Choosing the right carpenter for your building project is an important decision. Hiring the wrong person could lead to bodged work that may put your entire project in jeopardy. It’s easy to underestimate the importance of a carpenter: after all the work they undertake has little bearing on the safety and structure of your property. But thinking like this is a sure-fire way to hit problems and you could be left with a home that is poorly built and just plain ugly.
A good carpenter will understand your needs and his work will be impeccably designed. Form stud wall frames, to staircases and bannisters, to doors and doorways, the carpenter you employ will be involved in many aspects of your project.
Getting the right carpenter in Oxford means researching which ones are best for you, getting quotes to see if they meet your budget, and finally picking one who suits your needs. The decision should not be based on how cheap they are and, a word of warning, if the price they quote seems too good to be true then it probably is.
In this article, we will look at what a carpenter does, why it is important to hire local, and how you can ensure you find the best tradesman for your job. Let’s get started.
What does a carpenter do?
A carpenter is a skilled craftsman who works within the construction, kitchen, and cabinet-making industries. Their main job is to design, fabricate, and fit (or install) wooden constructions. In the terms of a building project, they may be involved in any of the following tasks:
- If the house uses a wooden building frame (rare in the UK but becoming more popular due to environmental concerns), then a carpenter will design and build the frame.
- Design, fabrication, and fitting of doors and doorways.
- Installation of wooden frames for the fitting of stud or plasterboard interior walls.
- Fitting of floorboards and plinths.
- Design, construction, and fitting of staircases and bannisters.
- Design and fitting of kitchen units.
- Design, fabrication, and fitting of other decorative wood trims required for the property.
- Design and fitting of dormer windows.
The type of carpenter you need will depend on the project you are undertaking. Strictly speaking, there are two different types of carpenter, although many will specialize in both areas (or they may specialise in one specific type of carpentry like kitchen work, etc.).
A rough carpenter typically works on large construction projects and will be involved throughout. They will work closely with an architect or from blueprints to design the woodwork structures for the project and will source, cut, and fit materials to the specifications of the building. They seldom work on any intricate woodworking tasks and have more in common with builders and other tradesmen.
A finish carpenter is normally involved in a project after the main building work has been completed. They specialize in the finer side of carpentry and are often used to design and create cabinets, furniture, intricate newel posts or bannisters, detailed skirting boards, and a variety of other ornate wood-based products.
At the end of the day, the type of carpenter you use will depend on your project. If you need extensive building work with internal wood-framed walls and doors, you need a rough carpenter. If you’re looking for some fancy woodwork to finish off the project, you need a finish carpenter. If you’re looking to have a kitchen fitted, then you will hire a kitchen fitter.
As mentioned earlier, many carpenters work in all areas of the trade and will be able to accommodate all your needs. Just make sure before you sign any contracts that the carpenter is capable of the work you need completing.
Where can I find a good carpenter in Oxford?
When it comes to finding a good carpenter for your project, the Internet is often a good place to begin. Start with Google and search for “carpenters in Oxford”. Look for ones that display good review scores, testimonials, or other recommendations.
Which? offer a great “find a trusted tradesman” tool that can help with your search. All carpenters found using the service have been assessed by the consumer site and judged to be reliable, trustworthy, and competent. Give it a whirl by clicking here.
Have a look at social media. Facebook is a great site for gauging the feelings of previous customers (have a good trawl for negative comments) and Instagram, being photo-based, allows you to easily see examples of previous work.
Ask your friends and family if they can recommend a carpenter, especially if they’ve had building work completed recently. They may suggest the same carpenter they used for their project. Equally, they may regale you with tales of horror giving you an idea of who to avoid. If they do have a recommendation, then this could save you time and effort searching.
What are the benefits of hiring a local carpenter in Oxford?
Hiring a local carpenter brings many benefits, including:
- Local carpenters understand the buildings of the area and will have extensive experience with similar properties. Hiring a carpenter local to Oxford means hiring somebody with advanced knowledge of the buildings and expectations in the area. They will be able to advise on previous work they’ve completed in properties like yours and will understand how to get the right materials for the job.
- Local carpenters can often complete work quicker than out of town ones. If you hire a carpenter who lives down your road, it is going to be easier for them to get to your building site. This puts them in a unique position to liaise with other tradesmen and get on with work.
