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Qualifications of a Lead Carpenter

1. First of all a lead carpenter must be a good tradesperson. This does not mean knowing everything from framing to trim to electric, plumbing, HVAC and so on -- but at least a good mid range of competence.

2. The lead carpenter must be somewhat entrepreneurial -- a self starter able to work independently. Most remodeling contractors find that the best lead carpenters are those who have been in business for themselves at some point.

Old timers in remodeling never told carpenters anything about the business because if you did, they would find out how much money you were making and go out and start in business for themselves. That's not anywhere as true today as it may have been in the past, and though some years ago it was considered dangerous to hire people who had been in their own business, that is not the case in the 90's.

3. The lead carpenter must be literate -- able to read and write and know simple math. I know a contractor in the Midwest who started to implement the concept and found one of their trusted, long time lead carpenters did not know how to read and write. This industry may have to train some carpenters in literacy in order for them to function properly as lead carpenters.

4. Lead carpenters must be well-organized about their work, able to schedule subcontractors in an orderly manner and keep the job going according to the schedule as well as keeping themselves busy.

5. The lead carpenter must be able to work alone. The old two-man crew was a great crutch for many carpenters because they always had somebody to talk to. If a carpenter cannot work by himself and like it, he will probably not succeed as a lead carpenter.

6. The lead carpenter must be able to work with people: other workmen, subcontractors, delivery people, and customers. This doesn't mean that a lead carpenter has to be the life of the party, but they must be able to communicate, to like most people, and relate to most every type of customer or subcontractor they are working with.

7. The lead carpenter must be trainable -- for the present and the future. Framing crews are going to have to learn how to trim, and vice versa. The more multi-talented lead carpenters -- drywall, plaster patch, paint, wallpaper, tile, floor tile and so on -- are going to be more valuable.

8. Lead carpenters must be neat and clean. If they are neat from the first, then there is less need to spend time on clean-up. Carpenters must be willing to do their own clean-up, including washing windows, cleaning and waxing floors and so on.

9. Lead carpenters must be honest. They are responsible for the security of the home, and they have the run of the house. It may be that remodeling contractors will bond their lead carpenters. But honesty means dealing honestly with customers, with subcontractors and with the company. This also means not working side jobs or doing anything for customers or neighbors in competition with the company.

10. A lead carpenter must know and believe in mark-up. They are going to learn everything about the company, what price they are charging for jobs, what the job costs are, what the mark-up and gross margins are, understand that remodeling has an overhead of 25%-35% and that marking up 50%-67% is no more than reasonable. The last thing you want is the lead carpenter saying to customers, "Here's what the change order is going to cost. I don't know why it's so damn high, but that's the way the company works."

11. Finally, the best lead carpenters are problem solvers. The carpenter who constantly calls the production manager to come out and resolve any and all problems is probably not going to be worth keeping on as an employee. This doesn't mean you let a customer get out of hand or a job skyrocket out of control, but a production manager must be willing to let a lead carpenter make a mistake or two in order to learn what they can and can't do.