14 Pros and Cons of Being a Carpenter

Carpenter

When you are considering the pros and cons of a career choice, you have to take into account how challenging the work may be.

Is it physically exhausting, or is it more of a mental challenge?

Is it a bit of both?

You should also consider the career outlook.

Will it be a viable job in 10 years?

As a carpenter, these are all real concerns.

Today, we will examine the ups and downs of this ancient profession.  

What Does a Carpenter Do?

Before we get into the pros and cons, let’s briefly discuss what a carpenter does.

Traditionally, carpentry has focused on working with wood to build structures and things.

As one of the most important types of historical building materials, skilled carpentry has been necessary for human development and exploration.

From tools to houses and ships, carpentry has always had a need. 

More recently, the definition of carpentry has expanded to include craftsmanship applied to various types of building materials.

Wood and plastic composites, metals, and extruded concrete are as common on a job site as wood can be.

Many in the building industry also see alternate building materials as more viable choices for future economies.

Carpenters are using new materials, while still applying old techniques. 

Pros of Being a Carpenter

1. Job availability 

Carpentry work and work in the building industry, in general, are always needed.

There seems to be no shortage of residential and commercial construction taking place, even with the recent disruptions in global supply chains.

Overall, there is a projected growth of [nearly 9%] for the construction industry in the US in 2022.

This bodes well for the carpentry job market. 

2. Wood is good 

Although the use of new or re-engineered building materials is on the rise, wood continues to be the primary material used in residential house framing.

Working with wood is more than just driving nails, too.

A good carpenter learns how to work with the contours and graining of the wood to maximize structure and stability. 

3. Custom carpentry pays more

As a carpenter becomes a skilled craftsman, they can branch out to offer custom building.

Custom carpentry jobs can charge more, too.

Building and installing custom cabinets or installing wood trim are just a few examples of more specific carpentry jobs.

These specialty trades require more precision and an eye for detail.

Carpentry work has a low threshold for entry, meaning that if you have a desire to learn and a few tools to get started, you do not necessarily have to have a lot of experience.

They also offer rewarding job completions, which show off the carpenter’s skills and thrill your customers. 

4. Resumé?

A high school diploma is a good start and shows a basic set of knowledge and skills. 

Some carpenters may apprentice under a master carpenter to get their start.

For many, though, having good physical stamina and a strong work ethic are all the resumes they will need.

5. On the job training

Once working as a carpenter, you will see lots of on-the-job training.

Every day will be a hands-on class, with lots of repetition to help you remember your studies. 

In all seriousness, working as a carpenter will show you how to construct, both big and small.

You will understand the forces acting on a structure and the support needed to keep them up. 

You will also learn and use a great deal of math.

Measuring and working with angles will test your geometry, while formulas for roof pitch and load-bearing walls will utilize some algebra.

As you become more experienced, many one-time complex terms will become commonplace as you use them every day. 

6. Learn applicable skills

Not only will you learn how to join and structure wood, but you will also find your skillset will increase, overall.

Take math and economics, for example.

A good carpenter has to learn how to estimate the number of materials they will need for a job.

This requires accurate measurements and some lumber market calculations.

These calculations are necessary for estimating a realistic profit margin, too.

Many skills from carpentry can translate to other professions. 

7. Own your own business

If you are in the position to make carpentry a business of your own, you can take command of your work and life schedule.

As your own boss, you can set your own hours and charge accordingly for your professionalism and attention to detail.

There are risks, of course.

There are also rewards, too.

If you are positioned in an area poised for growth, you can earn a great living. 

Cons of Being a Carpenter

1. Recessions or work inconsistency

Although residential and commercial construction always seems to roll forward, there are some times when the wheels turn slowly.

Recessions can quickly undermine the earning potential and job availability for carpentry.

You can buffer yourself by learning as much as possible about carpentry and construction.

When work slows, you can lean into your specialties to generate custom jobs or translate your knowledge into a parallel profession. 

2. Material prices and availability

Recently, material prices for construction have skyrocketed.

Wood prices, for example, have tripled for many products and cuts.

Carpenters have felt the price hikes in their pockets and cannot remain unchanged.

As a carpenter, you have to charge your customers three times their normal cost to maintain YOUR profit margins.

Customers do not like price hikes either. 

3. Unreasonable customer expectations

Some customers assume what you do cannot be that hard.

Some customers assume they are the only client you have.

Some customers want it done yesterday, no matter the situation.

Whether building a house or simply installing some shelves, customer expectations can become huge headaches for you. 

Make sure you develop a strong line of communication with your customers.

Also, establish your norms and reasonable expectations for a working timeframe.

If you are clear from the beginning, customers are more likely to work with you, not against you. 

4. Physically taxing work

Carpentry requires lots of physical labor.

Swinging hammers and lifting lumber, climbing ladders and scaffolding, and drilling holes above your head all tax your muscles.

You will develop applied strength and probably a few aches and pains.

You will also work hard to complete projects on time.

Most carpentry work requires completion for payment.

The more you do, the more you get paid. 

5. Often working outside

You may be doing a lot of carpentry work out in the sun and the elements.

While a hard rain may shut down a job site, a mild drizzle may only slow it down.

Be prepared to work hard in the hot sun, as sunny days are great for framing houses.

You will also most likely spend some days working on a roof with no shade.

The work pays, but you will definitely earn it. 

6. Accidents-out of workman’s comp

Since you will be using sharp tools, accidents can happen.

Saw blades, screws, nails, hammers, and, of course, wood are all looking for a finger to cut or crush.

It is not just the pain of an accident that can be tough to deal with.

If you seriously hurt yourself, you may be out of work for weeks or months.

If you work for a corporation or contractor, you should be covered by workman’s comp.

If you are independently employed, though, the time off may crush your pocket. 

7. Own your own business

Yes, this was also a pro earlier, and it still can be.

A successful independent or specialty carpenter can make good money and command their own work schedule.

Unfortunately, a lot of small business owners quickly realize that they never leave the job.

They think about work at home and often spend their time off getting ready for when they go back to work. 

There is also the possibility you will have others working for you.  

Employees increase the possibility of completing more jobs and earning more profit.

Employees also create an entirely new set of job issues.

Owning a business can be a perfect example of a catch-22. 

Pros and Cons of Being a Carpenter – Summary Table

Pros of Being a CarpenterCons of Being a Carpenter
1. Job availability 1. Recessions or work inconsistency
2. Wood is good 2. Material prices and availability
3. Custom carpentry pays more3. Unreasonable customer expectations
4. Resumé?4. Physically taxing work
5. On the job training5. Often working outside
6. Learn applicable skills6. Accidents-out of workman’s comp
7. Own your own business7. Own your own business

Should You Become a Carpenter?

Carpentry is valued and needed profession, even if the pay and working conditions do not always reflect it.

You will more than likely work hard every day.

You will also be able to reflect on your accomplishments regularly.

Additionally, you will be learning valuable skills which can be applied to a number of other professions.

Developing a specific set of carpentry skills can allow for higher pay and less demanding work conditions.

If you enjoy working with your hands and do not mind a hard day’s work, carpentry is an excellent profession.

Jamie Willis