Types of jobs in carpentry (with role and responsibilities)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 26 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Carpentry offers a wide range of jobs for people with different skills and interests. Carpenters apply diverse skills and use various materials and equipment to build or repair houses and other structures, wooden fittings and furniture. If you enjoy creating or restoration work, you may find a career in specialist carpentry a good fit for you. In this article, we review six types of jobs in carpentry and the role requirements and provide other information about the field of carpentry.

What are the different types of jobs in carpentry?

There are a number of types of jobs in carpentry, and these entail building structures or items from different kinds of timber and related materials. This includes rough carpentry, which covers the basic frames for a structure, and finish carpentry, which involves the structure surrounding the frame, such as cabinets and doors. Rough carpentry typically requires less training and experience than finish carpentry. There are different types of specialist jobs in the field of carpentry:

  • Commercial or residential carpenter. These carpenters specialise in structures for commercial, industrial or residential projects. This may include roof rafters and structural framework, floors, custom-made doors, built-in furniture, cabinets and other fittings and fixtures.

  • Cabinet maker. A cabinet maker designs and constructs cupboards and cabinets, including customised and made-to-measure fixtures.

  • Trim carpenter. These artisans instal and repair the trim and moulding surrounding doors, windows and floors. They may also create customised trim and moulding.

  • Joiner. Joiners create detailed bespoke items, such as doors and furniture.

  • Master carpenter. Their work involves all aspects of carpentry, including rough and finished construction and repair and remodelling work.

Related: What does a carpenter do? (Plus skills)

Carpenter qualifications

There's no legal requirement for certification, but many carpenters begin their careers as apprentices or complete a college programme that includes both theory and practical experience within a workshop. An aspiring carpenter may take specific subjects, such as woodwork, mechanical drawing or applied mathematics, in high school. They may choose to enrol in a programme covering professional or DIY carpentry, gain certification in occupational health and safety or complete an Associate's Degree in Carpentry. An apprenticeship is another option and provides on-the-job training and practical experience.

Carpenters require a comprehensive knowledge of building codes, safety regulations and industry best practices. Those working in the construction industry may require a National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) Level 2 or 3, perhaps in site carpentry, to obtain a Construction Site Certification Scheme (CSCS) card, which is proof that they have the appropriate training and qualifications to work on-site.

Related: What is a carpentry apprenticeship? (Including related FAQ)

Carpenter responsibilities

Most carpenters follow blueprints or plans to complete a client's project. They select the appropriate quantities of high-quality timber and other materials. Their work includes measuring and using hand tools and power tools to cut and shape materials according to the plans. They also comply with safety guidelines to avoid personal injury or property damage. On some work sites, they wear appropriate safety gear, such as steel-capped boots, hard hats, protective eyewear and high-visibility vests. Here we explore six specialist carpenter roles and their primary duties:

1. Commercial carpenter

National average salary: £35,348 per year

Primary duties: A commercial carpenter interprets construction plans and blueprints and uses specialist power tools to provide professional carpentry services during the construction phase of commercial or industrial buildings, such as factories, hospitals, shopping centres, transport hubs or power plants. They may erect and instal a building framework with the aid of cranes and rigging equipment. They may also work with other materials, including steel and concrete.

Related: How to write a carpenter CV (with examples)

2. Residential carpenter

National average salary: £41,913 per year

Primary duties: A residential carpenter focuses on the interior of homes. This includes framework, internal partitions and flooring assembly and installation. They also instal windows, doors and cupboards.

3. Cabinet maker

National average salary: £32,884 per year

Primary duties: A cabinet maker builds according to a customer's specifications, whilst making every effort to complete the project within the client's budget. They measure the interior space accurately and draw up a list of the materials and tools they require to complete the work. They provide the client with original drawings of what the finished project is going to look like, together with an estimate of the project cost.

4. Trim carpenter

National average salary: £34,348 per year

Primary duties: A trim carpenter produces detailed wooden structures, which often entails cutting, shaving, shaping and polishing. They trim mouldings and frames to fit on uneven surfaces and ensure that windows and doors are level. They also apply wood stains, varnishes and attachments, such as handles and hinges.

