Seems to me the carpenter on my kitchen project is underpaid by the
He told me he's getting $30 an hour, which seems absurd given how good
first rate, and most importantly, he's able to react to problems and
tweak things so they look right in what is a pretty weird open plan
I don't know if the GC is paying him benefits or servicing the van.
Naturally he's covering workman's comp. I know the carpenter has his
Anyway, in this blistering market for new construction and remodelling,
it doesn't compute, to me, that he's only pulling $30 an hour. I'm in
the DC area, which is pretty freaking hot. Seems like every mother in
the school parking lot is talking about their remodelling job.
Aren't you the same guy who's saying this contractor can't be trusted
to cut down a couple of cabinets.
Only one... this is none of your business.
You don't know what the contractual relationship is between the two
... and you have no idea whether or not the carpenter is telling you
Why on earth do you care? And what makes you think it is any of
I was hoping to start a discussion of the market for carpenters, not a
discussion of what is and isn't my business, which I think is beyond
the scope of this group.
If you must know, I'm curious in general because I think labor markets
are fascinating and in particular because I care about the tradesmen
who work in my house.
Bull. If that were the case, you would have asked about the going
rates for various trades. Not whether or not $30 an hour seemed
right for a skilled guy like the carpenter who's installing your
And just how does your caring about people who work in your home
extend to 1) knowing how much he makes and 2) trying to determine
through a newsgroup (for god's sake) whether or not that is
appropriate? I think you've got too much time on your hands.
You seem a little touchy on this topic, Ken. Why?
The question comes up frequently - it's not like the OP is asking
To the OP: the GC probably bills him out at a multiplier of at least
2x and probably 3x which sounds about right. Could he make more
working for himself? Probably. But then he'd have to deal with the
paperwork, insurance, etc., etc. He probably is happy to get his grand
or grand and a half a week and leave the headaches to someone else.
And when it has come up in the past, I have answered it -- where my
knowledge or experience seems applicable.
My take on it, Rico, is that he is not asking in general terms ... he
wants to know whether one particular tradesman currently working in
his home is making a fair wage. Ignore the rationalizations and
denials and look at the context.
If you look at his other post ...."I paid a FORTUNE for custom
cabinets and I want custom cabinets ...." , you'll see he stops just
short of stamping his foot like a four year old. My take is that he
is a PITA who has a decent contractor working for him and isn't smart
enough to know it.
I see no reason for this group to get involved in whether one
carpenter working on a specific project in a specfic house is being
fairly paid. Particularly if it would provide ammunition for a PITA.
Exactly. The one thing you didn't mention is that the contractor
likely provides him work whether there is a project or not. I buy and
sell houses ... so that there'll be work for the boys in a down time.
Take care, Rico. Like your posts.
Most of these guys arent paid just by the hour. Many of which are
done by getting a days pay.
I have seen carpenters get around 250 - 300 for the day.
Take that number (lets say 300) divide that between 8 hours
and you'll get 37.50 an hour.
The'll take that money for the day whether they work or not.
You generally dont want to pay these guys based on per hour
then you really have to be on their asses get get shit done.
If you're determined to see what you want to see, you'll always manage
to see it, Ken. You asked about my motivations, and I told you.
You're adding a lot of context from your own head to get where you want
to go -- that I'm one of the "PITA"s you deal with.
I'm sympathetic, actually. I know plenty of people who treat tradesmen
and GCs disrespectfully and I know that I don't.
You'll notice that in the other thread you're referencing, I asked here
*first* what a reasonable expectation about the cabinets was before
pushing back with the contractor because this group provides a wealth
of advice from experienced people.
What's more, when my fears turned out to be unfounded, I promptly
posted that right in the thread. See for yourself.
What's more, it's easy enough to see everything I've ever posted to
this group through groups.google.com, and you'll see the same
This is nothing more than an honest question about going wages for
carpenters, all carpenters. I've learned a lot about your side of the
business from other people's responses (including Steve B's). For what
it's worth, it wasn't my intention to demand the GC pay the carpenter
something different. I might tip the carpenter more at the end
depending on what I learn, and I'll certainly consider the matter when
recommending the GC to other people, but I accept the things I can't
I talk to people regularly at the corporate level of the construction
supplies industry in my job and one thing I've been hearing for a
couple years now is that with housing starts shooting through the roof,
good carpenters are very hard to get. Naturally, I wonder why my
carpenter's wages aren't climbing.
There is no such thing as all carpenters -- any more than there are
"all lawyers" or "all bookkeepers".
I'm in one of the hottest renovations markets in North America. Very
competitve for trades.
