finish carpentry

On our blog we call basic production moldings “trim carpentry. Upgraded trim we refer to as “finish carpentry.”

[This post is part of my How to Install Moldings series.]

Not everyone has the time or desire to install their own moldings.  So I’m writing this series of posts for those of you who will contract the installation of your moldings some things to consider before you open the phone book or Google a local contractor.

The Most Important Thing

It will always be up to you to verify that your finish carpenter is licensed, insured, reliable, and capable of performing the quality of workmanship you need in a safe and timely manner.

Posts in This Series

  1. How Much Does a Finish Carpenter Charge to Install Moldings?
  2. $400.00 a Day.  Why Finish Carpenters Charge so Much
  3. Frankentrim: You Get What You Pay For

Finish Carpentry vs Trim Carpentry

I like to make a distinction between basic production moldings — the kind you want to get rid of — and upgraded moldings, the kind that make you go ooh and aah!

The differences I assign the two terms is my own convention.  This way we have some way to distinguish between the two very different types of molding installations, and the skills required of the contractor performing the work.

Finish Carpentry

This term refers to the kind of molding installations that show high levels of craftsmanship and complexity of design.  The highly-skilled tradesmen engaged in such work are called finish carpenters.

Trim Carpentry

This describes the simplest kind of molding installation.  Trim moldings are designed for the minimal purpose of covering gaps between structural elements like wall/floor joints and wall/window/door joints.

Trim is what’s installed in the majority of homes.

Trim carpenters are skilled at installing minimal interior trim: doors, door jambs, windows, window trim, baseboard trim and such.  They usually work in very fast-paced production environments like new home construction.  Trim carpentry is where many finish carpenters get their start.

Which Kind Do I Hire?

This is where you have to do your homework on each and every contractor you interview.  Just because a guy can trim a 4000 square foot tract home in two days does not mean he can build you an authentic Georgian fireplace.  He or she might be capable, but you will have to look them in the eye and ask them if they have the skills and tools to do the kind of work you want.

And please be fair with them.  Don’t knowingly hire a marginally qualified trim carpenter to build something complex for you just because he costs less, and then brow-beat him because his work is not up to snuff.

In finish carpentry, as in most things, you get what you pay for.

The Portfolio

A portfolio of previous work is a great place to get an idea of what your prospective finish carpenter is capable of creating.  As strange as this may sound, however, many experienced finish carpenters don’t even have a portfolio, much less a website where you can see their work.

If you run into a finish carpenter like that, then point them to The Joy of Moldings and ask them if they can build what you want at that level of craftsmanship.  Laying out your expectations right from the start can help misunderstandings from cropping up later.

The next post in this series I’ll cover the different kinds of molding installation companies you can expect to find in your search.

[Return to How to Install Moldings series.]