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What Is a Rough Carpenter? Everything You Need to Know!

Construction Worker on Duty

Most people know what a carpenter is, but few people know what a rough carpenter is. Carpentry has many different fields, and rough carpentry is one type that is very important. Rough carpenters work on the bones of most buildings and are responsible for making sure a building has a firm foundation and strong innards. Rough carpenters work on the very earliest stages of a building and are involved in a variety of different construction projects. They are often compared to finish carpenters, which is the other main branch of carpentry.

This is everything you need to know about rough carpentry and what rough carpenters do on a regular basis.

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What Do Rough Carpenters Do?

Rough carpenters are in charge of building the overall structure of a building. Rough carpenters are responsible for the framing, supports, roofs, floors, and trusses of a structure. In many cases, rough carpenters work with wood framing material, but they can also be responsible for managing metal supports as well. Rough carpenters are responsible for getting the structure of a building sound before additional details can be added. It is a critically important job. Every building has a rough carpenter involved at some point in the process.

Rough carpenters are also responsible for ensuring that the building meets the code in the earliest stages of construction. That means they might have to deal with engineers, architects, and CAD drawings. They will also have to work with other contractors like roofers and site preppers.

Rough carpenters can also work on other things on a job site. Rough carpenters are responsible for building concrete forms. They can also be in charge of sewage supports, scaffolding, and joists. Rough carpenters are responsible for using a variety of tools, including saws, nailers, drills, and even cranes. Familiarity with CAD or AutoCAD might be required for experienced rough carpenters.

During a remodel, rough carpenters might be responsible for identifying weak points in a structure, wear, decay, and things that no longer meet code. Everyone relies on rough carpenters to do a fantastic job to ensure that the rest of the building project goes smoothly. Since rough carpenters build the bones of most buildings, they are incredibly important. That also means that there are plenty of jobs available for anyone who might be interested, as almost every building project has a professional rough carpenter involved at some point.

Carpenter Cutting House Roof Supports On Building Site
Image By: Monkey Business Images, Shutterstock

What Are the Different Types of Carpenters?

Rough Carpenter

Rough carpenters serve as the opposite of finish carpenters. Rough carpenters’ work remains largely unseen, hence the name rough. They are more concerned with structural components, building codes, and strength than they are about appearance. They are still very detail oriented but not in a visual way.

Finish Carpenter

Finish carpenters do more visible work. Finish carpenters are the ones that build things like furniture, cabinets, trim, decorative pieces, and window frames. They are concerned with creating a polished finish product that looks great and helps to visually finish out a structure. Much of the work that finish carpenters do is judged more on final appearance than on strict building codes.

Where Do Rough Carpenters Work?

Rough carpenters work anywhere that construction is taking place. Residential construction offers tons of opportunities for rough carpenters. Most homes in the United States are made with wood frames, and these frames are managed and built by rough carpenters. Rough carpenters also work on commercial buildings, multistory buildings, and multi-family homes. Nearly any construction site in the United States will have a component involving a rough carpenter. Even installing a deck, garage, or addition will require someone with knowledge of rough carpentry.

Roofer, carpenter working on roof structure on construction site
Image Credit: sculpies, Shutterstock

Advantages of Rough Carpentry

Rough carpentry has some advantages over finish carpentry. Generally, there are more jobs available. Rough carpenters’ work is hidden by finished products, so appearance is not an issue. Some jobs, like single-family homes, can be finished very quickly for good pay. Rough carpenters’ work is judged on its strength and adherence to building code rather than appearance, so clients are often less picky about the details.

Disadvantages of Rough Carpentry

Rough carpentry has some disadvantages compared to finish carpentry. Rough carpenters often make less money per year than finish carpenters. According to data compiled by Indeed, rough carpenters make an average of $43,000 per year compared to $50,000 for finish carpenters. Rough carpenters also do not have any room for creativity. Rough carpenters are working off plans provided to them and under strict deadlines and codes. Finish carpenters have a better outlet for creative work than rough carpenters.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Are Rough Carpenters the Same As Framers?

Yes. Framers are a type of rough carpenter. In the construction business, you will hear the word “framer” used a lot. Framers frame houses and get all of the walls and floors situated before other things can be started. Framers are rough carpenters. Some framers are very specialized. For example, some framers will only do single-story residential homes. Other framers might only work on roofs or trusses. However, they all fall under the umbrella of rough carpenters. Rough carpenters can specialize in a variety of different areas or projects.

Do Rough Carpenters Make Less Than Finish Carpenters?

On average, rough carpenters do make less than finish carpenters. However, there are often more job opportunities for rough carpenters than finish carpenters. The earning potential goes up for rough carpenters if they run their own crew and get paid per job rather than working for someone else. Framing can be a very lucrative business for reputable independent contractors, but getting started can be difficult.

Contractor Carpenter Worker Using Commercial Grade Circular Saw in Construction Zone
Image Credit: Virrage Images, Shutterstock

Are Rough Carpenters in Demand?

Yes. Rough carpenters are in demand. However, rough carpenters are in the highest demand in areas where high levels of residential construction are taking place. States with the highest number of new home starts are going to have the highest demand for rough carpenters. The Bureau of Labor and Statistics projects that there will be roughly 90,000 annual openings for carpentry jobs between 2023 and 2031.

What Education Do Rough Carpenters Need?

Rough carpenters simply need a high school diploma in most markets. Training is often provided on the job or via apprenticeship programs. People can start framing as young as 18 and quickly gain job experience working in the field. Most entry-level rough carpentry jobs do not require any additional education or related experience to get started. You just have to be willing to work hard and learn as you go.

A Quick Reference Guide

Rough Carpenter Finish Carpenter
Frames residential houses Adds interior details to residential houses
Constructs concrete forms Builds individual pieces like cabinets, built-ins, and trim
Works on unseen parts of a building Works on very visible parts of a building
Has to adhere to building codes and restrictions Few building codes to adhere to, but has to please a client with visual acumen
Generally works outside Generally works inside
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Rough carpenters are an integral part of the modern construction landscape. They are heavily involved in most types of building projects and they must be highly attentive to details and be able to work off of plans and meet code on a consistent basis. Rough carpentry is a great career with a lot of opportunities that people can start straight out of high school.

Featured Image Credit: Virrage Images, Shutterstock


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