Carpentry is considered one the oldest traits in the world, and the skill is used in everything from massive construction projects to the building of kitchen cabinets. However, just like any other industry the carpenters' industry also has specialists that take on select projects based on their skill sets. So, while you may think any job related to woodworking or carpentry would require the services of a carpenter, this isn’t the case.
Carpenters generally construct, repair, install, and erect fixtures and structures that are made from wood and other materials by cutting and joining timber. Carpentry work also usually occurs in a field setting where mobile carpentry tools are used to complete larger wood-based projects. Framers, on the other hand, are specialists who build wooden framing for houses and other buildings. They are only responsible for constructing the vertical and horizontal framework of exterior walls and interior partitions.
The carpentry industry in the US alone is estimated to be worth about $40 billion. If you are considering taking up carpentry as a career choice or are simply wondering who you should hire for a wood-based project you have in mind, you have come to the right place. We will take a look at the similarities and differences between these two traits and what each skill set entails.
Carpenters is a skilled trade or occupation that involves constructing, repairing, installing, and erecting fixtures and structures, usually by measuring, cutting, and joining timber.
Carpenters can be considered the General Physicians of the carpentry industry as these skilled tradespeople can take on a variety of carpentry tasks. These can include anything from building large infrastructure projects to the construction of patios, furniture, and kitchen cabinets for homes and businesses.
Carpenters also usually work in the field, or at construction/job sites. They also work on both the exterior and interior of residential and commercial buildings.
Often carpenters will work according to the blueprint and instructions provided to them by a contractor. It is then their job to build the layout provided to them by measuring, marking, and gathering necessary materials that are in accordance with local building codes and regulations.
Carpenters then cut, shape, and join wood and other materials such as fiberglass, plastic, or drywall using mobile tools (such as chisels, saws, drills, planes, sanders, and more) and joinery materials such as screws, nails, adhesives, and staples to help build, repair, refurbish, and renovate wooden structures on-site.
As carpentry includes so many different tasks, carpenters can also choose to specialize in just one or two carpentry-related tasks. For example, even though a carpenter can make desks and other furniture items they can choose to specialize in just trim work or cabinet making.
Experienced, well-trained, and self-employed carpenters also tend to take on a greater variety of projects including building houses, decks, patios, staircases, sheds, pergolas, fences, windows, doors, ramps, and much more. Some carpenters also specialize in just the repair and renovation of antique wooden furniture while others may only take on projects that require the construction of wooden forms for pouring concrete.
As a result, carpentry can be broken down into many different sub-categories and specializations. Some carpenters only work on projects that involve the installation of interior fine trim while some specialize in erecting scaffolding or building tunnel bracing or brattices for mines and underground passageways.
Carpenters are also essential workers within the construction industry. In fact, according to Student Scholarships, about 60% of all carpenters work in the building construction industry, which involves working on the foundation, structure, and exterior of buildings along with their interior and trimming. As such, carpenters are usually highly trained in working on a wide variety of tasks and are often involved in construction projects from start to finish.
Framers are essentially carpenters who specialize in only building the skeleton structure of a home or building or its framework. This carpentry task is often referred to as wall framing and includes the installation of horizontal and vertical wooden components such as studs and joists to provide a stable frame that maintains the structural integrity of a building.
Framers are usually needed in the earlier stages of construction as they build the framework that will support the walls, floors, and ceiling of the building. A framer will build the skeleton structure of the walls using studs, sills, and headers and the floors from joists, beams, and trusses. The framework for the roof is made using ridge poles, rafters, and/or trusses.
Framers usually work alongside the engineer or chief contractor to carefully understand the blueprint or engineer drawings while also ensuring they follow strict safety standards and building codes. In some cases, framers can also be responsible for developing work plans and making adjustments to blueprints and other schematics provided by the engineer or contractor.
Framers also tend to work on much larger projects and are often hired on a contract basis. Apart from building new structures, framers can also be called upon to repair or fix major structural elements of existing framework which requires a high level of expertise and training.
Let’s make one thing clear. A framer is also a carpenter. Just a more specialized type of carpenter.
While carpenters are the General Physicians of the Carpentry world, framers are the Orthopedic Doctors who specialize in ensuring the bones and skeleton structure of a building is strong, durable, and stable.
Framers do what is called rough carpentry, which occurs in the early phases of a construction project. This rough framework once completed is handed over to carpenters who are then responsible for building everything else around it. This includes installing window frames, doors, trimming, stairways, cabinets, flooring, and much more.
Carpenters also tend to use slightly different types of tools than framers. Framers rely heavily on carpentry tools such as squares, hammers, tape measures, compressors, nailers, miter saws, and table saws. Carpenters, on the other hand, rely mostly on handheld mobile tools such as wood chisels, claw hammers, handheld saws, drills, etc.
