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The Difference Between a Carpenter and a Woodworker

Homeowners typically use the terms “contractor,” “carpenter,” and “woodworker” in a synonymous fashion. However, in the construction sector, these three terms denote a variety of jobs, each of which has its own distinct duties.

This article outlines the many functions that these various trade experts play with the underlying intention of giving clients a better idea of who to contact when they need work done! Just as its important for the client to understand who has the skills for what, its important for your carpentry business to have the insurance it needs to do the work properly.


The majority of people refer to “General Contractors” as “Contractors” (GCs). In reality, the phrase “general contractor” is frequently misused to refer to anybody who works on houses for a living.

Surprisingly, very few general contractors perform any type of manual trade labour! Rather, their role is to engage other skilled individuals to complete the task.

GCs are essentially project managers who coordinate building projects on their clients’ behalf. They should, ideally, guarantee that competent, certified tradesmen are brought in to do the task in a predetermined order.

GCs will demand a significant price for this service, often up to 50% of the overall work value. That is, at least half of the entire cost of the goods and labour contracted.

Contractors use “independent contractors,” “subcontractors,” or “subs” to hire people to conduct the real work. These subs might be anything from one-man enterprises to full-fledged businesses in their own right.


Most GCs have worked as professional tradesmen at some time in their careers, so they have some building experience. Having a trade background, on the other hand, is not required to work as a contractor. Nearly anyone in Australia can refer to themselves as a contractor.

It’s easy to understand how this situation may lead to issues.

Unscrupulous contractors can keep revenues high and work expenses low by leveraging a variety of methods. Increasing profits by hiring low-cost, untrained subcontractors and utilising substandard materials are only two examples.

As a result, “contractor” is often perceived to be a derogatory term among the trades. In the worst-case scenario, it indicates a dishonest individual who does none of the work but reaps the most benefit.

To be honest, this negative rep isn’t entirely unjustified.

I know a lot of terrific GCs who go out of their way to make their clients satisfied and their costs low. This is all while juggling a slew of issues that usually occur throughout a building job.

However, I’ve also come across enough awful GCs to know that they do exist. As such, it is important you do your homework and research the reputation and testimonials of any GCs you are looking to hire.


Carpenters are skilled workers who build and repair homes and other big wooden constructions.

If that sounds a little hazy, it’s because it is.

This is due to the fact that carpenters are responsible for a wide range of jobs; they can work on anything, including houses, decks, sheds, barns, pergolas, porticos, and gates.

They install doors and windows and modify the trim on the interiors and exteriors of homes. They construct closets, cabinets, and yard constructions such as planter boxes, lattice screens, and seats.

Furthermore, they repair all of these items when they break!

In fact, carpenters are hired by general contractors to complete much of the work on residential projects. Carpenters frequently work alongside plumbers, HVAC professionals, electricians, and other tradespeople to assist them with their tasks.

The idea is that carpenters are the ones who do the work.

When you have minor work to complete, such as a fence repair, you may not need to hire a general contractor. You may employ a freelance carpenter and save money.

The scope of a carpenter’s work may vary. Smaller jobs are great for one-man enterprises. Larger carpenter teams, on the other hand, are likely to be needed for large-scale projects.


A trade expert who combines carpentry and contracting is sometimes referred to as a “builder.” Builders will complete the task for which they are qualified. They frequently work on a house’s structure, roofing, and siding. They then hire the rest of the tradies they’ll need to complete the job.

Custom built-ins, stain-grade trim, and one-of-a-kind cabinets are examples of fine carpentry work that blurs the boundary between trade carpentry and real workmanship. There are some projects that carpenters are simply not capable of completing.

Who do you turn to in those situations?


Woodworkers are highly trained artisans who build elegant timber structures such as furniture.

Woodworkers’ businesses are usually stocked with high-end, sophisticated tools. They also devote more time and effort to their profession than the average tradesperson.

Because their work is of such high quality, woodworkers prefer to focus on smaller projects in comparison to, say, a home. Tables, picture frames, lamps, and dressers are among the items they create.

Woodcrafters are typically passionate about wood and workmanship. These artisans seldom make a lot of money from their work. Only the very best woodworkers become truly wealthy as a result of their efforts. Then, and only then, since their works are considered real works of art. Those objects sell for a lot of money at a gallery.

Sam Maloof is without a doubt the most famous American woodworker of the last century. Eleven presidents have sat in his iconic long-tail rocking chairs at the White House. If you haven’t seen Sam Maloof’s deceptively simple furniture, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

Often, self-identified woodworkers will refuse to do general carpentry labour. Furthermore, most carpenters are incapable of crafting high-end woodwork.

Cabinetmakers and trim carpenters, on the other hand, are the individuals to approach if you want genuinely bespoke, finish-grade embellishments in your house.


These craftspeople are well-versed in both domains. They have the ability to make bespoke doors and windows and create complex built-ins and bookshelves.

But you’ll need deep pockets.

Custom cabinets and trim carpentry may be quite expensive, considerably more than most people realise. Even the simplest cabinets can take a long time to construct.

You might be able to discover a cabinetmaker who also works with wood and vice versa. Just keep in mind that a professional furniture manufacturer is unlikely to be interested in making your kitchen cabinets.

In conclusion, keep these three broad definitions in mind when deciding who to call for a project:

  • General contractors oversee projects and engage subcontractors to complete them.
  • Carpenters construct and repair large-scale buildings, such as homes.
  • Woodworkers craft furniture and beautiful, bespoke items.

Every project you come across will be better serviced by one of these specialised tradespeople. There’s a chance you’ll need more than one of them!

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