What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery?

What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery?

Wood is one of the most versatile materials used in construction nowadays and can be used for many different purposes, from beginning to end of the building process. Working with wood in a building requires specific skills that are very different from the skills of a bricklayer. Carpentry and joinery are the two main trades that handle wood in architecture and construction.

There is a fine line between the two, and people are often confused about which professional is the best suited for a particular job. This article will address the difference between the two practices to help you choose which one is best for your project.

What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery? - Image 2 of 8What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery? - Image 3 of 8What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery? - Image 4 of 8What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery? - Image 5 of 8+ 8

Wood has been used for thousands of years as a material to build ships, furniture, tools, weapons, shelters, and even as fuel, and has been fundamental to the evolution of mankind and civilization. Such versatility is one of the main advantages of using wood in construction.

What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery? - Image 8 of 8
Rocky Knob Sauna / GriD Architects. Image © Brycen Fischer Photography

More recently, wood has been used to build complex load-bearing structures and to produce engineered wood, such as cross-laminated timber (CLT), but wood is also used for many other purposes in a regular construction site and often employed just as a secondary material that contributes to the building process. For example, to layout a building on the land, one must build a kind of guide to demarcate where the structure, walls, and columns are to be placed. This layout is usually made using a string line supported by wood slats and stakes and does not require too many specialized skills.

However, other practices use wood as the main character and require century-old knowledge and techniques, such as the specialized work of carpenters and joiners. Despite the similarities, there are some fundamental differences between the two.

What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery? - Image 5 of 8
Museo Taller / Felipe Pommerenke. Image © Véronique Huyghe

A carpenter is a professional dedicated to heavier production, constructing the building elements on-site, and whose specialized skills are assembling wood fixtures such as formwork, stud work, and also installing doors and windows, for example. Carpenters don't usually manufacture objects but rather building components in the context of an ongoing construction job. Joiners, on the other hand, are craftsmen who join wood, usually in a workshop or factory, and who are dedicated to the production of items that are added to the project at the end of the construction process, such as furniture and decoration.

What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery? - Image 4 of 8
Courtesy of Marcenaria Baraúna. Image © Bob Wolfenson.

Carpenters usually work with raw wood components, while joiners mostly work with wood boards, planks, panels, and finishings, such as veneers and natural or synthetic coatings. The tools and the scale of the projects are also very different in each trade. So, in a nutshell, carpentry is the woodwork involved in the daily routine of a construction site providing the necessary support for the various tasks, whereas joinery is the manufacturing of objects, usually in a workshop, to be installed after the construction is finished.

What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery? - Image 3 of 8
Omaha Reservation, Nebraska, 1877. Image © William Henry Jackson; The National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution

So, whenever you need to build or remodel a piece of furniture, a bookcase, a cupboard, a chair, or even a room divider, you need to hire a joiner. Now, if you need to have work done during construction, such as installing window frames, assembling molds, or shoring structures, you need a carpenter. One must keep in mind that there are many areas where joinery and carpentry overlap, with lots of transferable skills between the two professions. So, although there is this practical distinction, it is always important to discuss the project with the professionals to see how it can be carried out.

What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery? - Image 2 of 8
Small and Sculpted Studio Apartment / CatsEye Bay Design. Image © Kat Lu

Image gallery

See allShow less
About this author
Cite: Martino, Giovana. "What's the Difference Between Carpentry and Joinery?" [Marcenaria ou carpintaria: saiba qual a diferença e quem chamar quando precisar] 16 Aug 2021. ArchDaily. (Trans. Duduch, Tarsila) Accessed . <https://www.archdaily.com/966285/whats-the-difference-between-carpentry-and-joinery> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.