What is the difference between joinery and carpentry?

Many people wonder what is the difference 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.

What is joinery?

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 is carpentry?

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

What is the difference between joinery and carpentry?

Both joiners and carpenters are skilled professionals who share a foundation of skills in working with timber. There’s a big crossover between the two disciplines and they can be seen as two branches of the same craft.

The main difference is that a joiner will make the components for a project working off-site in their workshop. The carpenter will fix or install the components working on-site in the building where the project is located.

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 skillfully 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 814870 or at to help you with ideas or for a no-obligation quote.