A talented carpenter is constantly in demand, whether you’re making custom furniture or helping build houses. Many experienced carpenters enjoy the opportunity to determine their own work schedules, especially if they own their own carpentry business.
If you’re looking for a career that challenges both your mind and body, you might have a bright future as a carpenter. Continue reading for a step-by-step guide to becoming a carpenter and building a successful small business in this line of work.
1. Think about your possibilities
Carpentry is a large field. While all carpenters work with wood, what that wood is used to create may be anything from bespoke cabinets to rafters. The first step in becoming a carpenter might be picking what type of carpentry services you want to provide.
Here are some carpentry specialties you might choose from:
- Rough carpenter: A rough carpenter is a structural worker who performs tasks such as roofing and framing. In general, a rough carpenter’s labor isn’t visible in a finished structure – yet it’s critical to keeping everything together
- Joister: A joister is a structural carpenter that makes joists to support a building’s floor or deck.
- Framer: As the name implies, framers specialize in constructing the framework of buildings. Framers work on both commercial and residential buildings.
- Roofer: If you’re comfortable working at heights, this is an excellent speciality for you. Roofers construct new roof rafters, beams, and trusses.
- Finish carpenter: Finish carpentry, like rough carpentry, has a variety of specialities. Finish carpenters work on cabinets, fine furniture, parquetry, and other projects that need meticulous attention to detail and little space for error.
- Trim carpenter: As the name indicates, trim carpenters specialize in ornamental woodwork such as crown moulding, chair rails, and fireplace mantles.
- Cabinet maker: A cabinet manufactures custom cabinets, dressers, and other storage furniture.
- Ship’s Carpenter: Working on boats and ships is a less common, yet fascinating, specialization.
There’s no reason you must devote your entire career to one type of carpentry. Having the skills to perform different types of carpentry work can widen your customer base and help you weather ups and downs in the economy. However, after you’ve gained a lot of expertise in a certain field—say, as a roofer—switching to cabinetry may take some time.
If you have the opportunity, try working as an assistant on a variety of carpentry tasks to gain experience on different types of projects. As your carpentry career progresses, you will be able to focus on tasks that you genuinely enjoy or those that you have exhibited particular skill in.
2. Concentrate on education
There are specific woodworking skills you will need to master to be a carpenter, but you’ll need some everyday education to get there. If you aspire to join a carpentry training program or complete an apprenticeship, you will need to have a high school certificate or GED.
Basic and intermediate math are a big part of carpentry. Carpenters must be able to work with geometry and angles, calculate percentages, and calculate the square footage of an area.
If you plan to own your own carpentry business, you may wish to take financial or business classes. This can help you learn important skills to succeed in business, such as basic bookkeeping, budgeting, and marketing.
3. Enroll in a training program for apprentices
Carpentry is both a science and an art. It requires a diverse range of talents, which you can learn through a training program and/or as an apprentice to an expert carpenter. You’ll acquire hands-on experience that will compliment your other training, as well as a stable wage, if you join an apprenticeship program.
Apprenticeships in carpentry typically last four years and may be found through local unions or professional groups, as well as online. Apprenticeship.gov, a website run by the United States Department of Labor, contains a wealth of information about becoming a carpentry apprentice, including current opportunities around the country.
Your training will primarily focus on three areas: On-the-job training under the supervision of journey-level carpenters, building regulations, and general carpentry skills. At the conclusion of your training, you will:
- Be able to obtain a journeyman carpenter’s licence.
- Have essential carpentry skills
- Know professional carpenters and other contractors
- Have the knowledge and self-assurance to make more money
4. Consider robust business insurance coverage
The carpentry profession has a lot of regulatory restrictions, particularly when it comes to projects that involve onsite work (i.e., working at a customer’s home). If you’re doing any work that may be deemed contracting, most states require carpenters to have General Liability insurance. These regulations vary widely from state to state, so it’s wise to check with your local government to fully understand the law and your insurance obligations.
Even if you are not required by law to have General Liability or other types of business insurance, you may still decide that policies are necessary. Carpenters operate in a sector that is riskier than many others. If you’re working at a customer’s house, for example, unintentional property damage or accidental client injury are common hazards of the job.
Business insurance can help protect you against these and other risks that you may face as a carpenter. Instead of paying compensation or legal fees directly from your pocket, your policies will cover these and other expenses (depending on the policy and coverage it provides). Business insurance can provide you with important peace of mind, so you can fully focus on your carpentry business and clients.
5. Grow your business
Being a carpenter can be very competitive, so you’ll need to discover ways to differentiate yourself from the rest of the crowd. Building a professional image and solid reputation is the greatest method to achieve this. Here are some tips for doing this:
- Demonstrate your worth: Customers will notice if you have a strong work ethic. Position yourself as a trustworthy professional who is always on time, easy to communicate with, and capable of working safely and efficiently. Coupled with skilled and precise carpentry work, your professionalism could lead to word-of-mouth referrals that help grow your business.
- Keep improving: You already know that being a carpenter entails a lot more than hammering nails. Pay close attention to market trends and remain up to date on new methods, design trends, and laws. Anytime you have the opportunity to learn new carpentry skills, seize it!
- Become a member of a professional group: Keep in touch with other carpenters and network with construction professionals to expand your community. The larger your professional network, the more opportunities for word-of-mouth marketing you’ll have.
Carpentry can be a financially secure, rewarding, and highly creative vocation. The methods outlined above can assist you in your quest to become a successful carpenter, but the path you choose will inevitably be determined by the level of experience you already have.