Carpenters construct and repair building frameworks and structures—such as stairways, doorframes, partitions, and rafters—made from wood and other materials. They also may install kitchen cabinets, siding, and drywall.
Carpenters typically do the following:
- Follow blueprints and building plans to meet the needs of clients
- Install structures and fixtures, such as windows and molding
- Measure, cut, or shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, drywall, and other materials
- Construct building frameworks, including wall studs, floor joists, and doorframes
- Help put up, level, and install building framework with the aid of large pulleys and cranes
- Inspect and replace damaged framework or other structures and fixtures
- Instruct and direct laborers and other construction trade helpers
Carpenters are one of the most versatile construction occupations, with workers usually doing a variety of tasks. For example, some carpenters insulate office buildings; others install drywall or kitchen cabinets in homes. Those who help construct large buildings or bridges often make the wooden concrete forms for cement footings or pillars. Some carpenters build braces and scaffolding for buildings.
Carpenters use many different hand and power tools to cut and shape wood, plastic, fiberglass, or drywall. They commonly use handtools, including squares, levels, and chisels, as well as many power tools, such as sanders, circular saws, and nail guns. Carpenters put materials together with nails, screws, staples, and adhesives, and do a final check of their work to ensure accuracy. They use a tape measure on every project because proper measuring increases productivity, reduces waste, and ensures that the pieces being cut are the proper size.
The following are types of carpenters:
Residential carpenters typically specialize in new-home, townhome, and condominium building and remodeling. As part of a single job, they might build and set forms for footings, walls and slabs, and frame and finish exterior walls, roofs, and decks. They frame interior walls, build stairs, and install drywall, crown molding, doors, and kitchen cabinets. Highly-skilled carpenters may also tile floors and lay wood floors and carpet. Fully-trained construction carpenters are easily able to switch from new-home building to remodeling.
Commercial carpenters typically remodel and help build commercial office buildings, hospitals, hotels, schools, and shopping malls. Some specialize in working with light gauge and load-bearing steel framing for interior partitions, exterior framing, and curtain wall construction. Others specialize in working with concrete forming systems and finishing interior and exterior walls, partitions, and ceilings. Highly skilled carpenters can usually do many of the same tasks as residential carpenters.
Industrial carpenters typically work in civil and industrial settings where they put up scaffolding and build and set forms for pouring concrete. Some industrial carpenters build tunnel bracing or partitions in underground passageways and mines to control the circulation of air to worksites. Others build concrete forms for tunnels, bridges, dams, power plants, or sewer construction projects.
Construction Laborers and Helpers
Construction laborers and helpers do many basic tasks that require physical labor on construction sites.
Construction laborers and helpers typically do the following:
- Clean and prepare construction sites by removing debris and possible hazards
- Load or unload building materials to be used in construction
- Build or take apart bracing, barricades, forms (molds that determine the shape of concrete), scaffolding, and temporary structures
- Dig trenches, backfill holes, or compact earth to prepare for construction
- Operate or tend equipment and machines used in construction, such as concrete mixers
- Help other craftworkers with their duties
- Follow construction plans and instructions from the people they are working for
Construction laborers and helpers work on almost all construction sites, doing a wide range of tasks from the very easy to the extremely difficult and hazardous. Although many of the tasks they do require some training and experience, most jobs usually require little skill and can be learned quickly.
The following are occupational specialties:
Construction laborers do a variety of construction-related activities during all phases of construction. Although most laborers are generalists—such as those who install barricades, cones, and markers to control traffic patterns—many others specialize. For example, those who operate the machines and equipment that lay concrete or asphalt on roads are more likely to specialize in those areas.
Most construction laborers work in the following areas:
- Building homes and businesses
- Tearing down buildings
- Removing hazardous materials
- Building highways and roads
- Digging tunnels and mine shafts
Construction laborers use a variety of tools and equipment. Some tools are simple, such as brooms and shovels; other equipment is more sophisticated, such as pavement breakers, jackhammers, earth tampers, and surveying equipment.
With special training, laborers may help transport and use explosives or run hydraulic boring machines to dig out tunnels. They may learn to use laser beam equipment to place pipes and use computers to control robotic pipe cutters. They may become certified to remove asbestos, lead, or chemicals.
Helpers assist construction craftworkers, such as electricians and carpenters, with a variety of basic tasks. They may carry tools and materials or help set up equipment. For example, many helpers work with cement masons to move and set forms. Many other helpers assist with taking apart equipment, cleaning up sites, and disposing of waste, as well as helping with any other needs of craftworkers.
Many construction trades have helpers who assist craftworkers. The following are examples of trades that have associated helpers:
- Brickmasons, blockmasons, stonemasons, and tile and marble setters
- Painters, paperhangers, plasterers, and stucco masons
- Pipelayers, plumbers, pipefitters, and steamfitters
Drywall and Ceiling Tile Installers, and Tapers
Drywall and ceiling tile installers hang wallboards to walls and ceilings inside buildings. Tapers prepare the wallboards for painting, using tape and other materials. Many workers do both installing and taping.
Drywall installers typically do the following:
- Review design plans to minimize the number of cuts and waste of wallboard
- Measure the location of electrical outlets, plumbing, windows, and vents
- Cut drywall to the right size, using utility knives and power saws
- Fasten drywall panels to interior wall studs, using nails or screws
- Trim and smooth rough edges so boards join evenly
Ceiling tile installers typically do the following:
- Measure according to blueprints or drawings
- Nail or screw supports
- Put tiles or sheets of shock-absorbing materials on ceilings
- Keep the tile in place with cement adhesive, nails, or screws
Tapers typically do the following:
- Prepare wall surface (wallboard) by patching nail holes
- Apply tape and use sealing compound to cover joints between wallboards
- Apply additional coats of sealing compound to create an even surface
- Sand all joints and holes to a smooth, seamless finish
Installers are also called framers or hangers. Tapers are also called finishers. Ceiling tile installers are sometimes called acoustical carpenters because they work with tiles that block sound.
Once wallboards are hung, workers use increasingly wider trowels to spread multiple coats of spackle over cracks, indentations, and any remaining imperfections. Some workers may use a mechanical applicator, a tool that spreads sealing compound on the wall joint while dispensing and setting tape at the same time.
To work on ceilings, drywall and ceiling tile installers and tapers may use mechanical lifts or stand on stilts, ladders, or scaffolds.