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What's the difference between a carpenter and a joiner?

15 November 2023

Whether you’re thinking of working in construction or employing someone to work on a project, it’s worth understanding the differences between a carpenter and a joiner. While some similarities exist, they are separate occupations.

A carpenter assembles and installs the parts needed for wooden structures

What does a carpenter do?

A carpenter works with timber, cutting it to the right size and assembling and installing the parts needed for wooden structures, such as:

  • furniture
  • doors and door frames
  • windows and window frames
  • cupboards
  • shelving

It’s not just interior fixtures and fittings; carpenters also construct and install parts of building projects, such as stud walls, roof trusses, floor joists and staircases.

A carpenter will need to measure, mark up, cut, shape, and install the wood. This requires:

  • a high level of accuracy
  • knowledge of different types of wood
  • understanding how to use the right tools
  • comprehension of technical drawings.

They will also need to be able to work with various other materials, in addition to wood.

Although carpenters tend to work on-site, the work can be varied. The site could range from a large multimillion pound development to a room in a client’s home.

How do you become a carpenter?

There are multiple routes to entry. Most go to college for an official qualification or start on an apprenticeship, to learn and train while working.

Alternatively, you could get a job as a carpenter’s mate and learn while working, although this may not result in a recognised qualification

A joiner designs and builds wooden parts

Setting up business as a carpenter

If you decide to work as a carpenter, you can either work for someone else or set up on your own. If you want to set up your own business, there are various things you will need.

First among these is experience; it will help to have qualifications depending on your circumstances.

You will also need to decide how to set up your business (i.e. as a sole trader, limited company or partnership) and register with HMRC.

In addition, it’s important to make sure you have suitable carpenter insurance. If you join a trade body, they may insist you have cover. Many large organisations will also make having insurance a term of their contract with you.

What does a joiner do?

A joiner also works with timber. However, unlike a carpenter, a joiner designs and builds the wooden parts; a carpenter assembles and installs them.

You will usually find a joiner in a workshop, rather than working on site. They need to be able to:

  • design structures
  • read and create technical drawings
  • measure, mark, cut, and shape wood.

How do you become a joiner? 

Much like a carpenter, the best way to become a joiner is to get a recognised qualification like a diploma or T-level, or to do an apprenticeship. That said, it may also be possible to learn on the job.

Carpenters and joiners must have practical knowledge and experience

Working as a joiner 

To work as a joiner you can find employment with an existing business or set up on your own. Again, if you set up on your own you will need to make sure you do so properly. That means deciding whether to work as a sole trader and to register with HMRC.

It will also be important to make sure you consider which insurances are correct for your trade, as well as experience and qualifications.

Finding the right insurance for carpenters and Joiners

Trade Direct Insurance specialise in providing insurance for tradespeople, including carpenters and joiners. With 40 years of experience, we’re committed to helping our clients find the right insurance policies for their businesses.

Our insurance for carpenters and joiners comes as a single customisable package. In addition to covering your essential business liabilities, we can also provide professional indemnity, accidental death cover and tools insurance.

Optional insurance, such as contract works and jury service cover, is also available depending on your business circumstances and the level of cover you want.

For more information about our insurance for carpenters and joiners, get in touch with Trade Direct Insurance today. Call 01483 521650 or email: enquiries@tradedirectinsurance.co.uk.

Trade Direct is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The company is a leading UK independent broker providing a wide range of policies to tradesmen and construction workers.

This note is not intended to give legal or financial advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon for such or regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. In preparing this note we have relied on information sourced from third parties and we make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein. You should not act upon information in this bulletin nor determine not to act, without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. We and our officers, employees or agents shall not be responsible for any loss whatsoever arising from the recipient’s reliance upon any information we provide herein and exclude liability for the content to fullest extent permitted by law.

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