Find a Carpenter

Carpenter

Find a local carpenter to help build your new dream home, renovate and expand your existing home, or build new joinery, cabinetry and furniture for your house. The Specifier Residential carpenters and joiners directory can meet all of your timber related needs, whether it be as simple as the building of timber stud frames, roof frames, trusses and rafters, decking, patios, pergolas, carports, and shade structures, or interior features such as sills, joinery, cabinets, or wood furniture.

PRELIMINARIES

FINDING AND HIRING A CARPENTER

DISPUTES AND REDRESS


PRELIMINARIES

What is carpentry?

Carpentry describes a wide range of woodworking that includes the construction of buildings, furniture, and other objects out of wood. The work generally involves significant manual labour and work outdoor, particularly in rough carpentry.

Who are carpenters?

A carpenter constructs, erects, installs, renovates and repairs structures and fixtures of wood, plywood, wallboard and other materials.

What do they do?

Carpenters are involved in many different kinds of construction activity, from the building of highways and bridges to the installation of kitchen cabinets. They provide services throughout the entire design and construction process and while each carpentry task is somewhat different, most involve the same basic steps.

Carpenters are used in a variety of contexts. Small home builders and remodeling companies may require carpenters to discuss all aspects of building a house – framing walls and partitions, putting in doors and windows, building stairs, installing cabinets and molding, and many other tasks. On the other hand, large construction contractors or specialty contractors may require their carpenters to perform only a few regular tasks.

A carpenter should be able to: read blueprints and/or get instructions from a supervisor; do the layout (select materials, planning sequences and methods of work, and measure and mark materials to avoid costly mistakes or omissions); cut and shape materials and join them with nails, screws, bolts or glue; check completed units to be sure they are level, square, plumb and the right size, shape and location; estimate the quantity of materials required by proper measuring or reviewing a work order; interpret drawings and blueprints and calculate the materials required; work accurately and economically and follow national and local building codes.

A carpenter should also illustrate: good manual dexterity; physically fitness and health; the ability to follow instructions; technical aptitude in order to follow plans; willingness to continuously upgrade your knowledge and skills; an ability to work at heights; commitment to safe work procedures; good interpersonal and communication skills for dealing with customers; keenness to use tools and equipment to perform tasks that require precision.

What type of carpenter do I need?

Choosing the right carpenter depends on the type and scale of your particular project.

A rough carpenter is someone who does rough carpentry – framing, formwork, roofing, and other structural or other large-scale work that need not be finely joined or polished in appearance

A joiner is someone who does joinery – cabinetry, furniture making, fine woodworking, model building, instrument making, parquetry, joinery, or other carpentry where exact joints and minimal margins of error are important. Some large-scale construction may be of an exactitude and artistry that is classified as joinery

A finish carpenter specializes in molding and trim, such as door and window casings, mantles, baseboard, and other types or ornamental work.

What qualifications and accreditation should they have?

Carpenters learn their trade through formal and informal training programs. To become a skilled carpenter usually takes between three and four years of both classroom and on-the-job training.

Commonwealth regulations require a carpenter to have completed formal qualifications achieved through study, training or work experience and is referred to as the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF). A carpenter needs to have attained AQF Certificate III or higher qualification.

AQF Certificate III ensures industry specific competencies. It may be gained through a wide range of pathways, including: Australian Apprenticeships (including traineeships); work-based and/or school/institution-based training; and recognition of prior learning (which may include training programs or an accumulation of short courses).

Ensure that the carpenter has received AQF Certificate III. This guarantees an adequate level of training and experience. It is also recognition that the carpenter possesses skills and knowledge meeting nationally endorsed industry/enterprise competency standards as set out by the carpentry and joinery industry and community.

Registration or licensing may also be required. This varies from state to state. In NSW licensing is compulsory for unsupervised trade work. In Queensland licensing is compulsory in order to carry out or supervise building work over the value of $1100. In the Northern Territory registration is compulsory to carry out residential building work over the value of $12,000. In Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT there is no legal requirement for licensing or registration.

Also check whether the carpenter is a member of the Master Builders Association (MBA) branch in his or her State. This signifies that the carpenter is recognized by the building industry and demonstrates that the carpenter values high standards of integrity, skill and responsibility to their clients.

To further ensure quality check that the carpenter is a member of a reputable industry body such as the Housing Industry Association (HIA) or the Australian Construction Industry Forum (ACIF).

If your carpentry project is large and complex you should ensure that the ‘track-record’ of the contracted carpenter is sound, and that only an MBA member carpenter is responsible for the high risk or complex areas of approving contract documents and administration of inspections during construction.

Do I need one?

Yes. Whether you are undertaking a small residential project or a large commercial construction it is essential that you engage a professional carpenter. Carpentry is specialized work that only qualified and accredited tradespeople should carry out.

