Carpenter or builder: which career path to choose

Construction is a large industry no doubt and this includes the array of roles that are sought after within the industry from construction manager to draftspeople. Being so large, it’s roles are quite diverse and with that diverse breadth of roles to choose from come a whole host of skills that are inhabited in the industry in the different trades and specialisations. A construction estimator and a construction manager will have quite dissimilar skills and these same comparisons can be made with other roles in the field of construction. That being said this article will focus on both carpenters and builders, what their roles entail and which one you might want to pursue.





Carpenters are simply put, professionals skilled in carpentry with the ability to build or repair infrastructure. It is a skilled craft that involves getting ready materials for a project and installing those materials. They cut, shape and install materials for buildings, ships, bridges and highways and more. In fact they work indoors and outdoors, not just limited to large scale projects as just mentioned they can work on a kitchen cabinet too. 


Carpenters vary in type and specialise in different areas with different skills based upon their title. In fact it is common for a carpenter to start out as a builder, as their interest in retail work expands they can narrow down their speciality. 


However, while there are different specialisations, most carpenters work with wood. This means that they utilise timber components by cutting and shaping them and then installing those components on floors, walls, framed structures. They also utilise them to construct doors and other structures in homes to give a better idea of how they work with wood. It extends beyond doors and into stairs, window frames and more.


Expanding on carpentry being a varied occupation with differing specialties as aforementioned, types of carpentry can include rough carpentry, joister, finish carpentry and formwork carpentry. We will explore these types briefly.



Rough carpentry


In construction, building’s as structures need support with framings that are made up of wood and metal that make up the walls, floors and roofs akin to a skeleton or bare bones structure of a building. Rough carpenters are responsible for this. 


There is an array of rough framing in and of itself and rough carpenters can further specialise in these. Most rough carpentry involves using the standard lumber framing, but moving into different types of framing will require more specialisation to maintain the proper standards for a building’s structure. 


Rough carpenters ensure buildings are up to code according to the relevant building codes and that the building’s standards are maintained which requires the inspection of equipment to identify any potential issues. Rough carpentry can be learnt through apprenticeships and through classroom training.





A joister is someone who constructs floor joists. A joist itself is something that bears a load on it, and is horizontal in structure and lies across an open space sometimes flat and runs across a building and is supported itself by beams, however both are just as important as each other in a building.


Joisters in a similar vein to rough carpentry discussed above favours durability over more specific detailed work seen in rough carpentry, however when it comes to wooden flooring finishes which joiners are apart of, then there is more detailed work involved for a better polish.


Joistering goes alongside framers/rough carpenters where they lay the joists onto the floor. This paves the way for a floor to be made. These horizontal load bearing structures known as joists help to make floors. 


Joisters construct floor joists, where they fix floor surfaces. Similar to rough carpentry, this category of carpentry requires less detailed work in favour of structural integrity and durability. However, because joister carpenters are involved in wooden flooring finishes, they require the use of more detailed processes to result in a more polished product.



Formwork carpentry


Formwork is a difficult job involving the gathering of metal, woods and plastic that have been manufactured and spray them with oil providing lubrication ensuring concrete does not stick, and help with the insertion of steel reinforcements to help give concrete strength and reuse the concrete forms  utilised for the securing of the concrete in other projects after cleaning them appropriately and stripping them.


Formwork carpenters also construct fillers for bridging gaps. Mainly, their work revolves around concrete as in high rise buildings they build new forms on top of concrete that has been poured which is called slip forming.



Finish carpentry


Lastly, we have finish carpentry. Once all the other types of carpentry have done their part there is another type of carpentry that comes in once the home or structure is finished. This is when all the sheathing, wiring, framing, plumbing and functionalities are all ready in the home . Before homeowners move in finish carpenters can get to work on projects such as designs to windows as well as their installations and fitting interior doors, cabinet installations and more. In fact a lot of this can be done even after the homeowners have moved in.



Master Carpenters


Master carpenters also exist within carpentry, they are the ones that tend to be in charge of a large job and will have several carpenters working under them to complete a task. A master carpenter can also be more hands off in their approach, preferring to direct the other carpenter’s to complete the task if they so wish.





A Builder is not as defined as a carpenter in terms of the role they are specified to do. Builders are in charge of monitoring and subsequently controlling the construction, renovation or repair of residential and commercial buildings. Whilst many Builders are qualified tradesmen,they are not required to have this as the bare minimum because their primary objective is to bring together the right amount and spread of tradesmen to participate and finish the necessary work on site.


A Builder has vast and outreaching knowledge when it comes to the many aspects of construction. This ranges from assessing a site, getting permits and producing cost estimates, all the way to reading and interpreting plans, arranging meetings and communication patterns with subcontractors and planning and managing the construction process.


Because the knowledge of builders is quite broad, many builders would not consider themselves professionals in every area of construction. Most builders choose to specialise in a certain type of project, such as housing developments, public roads and railways, custom builds or homes of a specific design etc. You could also choose between private projects and public ones. The bottom line is that builders must be responsible for ensuring that all construction is carried out in line with local, state and national regulations, whilst also maintaining a worksite that is following workplace safety laws to a tee.


There are a number of different pathways to becoming a professional Builder in Australia. This is inclusive of different courses and training that can be completed. For instance, common courses studied to become a builder are the Certificate IV in Building and Construction and the Diploma of Building and Construction. Both these courses are designed to give an encompassing view of construction and more importantly, what is required to be a successful builder. 


Parker Brent is an accredited provider of courses in building and construction. Enquire for more details.