There are two main categories: structural carpenters who build and maintain structures, and detail carpenters who concentrate on interior cosmetic applications. All carpenters perform numerous tasks. They may be required to install prefabricated structures such as window frames, doors or shelves, build foundations, install beams and subflooring, or erect walls and roofing systems. They also build stairways and wall partitions, install fixtures in kitchens and bathrooms, apply drywall, plaster or insulation material to both ceilings and walls, and install moldings, parquet flooring and tiles. 

Carpenters use the latest technology in hand and power tools, including computerized machinery, to cut, fit and assemble wood and other materials in the construction of buildings, docks, industrial plants and many other structures. They start with the drawings or blueprints that define the scope of the specific project, measure and mark the layout, cut and shape the materials with hand and power tools, join the materials, check the work and make any necessary adjustments. Their duties often include arranging for sub-contractors, preparing cost estimates and writing progress reports also. 

Traits and Talents

Carpentry is both physically and intellectually demanding. Much of the work requires physical effort and working with your hands to lift, saw, hammer and carry materials. It also calls for foresight, concentration, mathematical skill and an ability to read and interpret plans, blueprints, drawings and sketches to determine specifications and requirements. You must be able to organize your work carefully and carry out tasks with little or no supervision. Interpersonal communication and problem-solving skills are important when dealing with co-workers and clients. You will be expected to have good writing and speaking skills to explain what you intend to do for the client and estimate the costs involved in the project. If you intend to work as an independent contractor you need to possess excellent entrepreneurial skills as well.

Education and Training

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required. 
  • Completion of a three- to four-year apprenticeship program or A combination of over four years of work experience in the trade and some high school, college or industry courses in carpentry is usually required to be eligible for trade certification. 
  • Trade certification for carpenters is compulsory in Quebec and available, but voluntary, in all other provinces and the territories. 
  • Trade certification for framers is available, but voluntary, in Saskatchewan. 
  • Red Seal endorsement is also available to qualified carpenters upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination. 

The Workplace

Carpenters perform some or all of the following duties: 

  • Read and interpret blueprints, drawings and sketches to determine specifications and calculate requirements 
  • Prepare layouts in conformance to building codes, using measuring tools 
  • Measure, cut, shape, assemble and join materials made of wood, wood substitutes, lightweight steel and other materials 
  • Build foundations, install floor beams, lay subflooring and erect walls and roof systems 
  • Fit and install trim items, such as doors, stairs, moulding and hardware 
  • Maintain, repair and renovate residences and wooden structures in mills, mines, hospitals, industrial plants and other establishments 
  • Supervise apprentices and other construction workers 
  • May prepare cost estimates for clients. 

Skills for Success

The key Skills for Success for this career path are:

  • Reading 
  • Numeracy 
  • Adaptability

Sample Job Titles

  • Apprentice carpenter 
  • Carpenter-joiner 
  • Journeyman/women 
  • Maintenance carpenter 
  • Metal framer 
  • Roofer 
  • Building contractor 

Companies and Sectors

  • Self-employed contractors 
  • Construction companies 
  • Residential/commercial carpentry