How much should I pay for one?

Estimating the cost of employing a carpenter is difficult and varies greatly depending on the type and scale of the project, as well as on the experience and reputation of the carpenter. However, if you decide to tender keep in mind that carpenters figure their bids in different ways. Some calculate their job by the number of openings cut into the wall (for example he number of windows and doors) or the number of cuts they have to make. Others charge on a time basis by the hour or by the day. You can save money by having your builder negotiate for the whole job and then work to make as few changes as possible.

How is payment organised?

Generally there are two methods of payment. A carpenter may either work to an established budget, or may help to establish the budget early in the construction phase.

How do I know if they’re any good?

It is likely that your building contractor will have a long-established list of carpentry sub-contractors. However, if you have a choice in selecting carpenters, choosing this subcontractor should entail a very deliberate process of examining your candidates’ skills and workmanship before you consider hiring. Make sure you see as many previous examples of the person’s previous work as you can before you and your contractor decide to give him the job.

What is the relevant state/national legislation?

Carpenters must comply with the relevant Commonwealth and State Legislation:

Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth)
Put simply, the Trade Practices Act (TPA) seeks to prevent restrictive trade practices. The official objective of the TPA is to enhance the welfare of Australians by promoting competition and fair trading and providing for consumer protection.

Although the TPA applies to corporations rather than individuals, members of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) are affected. The AIA is itself incorporated, as are about one-third of member practices. However, few carpenter are members of the AIA

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is the statutory authority responsible for administering and ensuring compliance with the TPA. As a result, individuals can bring an action only in limited circumstances under the Act’s consumer protection division - parts V and VI. These parts deal with unfair practices, product safety and information, conditions and warranties in consumer transactions, actions against manufacturers/importers of goods, and product liability. Seek legal advice if you suspect a contracted carpenter of breaching the TPA.

State Building Legislation

The relevant state Office of Fair Trading sets and maintains standards of competence for builders and tradespeople, and issues licences and certificates if needed under the requirements of the Home Building Act 1989 in NSW and analogous legislation in other Australian states.

In certain circumstances carpenters may be required to comply with State Building legislation. A carpenter may need to hold a certificate under the relevant Act to do residential work if he or she: is contracted to do residential building work where the labour and materials content is worth more than $1,000; or is undertaking specialist work. Consult the relevant state legislation for more information or seek legal advice.

What are the relevant peak bodies/ consumer watchdogs?

Peak bodies:

Master Builders Association (MBA)

The MBA is the major Australian building and construction industry association. Its primary role is to promote the viewpoints and interests of the building and construction industry and to provide services to members in a broad range of areas including training, legal services, industrial relations, building codes and standards, industry economics and international relations.

Housing Industry Association (HIA)

The HIA is the largest building industry association in Australia supporting the businesses and interests of builders, contractors, manufacturers and business partners in the industry.

Australian Institute of Building (AIB)

The AIB represents primarily the managers of building and construction firms. It also represents additional stakeholders including technicians and academics who contribute to the development of the built environment. AIB promotes excellence in construction and recognition for professional builders.

Consumer watch dogs:

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC)

Limited consumer protection is afforded under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth). The TPA includes statutory conditions and warranties providing consumers with a basic level of protection for goods and services purchased. It covers unfair practices, product safety and information, conditions and warranties in consumer transactions, actions against manufacturers/importers of goods, and product liability. Seek legal advice if you suspect a contracted carpenter of breaching the TPA.

State and Territory Offices of Fair Trading

The role of State and Territory Offices of Fair Trading is to safeguard consumer rights and to advise business and traders on fair ethical practice. The Home Building Act 1989 (NSW) and its equivalent in other Australian States and Territories requires builders and tradespeople to be licensed for the work that they do, and to have proper contracts and insurance in place for most jobs.

FINDING A CARPENTER

How do I get one?

Specifier.com.au has a comprehensive database of Australian carpenters and engineers. You can search your local area and you will be given a list of relevant names and contact details.

Who can tell me about good carpenters?

The official website of each Master Builder Association (MBA) State branch includes an extensive list of carpenters categorised by suburb. This directory sketches an outline of the services offered and areas of expertise of each member. But be careful – the information is provided and updated by the members themselves so it can be unreliable.

Industry publications are another source of good information. Have a look at Construct Magazine, Housing Magazine, Master Builder Magazine and, if you can get your hands on it, Construct newsletter, the AIB members’ quarterly newsletter. If nothing much turns up try consulting the member lists of reputable industry bodies such as the Master Builders Association (MBA), the Housing Industry Association (HIA) and the Australian Institute of Building (AIB).

How do I know if they’re any good?

