Were you the kid growing up who was obsessed with forts or tree houses? Who didn’t necessarily dislike school but preferred learning with your hands? Who loved getting out into the world, meeting people, and solving problems that you felt were meaningful and immediate?
If you nodded along with the above, then you’ve probably considered a professional field that lets you work with your hands—a field like carpentry.
Carpenters are professionals who build things, first and foremost. They construct roofs over heads; they erect buildings; they assemble many modern-day necessities often taken for granted. It’s a craft and a profession that’s literally thousands of years old.
If you’re considering carpentry work, then you’ll want to put the same care and energy into your business as you do into each project. To that end, read ahead for how to get started.
How to become a carpenter
Trade, Technical, or Vocational School
While a 2-year degree program at a technical school or trade school is not mandatory to get started, it can provide a launchpad from which to learn the carpentry trade. Many find that these programs have a high employability rate upon graduation. You’ll learn in a variety of settings, both in the classroom and on a job site. You’ll discover a range of construction methods, safety practices, and design elements essential to the craft. Additionally, you’ll most likely study some combination of the following:
- Algebra, geometry, physics
- Blueprint reading
- Machine woodworking
- Materials measurement and identification
- Hand tool selection, care, and use
- Estimations and project management
- Residential/commercial principles and procedures
- Building code requirements
- Interior/exterior framing and finishing
Many large construction or general contracting companies (and even some unions) will offer entry-level jobs assisting residential and commercial experienced carpenters as an apprentice. Generally, for the companies and unions, you can expect a three-year commitment to learning the carpentry craft under a supervising team with hands-on training. Upon completion, you’ll receive a certificate as a journeyperson and can get further certifications or secure jobs. Check out this list of government-vetted apprenticeships. With an apprenticeship, you can expect to learn:
- Construction safety
- First aid
- Blueprint reading
- Freehand sketching
- Basic mathematics
- Variety of carpentry techniques
- Study layout, form-building, rough-framing, and interior/exterior finishing
Online trade school
If you’re curious about the carpentry profession but don’t have the time or inclination to go full-time, check out the litany of online courses available. You can receive the same level of education but at your pace. Some include:
- Penn Foster
- Ashworth College
Additionally, there are many community colleges that offer courses and certifications in the skilled trades, carpentry included. You should decide what course of action works best for your finances and interests, then put hammer to nail and jump right in.
Skills needed for a carpenter
So you want to be a carpenter. But do you have the natural disposition to succeed as one? Here’s a list of skills that greatly help carpentry professionals:
- Solid Math Skills – Your work is dependent on your attention to detail and your ability to precisely measure a multitude of things. This level of precision requires at least a basic level of mathematics.
- Analysis of Technical Drawings – Do you have a good sense of direction? Is reading a map easy for you? This is a good sign that your predilection for technical drawings will be high. This is an important skill as you move forward with any project in carpentry.
- Physical Prowess – Natural athleticism, strength, stamina, and hand-eye coordination are fantastic attributes for a carpenter. Given the hands-on type of work, picking up heavy objects, scaling ladders, and getting “your hands dirty” are part of the trade.
- People Skills – Construction projects are difficult. Keeping composure under pressure and adapting to the circumstances is essential. On top of that, being able to communicate clearly, politely, and effectively to clients will ensure your success. This is a relationship-forward industry. If you impress those you work with—particularly if they like you—they’ll then refer you to their network, thus growing your clientele.
Starting your own carpentry business
Many of the experienced carpentry professionals will strike out on their own once they’ve received the adequate training and experience needed to take on projects. This is an exciting prospect. You can start growing your independent contracting business as a carpenter. You have the ability to be the sole proprietor of your business. Your success rests squarely in your hands, and that’s just the way you like it.
Get some business cards, assemble the tools you need, and start marketing your services. But, before you start a job, there’s one last step.
Thimble: protecting your carpentry business
Working in the trades is a risky endeavor, both on and off the job. With so many moving parts, physical labor, dangerous tools, and different locations—things can and do go wrong.
In which case, every carpenter needs to have a general liability insurance policy. Should property damage, bodily injury, or personal injury occur to any client or third party, then a general liability policy can help protect you against a claim.
Our policies are created with carpenters in mind. With our pay-when-you’re-working structure, you won’t spend a dime when you’re not on the job. This allows you to purchase insurance specific to the projects you’re working on, rather than choosing a wasteful umbrella policy. Through our website or by downloading the Thimble app, you can input your information and receive a quote in less than sixty seconds. Should a job fall through, no worries. You can cancel penalty-free up to an hour prior to the coverage kicking in.
Carpentry, a rewarding career choice
Now you know the basics of how to become a carpenter. From trade schools, apprenticeships, skills required, to the types of insurance you’ll need, all that’s left is for you to get out there and start crossing off the checklist.
And remember, at any point in the journey, if you end up screwing it up, you can always nail it back in.