Work environments for carpenters


Here’s a short quiz: Can you name the top work environment for carpenters?

If you said “new home construction,” you are right! The residential building construction industry is the number one employer of carpenters. But, this industry provided jobs for only about 170,000 of the almost 570,000 carpenters in the United States in 2012. Where do the other 400,000 work? Here we will explore various work environments and job descriptions for carpenters.

Residential Building Construction

Carpenters who work in residential building construction build and remodel homes including single-family houses, townhouses, and apartment buildings. They are typically involved in all aspects of the job, from building walls and decks to installing drywall, building cabinets, and even laying carpeting. Carpenters in this industry are unique as they are the only group of tradespeople that is exposed to the entire process of constructing a home. The average yearly salary for carpenters in this field is about $42,000.

Nonresidential Building Construction

More than 100,000 carpenters nationwide are involved in the construction and remodeling of nonresidential buildings. These include buildings for commercial use as well as factories, power plants, and other industrial buildings. Carpenters in these settings may do everything from construct exterior steel framing to pour concrete for tunnels and bridges. Carpenters who work in commercial and industrial environments make close to $48,000 a year.

Building Finishing Contractors

Everything that is required to finish a building falls under this category, even painting and putting up wallpaper. More than 85,000 carpenters are employed by building finishing contractors, doing everything from installing insulation to laying tiles and flooring. Carpenters in the building finishing industry are also well paid, taking home nearly $46,000 annually.

Foundation, Structure, and Building Exterior Contractors

The foundation, structure, and building exterior contractors industry is responsible for constructing building supports and exterior finishing. For example, carpenters who work in this industry may pour concrete foundations, construct steel building supports, or install roofing or siding. More than 60,000 carpenters work in this industry. This industry offers the lowest average wage for carpenters, at just over $41,000 per year, but it is still comparable to residential building construction.

Highway, Street, and Bridge Construction

Finally, though the highway, street, and bridge construction industry employs only about 14,000 carpenters, these are some of the most lucrative positions available. Carpenters who work in this area take home about $53,000 per year. This industry is highly dependent on state and federal government spending on infrastructure, so job opportunities may vary at different times and in different states.

As you can see, carpentry is a highly versatile trade—qualified tradespeople may do everything from construct new homes to repair streets and bridges. And you thought carpentry was just building things from wood!


U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Carpenters. Occupational Outlook Handbook.

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Carpenters. Occupational Employment Statistics.

U.S. Census. Industry Statistics Portal.

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