Choosing the right carpenter or joiner for your building project is an important decision. But picking the first person you come across in the phone book is never a wise choice and understanding the difference between the two trades is crucial to avoid problems down the line.
How many of us actually understand what a carpenter does? What about a joiner? Did you think they were the same jobs? If you did, don’t worry, you join most of the population in confusion.
But figuring out which of the two you need is only half the battle. Knowing how to find one that is a good fit for your project is the other half.
Getting the right carpenter or joiner in Oxford means researching the best ones available, getting quotes, and then picking a tradesman based on your needs and their skills, not how much they charge.
With so many things to think about it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. But don’t worry because we’re here to help. In this article, we will explain exactly what carpenters and joiners do, what their differences are, as well as give you tips on how to choose the right tradesmen for your project in the Oxford area. Let’s begin.
What is a carpenter?
Carpentry is one of the oldest trade skills in the world and is always in high demand for building projects. Carpenters use natural wood and timber materials to create and install wooden fixtures and fittings within a property.
In terms of a building project, a carpenter will create things like doors, door frames, wooden floorings and floorboards, and may even (rarely) create furniture. They can also be brought in to renovate or refit existing structures to replace worn, damaged, or rotting timber. There is even a roaring sector of the industry that works primarily on film sets creating timber for use on sound stages.
Carpenters don’t generally create structures that require a workshop and tend to work primarily on-site. They may use metal and other materials along with wood to create structurally sound components within a build.
What is a joiner?
A joiner is in many ways incredibly similar to a carpenter but also subtly different. A joiner works with wood and timber to create a variety of structures integral to the making of buildings. These include:
- Doors and door frames
A joiner will make all the structures he creates and ensure they are safe to use. Most joiners will have a workshop so they can fabricate the pieces required for a job. They will rarely use metal or other components in their work and rely on “joining” timber together with glue and other socketing methods.
So, what is the difference between carpentry and joinery?
You may have read the description above and thought to yourself, “Eh? Aren’t they the same thing?” On paper, they certainly sound similar and we can’t deny that there is quite a lot of cross over between the trades. But there are a few small areas where they differ. In this section, we will discuss a few in a little more detail.
While both a carpenter and joiner will use timber and wood primarily, the use of other materials may differ. Joiners tend to rely on wood above everything else and look to “join” pieces together with glue, sockets, butt joints, bridle joints, etc. They will often create the pieces required for a job from raw timber in their workshop.
A carpenter, on the other hand, will use a variety of additional materials, like metal frames, screws, and nails to complete their work. They often use prefabricated timber (often created by a joiner) that needs fixing into place, although they are more than capable of creating their own wooden pieces if required.
Carpenters tend to work on-site creating, fixing, and repairing wooden structures. As such they often use smaller handheld and portable tools to complete work.
Joiners complete much of their work in a workshop. Because of this, they will have access to a range of heavier, industrial tools like circular saws, etc. This allows them to cut and create larger wooden structures with ease.
To fit or not to fit
As carpenters are often on-site, they are usually the ones who fit wooden structures together. You will often find a carpenter at a building project screwing together a staircase or fixing up a door frame.
Joiners, on the other hand, create the wooden pieces in their workshop but may then pass them to a carpenter to fit into place. Think of a joiner as a fabricator of wooden pieces and a carpenter as the one who finishes the work by putting them together.
Do I need a carpenter or joiner?
As you can see from the discussion above, the two jobs are incredibly similar but at the same time have a few subtle differences. At the end of the day, which one you choose will depend on the work required. Many tradesmen work in both skills and you will often only have to hire one man (or team) for your job. Our advice is to research the areas they are comfortable with and make sure they can complete all the work for your project before hiring. Get this written down in a contract. You should then be covered in case of “issues” down the line.
So, how do I choose a joiner or carpenter in Oxford?
Figuring out the difference between a carpenter and a joiner is, unfortunately, only half the battle. Trying to get a reputable one for your job is the other half. And while there are many carpenters and joiners out there, how do you know which ones are good and which ones to avoid? Well, you’re in luck because in this section we’re going to discuss the things you need to look for when hiring a carpenter or joiner in Oxford.
Look for a tradesman with the right qualifications
Like many of the trade skills in the UK, there are no mandatory requirements for a carpenter or joiner to have qualifications. There are, however, several courses that they can undertake to enhance their skills and highlight their quality.
