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  • Writer's pictureSara Johnson

Understanding the Distinction: Carpenter vs. Finish Carpenter

What is the difference between a carpenter and a finish carpenter? We get this question a lot. Upon investigation, we observed that some hold the belief that there is no discrepancy, while others maintain the two are indistinguishable. Others believe carpenters install carpet. Considering the name of the trade, can you really blame them? How about we clear up a few misconceptions?


Carpenter vs. Finish Carpenter - a carpenter sanding wood with a belt sander

Carpenter vs. Finish Carpenter

What is a carpenter?

This is an important question. Let’s crack open the dictionary.

According to Miriam Webster Dictionary, a carpenter is: a worker who builds or repairs wooden structures or their structural parts.

Sorry to burst your carpet bubble, but that means carpenters don’t install carpet. In case you are curious, people who install carpet are known by different titles, including carpet layer, carpet fitter, flooring contractors, or flooring specialists.

Where does the word carpenter come from?

The word carpenter is derived from an old Anglo-French word related to carriage. Carpenters were carriage makers. To further confuse your mind, we call people who work on our “horseless carriages” (aka cars) mechanics today. Isn’t it funny how language changes over time?

With the evolution of terminologies, carpentry has transformed to cover various trades. These skilled workers are no longer confined to the use of wood (or carriages). Occasionally, they use metal, fiberglass, or other materials that are accessible to construct or repair the structural (or decorative) parts of our homes.

Think of carpentry as the umbrella term for structural and decorative building projects.

What are the different types of carpentry?

Carpentry encompasses a range of building skills that can range from residential buildings to shipbuilding. Most times, the average homeowner will only come into contact with a few of these trades.

Here are the main carpentry services that would relate to home remodels.

  • Rough Carpentry

  • Finish Carpentry

Let’s break it down.

What is rough carpentry?

Involves the construction of the basic framework and structure of a building. They would build walls, roofs, decks, joists, trusses, and more. Any type of structural building that will be covered up later is handled by a rough carpenter.

What is a finish carpentry?

You already know what carpenter means. What does finish carpentry mean, though?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, finish means: something that completes or perfects.

Finish carpenters complete or perfects wood structures. They install the finer details of your home, like: trim, molding, cabinetry, stairs, doors, windows, and other decorative elements you’d find in your home. Finish carpenters have an eye for detail that rough carpenters may (or may not) lack. It is their job to make your home aesthetically pleasing.


What is the difference between a carpenter and a finished carpenter?

Carpenter is the umbrella term that encompasses a wide range of trades, from rough carpentry to finish carpentry.

Finish carpentry is a subset of carpentry that focuses on the aesthetically pleasing aspects of your home.

In California, carpentry has been divided into several different licenses, so be sure to hire the right carpenter for your project. If that’s not something you want to handle, then your best bet is to hire a general contractor. They will hire and vet all of their subcontractors for you.



We hope you found our blog beneficial. Sharing is caring, so please subscribe to our blog for future helpful hints and share with your friends. If you have a question or would like us to give you a free estimate for your home improvement project, please contact us, we’d love to hear from you.









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