Contractor vs Carpenter

Contractor vs Carpenter: What’s the Difference?

January 26, 2022 8:13 pm Published by

When we need commercial building renovations done or commercial construction upgrades completed we face the choice between calling a generalist or a specialist. While there is often a crossover in skills, it is important to understand who does what best and is not just willing to give it a try. In fact, we should want things done right the first time. In this article, we highlight some of the differences between a contractor vs a commercial carpenter, as well as the differences between a carpenter vs a woodworker.

Contractor vs Carpenter: What’s the Difference?

What is a Contractor?

The word contractor has become a generic term for referring to general contractors. This can help explain why we sometimes innocently have false expectations of the person we call for help. Not all tradesmen are general contractors, and not all contractors have a trade. In fact, a genuine general contractor probably won’t do any of the physical work themselves, unless they happen to have a trade.

What a general contractor really is, is a project manager who hires tradesmen. Then, they coordinate and schedule the work of the trades. A general contractor will usually charge a percentage of the overall total project cost, including hired labor and materials, up to 50 percent. If the contractor does have a trade, they will award themselves the work for that trade and bill for it, instead of subcontracting it out. However, more often than not, general contractors will sub-contract to independent contractors (tradesmen and women who often have their own power tools) for each subset of work.

Contractor Qualifications

In order to ensure the subcontractors are competent professionals, a general contractor should know something about each trade. Therefore, general contractors are a jack of all trades, but masters of none.

A contractor should delegate work professionally based on their insight and experience. Many contractors are builders who in turn delegate to independent contractors. An experienced builder will have an understanding of each trade and the work that needs to be completed. Furthermore, a general contractor should know the building codes for all trades and ensure that the required standards are met.

The general contractor should be the person responsible for the overall performance of the project and must hold the independent contractors responsible. Sadly, there are unscrupulous, self-proclaimed general contractors bidding for work who are no more than middlemen. These types of general contractors are looking to make a project fee for doing nothing. Oftentimes, they will hire inexperienced or cheap sub-contractors, and use poor quality materials, to maximize their profits. They abdicate to sub-contractors rather than delegate professionally, and are quick to point fingers when there are snags. Be careful when hiring a contractor. Anybody with half an idea can call themselves a contractor, as they are not required to have a trade.

Are contractors necessary?

For new commercial builds, builders make for good general contractors. Not only do builders understand what the other trades need to do, and how they should do it, but they are also motivated to make sure the job is done right and on time. Typically they do not charge a project management fee, as they see managing and coordinating the other trades as part of the job.

A builder should also be good at coordinating and consulting with your architect. An alternative on a new commercial build is to ask the architect to act as a project manager for the build. An experienced architect will have the knowledge to manage the build. In addition, they have a vested interest if the final payment is only to be made on completion. However, an architect may opt to hire a general contractor to manage the project at your expense. When it comes to commercial development, a professional general contractor is imperative. In fact, bigger developers may even have their own in-house project managers.

What is a Carpenter?

By definition, a carpenter is skilled in the cutting, shaping, and installation of materials in buildings. In a country where many residential builds are constructed from timber, carpenters are key. In fact, carpenters are also vital to commercial builds as well. Sometimes carpenters play a role in the structure of the build, however, they most always play a role in the finishes of a build. Carpenters are able to put roofs on residences, install floors, and even siding, both inside and outside. Carpenters are also able to complete standard cabinetry, built-in closets, doors, and window frames. In retail, office, restaurant and church spaces, commercial carpenters’ work includes casework, interior door trim, wood base, chair rail, crown molding, wood and wire closet shelving, and other finish carpentry and trim projects.

A knowledgeable and experienced carpenter will be able to coordinate with electricians and plumbers and schedule their work around them. Carpenters report to the general contractor or project manager, who is typically the builder on a new residential build. A carpenter is an independent contractor who also usually offers remodel and repair services. Carpenters can also take on the erection of sheds and other smaller projects.

What is a Woodworker?

Although they are different, a woodworker is equipped with many of the same skills as a carpenter. However, the converse isn’t quite likely. Woodworkers deal with the finer, more intricate aspects of working with wood. Woodworkers produce bespoke work – as in customized and made to measure items and finishes. The challenge embraced by a woodworker is to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary. Woodworkers have elaborate machines and tools. In fact, a carpenter may have a set of five woodworking chisels, whereas a woodworker may have over thirty. Carpenters work with standard-sized materials. Meanwhile, a woodworker has to thickness and plane their own.

Bespoke Woodwork

Bespoke furniture pieces, carved rails, balustrades, architrave, and sculptures are the pride and joy and legacy of woodworkers. Woodworkers are the antithesis of the one size fits all market. Rather than shoehorning premanufactured, industry-standard measurement size cabinets into the available space, office kitchen or breakroom cabinetry, for example, can be made to measure, and the design arranged to suit the client. The claim of high-end woodworkers is that if you can imagine it and if they can draw it, then they can make it. Therefore, woodworkers are highly skilled and creative. Woodworkers seek to serve a higher purpose, most of them only just managing to earn a living, for the sake of their craft.

Additional Reading: Architects look to prefab to create adaptable, human-centered spaces (American Institute of Architects)

Contour Construction | Commercial Carpentry in Omaha

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  • Small scale tenant improvement and build-out projects

Contact Contour Construction to outline performance in carpentry on your next project. Click to check out our services, projects, or contact us today.

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This post was written by Contour Construction