Many people wonder what the difference is between joinery and carpentry. More to the point, when you need something made of wood, do you call a joiner or a carpenter?

The thing is, there are lots of similarities between joiners and carpenters. Confusingly, in the UK the use of either term is dependent on location. For example, in the South of England people tend to use the term carpenter whereas in the North of England people prefer to use the term joiner.

Joinery and carpentry are both wood-based construction trades. They do share a number of similar skills but there are differences. Understanding these differences will help you decide whether your job needs a joiner or carpenter.

Simply put, a joiner constructs items by joining pieces of wood without using metal fasteners, screws or nails. A carpenter will then take these items and fit them on site usually using metal fasteners, screws and nails and carpenter would also undertake tasks such as fitting locks and door furniture. So, if you want a door or a window made or repaired you will require the services of a joiner.  If you require the installations of wooden fixtures on site, you will need the services of a carpenter.

Another important distinction is that joiners construct items at a bench, in a workshop.  Once these items, such as interior and exterior doors, windows, stairs, tables, bookshelves, cabinets and furniture are completed, they are passed to carpenters who use their carpentry skills to install them on site.

Furthermore, the equipment used by joiners and carpenters are very different.  Joiners are based in workshops and the equipment they use often tends to be large and heavy, such as mains electricity powered saws used to create and cut joints.  Carpenters, by comparison, use equipment that are relatively light, portable and can be moved around while on site.

What work do joiners specialise in?

Joinery is a trade that specialises in cutting and fitting joints and wood without screws, nails or metal fasteners. Joiners rely on heavy machinery such as circular saws, lathes and sanding wheels. This machinery is not portable, so joiners do most of their work off-site in a workshop.

Joiners specialise in:

  • Making bookshelves and tables
  • Making window frames
  • Making interior and exterior doors
  • Making fitted furniture
  • Making staircases

What work do carpenters specialise in?

Carpentry is a trade that works with both wood and metal but fitting and joining them together with a variety of materials. Carpenters use portable and lightweight tools, which gives them great flexibility as to where they work. They are often found on-site, assembling and constructing structures.

Carpenters specialise in:

  • Fitting roof timbers
  • Fitting partition walls
  • Fitting floors
  • Fitting staircases
  • Fixing window frames
  • Installing skirting boards
  • Installing cupboards and shelving

How to choose between joiner and a carpenter?

When deciding between a joiner and a carpenter, the best advice is to pick craftspeople according to their expertise relative to the needs of your project.

In many cases, you may decide to hire one of each. For example, if you need a wooden staircase in your house, you might hire a joiner to make it and hire a carpenter to install it. Or if you need a bespoke wooden door, a joiner can do a beautiful job to your exact specifications, and a carpenter can skilfully hang and balance the door in your home to ensure a perfect fit.

It’s very common for joiners and carpenters to work together on larger, more complex projects such as building a house or house renovation. Bear in mind that a good joiner will know the basics of carpentry and a good carpenter will know the basics of joinery.

But for the best results, remember this simple rule: get the joiner to build it and the carpenter to fit it.

Need something made of wood for your home? At Parsons Joinery we can make you all types of custom-make joinery, including wooden windows, wooden doors, wardrobes, bespoke timber furniture and kitchens. We’re on 01273 258985 or at to help you with ideas or for a no-obligation quote.