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Carpentry businesses build, maintain, repair, or renovate residential and commercial buildings. Structural carpentry, such as framework, contributes to community safety by ensuring the structural integrity of homes and businesses. Finish carpentry, such as restoration of historical buildings, contributes to the environmental beauty and increased real estate values of the community.
Who is this business right for?
A carpentry business is ideal for those who enjoy working with their hands and building things. It’s ideal for those who enjoy preserving and restoring historic landmarks as well as creating new ones for future generations. Those who take pride in their work and a sense of satisfaction in helping customers utilize space more effectively will enjoy this type of business.
What happens during a typical day at a carpentry business?
- Creating service contracts outlining the terms, conditions and timelines of projects to minimize the risk of legal disputes
- Reading blueprints, drawings and sketches to calculate specifications and requirements
- Preparing layouts that conform to building codes
- Measuring, cutting, and assembling building materials
- Building foundations, installing floor beams, walls, and roof systems
- Installing and fitting doors, stairs, and window frames
- Supervising apprentices
What is the target market?
Preferred customers are those who have the financial resources to build or repair a home or business. Professional building contractors and real estate developers who can provide a large volume of business are also often preferred clients.
How does a carpentry business make money?
A carpentry business makes money by charging customers for the time, skill, materials and labor required to complete various types of building projects. Prices are calculated according to the level of skill and experience required as well as the quality of the materials.
What is the growth potential for a carpentry business?
A carpentry business can expand to the extent that it is able to provide franchise opportunities for other independent contractors.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful carpentry business?
Some of the most important skills for a carpentry business owner to have include:
- Math skills, including geometry
- Attention to detail
- Ability to read blueprints
- Knowledge and skill in the use of various building tools and machinery such as planers, drills, and saws
- Accounting skills for calculating costs and managing employee time sheets
- Manual dexterity for operating tools and machinery
- Physical fitness for climbing and lifting materials
The National Association of Home Builders offers a Pre-Apprenticeship Certificate Training (PACT) program. Some companies also offer apprenticeships, which can last between three and four years. Successful completion of an apprenticeship program earns the title of journeyman carpenter. However, the number of apprenticeship programs is limited, so local community colleges offer basic carpentry courses and some offer scholarships as well. The more certifications and skills carpenters possess, the more they are able to charge.
What are the costs involved in opening a carpentry business?
Getting licensed and bonded is one of the initial costs of starting this type of business. It protects both carpenters and consumers from potential legal action. Licensing and bonding is state-specific, but the cost is typically a percentage of tens of thousands of dollars. These costs can seem daunting, but are highly variable, depending on your state’s regulations, personal financial history, and other factors.
All carpenters are also required to pass Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) safety courses. It is possible to start a small carpentry business with just a few hundred dollars if you already have at least a few basic tools.
What are the steps to start a carpentry business?
Once you're ready to start your carpentry business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:
- Plan your business. A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are your initial costs, your target market, and how long it will take you to break even.
- Form a legal entity. Establishing a legal business entity prevents you from being personally liable if your carpentry business is sued.
- Register for taxes. You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
- Open a business bank account. A dedicated checking account for your carpentry business keeps your finances organized and makes your business appear more professional to your customers.
- Set up business accounting. Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
- Obtain necessary permits and licenses. Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
- Get business insurance. Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
- Define your brand. Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
- Establish a web presence. A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Where can I find a business mentor?
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
How to promote & market a carpentry business
Having a website that potential customers seeking your services can easily locate is essential. Your website should provide a list of your areas of expertise, and if possible, some testimonials by satisfied customers. Some examples of good carpentry websites include a company logo, a phone number, and an email address. The more ways you provide potential customers to contact you, the better. Detailed information and photos about the services you provide should also be included on your website. Making business cards that include your website address available to construction companies and real estate agents in your area is a good way to introduce yourself to the local building community. Construction companies often require the services of finish carpenters and rental properties often need maintenance.
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How to keep customers coming back
Satisfied customers are the best source of advertising for this type of business. Offering superior workmanship at reduced prices when beginning your business is a good way to build a reputation that will attract new customers. Creating a carpentry portfolio that includes examples of all the different types of jobs you have completed is another good form of advertising. Many carpentry business owners carry their portfolios, which include business references, with them when meeting with potential customers. This demonstrates the high level of professionalism necessary to inspire the trust required for customers to invite you and your team into their homes.
How and when to build a team
Carpenters usually specialize, which is why it is a good idea to form cooperative relationships with other carpenters with different specialized skills. Being able to refer customers to those that can do the best possible job can be more valuable in building your reputation than accepting a job that someone else could do better. Mutual professional references can increase both income and customer satisfaction.
Building a team under the banner of your business may be necessary as your business grows and you are more able to take on larger orders. Hiring other carpenters you trust, and apprentices from local schools (all of whom need to be properly accredited) will be essential to maintaining the quality of your services.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a carpentry business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Maintain Personal Asset Protection
Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
In businesses where services are provided on an extended basis, a services contract is often put in place outlining terms and conditions of service. You may wish to require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement clarifies client expectations and minimizes risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, and service level expectations. Here is an example of one such services agreement.
Labor Safety Requirements
It is important to comply with all Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.
Relevant regulations include:
- Appropriate hazard identification
- Injury reports
- Proper safety precautions when operating potentially dangerous equipment
How much can you charge customers?
An average carpenter may charge from anywhere between $13.00 to $31.00 per hour plus parts, depending on the type of job and the prevailing wages in the city where they are located. However, those with specialized skills may charge even more. Flat rates can be highly variable, as carpenters charge customers an estimated amount based on the straightforward nature of a project.
What are the ongoing expenses for a carpentry business?
Ongoing expenses for a carpentry business include:
- License, bonding, and insurance fees
- Vehicle maintenance and insurance for transporting supplies
- Maintenance of tools and equipment
- Employee salaries or subcontracting fees
How much profit can a carpentry business make?
An experienced self-employed carpenter with highly specialized skills can earn as much as $50.00 per hour, or $104,000 per year.
How can you make your business more profitable?
There are a number of things you can do to increase your profit margins. One of them is basing your business out of your home. Check with your local zoning commission about zoning laws in your residential area. Utilizing local tool libraries is also a great way to earn more while saving up to buy more tools for more jobs. Donating your services to local charities for special projects is a great way to show off your skills while earning some appreciation and local recognition for your business, which can lead to an increased number of projects.