This category includes special trade contractors primarily engaged in carpentry work. Establishments primarily engaged in building and installing cabinets at the job site are classified in this industry. Establishments primarily engaged in building custom cabinets for individuals in a shop are classified in SIC 5712: Furniture Stores. Carpentry work performed by general contractors engaged in building construction is classified in SIC 1500: General Building Contractors.
Carpentry is the work of cutting and joining timber to create frames for housing and items such as doors, windows, cabinets, and staircases. Work in this industry includes cabinet work performed at the construction site, carpentry work, folding door installation, framing, garage door installation, ship joinery, store fixture installation, trim and finish, and prefabricated window and door installation. It is a very strenuous occupation due to long periods of standing, climbing, bending, and kneeling.
Carpenters rely heavily on the health of the economy and especially the success of the housing industry, since their work consists mainly of building or renovating residential structures. The housing industry can be positively or negatively affected by factors such as interest rate fluctuations and availability of mortgage funds.
Carpenters make up one of the largest building trade groups in the United States, holding approximately 1.2 million jobs in 2002. Of these, about 30 percent are self-employed, about 33 percent are employed by general building contractors, 20 percent are employed by specialty trade contractors, and 12 percent are employed in heavy construction. The remainder work in the manufacturing, government, retail, and education sectors.
More than 520,000 carpenters belong to the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, a labor organization located in Washington, D.C., which is actively involved in the construction industry. The union supports building contractors who work with union carpenters. The union also studies health and safety aspects of carpentry work, which has the highest serious injuries rate in the United States. The union has been studying the ergonomics of carpentry in hopes of reducing workplace accidents by developing preventive on-the-job techniques.
The union, in conjunction with contractor trade associations, also provides training and apprenticeship programs, which are greatly needed in this industry. As carpentry work becomes more specialized and involves potentially dangerous materials such as asbestos removal, formal training will become increasingly necessary.
Other groups primarily interested in carpentry are the Associated Builders and Contractors, of Rosslyn, Virginia; the Associated General Contractors of America, Inc., of Washington, D.C.; and the National Association of Home Builders, also located in Washington, D.C.
The construction industry can be divided into three major contract divisions: general building contractors, heavy construction contractors, and special trade contractors (including carpenters). General building contractors build residential, industrial, and commercial buildings, while heavy construction contractors build structures like roads, highways, and bridges.
Special trade contractors usually focus on one trade and work under the direction of general contractors, architects, or property owners. Beyond completing their work to specification, special trade contractors have no responsibility for building the structure in its entirety.
When both commercial and residential buildings were made primarily from timber, the carpenter was the critical element needed for construction. Over time, the scope of the carpenter's work has changed. As the materials for commercial buildings switched to primarily concrete and steel, the demand for carpenters has shifted to the framework for houses and commercial structures, and residential remodeling. A carpenter's work also may extend to interior jobs, requiring some of the skills of a joiner. These skills include making door frames, cabinets, countertops, and assorted molding and trim.
The standard tools used by a carpenter have been hammers, pliers, screwdrivers, awls, planes (handheld blades), crosscut saws, rip saws, dovetail saws, and levels, in addition to an assortment of power tools. Lightweight cordless pneumatic and combustion tools like nailers and drills, and sanders with electric speed controls are being used increasingly more. These help carpenters to be more efficient and work faster; they also reduce fatigue. Carpenters have used wood as a building material for...