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How to Become a Joiner

Responsibilities, working hours, what to expect and qualifications needed

Career guides » How to Become a Joiner

What does a Joiner advisor do?

Joiners are sometimes also known as carpenters. However, there are slight differences between these roles. Joiners will predominately join wood in a workshop or factory, whereas carpenters usually install a joiner’s finished creations in various locations, e.g. on construction sites. There may be some crossover between these disciplines, so a joiner’s responsibilities can vary.

Joiners are skilled tradespeople. They work with timber to create various wooden structures and objects, such as roof timbers, furniture, doors, windows, floorboards, skirting boards, staircases, shelving units, fixtures and fittings, etc. They join pieces of wood together, often without using fastenings, such as nails and screws, and will use woodworking hand tools, equipment and large machinery, including lathes and saws. Their role may also involve repairs and remedial work.

A joiner’s main aim is to ensure the wooden items they construct are high quality, remain intact and comply with the relevant legal standards. They will carry out many tasks, including creating designs and sketches, following technical drawings, measuring, cutting and shaping timber, using various hand tools, equipment and machinery, carrying out quality checks, etc. The role may also involve paperwork completion and computer work.

Joiners can work and liaise with many people, such as designers, maintenance staff, customers/clients (business or private), suppliers, retailers, contractors, subcontractors, other tradespeople (other joiners, carpenters, plasterers, plumbers, electricians, etc.), building inspectors, Construction Scheme Certification Scheme (CSCS) providers, local authorities, government departments and others.

A joiner can work for small businesses, e.g. subcontractors, and organisations with a few hundred employees, such as large housebuilding firms or manufacturers. They can be self-employed and have their own business where they may work on their own or employ others. They can also work freelance or for a recruitment agency on a temporary or contract basis.

Responsibilities

A joiner’s responsibilities will depend on the industry they work in, whom they work for, and the activities carried out by the business.

Some examples of common duties for joiners can include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Conducting site surveys.
  • Creating design drawings and sketches.
  • Estimating materials and selecting the correct ones for the job.
  • Managing materials to minimise cost and waste.
  • Understanding and following technical drawings, specifications and designs.
  • Measuring and marking timber and other materials.
  • Cutting and shaping timber using hand tools or large machinery, e.g. lathes, circular saws and sanding wheels.
  • Creating, assembling and installing door frames, doors, window frames, windows, floorboards, skirting boards, roof timbers, partition walls, staircases, furniture and other structures.
  • Constructing large structures, e.g. theatre, film and TV stage sets and shop interiors.
  • Liaising and working with other tradespeople, e.g. plasterers and carpenters, and suppliers, contractors and subcontractors.
  • Conducting quality checks of finished items.
  • Carrying out repairs and remedial work.
  • Carrying out basic maintenance and checks of joinery tools, equipment and machinery.

Working hours

A joiner can expect to work 40–45 hours a week. However, they can do more or fewer hours depending on their role. There are permanent, temporary, contract, full-time and part-time opportunities available.

Being a joiner is not a 9–5 job, and they often have to work unsociable hours, e.g. early mornings, evenings, nights, weekends and bank holidays.

The role may involve local or national travel if a joiner works on-site. There may also be some overseas work opportunities for some joiners.

What to expect

There are many positives to being a joiner, especially if an individual is a practical person and enjoys working with their hands and being creative. Taking timber, making various wooden structures and objects, and seeing the finished items can be fulfilling. Joining wooden items together, from cupboards to doors and windows, used in everyday life can give individuals a sense of pride and be rewarding.

Joinery is a skilled trade. Therefore, joiners are in demand, so there is no shortage of permanent and temporary roles. Jobs are available nationally and internationally, and there are opportunities to be employed, self-employed or freelance. As skilled tradespeople, joiners can earn decent salaries.

Joiners are unlikely to get bored. They will create and repair various wooden structures and items, requiring different techniques and equipment. Some joiners will travel in their local area and nationally, so they will get to see various places and meet many people.

