Carpentry is a single trade, but it includes a wide variety of skills. From start to finish, construction jobs as diverse as homes, hotels, tunnels and roads require carpenters. In fact, carpenters are the largest skilled trade in the United States, according to the carpenter's union. The duties and responsibilities of carpenters are as varied as the projects they work on.
Basic Carpentry Tasks
A carpenter typically follows the same basic steps for all types of carpentry. He reads blueprints or detailed instructions and completes the layout for the project. He makes measurements and selects materials, such as wood, drywall, fiberglass and plastic. He then cuts and shapes the materials using a variety of tools and connects the materials using items such as nails and adhesives. After completing all structures, a carpenter examines his work to make sure it meets specifications. Using equipment such as framing squares and levels, he makes the required modifications. A carpenter must ensure all measurements and materials meet state and local building regulations.
Rough and Finish Carpentry
Carpentry tasks are often categorized as rough or finish carpentry. A carpenter doing rough carpentry typically works outside, where she uses materials such as unfinished wood. She creates house frames, scaffolds and concrete forms for house foundations and highways, for example. Some rough carpenters create ventilation systems for tunnels and mines to help manage air circulation. On the other hand, a finish carpenter completes simpler tasks, such as cutting and measuring doors and moldings. She also builds and installs interior structures such as floors and cabinets.
Many carpenters focus on cabinetmaking, or the creation of custom designs for cabinets, shelves and other structures for residential and commercial buildings. Some cabinetmaking carpenters construct fine handmade furniture.
Some carpenters fulfill other roles, such as constructing sets for the entertainment industry. Some work for manufacturing companies, where they create already-assembled structures, such as cabinets, walls and sliding doors. Many carpenters perform miscellaneous installation and repair tasks. For example, they repair and replace doors, ceilings and built-in furniture. Some carpenters install windows and doors, and others help set up equipment and machinery.
2016 Salary Information for Carpenters
Carpenters earned a median annual salary of $43,600 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, carpenters earned a 25th percentile salary of $33,770, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $58,700, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,025,600 people were employed in the U.S. as carpenters.