Getting started in Carpentry

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Old 11-29-09, 05:38 PM
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Getting started in Carpentry

I wasnt really able to find any posts on this so I thought I'd throw it out there. I'm looking to try and change careers and want to start in the Carpentry/Building field. Ive been too long working in offices and its not for me. The problem is thats where all my experience is. I've been around carpentry before, know the very basics, and have helped on random projects with the family (my father renovates houses for a living. Think flip this house). I don't know where to start to get into the field. I have bills to pay so unfortunatly I can't really risk too much of a pay cut with going back to school and finding a job right now is hard, especially in a field where I have very little experience. "Helped the In-laws install a door" doesn't really cut it on a resume. I was hoping to find some advice on how to build experience and knowledge and maybe find a way to break into this field. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 
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Old 11-29-09, 06:09 PM
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As an initial suggestion, go to your local lumberyard. As them if they know of any experienced carpenters out there who could use a hand. In some cases, your smaller local lumberyards have business relationships with some of the carpenters in the area. They sell the lumber and millwork, and often get leads for the carpenters. So there's often a good relationship there where one tries to help the other. They may even have a few employees who work for them as installers, doing simple things like floor coverings, windows & doors, siding, kitchen and bath remodels and such.

At any rate, perhaps they can point you to someone who is willing to train an apprentice or helper. Ideally, this might be an older carpenter who has a good reputation, and who just needs someone to help. You can learn a lot from them because of their years of experience. At the same time, sometimes the old timers don't charge enough... and therefore won't pay enough to make ends meet for a young family nowadays. But if things work out well for you, you might be in a position to take over his clients when he is ready to retire. Many longtime carpenters like to hand off their businesses in that manner.

Other than that, you might be able to take a few evening classes in construction / construction management that might assist you in learning some of the basics about the trade. Some may even have job placement. If you could take a few classes before quitting your current job, that would probably be ideal. But on the job training is probably just as good as far as giving you hands-on experience.
 
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Old 11-30-09, 02:56 PM
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You can install a door. What else?

The reason I ask is you would have to assess the possibility if you can do the types of carpentry jobs you are familiar with and make enough money to pay your bills. It would obviously help if you could beat any competition. You can post notes about town, or take out an inexpensive ad in your paper's 'Services Offered' section.

You could contact big landlord outfits and realtors and tell them what you can do (for hopefully reasonable). Realtors sometimes need misc. done prior to sale like resecuring falling down fascia, replacing some shingles, replacing rotted out sill or fix a door, put up a handrail, replace deckboards, do some painting, put up shutters, reputty windows, etc. I have done both (landlords and realtors), successfully.

If you had some sort of reserve capital, you could buy a fixerupper and gain experience that way, and flip it.
 
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Old 11-30-09, 05:07 PM
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Cool, thanks guys for the tips. I like both of these ideas. Are there things I need to worry about if I'm say doing a window job for a Realty company like that and being sued? Is that something I should think about being bonded for? Not sure if I'm quite to that level yet but maybe with a little bit more experience. I also hadnt really thought too much about going back to school for maybe evening classes but its a good idea. Ha, its funny you mention going to lumberyards too. I asked my dad who had been in this trade too the same question. His reply was the two most important things are experience and networking.
 
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Old 11-30-09, 05:54 PM
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You'd have to check out the insurance angle I guess. Or leave it up to them to ask you. If they never brought it up, and you are not doing work requiring a license, you probably have no legal obligation. It be their fault for not asking you, and requiring you to provide current insurance status/ $amounts to them.

You may however at least want to carry accident insurance on yourself, as this might make a prospective client a little more at ease when seeing you high up on an extension ladder or up on the roof. With many jobs you can do though, as far as being insured for damage to property.... it might be pretty rare for anything of any real dollar amount to occur. Plumbers can cause a house to flood, or start a fire. Roofers can have a storm move in while roofing and be the sudden victim of rain to come pouring into a lived-in house. Electricians could start a fire. But for many other jobs, you could probably pay for any sort of minor damage or mess up out of your pocket.

Confidence goes a long way in this business. If you appear confident adn business like, you are more likely to see work.

