Carpentry is the backbone of construction. From essential molds and foundational work to finishing touches on interior design and cabinetry, carpenters have a hand in every part of the construction process. Because they’re so necessary to so many projects and job sites, many carpenters choose to start up a business of their own in order to assist on a wide variety of projects.

This guide will walk you through what you might expect to earn if you start up a carpentry business. We’ll go over how much carpenters make—whether employed or independent—how these salaries look in comparison to other industries, and what influences the salary you can expect to pull in on your own.

Let’s get started!

How much do carpenters make?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for a carpenter is $48,330.1 That means that, of all carpenters working in 2019, half made more than that amount and half made less. While the top 10% made more than $84,690, the bottom 10% made less than $30,170.

In other words, the vast majority of carpenters (~80%) made between $30 thousand and $85 thousand in 2019, and the average carpenter made something around $48 thousand.

In other words, the vast majority of carpenters (~80%) made between $30 thousand and $85 thousand in 2019, and the average carpenter made something around $48 thousand.

And that’s for all carpenters—independent, union, etc.

The BLS survey of carpenters takes into account not just independent contractors, but also carpenters who work for a variety of different employers. Of all carpenters considered, here’s the breakdown of largest employers, per BLS:

  • 10% are employed by exterior contractors and companies.
  • 12% are employed for finishing work.
  • 13% are employed for nonresidential construction.
  • 22% are employed for residential construction.
  • 27% are self employed.

As you can see, over a quarter of carpenters are self-employed, more than any other employment structure. And, even these numbers can be murky, since there’s crossover within them (self employed contractors do a lot of residential work). Remember, carpenters wear many hats, working regularly for one or more employers while also owning their own business.

So, with that in mind…

How much do self-employed carpenters make?

Self-employed carpenters who own their own businesses enjoy certain freedoms that aren’t afforded to those who work primarily for a company. The biggest one is the ability to control their own workflow, taking on as many (or as few) projects as they desire.

In practice, this means higher ceilings for independent carpenters.

According to PayScale, self-employed contractors make about $50,000 per year on average, broken down into the following splits2:

  • The bottom 25% make under $40 thousand
  • The top 25% make over $65 thousand

Those figures are already a bit higher than (but pretty close to) the baseline BLS data. But a competing Paysa survey estimates the average salary for independent contractors at around $68,6443, with the following splits:

  • The top 25% make over $79,000
  • The bottom 25% make under $62,000

Overall, Independent contractors can earn significantly more than their salaried counterparts.

Carpenters’ average salary

According to BLS data, when compared to other professions, both within construction and without, this is how carpenters stack up.

  • Median salary, all occupations: $39,810
  • Median salary, construction trades: $46,340
  • Median salary, carpenters: $48,330

Carpenters do bring in slightly higher median salaries than other construction trades, as well as about $10,000 more than the median of all workers (regardless of occupation).

Not too shabby.

Overall, though, whether carpenters make good money is pretty subjective. The numbers above might seem good to you, or they might not. It’s important to keep in mind that they’re also based on ranges and aggregates of all carpenters who worked last year, including the most—and least—productive.

Given enough hard work, there’s no reason you can’t reach or exceed even the top 25%, 10%, or even 1% of the figures above.

That said, what kinds of factors affect your pay as a carpenter?

Factors that impact what carpenters make

One of the biggest factors that determines what carpenters get paid is the actual industry you work in as a carpenter. Per BLS, here is the breakdown of median income by specific industry for 2019:

  • Residential buildings: $46,290
  • Structure, foundation, and exterior: $46,850
  • Building finishing: $49,440
  • Nonresidential buildings: $53,040

As you can see, nonresidential carpentry work is relatively more lucrative than some other industries, on average. But industry is far from the only deciding factor for carpenter salaries—especially for self employed carpenters.

Factors that impact independent carpenters’ earnings

In addition to industry norms and pricing that impact all carpenters, there are also considerations specific to independent contractors. Some of the most important ones include:

Location – Where you conduct your carpentry business

  • The market: What kinds of buildings are there where you work? How many new projects are there per year?
  • Stakes: How much does real estate and construction cost?
  • Saturation: how many carpenters are there in your area? How do you stack up against the competition?

Reputation and networking – How well your work is received, and, consequently, how much work you get

  • Word of mouth: Doing good work for customers is the best way to ensure that they’ll recommend your services to other potential clients.
  • Advertising: In addition, promoting your services is another great way to attract clients, bringing in additional projects and revenue.

Your business itself – The specific qualities of your operation.

  • Size, scope: How big is your team? What projects can you take on?
  • Efficiency: How much work can you do, and how quickly?
  • Business costs: How much does it cost to stay current with not just licensing, but also advertising and insurance?

All of these factors should be assessed when considering whether going independent and starting your own business is your best option.

For that last part, we can help.

Protect your business

As a carpenter thinking about starting your own business, there are many factors to consider, even beyond what kinds of revenue you can expect over a year. One of the biggest ones is insurance, keeping you, your business, your clients, and everyone around the jobsite protected.

Your job is fixing, renovating, and building. At Thimble, our job is simplifying insurance for business owners like you. That’s why Thimble’s Carpenters Insurance policy is designed to cover you from third-party claims of:

  • Bodily injury
  • Property damage
  • Personal injury
  • Advertising injury

Given that you work project-to-project, our on-demand policies go by the hour, day, or month. It’s insurance that works when you do, so you don’t pay a dime when the tools are in the shed.

Get covered in less than 60 seconds and choose an insurance policy that works for you helping you keep as much of your hard earned cash in your pocket.