Joinery vs. Carpentry: What is the Difference?

carpentry vs. joinery

In terms of construction and architecture, the two main trades associated with handling wood are joinery and carpentry.

Admittedly, the similarities between the two professions are quite close, and many people are confused as to which one to hire for their project. 

But there are differences between the two professions. And knowing that will help you make the best-informed decision. 

What follows are definitions for each profession, what their differences are, and which one may be right for your needs. 


As the name suggests, this is the practice of putting pieces of wood together using precise means of shaping the material so that it fits. 

Normally, this means creating notches of such precision that the pieces fit together perfectly. This is followed by pressure and heating to seal the connection. The piece is then finished to improve its appearance.

Joinery is normally practiced in a woodworking shop where the pieces are shaped and fitted together using machine and hand tools. The pieces also tend to be smaller and easier to handle compared to what carpenters work with at their jobs. 


Carpenters also put pieces of wood together, but they tend to work with larger pieces at construction sites and renovations. 

This means that they spend much less time in the shop. The putting together of wood pieces is normally done with fasteners and adhesives, although there is some shaping that is performed. 

Carpenters mainly perform framework, stud work, and the installation of doors, windows, and the like. 

The installation aspect is probably what causes the confusion between joinery and carpentry because both often work on the same items, such as doors and windows, but to two different ends. 

Similarities Between Both

Both professions are designed to focus on creating wood joints and joining techniques to put wood pieces together. These pieces can be:

  • Cabinets, Windows, and Staircases
  • Bookshelves, Floors, Tables, and Skirting Boards
  • Board Lining, Interior & Exterior Doors, and more  

It is true that the exact methods may be different in some ways, but the overall intent is to work with wood so that it is properly placed and connected. 

In addition, there is a professional similarity in that both carpenters and joiners can move up in their work to become site managers. 

This way, the expertise that has been gained over the years can be put to work to help others in the putting together of wood for various projects. 

Carpentry vs. Joinery: Differences 

A carpenter is focused on the structural integrity of the project more than how it appears. In some cases, carpenters will use metal supports to augment the structure. 

That is why you’ll find a carpenter at the Jobsite from the beginning of the construction or renovation project.

The joiner usually arrives in the latter stages of construction. 

Probably the most important difference is that carpenters are not the ones who create the objects but rather the ones who install them in the new construction or renovation. A joiner, however, will usually create the object in their shop and bring it to the construction or renovation site. 

For example, the joiner will create the door while the carpenter installs the door at the site. It is true that many joiners will assist in the installation process, but they are the ones who generally create the items themselves using specific techniques. 

Another difference is that joiners mainly work with wooden boards, panels, and planks. They will also do finishings that are made from synthetic or natural materials.

It is why the tools used in carpentry are generally different compared to joinery because the overall purpose is different.

A good way to look at the differences is that carpentry is involved in the construction or renovation of homes and buildings.  While joinery creates the objects that will be installed in homes and buildings.

You may see joinery work performed at the construction site, but in most cases, the project has been finished at the woodshop before it is transported to the site. 

Whom to Hire – Carpenter or Joiner?  

If you need someone to help with the construction or renovation of a building which includes installing frames, improving structures, or putting together molds, then you need a carpenter. 

If you need someone to create or rebuild a piece of furniture, cabinet, bookcase, chair, or room divider, then you call a joiner. 

It is true that often the skills of joinery and carpentry will overlap, and you will see people of both professions working on the same projects. The difference is the original purpose that each profession addresses.

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