Even though there are positives to being a joiner, there are challenges and cons, e.g.:

  • Health and safety risks – working in a workshop/factory can be dangerous. Joiners will face many hazards, e.g. exposure to wood dust, asbestos, manual handling of materials, use of tools, equipment and machinery, other hazardous substances, slips, trips and falls, work at height, etc. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website has further information on health and safety in the woodworking industry.
  • Physical demands – being a joiner is physically demanding. They will be on their feet for most of the working day, and the role will involve manual handling. There may also be work at height. Individuals will need a good level of physical fitness. There may also be intricate work that requires immense concentration, which can cause fatigue. Some joiners may work on-site in all weather and wear protective equipment, which can be hot and uncomfortable.
  • Mental demands – being a joiner is also mentally demanding. They will need to create structures and items to deadlines, which can be stressful, especially if things do not go according to plan. There is a lot of pressure to make the items to specifications, and mistakes can be costly.
  • Male-dominated professions the number of women in skilled trades, such as joinery and carpentry, is low (approximately 1%). However, it should not put off women who want to enter the profession, as numbers are starting to increase.

 

Every career choice has pros and cons, and individuals must know what to expect before deciding whether it is a suitable career. The role is physically and mentally demanding, and there are health and safety risks. The profession is also male-dominated. However, there are many positives too, and individuals who become joiners love working with wood and creating original pieces.

When considering whether to be a joiner, individuals should look at the pros and cons. They should also ensure they have the right personal qualities to carry out the role and responsibilities required.

Personal qualities needed to be a Joiner

Some of the personal qualities a joiner requires will include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Manual dexterity and enjoys working with their hands.
  • Patient, persistent, creative, practical and confident.
  • Physically fit and with stamina.
  • Knowledge of the different types of wood.
  • Knowledge of building and construction.
  • Knowledge of maths and numeracy.
  • Knowledge of health and safety.
  • Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal.
  • Drawing and sketching skills.
  • Analytical skills.
  • Problem-solving skills.
  • Technical skills.
  • Being thorough, accurate and having excellent attention to detail.
  • The ability to interpret and follow technical drawings and specifications.
  • The ability to use and maintain various hand tools, equipment and machinery.
  • The ability to work well with others and alone using own initiative.
  • The ability to work quickly and efficiently, prioritise different demands and meet tight deadlines.
  • The ability to work under pressure and remain calm in stressful situations.
  • The ability to be flexible and adapt to change.
  • The ability to accept criticism.
  • The ability to use IT and software packages.

Qualifications

There are many different routes to becoming a joiner and individuals do not require formal qualifications. Individuals could go to college, enrol on a course with a private training provider, apply for an apprenticeship or apply directly to companies. They could also do work experience to help them enter the role.

College/private training

Undertaking a college or private training course can help individuals become a joiner. Some examples of courses are as follows (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Bench Joinery.
  • Level 2 Joinery.
  • Level 2 Award in Timber & Panel Products.
  • Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Carpentry and Joinery.
  • Level 2 or 3 Diploma in Wood Machining.
  • T Level in On-Site Construction.

 

Individuals usually need:

  • Level 2 – two or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent.
  • Level 3 and T Levels – four or five GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) or equivalent (including English and maths for a T Level).

 

Some colleges and private training providers also offer short basic joinery courses (usually around 13 weeks) that may be more cost-effective. There are usually no specific entry requirements for these courses, and they are a good option for beginners to get a feel for joinery activities and associated equipment.

Individuals are not guaranteed success with courses and qualifications. However, it will demonstrate to employers and companies that they are keen on the job and may give individuals a competitive edge.

Apprenticeships

There is an apprenticeship route to help individuals become a joiner, e.g.:

  • Carpentry and joinery intermediate or advanced apprenticeship.
  • Wood product manufacturing operative intermediate apprenticeship.

 

Individuals will usually need the following:

  • Intermediate apprenticeship – some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent.
  • Advanced apprenticeship – four or five GCSEs, grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), including English and maths, or equivalent.

 

Opportunities are found on Government’s Apprenticeships, Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education and Indeed.

Applying directly

Some organisations offer joinery trainee or internship roles where they will train individuals on the job and may pay for them to do joinery qualifications. It can be a good route for those struggling to pay for courses, as they can sometimes be expensive. Individuals will still need a good education and demonstrate a passion for joinery. Some opportunities may require work experience and individuals to have their own tools, PPE and vehicle.