5. Joiner

National average salary: £27,428 per year

Primary duties: A joiner typically creates or repairs made-to-measure timber doors and window frames and bespoke cabinets, cupboards, chests, tables and other furniture. These items often involve intricate carving or patterns. They typically work off-site in their own workshop, transporting the finished items to the site for installation.

Related: How to become a joiner (plus skills and responsibilities)

6. Master carpenter

National average salary: £35,348 per year

Primary duties: Master carpenters build frames for houses and roofs and construct entire timber buildings, such as sheds and cabins. They build the frames for drywall, doors, fitted cupboards and cabinets and instal stairs, including the rails, posts and bannisters. They also provide maintenance, repair and replacement services for existing features that may have incurred damage or become unsafe due to age or misuse. A master carpenter typically has several years of experience in the industry, often including an apprenticeship followed by at least two years as a journeyman carpenter.

Related: Carpenter CV template: A guide with tips and example

Valuable carpenter skills

Carpenters require both manual and interpersonal skills. They develop and hone these skills through experience and often by working with a master carpenter. Here are several important skills for any carpenter:

  • Attention to detail. This helps the carpenter order the correct materials and accurately measure each piece to ensure that all assembled components fit together properly.

  • Maths proficiency. Carpenters employ their maths capabilities to take accurate measurements and create design plans. They also use maths to provide an accurate estimate of the project cost for the client.

  • Problem-solving. This ability helps a carpenter to make alternative plans, for instance, to hire a generator if there's no electricity on-site or call in a subcontractor, such as a plumber or an electrician, to deal with any non-carpentry issues. Their problem-solving ability also helps them to make adjustments or modifications to accommodate a client's request to change something.

  • Creative thinking. A carpenter often applies creative thinking to envisage how to ensure a finished product may fit into a restricted or irregular shaped space.

  • Communication. Carpenters communicate with clients, suppliers, sub-contractors and teammates, it's essential that all communications are clear and understood.

  • Strength and stamina. Carpenters require both these skills, since the job requires standing or bending for long periods, climbing ladders or scaffolding and carrying heavy materials and equipment.

  • Organisation and time management. These skills help a carpenter to allocate sufficient time to complete each stage of a project, monitor its progress and order materials or expedite late orders.

  • Business skills. Self-employed carpenters utilise their business skills to bid competitively on new projects, monitor materials inventory and schedule their work commitments.

  • Power tool usage. Competency in using a wide range of power tools and keeping them in good condition is essential to ensure personal and site safety.

Benefits of a carpentry role

There are many benefits to choosing a career in carpentry, including:

  • Workplace variety. A carpenter may work indoors or outdoors and in a variety of settings, such as a construction site, an industrial estate, a commercial property or a private home. Some specialist carpenters, such as joiners and cabinet makers, may work primarily from home in their own workshops.

  • Job choices. The field of carpentry offers a variety of job options. You may choose which specialist carpentry role to apply for, depending on factors like location, workplace environment or employment status.

  • Flexibility. A carpenter may be a self-employed contractor or a member of a construction team. They may choose to work full time, part-time or flexitime to enable a healthy work-life balance.

  • Fulfilling career. Carpenters typically experience a high level of job satisfaction. The process of creating a customised product can be both rewarding and satisfying.

Safety information for self-employed carpenters

It's beneficial for self-employed carpenters to protect themselves against financial losses due to legal action by taking out a public liability insurance policy. This covers any person on-site against accidental injury and includes damage to property. There are optional extras, such as tool and equipment cover.

According to the British Woodworking Federation, there's quite a high rate of injury in the carpentry profession. Self-employed carpenters can take out insurance against loss of income with an income protection policy. This covers you if you're unable to work due to illness or injury and pays you a regular income until you return to work.

Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on the quoted websites at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Related:

  • What is a carpentry apprenticeship? (Including related FAQs)


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