Carpenter vs. Joiner: What’s the Difference?

Carpenters and joiners are two similar jobs with small but essential differences. While they both work in the construction trades, they also have unique skills and specialisations.

If you like the idea of building things with your hands, becoming a carpenter or joiner might be right for you, but you’ll have to pick from these two options.

Let’s explore the differences between carpenter vs joiner to help you choose the right path for you !

As you read this blog, consider your preferred daily tasks and activities, and whether you want to advance your career after becoming a tradie.

What is the difference between a joiner and a carpenter?

Carpenter or Joiner

Similarities between carpenters and joiners

The professions of carpenters and joiners have many similarities. Both are highly skilled trades within the construction industry that involve working primarily with lumber. They both require mastery of woodworking skills and techniques. Their working environments and daily responsibilities are generally similar. While it is more common for carpenters to work on-site and joiners to work in workshops, both may work in either location. There are many skills and techniques shared between the two disciplines, and some tradespeople practice both specialties.

What are the differences between a carpenter and a joiner?

There are subtle yet distinct differences between a carpenter and a joiner. The two disciplines share some elements of woodworking technique, but each profession requires a different set of specialized skills. Here are some key distinctions that differentiate the two trades:

Fastenings used

Carpenters generally use metal fastenings or other materials to join wood pieces together, such as nails, screws or glue.

Joiners often use special joining techniques to attach sections together, such as wooden pegs or tongue and groove cuts. The term joiner originates from this skill of fitting together wooden pieces naturally without using additional types of fasteners. It is a common misconception that joiners never use nails or glue. While this isnt necessarily true, there is a distinct level of craftsmanship and fine woodworking that a joiner uses to create furniture and products.

Type of products created

Carpenters usually construct items on construction sites and tend to work on the components of building construction, such as erecting timber walls or building roof trusses. They also frequently fit the products created by the joiner, such as staircases or cabinets, into the structure.

Joiners generally make complete products out of lumber, such as windows, frames or doors for a new building. They also build items like fitted furniture or staircases for a building. Additionally, a joiner might repair or replace worn or damaged elements of a home, such as creating a replica of an antique door.

It is common practice for a joiner to build an item off-site, like a staircase, and then for a carpenter to install the product in the building.

Specific tools used

Carpenters usually use portable smaller tools that are easy to bring to different construction sites, such as power and hand tools like nail guns, power drills and circular saws.

A joiner will use many of the smaller tools a carpenter uses, but also requires large machinery to form joints and construct furniture. Some of the stationary machines a joiner may use are lathes, table saws, sanding wheels and routing tables.

Work location

Carpenters commonly work at building construction sites, constructing building elements like walls and fitting the pieces into the building.

Joiners generally need well-equipped workshops to house their large, immovable machinery. However, both carpenters and joiners can work either in a workshop or on-site.

Skills necessary for carpenters and joiners

Carpenters and joiners both require fundamental skill sets which include the following abilities:

Carpenter vs joiner duties

Carpenters are more likely than joiners to work at a construction site, finishing new construction or repairing or renovating wooden structures. In addition to working with lumber, a carpenter may also work with other materials such as plastic, fiberglass or drywall. Common duties of carpenters can include:

Joiners usually work in a workshop, creating objects or furniture but not installing them in the building. Some of their standard duties include:

How to become a carpenter or a joiner

Carpenters and joiners may follow a similar career path until they choose to specialize in either craft. In order to become a carpenter or a joiner, here are the steps you may take:

1. Obtain a high school diploma or GED

A high school diploma or GED is a prerequisite for most apprenticeship programs. Helpful classes to take in high school to prepare you to be a carpenter or joiner include:

2. Enter an apprenticeship program

Most professional carpenters complete an apprenticeship program with a trade union, professional association or contractor. Students usually learn the skills of both professions, carpentry and joinery, as apprentices. It generally takes three to four years to complete an apprenticeship program. An apprentice earns a wage while they are learning job skills, and the union or employer may pay for additional training or schooling as well.

Training as a carpenter apprentice usually consists of the following:

3. Consider additional education

If the apprenticeship doesnt offer additional training, an apprentice may opt to take college or vocational courses to supplement their on-the-job learning.

4. Choose an area of specialty

After mastering general carpentry techniques, some apprentices may choose specialized training, such as working with concrete, rigging or flooring. They may decide to specialize in either commercial or residential carpentry. They can also choose to become either a qualified joiner, a carpenter or in some cases both.

5. Become a journeyman carpenter or joiner

When the apprenticeship is complete, the apprentice will become certified as a journeyman carpenter. They may continue to work for the firm where they apprenticed, or they may choose to become an independent contractor.


Is Joiner the same as carpenter?

Carpentry and joinery are both construction trades. In its most simplest and traditional sense, joiners ‘join’ wood in a workshop, whereas carpenters construct the building elements on-site.

What is the difference between carpenter and carpentry?

In the simplest possible terms, joiners ‘join’ wood in a workshop and carpenters construct the building elements on site.

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