What does a Finish Carpenter do?

Erin J. Hill

The job of a finish carpenter includes measuring, cutting, and installing elements of a home or building that the owner will see upon moving in. These can include trim, stairs, siding, roofing, and custom cabinets. Most upper end homes require the knowledge and experience of a good finish carpenter because even the slightest discrepancy in the trim and other areas will be noticeable.

A finishing carpenter is responsible for measuring, cutting, and installing trim, stairs, siding, and cabinetry in a building.
A finishing carpenter is responsible for measuring, cutting, and installing trim, stairs, siding, and cabinetry in a building.

In many cases, the finish carpenter starts out as a rough carpenter. This is the person who builds the frame of the structure, along with the exterior walls. As he learns to make cuts and use precision tools more accurately and with greater detail, he may begin to do various types of finish work. Many times, practicing on pieces which will not be used in the home is a good idea, because items like trim and molding must be finished accurately and with great precision.

A finish carpenter might work on roofing.
A finish carpenter might work on roofing.

Sometimes the carpenter will perform both rough and finish work in the same job. This can be more convenient for him because if a separate rough carpenter doesn’t install the walls or flooring perfectly accurate, he will have a hard time making up for those mistakes while installing the trim. By doing both jobs, he ensures that everything is measured and cut properly.

Oftentimes a finish carpenter will get his training working as an apprentice for a more experienced professional. He will likely be required to use hand tools, do rough carpentry work, and observe closely how the more intricate jobs are done. Apprentices are usually paid a small wage for their work, but an experienced finish carpenter can make a very good income once he has been properly trained.

In some cases a carpenter will also do installations for components that will be seen on the outside of the home. This can include siding and roofing materials. Both of these things have to be installed, and since they are the first thing owners will notice, they must be done properly. Extra training or experience may be needed in order to provide these additional services, although many tradesmen are proficient in multiple areas of construction.

Most areas do not require that a finish carpenter have any sort of specialized formal education. Most skills are learned on the job, but this may vary based on location and employer.

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Discussion Comments


I have been completing a good number of repairs and updates around our house. Ripping things out and working where the work is not going to be seen is kind of fun, but when I have to work on detailed work I get so frustrated. Putting the final touches on the projects is always the toughest and most time consuming task for me. I am considering hiring a finish carpenter in the future so that the work will be more pleasing to the eye.


My brother-in-law works in construction. Mostly, the company he works with builds houses in the communities nearby. At one time they were building a lot of new communities, but that ended some years back, so now they are mostly just building one house at a time as they can get the jobs. He is always complaining that he isn't making enough money.

He is a rough carpenter, but he has a lot of experience, and he is good at what he does. He is considering trying to become a finish carpenter with a another building company so he can make more money, but I think he is worried that he might not be as good at the work as he is at what he does now.


In addition to working on his farm, my grandfather worked as a finish carpenter. Most of the work on his farm took place during the spring and during the summer. By early fall, most of the labor intensive work was completed, and the farm didn't earn much money over the winter.

During the fall and winter he would sign on with one of the local construction teams and they would go wherever the jobs were for construction workers. I never really had much of a feel for what the work actually involved. I just knew that Grandpa was a finish carpenter when he wasn't farming and that seemed like a pretty cool job to me.

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