Careers in Carpentry and Construction

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The construction industry offers a tremendous diversity of construction jobs. Yet perhaps the most major building jobs are general contractors and carpenters. General construction and carpentry jobs often go hand in hand, because carpentry is responsible for much of a building's foundation and frame. Therefore, general contractors (or general construction workers) and carpenters often work side by side on the same projects. Both professions also have residential or commercial specialties. Furthermore, they both enjoy high salaries and positive job outlook.

The scale of their projects is perhaps the chief difference between construction workers and carpenters. General construction workers construct entire buildings, while carpenters often build the building’s foundation and wooden frame. Furthermore, carpenters construct furniture or cabinets. In a sense, construction is more of an engineering job while carpentry is more of an artisanal craft. Moreover, construction contractors replicate a design given to them from an architect. On the other hand, a carpenter is often left to his own creative devices, at the behest of his clients. However, there are exceptions to these rules, as carpenters may also follow the designs given to them from interior design firms or direct clients. As these similarities show, the boundaries between these two construction careers are often collapsible.

Another similarity is that construction workers and carpenters are most definitely not office jobs. Both contractors and carpenters work in hazardous outdoor environments that require bodily protection from heights, noise, and materials. Because both of them work with heavy materials, they are usually strong, physically fit, and manually adroit. They also have high endurance levels in order to withstand the many long hours of construction, especially if a project is nearing its deadline. These endurance levels additionally include the ability to tolerate extremely hot or cold temperatures.

General contractors and carpenters are often found at the same construction site. If so, they have been respectively contracted and subcontracted from the same employer. Carpenters often build the first part of a building, which is the foundation into which concrete is poured. When they build this foundation, they lay out the building’s outline that general contractors will expand on. While the contractors raise the structure, carpenters construct wooden doorways, windows, walls, flooring, and interior fixtures.

Carpenters are also important to the construction process because they build scaffolding. Without strong scaffolding, it would be difficult for contractors to build buildings above two stories. Carpenters also build structures such as sighting rods that give visual reference points to other construction workers as they work. Furthermore, carpenters install drywall into the building’s interior.

When carpenters work, they first cut and sand lumber into workable sheets of wood. They use hammers, levels, knives, and screwdrivers to cut and attach wood to the building foundation. After they erect the wood, they use sanders to give the finished wood a smooth surface.

General contractors work with many more materials and equipment than carpenters. Besides wood, they work with steel, glass, and concrete. When building, contractors first clean the construction site so they can have a safe and efficient working environment. Then, they set up traffic controls if they are building on or adjacent to roads, creating a schedule for construction workers to alternate shifts as traffic controllers. Also, they arrange for delivery of materials, equipment, construction vehicles, and portable rest rooms. They may also dig trenches and do ground-leveling before they start construction to give the building a flat foundation.

After this preparation is satisfactory and compliant with government regulations, the managing contractor gives the go-ahead for construction. Again, the carpenter first constructs the foundation, into which a contractor will pour concrete. Once the concrete is dry, both contractors and carpenters construct the basic frame of the building, setting up walls and sashes per the blueprint’s specifications. Moreover, they use the carpenter’s scaffolding to complete the higher areas of the building, working from bottom to top. When the exterior of the building is finished, contractors dismantle their equipment and start work on the interior. In this case, the carpenter plays a larger role by possibly constructing cabinets and furniture. Other subcontractors also come into play, such as welders, electricians, painters, and plumbers. Once all exterior and interior construction is finished, construction workers may clean the structure and rid it of all construction equipment. Oftentimes, the building owner will hire a separate construction company that specializes in a building’s final cleaning.

Construction workers and carpenters both maintain equal awareness of building codes and zoning laws. They have regulatory knowledge of both state and federal building regulations, such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) construction regulations. Because of construction dangers, contractors usually need about one million dollars in insurance before doing business with building owners.

General contractors and carpenters commonly launch their careers through apprenticeships or technical degree programs. A number of them may also earn bachelor’s degrees, though on-the-field experience is more valuable to obtaining work. They are usually both required by their states to have licensure, which typically entails completing both an oral and a written exam. Both professions also maintain professional associations that have resume-boosting certification courses and construction leads.
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