However, it is important to note that not all framers are carpenters, and not all carpenters can do wall framing. Many framers have limited to no knowledge or experience when it comes to finished carpentry. The same is the case for carpenters, while they may be more adept at handling many types of jobs they won’t likely have the training or experience needed to do rough carpentry and frame building.
If you are looking to hire someone to construct a new home or commercial building, you may have to hire both a framer and a carpenter.
A framer will help you set up the framework of your home and a carpenter can then come in to add the rest of the fixtures, including the cabinets, furniture, flooring, drywalls, countertops, doors, trimmings, and more.
For most types of repairs and installation projects, a carpenter is who you should call. However, when seeking a carpenter, it is important to understand what they specialize in and whether they have done similar jobs in the past.
Carpentry is a broad field and thus the carpenter you hire must have the right skill sets and experience for the project at hand. A carpenter that specializes in building outdoor patios, gazebos, and fences would struggle with a project that involves high-quality woodworking skills such as furniture making and installing fine trim.
Now that we have a fair understanding of the similarities and differences between carpenters and framers let’s look at the other types of carpentry work.
A rough carpenter strictly deals with the planning, maintenance, and building of the structural framework of a home or building. Their job is to cut and assemble the framework needed to give a building or structure a solid durable frame that can easily support the rest of the build. Rough carpenters are more concerned about structural integrity and cost efficiency than aesthetics or a polished finish. Framers are essentially rough carpenters that only specialize in framework and nothing else.
A joister specializes in fixing and installing wooden floor surfaces. Essentially their main task is to install floor joists, which are long horizontal boards that attach to the frame structure built by a framer or rough carpenter. While a joister offers a more polished finish they are still considered to be rough carpenters as their main focus is on structural integrity, cost efficiency, and durability rather than aesthetics.
Trim carpenters are what you consider finish carpenters as they specialize in applying the finishing touches to any wood-based project. Trim carpenters are perfect for jobs that entail the repair or installation of trims found around doors and windows, moldings, skirtings, mantles, cornices, and other ornamental pieces. Trim carpentry can be further categorized into:
Green Carpentry: These types of carpenters specialize in green woodworking techniques that are environmentally friendly. This includes working with only freshly cut trees and handheld tools to make furniture, cabinets, trimmings, and other wooden objects reducing carbon footprint.
Scenic Carpentry: Scenic carpenters specialize in building sets and stages for TV, films, and live theater plays and concerts.
Cabinet markets specialize in making cabinets and shelving for kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, and other areas of the building used for storage. Cabinet makers also dabble in furniture making and woodworking.
These types of carpenters solely focus on shipbuilding. Whether it is building new ships or fixing up and renovating old ones, ship carpenters work on all types of shipping vessels. Regardless of whether it's large cargo ships and cruise liners or smaller commercial fishing boats, you will require the services of a ship carpenter. Ship carpenters also work with materials other than wood, such as fiberglass and aluminum.
These types of carpenters specialize in the planning, maintenance, and building of rafters, trusses, and beams that help support the roofing of a building or home. They can also install, repair, and replace roofing to ensure it is structurally strong and durable both from the inside and out.
Q) What is carpentry vs. woodworking vs. joinery?
Carpentry tasks take place in a field setting using mobile tools to build large wooden structures such as decks, pergolas, and even houses. Woodworking involves working in a shop setting to create smaller wooden structures, fixtures, and items. Joinery is a technique or process in carpentry that allows two or more sections of wood to be connected to create complex and intricate wooden structures.
Q) How much do framers and carpenters make on average in the US?
Carpenters who work in commercial and industrial settings make on average close to $50,000 annually. Carpenters who work in residential construction make close to $44,000 on average per year. The top 10% of carpenters in the US make over $80,000 annually.
A framer, on the other hand, makes an average income of $42,000 annually. This is lower than carpenters as framers require less skill and training.
Q) Do carpenters and framers need a license?
As a framer, you must attain a frame technician certificate which is issued to you after completing an apprentice program that includes on-the-job training, technical training, and written and practical tests. Carpenters require general contractor licenses to do work beyond the scope of minor construction.
Q) What are careers similar to carpentry?
If you would like to work in the construction industry but aren’t necessarily interested in carpentry you can explore other career options such as being a fence builder, an electrician, a plumber, a bricklayer, a mason, or even an HVAC mechanic.
Carpentry is a broad category that includes many types of specialists. Depending upon the scope of the job you have in mind a specialty carpenter might be what you need.
However, in most cases, especially for minor construction projects, you would need to call for the assistance of professional self-employed carpenters who are experienced, skilled, and knowledgeable to take on a variety of tasks related to remodeling and renovation.
Popular Contracting Inc is Boston's go-to reliable contractor for commercial and residential projects. Contact us for a free quote today.