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Contractor-Carpenter-Tradesman? That is the Question

November 16, 2012

It has come to my attention that the public truly doesn’t understand what all is involved in construction, and furthermore they don’t know the difference in the types of people and personalities associated with construction. Specifically I am talking about home construction, such as: renovations, roofing, home building, etc.

So.. This article is strictly for other contractors and builders to pass onto their customers, clients, and homeowners alike. Hopefully, I will have done a good enough job explaining and clarifying how difficult construction really is, thus encouraging homeowners and clients to be a little more understanding.  Being a contractor is not easy work.

First; what is a contractor? Let me start by saying this. It depends on who you ask, but to most professionals inside the business, a contractor is the man or woman who drafts up “contracts”, hence the name. Contracts between themselves and carpenters or tradesmen, and those are contracts to do a specific type of work or trade. In most instances a contractor is the guy the homeowner or business owner corresponds with regularly about the project. What’s more, a real contractor really isn’t the one who “swings the hammer”, but is usually the brains behind the project. The contractor is the person who knows how the job should be done, knows the people (tradesmen) who know how to do the work, knows what materials cost, time necessary to complete, knows how to schedule, takes on the liability, as well as knows the permits/codes that have to be adhered to.  The contractor aka builder is “the brains” behind the operation. Contractors often times are college educated and business minded people.

Unfortunately most homeowners don’t understand the stress, the work, responsibility  and expense that goes into their home improvement, remodel, or new home build. If they did they would be much more understanding and patient. First, the cost of liability insurance for a contractor is some of the MOST expensive insurance in the market place. Contractors not only have to insure their sub-contractors (carpenters/tradesmen), they also have to insure the client’s interest, the job quality, and the property. For that reason it is extremely expensive to carry adequate and proper insurances and bonds.

What is a Carpenter? A carpenter is usually an uneducated, yet sometimes skilled (sometimes unskilled) laborer or crafts-person who works with materials and tools to construct or build a finished (sometimes) unfinished product.  There is a difference between contractor and carpenter. The contractor is the one who hires the carpenter(s) to provide them with work, and instruction as to what they are to do. That isn’t to say that a carpenter can’t also be a contractor, but most good contractors aren’t carpenters because they don’t have time to do the labor or they wouldn’t be able to get any other work done. A carpenter is kind of, for lack of a better term, a generic laborer who usually knows and/or can figure out how to complete the desired construction related task. A carpenter is often times, the guy who works out of his beat up pick up truck and carries his tools around with him from job to job.

That leaves tradesman or craftsman?

These are basically the same as a carpenter, however tradesmen usually stick to knowing how to, or prefer to work with one specific area of the process or trade. For instance: roofer, framer, trim carpenter, wood worker, cabinet-maker, tiler, painter, etc. These people know how to do one thing (trade / craft) very well and thus are experts in that one trade. Verses being a carpenter who is usually someone who works on everything and doesn’t know how to do one specific thing perfect.  An expert craftsmen is another level of tradesman that is SO well versed at one trade and has many many years of hands on practical experience in one trade that they usually demand a much higher price to hire them as they can usually do specialty, detailed, and ornate work. When you go into a very expensive, and breath-taking home you are usually seeing the work of custom, expert-fine craftsmanship.

The stress of being a contractor comes in dealing with carpenters and craftsmen. Each trade usually has to be coordinated in particular order, and these carpenters and tradesmen all have to work in sync and together, BUT all too often do not. Unfortunately, it is common that most carpenters are comprised of people who do not take the care to be professional, timely, and respectful while on the work place. That’s why you do business with a contractor and not a carpenter.  This is where the problem comes in, because the client expects the contractor to do the work, the contractor expects the carpenter or tradesman to do the work and when one of these things doesn’t fall into place then the entire job comes to a halt. If majority of carpenters were people  with values, and ethics then construction would be much easier, but alas that isn’t the case so contractors have to deal with these problems for the customer.

So next time you want some work done in your house or your office consider these things, and maybe you’ll understand that it isn’t easy to do construction work or you’d be doing it yourself.

Written by: Charleston SC Real Estate Book

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