Joiner assessing his work

Work experience

Relevant work experience (whether paid or voluntary) can help individuals become joiners. They could apply for assistant roles where they could help and shadow joiners/carpenters in workshops and construction sites.

There may be volunteer opportunities, e.g. with charities and community schemes, where individuals could gain experience in woodwork, maintenance and repair. There is information on volunteering and local opportunities on Do-IT, NCVO, Volunteering Matters and Indeed.

 Any work experience relevant to working on construction sites or woodworking can be beneficial and help an individual work towards becoming a joiner. Even community courses can help, e.g. introduction to carpentry/joinery.

Joiner receiving training

Training courses

Learning does not stop with experience or once someone becomes qualified. Attending relevant training courses and having additional certifications can help individuals enter the profession, enhance their employability and give them a competitive edge. Many colleges and accredited private training providers can provide relevant training courses.

Some examples of courses that may be useful for joiners include (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Health and safety, e.g. asbestos awareness, hazardous substances, work at height, noise, vibration, work equipment (PUWER), work-related stress, PPE, CDM, abrasive wheels and manual handling.
  • Health and safety, e.g. office H&S, work-related violence and manual handling.
  • First aid.
  • Customer service skills.
  • Business management (if self-employed).
  • Time management skills.
  • Basic equipment and tool maintenance.

 

There are also courses relating to joinery, such as:

  • Computer-aided design (CAD).
  • Sketching.
  • Introduction to woodworking.
  • Adhesives and fasteners.
  • Woodworking basics.
  • Woodworking tools, equipment and machinery.
  • Wood restoration and refurbishment.
  • Furniture making.

 

Professional and public bodies, federations and associations, such as the Institute of Carpenters, the BWF – British Woodworking Federation, the Timber Trade Federation, the Construction Industry Training Board (CITB) and the National Association of Shopfitters and Interior Contractors, can also advise on reputable training courses. Some also provide memberships, events and support to help individuals become joiners and give those already in the profession the means to continue their professional development.

The type of training required will depend on the organisation an individual works for, the industry and the joinery activities carried out. It is worth looking at several job advertisements to identify the training needed for roles. Jobs can be found on websites such as GOV.UK find a job service, Indeed, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Construction Job Board, Grain Carpentry and the Construction Index. Also, look at recruitment agencies for joinery roles.

Being self-employed

There are additional responsibilities associated with being self-employed. Self-employed joiners must:

  • Have the correct insurance, i.e. public liability and car/van, business. If employing anyone, employer’s liability insurance will be required.
  • Register with HMRC.
  • File tax returns.
  • Register with the ICO to hold personal data, e.g. customers (to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018 and the GDPR).

Further advice and guidance on being self-employed can be found on GOV.UK.

They will also need to invest in good-quality tools, equipment and machinery, which is an additional cost.

Some companies may require self-employed joiners to be Construction Industry Scheme (CIS) registered.

Criminal records checks

Some joiners may need to undergo a criminal record check. The organisation that holds criminal records will depend on the country within the UK, for example:

 

Driving

Some joiners will need a full driving licence (preferably with no points), especially if they travel to different sites. Some roles will provide a company vehicle for this, but others may require individuals to use their own, which must have business insurance.

Other requirements

If a joiner wants to work on a construction site, they will usually need a Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) card.

Planks of wood ready for joiners to use

Where do joiners work?

Joiners can be employed by private companies/individuals, public bodies and even charities. Some may be self-employed and have their own business, freelance or work for recruitment agencies.

Joiners will predominately work in workshops, factories or manufacturing facilities.

They may also work on/in (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Warehouses.
  • Construction and housebuilding sites.
  • Private and social housing..
  • Offices.
  • Hotels.
  • Hospitals, GP surgeries, health centres, etc..
  • Schools.
  • Prisons.
  • Theme parks.
  • Shops and supermarkets.
  • Transport, e.g. trains, ships and boats.
  • Stadiums and other entertainment venues.
  • Outdoors, e.g. garden buildings or storage.

 

Jobs are available nationally, and joiners can work in cities, towns or villages. There may also be opportunities to work overseas.

Joiner using PPE

How much do joiners earn?

What a joiner earns will depend on their job, industry, specialisms, location, qualifications, experience and whether they are employed, self-employed or freelance.