Start out doing easy jobs that you both kind of can do, and also build on. Can you build a deck, and can you build stairs (closed and open). It be embarrassing to say you are a carpenter, and you do not know how to lay out stairs. Being able to build stairs is something that a lay person will think is really tricky, and know you are a real carpenter if you can build stairs.

Learning how to do certain specialty trades can often not take that long to catch onto. Like, you could learn to put in garage door openers for people.....or the whole garage door system. And you coud learn to diagnose and make the repairs like replace broken springs, bad openers, etc. Overhead door companies do not give their services away, and you could grossly undercut them, yet make good money by operating out of your home.

Some jobs, you do the job once and you become a pro at it, at least in your mind's eye. Like say install your first good storm door with latch and closure kit. Then after that, you no longer need to read the instructions.

With many landlords, all their concern is is......cheap. They don't care about anything else. Just if you can do the job cheap. Or considerably cheaper than others, by keeping down your overhead and operating out of your home..

Have you thought about trying your hand at some of this type of work say on days off or a Saturday, before quitting your existing job? Would you even mow lawns or unclog drains or paint or snow shovel/snowblower? In other words, would you like to try to do it all?

Or are you trying to specialize in carpentry and make a name for yourself? That will take many years of hands on experience, and lots invested in tools, to get to a point where you can command say the big bucks in building fancy houses or renovating historical houses back to original condition.
 
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Old 12-01-09, 07:27 PM
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My main point right now would just be to kind of do it all. Once I feel I have a good knowledge base and at that point have my name out there a little bit then maybe start thinking about specializing specifically in carpentry. Thanks. These are some good tips. I know that the area I live in has alot of elderly and, hopefully not to underestimate them, this would be a good opprotunity to maybe start building up some experience.
 
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Old 12-02-09, 07:50 AM
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There are pros out there who take advantage of the elderly. Go advertise at any 'senior central' you may have there. Treat the elderly right. If you know how to do minor plumbing and electrical work, this becomes an area that..... depending on where you live..... may be either a gray area, or an enforced one. Around here, you cannot advertise these services without a license. Although I do see some advertisers using the word 'minor', without reprisal. I think since the advent of bigbox stores that sell everything and anything to anybody, who they know darn well aren't calling up licensed people to install the stuff(toilet wax rings, faucets, motion lights, switches and outlet replacements..... the list goes on and on.....), that this is what has often grayed down the laws. If you call up your local building inspector or specific electrical and plumbing inspector, to ask what you can and cannot do, it be wise not to use your name, and ask what you may or may not be able to do when helping out other people, in case they ask. If they sound unreasonable, you can pose to them why bigbox stores(and others) sell all that stuff and not require everyone purchasing the stuff to present their contractors license at the checkout.
 
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Old 12-18-09, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Vladimir View Post
I wasnt really able to find any posts on this so I thought I'd throw it out there. I'm looking to try and change careers and want to start in the Carpentry/Building field. Ive been too long working in offices and its not for me. The problem is thats where all my experience is. I've been around carpentry before, know the very basics, and have helped on random projects with the family (my father renovates houses for a living. Think flip this house). I don't know where to start to get into the field. I have bills to pay so unfortunatly I can't really risk too much of a pay cut with going back to school and finding a job right now is hard, especially in a field where I have very little experience. "Helped the In-laws install a door" doesn't really cut it on a resume. I was hoping to find some advice on how to build experience and knowledge and maybe find a way to break into this field. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
Do you have "Homes for Humanity" in your area?

Spend some time volunteering in your spare time, and you'll learn how to do all sorts of things buy building houses in an environment where you are not expected to know everything.

Not only does that give you experience, but it will look really good on your resume as well.
 
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Old 12-18-09, 12:00 PM
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Originally Posted by StreakersQB View Post
Do you have "Homes for Humanity" in your area?

Spend some time volunteering in your spare time, and you'll learn how to do all sorts of things buy building houses in an environment where you are not expected to know everything.

Not only does that give you experience, but it will look really good on your resume as well.
Sorry...make that Habitat for Humanity.
 
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Old 12-18-09, 12:21 PM
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Welcome to the forums StreakersQB!

I think we knew what you meant

Habit for Humanity might not do a whole for construction experience although it won't hurt..... but it will do a lot towards showing what kind of person you are That not to say being around construction while keeping your eyes and ears open, studying how things are done isn't beneficial.
 
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