Our advice is to look for a carpenter or joiner who has undertaken a recognised training scheme, such as an NVQ or City & Guilds certificate (details of these courses can be found on the City & Guild website here). Some of the more popular options are:
- Level 2 Apprenticeship (NVQ Technical Certificate and Functional Skills) in Wood Occupations – Site Carpentry (City and Guilds).
- NVQ Level 2 Carpentry.
- NVQ Level 2 in Joinery.
Look for a carpenter or joiner who is a member of a recognised trade association
Again, there is no requirement for a carpenter or joiner to be a member of a trade association but if they are, this can often be a good sign that the work they complete is of a competent standard. Most trade associations require members to meet a specific level of competence and customer service and will remove membership if these are not adhered to. That’s not to say that all carpenters and joiners who aren’t a member of an association are bad at their job. Some are amazing. But the membership badge gives peace of mind that you are hiring quality.
Look for a carpenter or joiner that offers guarantees for work and materials
The materials used in the carpentry professions vary in quality and longevity. Before hiring a carpenter or joiner, ask what materials they intend to use for your project and what sort of guarantees they can give. But don’t take their word for it. Once you know the type of wood, do a little research for yourself. Google the materials and look for how long it will last before having to be replaced.
Ask what the carpenter’s experience with the materials is and why they choose specifically those items. Ask him what guarantees he gives for his work and make sure that all this is written into the contract you both sign. Often simple questions can uncover a lot about the work ethic and skills of a tradesman.
Make sure your carpenter or joiner has a valid insurance certificate
All tradesmen you hire should have a correct and proper insurance certificate for the work they undertake. The insurance is there in case something unforeseen happens. If the carpenter or joiner you hire doesn’t have insurance, they are putting you, as their customer, and themselves at risk financially. Without insurance, any problems will fall on you as the project manager and any damage to your property or, even worse, your neighbours could leave you liable to extra costs and repairs.
Hire the right man for the job
Carpentry above all other building trades is full of specialist niches. Along with the standard carpentry and joinery skills, there’s cabinet making, furniture making, kitchen fabrication, etc. Make sure before you hire a woodworking professional they can perform all the tasks you require of them. Go through the details of the build before hiring and make sure that the full scope of the work is written into contracts.
Hire a tradesman who gives you a clear and detailed quote
Getting a quote back in the day was often fraught with pitfalls. Seldom were they professional written down and they often left loopholes that could be easily wriggled out of.
Today, getting a quote is a much more professional experience. And while even with the best intentions, costings can increase above those agreed, the assurances given by the initial price breakdown is far more reassuring and enforceable by law.
Our advice is to look for a carpenter or joiner who gives a detailed, printed quote that includes:
- Clear details of the work and how the carpenter or joiner intends to handle it.
- A full breakdown of the materials they intend to use along with costs and any guarantees that come with them.
- Details of the cost of labour set out in an estimated number of hours worked.
- Any VAT charges that apply to materials and labour
- Details of how the bill will be paid, including any deposits and upfront payments required.
- A list of any other terms and conditions that apply to the work or are specific to the carpenter or joiner.
Why you should you search local when hiring a carpenter or joiner in Oxford?
Carpenters and joiners in Oxford, like many tradesmen, are much in demand. Finding one that is available for your job when you need them can be tricky. Sometimes you may be tempted to hire an out-of-town professional for your project. This could be a mistake and here’s why:
- The cost of work may be more expensive: Out of town tradesmen will have little knowledge of where to buy quality materials at the lowest prices in the Oxford area. This may lead to you paying more than they should. They may also charge more for travel costs to and from the worksite.
- Out-of-town professionals may not worry about their reputation as much: Local carpenters will worry about their local reputation. Most of the work they perform will be in the Oxford area and bad word of mouth can easily ruin their business. Out-of-town carpenters are less likely to worry about word of mouth spreading to their main base of operations and may do a worse job as a result.
- Work may take longer to compete: Out-of-town carpenters may have to travel much further to get to your work site. This may lead to delays and could slow work down.
- Oxford carpenters and joiners understand Oxford properties: Oxford offers a range of properties from centuries-old cottages to new-build houses. Local, experienced Oxford carpenters and joiners will already understand the intricacies of Oxford properties far better than somebody from out of town.
Understanding the difference between a carpenter and a joiner can be tricky. But even once you do, finding the right one for your building project can be even more difficult.
Our tip is the next time you need a carpenter or joiner in Oxford, remember the tips above and hire local. You won’t be disappointed.