- Local carpenters will want to protect their reputation in the area they work in. All businesses rely on their reputation to be successful and just one bad review can hinder their ability to find work down the line. Out of town carpenters will also worry about reputation but word of mouth is unlikely to spread to their base of operations. We advise any potential project manager to thoroughly research any carpenter before hiring. Look on websites like com and Ratedpeople.com to get an idea of what other people think.
- A local carpenter will have working ties with local tradesmen. They will know which ones are good and will probably look to work with those that suit their style. In most cases, they will be able to recommend builders, electricians, and plumbers that they think will be a good fit for your project and may even be able to liaise with them to get work done.
- Local carpenters will know where to source the best local materials. Carpentry, more than any other profession, relies on the quality of materials to ensure work is completed to a high standard. Poor quality wood will soon break, discolour, splinter, or rot if not treated properly. A carpenter who is local to your area will know where to go to get the best wood and will understand how this can be manipulated for your building project.
- It’s easier to know if a local carpenter is good through word of mouth. If the carpenter you are looking to hire is local, there is a good chance that one of your friends, family, or neighbours has worked with them at some point. And if they have, they will probably have an opinion about them. They may have recommended them to you in the first place. Even if you found them yourself, gauging word of mouth will be an easier prospect if they are local to you.
How to choose a carpenter in Oxford
Making sure you hire the right tradesmen for your building project is vital to its success. But how do you know what to look for when hiring a carpenter? Well, here are a few things to take into consideration:
Look for a carpenter with a recognized qualification
There are no requirements for a carpenter to have qualifications in the UK. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t any qualifications out there. Always look for a carpenter who has passed a recognised training scheme, such as an NVQ or City & Guilds certificate (details of both can be found by visiting the City & Guild website here). A qualification of this type shows that they have at least a basic level of competence and should be able to perform many carpentry jobs with ease.
Look for a carpenter who is a member of a trade association
Again, there is no requirement for a carpenter to be a member of trade associations but if they do, this can be a sign that their work is of a high standard. That’s not to say that carpenters who aren’t a member of an association are all bad. Many will still be good, but the added checks and scrutiny that comes with membership can be reassuring.
Trade associations tend to encourage higher standards for the quality of work their members perform and will remove membership if these are not adhered to. Our advice is to look for a carpenter who is a member of either the Institute of Carpenters, the British Woodworking Federation, or the Guild of Master Craftsmen or the Federation of Master Builders.
Look for a carpenter who is easily reached
Being good with wood is the least you expect from a carpenter. And while being competent in the job is expected, giving good customer service is equally important. Your carpenter could be amazing but if you can never reach him on the phone how are you ever going to complete your project.
Communication between you and your carpenter should be clear and detailed. He should know exactly what you expect from his work and you should know exactly how the job is progressing and how much it will cost. If your first experience with a carpenter is waiting for him to call you back or trying to chase him down on the phone, our advice is to walk away and find somebody else.
Make sure any quote given is clear and offers assurances
Getting an accurate quote from any tradesman can be tricky. Even with the best intentions in the world, your carpenter may have to revise the price at some point due to previously unforeseen developments.
Our advice is to make sure the carpenter you hire gives you a professional and detailed quote that offers some assurance that the price won’t change unless something catastrophic happens.
Here are a few things to look for in a quote:
- The quote should be in a written format with all costs detailed (including additional charges like VAT). This will form part of the contract between you and the carpenter.
- Make sure your quote includes all labour and material costs and query whether it is a full and final total.
- The quote should include any terms and conditions that apply to the work. For example, if the carpenter has assumed certain costs that may change, this should be mentioned in the details.
- The quote should explain how the carpenter expects to be paid. If they are looking for upfront payments or instalments, this should be indicated in the details.
Make sure your carpenter is insured
All quality tradesmen will have valid insurance certificates that cover their work. This will protect them and you if a problem arises. You will, however, find some that forego insurance and perform work with no protection. Our advice is always ask to see a valid insurance certificate before letting any tradesman loose on your building project.
Choosing the right carpenter for any project is never easy. But armed with a little knowledge and the tips in our guide should hopefully make the process easier.
The next time you’re looking to hire a carpenter in Oxford, remember the tips above and hire local. You won’t be disappointed.