What do carpenters do? You probably have an idea, but chances are your picture is incomplete. Carpentry is not just a single thing; rather, these tradespeople may do everything from building stairways and installing kitchen cabinets to pouring concrete. As a carpentry student, you will likely learn how to do all of these things and then will have the opportunity to choose certain skills in which to specialize.
Here is an overview of the main skills carpenters need to master in order to succeed on the job:
Reading blueprints and understanding building codes
No matter whether you take a certificate or degree program, or skip straight to an apprenticeship, every type of carpentry education includes training on how to read blueprints and understand building codes. These skills are foundational for carpenters in all positions and work environments, and they are important for carpenters to ensure that their work complies with the law.
Rough and finish carpentry
Most carpenters start out as rough carpenters. Rough carpentry involves constructing frames and other behind-the-scenes structures. With time and experience, they can transition to become finish carpenters, who perform work on elements that can actually be seen, like cutting and installing baseboards and crown moldings.
Stairs, doorways, roofs, windows, interior walls—these features all require frames before they can be safely installed. Framing is one of a carpenter’s core competencies.
Installing insulation and drywall
Many carpenters install insulation and drywall for building projects.
Tradespeople who specialize in building cabinets, for example, for the kitchen, are often referred to as “cabinetmakers.” But general carpenters are often tasked with installing those cabinets in homes.
Installing flooring, doors, and windows
On a residential construction project, carpenters may install hardwood floors, floor tiles, or even carpeting. They may also both frame and install doors and windows.
Roofing and siding
Carpenters are often involved in cutting and installing roofs and siding on buildings.
Building porches, decks, and fences
Carpenters may frame, build, and install wood structures including porches, decks, and fences.
Pouring concrete and building steel structures
For large commercial and industrial jobs, carpenters may build foundations, tunnels, bridges, and other structures using steel or concrete.
Wood structures need to be protected from the environment, so carpenters may perform weatherizing services such as waxing and sealing.
In addition to all of the physical work that needs to be done, carpenters need to be expert communicators. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the ability to communicate in both English and Spanish is becoming increasingly important.
These are the basic skills carpentry students can expect to acquire during their training. As you research training and apprenticeship programs, look for ones that cover all of these topics so you can make sure you are getting the best education available.
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Carpenters. Occupational Outlook Handbook.
Laney College. Carpentry program brochure