Career Profile: General Carpenter
If you like working with your hands, designing and building things large and small, and working with tools and machinery, a career as a carpenter is a great idea.
Carpenters work mainly with wood to construct, install, repair, and maintain things like houses, apartments, and other buildings, as well as smaller projects such as cabinets, stairs, or artistic wood projects. They can also work with materials such as wood composites, drywall, lightweight steel products, and other materials used in building.
General carpenters are trained in a wide variety of building construction and detailed woodworking skills. In carpentry, you also have options to specialize. You can be a rough work carpenter who does framework and construction work. You can also be a detail woodworker who builds and installs cabinets and other wood furniture, stairs, trim, and railings. You can also specialize in either new construction, or repair and renovation.
As a carpenter, you need skills like drawing and reading blueprints, knowing how to measure and calculate sizes and specifications, how to calculate cost estimates for clients, and how to cut and join wood and wood materials.
For rough construction, you will need to know how to frame walls, floors, and stairs, and how to install support beams for floors and roofs. For detail woodworking, you will build smaller wood projects, install doors, ceiling trim and floorboards, install hardwood flooring or wall panels, molding, and all associated hardware.
Carpenters can work independently in a sole proprietorship or small business, which usually means working a variety of short-term contract jobs. You can also work with a company, such as a construction company that employs a number of carpenters and woodworkers, as well as other trades people, and is hired to do specific construction projects from beginning to end.
Generally, carpenters will require at least their high school diploma or equivalent, and also either a three-to-four year college program, or several years of an apprenticeship program or work experience. Currently, there is mandatory certification only in Quebec; other Canadian provinces have a voluntary certification process for carpenters. The Red Seal inter-provincial trade certification is also available for carpenters who meet the required qualifications.
In terms of wages, carpenters start around minimum wage to $17/hour. With experience, and depending on the market in your area, skilled carpenters can make up to $30-60/hour. These days the skilled trades are always in demand, with new construction and renovation projects starting every day, so the future job prospects are very promising.
With hard work and diligence, you will have a great career as a carpenter!