Essential skills for success as a carpenter

Carpenters use essential skills to complete trade-related tasks. Use this fact sheet to:

  • learn how essential skills are used on the job;
  • find out the skills you need to succeed in your trade; and
  • help prepare yourself for your career.


  • Read project specifications to understand what is required for a project.
  • Read specification books and notes on blueprints.
  • Read and understand first aid and safety reports.
  • Read and understand safety inspection manuals.
  • Read and interpret building codes, regulations and standards to comply with regulations.
  • Read installation manuals.
  • Read industry trade magazines to learn about technological advancements, such as new construction materials and methods.

Document use

  • Interpret labels such as the Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) to follow safety guidelines.
  • Interpret signs for information about directions, cautions and safety procedures.
  • Complete time cards to record work hours.
  • Interpret shop drawings and specifications for the sizes, locations and types of materials required for a job.
  • Prepare lists of materials.
  • Make sketches of drawings or plans to use on job sites.
  • Refer to load charts to determine load bearing capacities when operating material handling equipment.
  • Interpret blueprints to verify measurements, determine the integrity of plans and to report mistakes.


  • Estimate how long it will take to complete a job.
  • Calculate the quantity of materials needed for a job, such as the volume of concrete required for footings.
  • Convert between metric and imperial measurement systems.
  • Verify bills when purchasing tools, accounting for discounts and taxes.
  • Analyze survey data for excavations to draw conclusions about safety.
  • Take precise measurements using survey instruments.
  • Make scale drawings.
  • Calculate stringers, treads and risers to build stairs.
  • Calculate a rafter line length using the measurements of rise and run.


  • Record information on work activities such as problems encountered and resolved and hours of work.
  • Write purchase orders for materials.
  • Write safety and accident reports.
  • Write change orders to recommend blueprint modifications.
  • Write reports for project meetings.

Oral communication

  • Talk to suppliers to order materials or compare prices.
  • Interact with other carpenters to discuss work schedules, safety concerns and to share ideas.
  • Communicate with a foreperson to report on work progress and troubleshoot problems.
  • Talk to manufacturer representatives to discuss problems with equipment and materials.
  • Interact with owner(s) to discuss new ideas and potential changes.

Working with others

  • Work frequently in pairs.
  • Lead construction teams while working with other tradespersons, forepersons, suppliers and engineers.
  • Work as a team to promote safety.


  • Adapt routine tasks when working in a confined space.
  • Consult other carpenters to share knowledge and experience.
  • Refer to blueprints and specifications to obtain detailed project information.
  • Analyze blueprints and actual measurements to identify errors.
  • Make decisions to use materials efficiently.
  • Make decisions about constructing and building structures, such as decks, stairs and platforms.

Computer use

  • Use computer-controlled equipment, such as total stations, smart levels and workplace alarm systems.

Continuous learning

  • Keep up-to-date with codes, regulations, standards and materials.
  • Keep up-to-date with emerging skills and methods from technological advancements.
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