Carpenters are skilled craftspersons who work independently, in factories, with unions, or for general contractors. Carpenters use wood, plastic, fiberglass, drywall, and other materials to build or repair structures and other fixtures. Carpenters plan, construct, erect, install, and repair various buildings, structures, and boats. Carpenters can specialize their skills and perform only special woodworking construction depending upon the source of employment. Carpenters working for large contracting companies build wooden forms for poured concrete for tunnels, bridges, sewer, or other projects. These carpenters also install framing for structures, erect scaffolds, build braces in underground passageways or mines, and construct brattices.
Highly skilled carpenters may work within residential building, remodeling, or commercial construction, performing a multitude of tasks. Carpenters often work closely with or under the supervision of other general building contractors installing windows and doors, hanging cabinetry, or installing ceilings. Carpenters also replace glass, ceiling tiles, and doors. Some carpenters repair or construct desks, cabinets, and furniture. Carpenters may also form concrete molds or build frames for houses, garages, additions, and other structures. Though each project varies, carpenters often follow basic steps to build or repair structures. Carpenters follow instructions from supervisors and/or blueprints to design and build projects.
Carpenters follow local building codes to create layouts by measuring, marking, and arranging materials. Then, using a variety of hand and power tools, like chisels, planes, sanders, saws and drills, carpenters cut and mold materials. Carpenters then join the projects using nails, staples, glue, or other adhesives, checking accuracy with tape measures, levels, plumb bobs, surveying equipment, and framing squares. Carpenters then make any necessary adjustments to ensure precision and proper installation. As some materials are prefabricated, carpenters may also install ready made parts, like stairs, partitions, or sections of walls. Additionally, carpenters also move and install machinery in factories. With most projects, carpenters must adhere to local construction ordinances and regulations indicating where and how specific materials may be used.
Training to become a carpenter may begin as early as high school. Students may prepare for a career in carpentry with courses in carpentry, shop, drawing, math, English, algebra, geometry, physics, mechanical drawing, blueprint reading, general shop, and physical education. Additionally, gaining work experience with a contractor or construction company allows students to gain hands on experience imperative for future employment. High school graduates may advance to apprenticeship, vocational, or technical programs as training to be a skilled carpenter requires 3 to 4 years of combined on the job training and classroom experience.
High school graduates may find entry level, carpenter’s helper jobs or enroll in apprenticeship programs offered by large construction based companies. Acceptance into an apprenticeship is highly competitive and requires candidates to be at least 18 years old. Apprenticeship candidates must successfully pass an exam allowing candidates to demonstrate their abilities and skills as a carpenter. Apprenticeship programs are offered by commercial and industrial building contractors or construction unions. Apprenticeship training requires at least a 3 year time investment under the supervision of experienced workers. Apprenticeship programs offer individuals a combination of a hands on and classroom experience to gain skills, practice techniques, and apply math and problem solving to fulfill job requirements. Carpentry apprentices learn safety, first aid, blueprint reading, freehand sketching, basic mathematics, and a variety of carpentry techniques within a classroom setting and then gain familiarity with layout, form building, rough framing, and interior and exterior finishing in an on the job experience. Upon completion of a formal carpentry apprenticeship, trainees are awarded certification as a journeyperson and may advance to other certification programs, enroll in degree programs offered by trade schools or community colleges, or gain employment.
Many trade or vocational schools and community colleges also offer two year programs to train individuals to become a carpenter. Most programs consist of classroom and hands on learning experiences offering a broad range of construction methods, safety practices, and design elements. Courses include: algebra, geometry, physics, hand tool selection, care, and use, architectural drawing, blueprint reading, machine woodworking, identification and measurement of materials, project management and estimating, geometric layout, principles and procedures in residential construction, building code requirements, framing and finishing, building technology, masonry, roofing systems, interior and exterior finishing, door and window layout and construction, mechanical systems, and often Spanish to communicate with Spanish speaking workers. Graduates may then advance to employment as carpenters as most employers generally favor candidates with experience and a solid educational background.
In addition to on the job and classroom training, carpenters must possess a variety of personal attributes to perform their work duties. As carpentry work is strenuous carpenters must be physically fit, strong, and have a good sense of balance. Carpenters must able to work long hours standing, climbing, bending, and kneeling. Carpenters must also be detail oriented, possess strong hand-eye coordination, and have strong problem solving abilities. As carpentry work is often stressful, carpenters must also be able to manage tension and work related pressure. Carpentry work is also physically risky, as workers often face falling or slipping injuries and bruises or cuts from working with sharp tools, rough materials, and other objects. Carpenters often are also subject to weather conditions and exposure while working outdoors.
As work and educational experiences expand a worker’s skills, many carpenters find great advancement opportunities and are promoted to supervisory or general construction supervisor positions within larger construction companies. Many carpenters also become independent contractors after acquiring adequate funds, skills, and tools. The field of carpentry offers many opportunities for employment and advancement for workers with solid educational and training skills. Economic and population fluctuations, as well as geographic areas, often effect the number of carpentry jobs available. Carpenters with specialized or versatile skills often find increased job opportunities, as do carpenters within areas with the largest population increases. The field of carpentry is expected to grow at an average rate as construction jobs increase to accommodate expanding populations and update older structures.