involved. Complex jobs, such as framing a home or building a staircase can be dangerous if they are not done with necessary precautions. 

A carpenter will know how to take on these jobs in a way that ensures everything is done safely and correctly. At the end of the day, you can’t really put a price on peace of mind, and that’s one reason why carpenters come in handy. Much like a contractor, a carpenter will know the building codes of their area, and therefore will make sure that any work done is permitted and up to code. That’s a big advantage because it means you get to avoid costly penalties and fines that can come from building without a permit.     

License and Insurance

There are different laws and regulations regarding a carpenter’s practice in each of the fifty states. Some states may require a carpenter to be licensed and to hold proof of insurance, especially for projects worth more than $25,000 or $50,000. Other states also require contractors to register with the state’s department of labor, in which case an online database may be available which allows you to verify whether your carpenter is properly registered and insured. However, certain states may not have any requirements for contractors at all. You can check this list to see what the specific requirements are for your state.  

How Much Do They Cost? 

The base hourly rate for a carpenter can be as low as $35 an hour and as high as $100 an hour. This means that the average home carpentry services will total between $200 and $900. Simpler projects, such as repairing a door, can cost as little as $100, whereas a more complex project such as framing a house will exceed $3,000. The final cost you pay depends on the local labor and material costs in your area, the difficulties or complexities of your project, as well as travel costs.

In other words, if your carpenter has to travel a long way to get to you, or if your project has a lot of complicating factors, this tends to drive up the rates. Some carpenters will charge you by job rather than by hourly rate, and this is mostly based on preference. Another huge determinant of what you pay is the skillset of the carpenter you hire. The average hourly rate is $125 for a master carpenter, and the rate for general carpenters and those specializing in specific skills generally ranges between $20 and $35 per hour.

How to Choose the Best Carpenter For You

How to Choose the Best Carpenter For You

Special projects (building custom furniture, fixtures, or flooring) tend to be the priciest you can hire a woodworker for. On average, a carpenter will charge $4,900 to build some custom cabinets and will charge around the same for hardwood floor installation. 

How to Choose the Right One for You? 

In most cases, a general carpenter will be all that you need to get your woodwork project underway since they will likely have the prerequisite skills you’re looking for. The main way to determine if a carpenter is right for you is to talk to them about their experience, their pricing, and what they specialize in. If you can, look over a portfolio of their previous work so you can get an idea of what kind of work they’ve completed. If you want, you can even go the extra mile and ask for referrals from previous customers for that extra peace of mind. 

Other Things to Consider 

Compare Quotes:

Before deciding on which carpenter to hire, be sure to get at least two or three quotes from different journeyman carpenters so that you have an idea of the price ranges in your area. This way you can find the rate that best fits your budget. When you first meet with a carpenter, be sure to have your plans and requirements clearly laid out so that you can get a more accurate quote and timeline.  

Maintain an Open Line of Communication With Your Carpenter:

This is important because it makes the carpenter’s job easier and also helps you to be informed as a customer. Be sure to clearly communicate your wishes and expectations. Ask a carpenter what materials they intend to use for your project and do some research on those materials and warranties. Ask your carpenter why they use these materials and what their experience with them is. This will help establish a rapport and will also inform you about your carpenter’s skills and ethics.  

Keep an Eye On Things:

This doesn’t mean that you should be constantly breathing down your carpenter’s neck, but be sure to check in with them from time to time as your project progresses. This way you can make sure that your contractor is doing the job you both agreed to and that you’re both communicating with each other during all stages of the project. 

Put Things in Writing:

Any agreement should put the costs, rates, and requirements of both parties involved in writing. This formalizes any agreement reached and protects both parties from fraud.

Written by
Contractors.com Team

Written by Contractors.com Team

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