How to Know the Difference between Joinery and Carpentry

Close up of a modern joiner tool being used on wood by a lime green glove covered hand.

What’s the difference between a joiner and a carpenter? Despite it sounding like the opening of a terrible dad joke, this is a question that both professionals are asked on a regular basis. Understandably, someone with no experience in woodwork is likely not to know the intricate details of each discipline. However, knowing the difference between joinery and carpentry could prove useful in various circumstances. For example, if you are a homeowner and hiring contractors to carry out some work for you, it is vital that you understand what is able to be done and what is not. You don’t want to end up with less than adequate work or have a project only half complete as you have hired the wrong type of tradesperson for the job. Read on if you would like to know the difference between joinery and carpentry.

A traditional joinery hammer lies on a wooden palette with nails

Main Differences between Joinery and Carpentry

First of all, it should be clear that both carpentry and joiner fall under the industry of construction. One of the easiest ways to differentiate between the two is to pay close attention to the job title. A joiner joins wood together in a workshop, while a carpenter will construct elements of a building on-site. This may still be unclear for some, so let’s have a closer look:

Typical Jobs in Joinery

  • Making doors
  • Making window frames
  • Building fitted furniture
  • Building Stairs

Typical Jobs for a Carpenter

  • Fitting floors
  • Fitting staircases
  • Fixing window frames
  • Installing cupboards and shelving

As you can see from these lists, a joiner will make components within a project. These components will likely be made in a workshop. On the other hand, a carpenter will be fixing or installing components into a building. This means that their work likely cannot be carried out anywhere but the site. This is a good way of identifying a joiner and a carpenter, respectively.

Man sits in joinery workshop with a wooden frame mid-project laid out in front of him.

The relationship between Joiners and Carpenters

Naturally, joiners and carpenters work closely together on larger projects such as house renovation or building a house. This is because they are both working with similar materials and tools. Also, it is likely that a joiner would be taught the basics of carpentry and vice versa during training. However, the important thing to remember is, although a joiner may be able to fit the door he has built for you into the building, it is much more likely that a carpenter would do a better job. The same goes for a carpenter building a door; it may be possible but likely not as high a quality.