Carpentry – Building the backbone of a home
Carpenters in the Australian construction industry are responsible for building major structural components. Whether it be a roof, floor or wall framing system, being a carpenter requires the understanding and application of structural principles to be successful. This requires not only being able to understand architectural and structural drawings, but also to be able to effectively build the project as well.
Although challenging, a career as a carpenter can be incredibly rewarding while providing sole traders with avenues for professional growth and development. Having learned the timber framing code (Australian Standard 1684) thoroughly as apprentices, carpenters who choose to be their own boss as sole traders are also responsible for the financial aspects of running a business.
In addition to building framed structures that are in line with the builder’s and engineer’s details, a sole trading carpenter needs to ensure they can effectively and profitably tender for projects to earn a living. It is this tendering process which can make or break a sole trading carpenter. Tendering for projects requires a solid understanding of not only the project that is to be built. It also requires an estimate of the materials, such as timber, nails and bracing straps, and the labour involved to complete it.
By accurately estimating both materials and labour, a fair bid can be placed on the tender – but why is this so important to the sole trader? By overestimating on a project, either through high profit margins or incorrect takeoffs, there is the potential to lose the job by submitting a quote that is far higher than competitors. On the other hand, under-estimating a project can have disastrous financial consequences. Should you win the bid you may find that your profit margin is incredibly low, or not profitable at all causing major cash flow issues.
Much like estimating, when it comes to ordering materials for the project a sole trader still needs to ensure accuracy. Over ordering quantities will mean there are excessive materials. This leads to materials being wasted or tying up funds until they can be reallocated to another job site. Under ordering on a project may not have an obvious financial impact, but sole traders need to be aware that missing materials can lead to delays with completing the project. These delays can cause disruptions to any other projects you may be working on, as you’ll need to return to the original site when the materials arrive. They also may have a financial impact in the form of liquidated damages from not finishing the works on time.
A career as a sole trader provides you with valuable skills and experience that can be applied to the construction industry as a whole. By building major structural components, carpenters need to be aware of the work completed by other trades. When building structural framework, a carpenter will need to be sure that items such as concrete footings or brickwork are built and formed correctly. This is vital as any failings in other structural components can lead to the timber frame failing. Similarly, not completing framework correctly presents issues for other trades down the line. This can include issues with fitting doors and windows, or bowing frames providing an uneven finish.
Career progression – Building on the framework
Being a carpenter that is a sole trader is not the end of the career line. Just because you are your own boss does not mean there can’t be any further career progression. Building on from your structural and construction skills, combined with the experienced gained from running your own business, it is quite common for a carpenter to become a registered builder.
The pathway to becoming a registered builder includes further study, as well as five years of on-site experience. Your understanding of structural and architectural drawings will be expanded on to include all other trades involved with the project. This will include concreters, plumbers, electricians and earthworkers, as tendering for projects will need to incorporate every trade rather than just carpentry.
As well as a greater understanding of other trades, being a builder will also develop your level of attention to detail. The project must be set out as per the site plan to prevent issues that come from building too close to the boundary, or over the boundary onto the neighbouring property. It is also important to note that regardless of the size of the project, the client will expect a sensational finish. As a builder you will need to ensure that all surfaces are even, and free of blemishes.
While the additional responsibility can prove to be rather stressful, continued successful completion of projects will provide you with a challenging and rewarding career.
Education – A cornerstone of your career
To be successful as a sole trader carpenter, it is vital that you have an excellent understanding of the construction industry and its practices. Carpenters who are looking to venture out on their own should enrol in the Diploma of Building and Construction (Building). This will ensure you get the right information and training needed to further develop yourself as a sole trading carpenter, as well as provide the option to apply for a builder’s license should you choose to.
While the course will expand on your knowledge of construction practices, it will also provide you with the additional information needed to effectively run your own business within the industry. Units in the course will provide an understanding of the following:
- How to identify and effectively manage project risks
- Managing the quality of your project
- How to correctly evaluate tender documentation and prepare estimates
- Understanding, implementing and maintaining Workplace Health and Safety laws and regulations
- Develop and implement practices and policies for sustainability
- Choose the right contractors, and manage them effectively
- Minimise wastage on building sites
The skills and knowledge gained from completing the course will allow you to have a better understanding of the industry as a whole. The information on how to complete tenders and prepare estimates will ensure you are providing the best price possible, allowing you to profitably win work, while the units relating to WHS and project management will make sure that your works are completed safely and to a high standard.