The most important thing is to check that the purported carpenter possesses concrete academic qualifications and accreditation. Also check whether the carpenter is a member of a reputable professional body such as the Master Builders Association (MBA) or the Housing Industry Association (HIA).

Industry awards are another mark of professional quality – but do keep in mind who funds and runs the awards, and why. The MBA confers national awards annually in the categories of excellence in construction and excellence in housing. The HIA also confers awards annually, its housing awards recognizing achievement in Australia’s home building industry. The AIB also presents annual awards, the most prestigious of which is the Australian Institute of Building Medal. You should note that these awards are rarely bestowed on carpenters.

Should I investigate more than one firm?

Yes, unless you have had a previous association with a carpenter that worked well. However, because the industry is not regulated strictly it is advisable to investigate a number of options.

How do I narrow down a shortlist of carpenters?

Go online and visit the websites of some carpenters. Search using a reliable industry engine such as specifier.com.au. A thorough website should provide examples of past projects completed by the particular carpenter as well as his or her industry experience, academic qualifications and any awards received. This online investigation should give you a general idea of the type and scope of the architect’s work.

Narrow this list of candidates with a few phone calls. Ask some easy preliminary questions: if they’re available, or if they’re interested in a project of that size. Have some idea of what it is you want, and try to some it up in a couple of sentences.

What’s the process?

Because most builders do not have formal carpentry training carpenters are usually engaged as specialist subcontractors. They may be selected at the same time as the builder or at a later stage as required.

Because of the size of the Australian market your builder may nominate a particular carpenter with whom he or she has worked well previously. Alternately, carpenters can be engaged through negotiation or through calling tenders.

The tender process can be managed by your architect or the builder or a specialist consultant according to your requirements.

There are two general methods of tender. Public tendering is by invitation extended via the press and is open to all irrespective of qualifications or experience. Private tendering usually involves the pre-selection of candidates with a familiarity and sound history in your type of project. Selective tendering in the carpentry context is commonly restricted to five or six contractors and except for large public projects private tendering is the norm.

Your builder should discuss and make recommendations about subcontracting arrangements. It is essential that you also confer closely with your builder before engaging a carpenter. This is because it is the builder who legally contracts with the subcontractor. The Australian Institute of Architects (AIA) reports that ignorance of this legal relationship is the major factor contributing to contractual disputes in construction matters. “ The supplier or subcontractor selected must be acceptable to the builder as only the builder has a legal, contractual relationship with the supplier or subcontractor” the AIA states.

At what stage in the process should I get one in?

Carpenters are involved throughout the entire construction process. Working from blueprints or instructions from supervisors, carpenters first do the layout – measuring, marking, and arranging materials – in accordance with local building codes. They cut and shape wood, plastic, fibreglass, or drywall, using hand and power tools, such as chisels, planes, saws, drills, and sanders. They then join the materials with nails, screws, staples, or adhesives. In the final stages, the carpenters check the accuracy of their work with levels, rules, plumb bobs, framing squares, or electronic versions of these tools, and make any necessary adjustments.

In the context of prefabricated components, such as stairs or wall panels, the carpenter’s task is significantly simpler. It does not require as much layout work or the cutting and assembly of many pieces. Prefabricated components are designed for easy and fast installation and generally can be installed in a single operation.

Can I check that they’re doing their job properly?

Yes. There are some easy ways to ensure that a carpenter is doing his or her job properly. Using a tape measure, level and torch check that - all doors open and close freely, locks work smoothly, windows are level and open freely with no squeaks or binding, screens are installed, all marks and nails are covered and finished, countertops are secure and level, and all joints are caulked and built in appliances properly fitted.

DISPUTES AND REDRESS

Scams, defects and redress

While criminal liability is pretty much unheard of in carpentry civil liability does sometimes arise. Usually, this is for breach of contract. However, civil liability can also arise in equity (for restitution), under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth), and in tort (usually for negligence). For more information seek legal advice.

Professional Indemnity Insurance

Try to find a carpenter who is covered by professional indemnity insurance. PII cover increases the viability of legal action as an effective method of redress of professional negligence claims. However, be aware that the number of carpenters with PII cover has fallen dramatically in 2006 as cover grows more expensive – in the least twelve months the number of PII providers in Australia dropping from about 35 to less than 5.

Limitation, exclusion and indemnity clauses

Be careful. Within the limits imposed by law, equity and legislation, parties to a contract are able to exclude or modify their obligations as they see fit. This means that it is totally legal for a carpenter to draft an agreement which excludes him or her from liability, or to construct a contract in which one party purports to indemnify another.

It remains impossible for the parties to a contract to exclude statutory obligations which arise under the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth) or under similar State and Territory legislation.

Make sure you seek legal advice before entering into any legally binding contract.