The lowest I pay a rough carpenter (right out of school, no tools, no
experience) is fifteen to eighteen an hour. As soon as they are
able, I move them to piece work on framing and if they're any good,
introduce them to finishing. If they have a good work ethic, they
will earn from 25 to 35 dollars an hour.
For finish carpenters, with tools and experience, the low is 30, the
high is 35. Most work on piece work, and do better than that.
For cabinet makers, the low is 35, the high is .... whatever it
takes. Again, as soon as a guy proves himself (or herself), they
move onto piece work.
Plumbers -- 28 - 50 an hour. Electricians 30 - 50 an hour. Tin
tappers 30 - 50 an hour.
Boarders and tapers 25 cents a s.f. Minimum 150 dollars per
appearance on the job site..
Painters 2.60 s.f. floor area. 300 per day.
Tilesetters -- 4 - 6 per s.f. depending.
Basically, everyone should earn 200 a day whether they work or not.
The experienced pros should be earning 300 - 500.
If they're not, projects are lagging.
Don't tip the carpenter. That's insulting.
Buy him a present, a gift certificate, a bottle whatever.
Or just say thanks.
Well, if it were that simple. The "tradesmen who work in my house" may tell
you that they are "only" getting $X per hour, and the greedy contractor is
charging $XX per hour! What they don't tell you, and what you don't
understand is that the contractor has spent the time to get the license, and
that ain't no small deal. It makes them legally responsible, and the one
you go after if things aren't done right. The contractor pays for bid
bonds, performance bonds, surety bonds, and other bonds to protect the
consumer. The contractor is forced to pay exorbidant rates by insurance
companies who, because of their extortion practices, would make good
loansharks. The contractor has to pay high worker compensation insurance to
make up for the 10:1 doofus:craftsman rate. (that may be 100:1 depending on
your location) If something's not right, do you call the contractor or the
craftsman? The contractor provides all the thousands of dollars of tools
and equipment used to work on your house, many of which times he could go
out and rent it and make you pay for it.
I could go on for about half an hour, but I HOPE you get the idea.
Next time you want something remodeled, throw the dice. Drive to the part
of your town where the day laborers are, and get a pickup full. Do all the
things that the contractor usually does. Buy materials. Get them
delivered. Go order stuff. Go follow up when stuff isn't delivered.
Handle a group of craftsmen/doofuses/winos to get a project done. And if
you have a problem, try to find one of them to come back and make it right.
You will soon understand what a contractor goes through every day of his
life, and the difference between a craftsman and a contractor. Many a
craftsman fails when going into business for themselves because they are
good at what they do, and no good at the business/management portion of the
operation. And they usually are VERY content to just fall back and work by
the hour and have their Tylenol bill go waaaaay down.
Then, you will be writing in asking why contractors don't make more.
Just some thoughts from a retired contractor. (steel erection, State of
Nothing stops you from adding to his $60,000 a year or so pay. I'm sure
he would welcome a $5,000 tip to help lift him from abject poverty.
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Thought number one- don't rock the boat with your contractor while the job
is underway. Thought number two- the going rate varies from area to area,
union vs. non-union, and any side deals the carpenter may have with the GC.
A little cash off the books is far from unknown, especially if the skilled
trades are working as subcontractors, a common arrangement. Thought three-
if the guy's work is that impressive, when the job is complete, write the GC
a letter telling him that, and don't be shy about referring your friends to
the company and/or that carpenter, if he also does side work. That is how
custom carpentry has always worked- word of mouth is the best advertising.
Once my father's company did custom houses for 2 or 3 of the local doctors,
within a year, he was doing 4 or 5 doctor houses a year. He had one older
guy too good to waste on framing- he moved him site to site for interior
finish and custom built-ins.
Maybe it's the market rate. Your carpenter should know what the market
rate is & he can always go somewhere else if someone else offers more
I'm sure the GC is charging you a lot more for his time than they are
paying him. It's the nature of the business.
Thanks to RicodJour, Steve B and ameijers for the insight into the way
the contracting business is run. This was (and is) a simple honest
inquiry about what the going rate for carpenters is and what other
hidden costs there are that the contractor or carpenter might be
shouldering that I don't know about because I'm not in that business.
If you read anything else into it, you're beating on a straw man -- fun
and therapeutic, but looks a little silly to the people watching.
Thank you for speaking for all the people you consider to be unwashed
rabble, inferior to yourself, and unable to state their feelings and
opinions for themselves.
This makes me believe you are a troll. You state you don't know anything
about the business, yet pontificate about the way things SHOULD be.
You sound like a liberal to me.
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