According to Check-a-Salary (these figures are a guide only):

  • Joiners, on average, earn a minimum of £25,740.00.
  • The average joiner salary in the UK is £38,995.90.
  • Joiners, on average, earn a maximum of £49,725.00.

 

Many joiners receive weekly pay, especially if working on temporary and contract jobs.

The salaries for self-employed joiners will be variable, as they will set their own fees. They will also need to consider expenses, e.g. tax, insurance, own tools, PPE and vehicle etc.

Those starting a joinery career are likely to earn less, i.e. approximately £15,000–£17,000 (data from various sites).

As an apprentice, the salary will depend on an individual’s age and how long they have been in their apprenticeship. Apprentices must earn at least the current National Minimum Wage (NMW). Some employers will pay more than this. However, it will depend on the organisation and role on offer.

Builder joining a professional body

Types of joinery to specialise in

Most joiners will generalise in all aspects of joinery, but there are opportunities to specialise in specific areas, such as (this list is not exhaustive):

  • Bench joiner – uses a bench-mounted joiner instead of hand-held equipment. They typically work in workshops on larger wooden structures and objects.
  • Biscuit joiner (plate joiner) – uses a specific woodworking tool called a biscuit joiner that joins two pieces of wood together.
  • Finishing joiner (second fix joiner) – specialises in finishing works, e.g. door hanging, skirting board fitting and shelving, and any snagging.
  • Fire door joiner – specialises in fire door installation and remedial works.
  • Maintenance joiner – specialises in identifying faults and carries out repairs, minor alterations and adjustments.
  • Multi-skilled joiner – carries out most types of joinery and may also be skilled in other trades, such as plastering and plumbing.
  • Shopfitting joiner – specialises in shopfitting (retail) projects and will carry out various tasks, e.g. installing suspended ceilings, doors, windows, frames, stud walls and partitions.
  • Shuttering joiner – makes formwork (e.g. wooden frames and moulds for concrete pouring) and falsework (temporary structures).
  • Site joiner – works on different construction sites on various projects as opposed to working in a workshop.

 

They can also choose to combine joinery with carpentry. There are also options to specialise in industries such as construction, entertainment or manufacturing or focus on making specific items, e.g. furniture and cabinets. There are also options to work in heritage restoration.

Various joinery roles will require differing knowledge, skills, experience and qualities. All joiners must be able to read and understand technical drawings, use various woodworking equipment, measure, cut and shape timber and carry out quality checks. Any additional areas of expertise will depend on what an organisation is looking for and the type of joinery role an individual wants. Further qualifications may be necessary for specialised work.

Joiners not competently carrying out their roles can result in poor quality joinery, which may cause wooden structures to fail and wooden objects to break. If this happens, people could be severely injured or worse. It can also mean a loss of custom, reputation and overall turnover. Joinery is hazardous, and if not done effectively and safely, it can cause accidents, injuries and ill health. Therefore, whatever the type of role, joiners must have the necessary competence to carry out the work professionally. They should also know the limits of their competency, i.e. asking for help when something is beyond their expertise.

Joiner Signing up to a professional body

Professional bodies

Standards, best practices, laws, techniques, equipment and technologies are regularly changing. Therefore, joiners must keep abreast with the latest developments and changes to ensure they carry out their roles effectively, safely and correctly. Continuing professional development (CPD) gives joiners the knowledge and skills to keep up to date with these changes, understand their responsibilities, be legally compliant and progress in their careers.

Joining a professional or public body, federation or association (as mentioned previously) can help individuals enhance their skills and overall career. They offer different levels of membership, CPD, support, access to industry contacts and networking events.

There is ample opportunity for career progression for joiners. With more qualifications and experience, they can become a carpenter (as well as a joiner) and specialise in different aspects of woodwork or industries, e.g. heritage restoration. They could become a supervisor, team leader or manager or train in other skilled trades, e.g. plastering and plumbing. Alternatively, they may move from a small organisation to a large one, work for an agency or start their own joinery business.

Knowledge, skills and experience from being a joiner can also lead to a career in different areas. For example, they could go into teaching or training joinery at colleges or private training providers. They may decide to move into other areas of construction, such as contracts management, estimating or health and safety.

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