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The difference between a carpenter and a joiner?

Rhino Trade Insurance 05 September 2022

Carpenters and Joiners are two hyper-specialised and similar trades that sometimes get confused as to what they take care of by customers. 

In the construction industry, however, you will find these two woodworking trades have various levels of differences and specialities. Let's look at what they are and talk about skills you need to help you decide if you want to be one or the other. 

Carpenters Vs Joiners

On the face of it, you may think there aren't many differences between these two trades or that they overlap considerably. If you asked a joiner or carpenter what the distinctions are, they'd most likely answer with distinct elements that separate them. So what should we expect from these two woodworking experts?

Duties and products made

As carpenters spend the majority of their time on-site working with a variety of materials like wood, drywall, plastic and fibreglass, their duties will change thus: 

  • Fitting new internal doors
  • Studwork, staircases and flooring
  • PVCU installation
  • Erecting timber walls
  • Installing plasterboards
  • Building roof trusses
  • Window and door frames, cupboards and shelving
  • Loft boarding
  • General repairs to wooden fixings

To get an idea of what joiners are up to in their workshops, you will find their duties include:

  • Building furniture like tables, chairs, bookcases and cabinets
  • Building frames for windows and doors
  • Creating staircase structures
  • Repair old/ vintage wooden items (like the repair shop on BBC)
  • Building custom-made requests from clients

Tools Used

The tools that each of these trades uses overlap at times, but there are also considerable differences. Carpenters work on-site and have portable tools that are small and easier to use in a variety of locations. These will be power tools and hand tools like a circular saw, router, chisel or mallet. 

A Joiner, however, will generally be based in the same place, such as their workshop. This is down to them needing larger, more powerful and less portable machinery. Whilst they will still have the smaller tools you find in a carpenter's toolkit, the larger machinery helps construct joints and build items. To get an idea, think of routing tables, table saws, lathes and sanding wheels. 

Where they work

As we eluded to above, you will often find carpenters working on construction sites or in a customer's home/ property. This is due to them building timber frame walls to the structures. 

Joiners will sometimes work on site, especially if you have ever had your kitchen worktop fitted and needed the joiner's fold. They will often be in their lovely workshop building a table, countertop, chair or whatever else. 

Materials and fastenings used

Of course, wood leads the way in this trade. However, carpenters and joiners sometimes use other materials. Generally, carpenters always carry nails, screws and wood glue with them. Moreover, they will mainly use metal fasteners to join wood together. 

Joiners have been trained to join wood together in unique ways. This is most likely the most significant difference between the two trades. Techniques such as tongue and groove or pegs are incredibly prevalent. A joiner is a way of saying 'joining or fitting wood together naturally'. A joiner is often known as a master craftsman as they rarely use nails and glue. 

Skills needed to be a Carpenters or Joiner

Whatever trade you choose to become, they all have different skills and abilities needed to do the job. Carpenters' and joiners' essential skills include:

Detail-oriented and precise

Carpenters and joiners have to be precise in their measurements and cuts. There can be no corners cut in this trade. If you have specific measurements, then it needs to be bob on. 


Things happen in every job that requires quick thinking and alternative approaches. If a piece doesn't quite go to plan, if a tool breaks or if a customer changes requirements, then you need to be able to solve the issues as quickly and efficiently as possible. 

Tool knowledge

In both trades, having a good understanding of what all your tools do is vital. One wrong move, and you may need to restart the entire project. Also, it's best to know the safety requirements, especially when using power tools and one wrong move. It could be curtains!

Mathematics and estimating

When approaching a job, a carpenter and joiner must have good skills in measuring, estimating and calculating the cost of the job. This will include the time it takes you to complete the work and any materials you will use. This also requires top communication skills to understand what the customer needs correctly. 

Last thoughts

Lastly, you need to be able to read blueprints and plans if you are ever working on-site, be physically fit to work in a heavy, constructive industry and have good hand-eye coordination to avoid injury. 

Insurance for Carpenters and Joiners

At Rhino Trade Insurance, we have tailored insurance policies for carpenters and joiners. You can find separate, top-quality insurance for whichever trade you are in. We offer Public Liability which is our most popular cover for these trades. 

On top of this, if you need specialist Employers' Liability Insurance, Tools Insurance, Professional Indemnity or whatever else. We have the right cover for you. Our policies are, on average, up to 40% cheaper than trade industry competitors, and our average insurance payouts are made in 24 hours. 

Why Choose Rhino Trade Insurance?

Rhino Trade Insurance has the best possible cover for you as a carpenter or joiner. Our outstanding team is based right here in the UK and focuses 100% on tradesman insurance. Give us a call for a quick and easy quote on 0116 243 7904. Alternatively, grab a quote online via our super-slick quote system. It will take you less than a minute! 

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