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Three common carpentry jobs – tips from Which? Trusted traders

From hanging doors to installing floors or wardrobes, our Which? Trusted traders have got some great tips to help your project run smoothly.

In this article

Carpenters can take on a wide range of projects around the home – anything that involves working with wood. This can range from constructing wardrobes or bookcases to boarding out loft-space and hanging doors. Some will also take on construction projects in your garden – such as building sheds, steps or decking.

We asked some of our Which? Trusted Traders endorsed carpenters to explain more about some common jobs that they encounter, any complications that might arise and how to keep costs down.

You can find a carpenter in your local area with Which? Trusted Traders. All our endorsed traders have been through our rigorous assessment process, which includes a face-to-face assessment by a trading standards professional.

Hanging new doors

What’s involved?

Your carpenter will need to:

  • remove the existing door
  • attach hinges to the new door
  • fit the door to the frame
  • paint or finish the door (if they also do decorating).

A straightforward job, including adding the handles, shouldn’t take more than a couple of hours. However, a less straightforward replacement could take a full day.

In our survey, carpenters gave an estimate range from £300 to £600 to hang 8 new doors (supplied by the customer). See our guide to carpentry and joinery prices and completion times for more information. These prices will vary according to how difficult it is to fit the doors, any handles or other fixtures required, the region you live in, parking charges and how easily your carpenter can access your property.

On new front or back doors, your carpenter will also need to install the locks you choose to keep your home secure, which will add to the time taken and overall cost. Your carpenter may charge for their time and materials separately, or give you an overall figure.

What can make it more complicated?

Which? Trusted trader Heron Carpentry’s Gerry Heron said: ‘It’s very common in older properties in particular that frames aren’t square, which creates additional work. Also, you may have to move doorstops because doors are thicker.’

Tony Byrne, of Which? Trusted trader A Byrne Carpentry and Joinery, told us: ‘There’s a wide range of additional factors – some people will want to change to a heavier door, and the frame may not be suitable. Frames can be twisted or damaged, too.’

Your carpenter will be able to hang a door in an uneven door frame, but it will take longer and be a more expensive job. Tony said: ‘There’s always a solution – with heavier doors you can add additional hinges, for example.’

How can you help?

‘If you’re supplying a door yourself, ensure you measure up accurately,’ Gerry said.’

It can also help to think ahead about the type of handles or locks you’d like to use. Your carpenter will have a portfolio of past projects online, which you can use as a reference point.

Tips to keep costs down

  • Buying standard, ready-made doors will be cheaper than having a joinery shop make bespoke doors – although you may have to compromise on the fit, particularly if you’ve got an older frame.
  • It can be a false economy to buy really cheap doors (under £50) from retailers – their internal structure is weak, and they’re unlikely to last.
  • If you’re on a tight budget, be aware that the type of finish on a door can add cost - a painted finish costs more than natural wood, for example. Choose a veneered door for a polished finish; these are cheaper than solid-wood doors.
  • If you want to paint your new door, choose a pre-primed, pressed door. This saves time and money on decorating without compromising on an excellent finish.

Check out more simple solutions and big ideas about how to cheer up your home. Read on for our Which? Trusted traders’ tips on installing wooden floors.

Installing new wooden floors

What’s involved?

Your carpenter will need to:

  • remove any existing floor coverings
  • lay underlay
  • lay the new floor.

The duration of the job will depend on the size and shape of the room – a square, lounge-style room could take around two days, depending on the size. The more doorways and door thresholds or uneven shapes there are, the longer it will take.

‘It’s always a good idea to store wood in the house for a couple of days before fitting it, so it can acclimatise,’ Tony explained. ‘It will expand in the heat of the house after being in a cold warehouse. If you don’t allow this time, it can swell after you’ve fitted it, leaving you with a ripple effect and an uneven finish.’

What makes it more complicated?

Any variation from a square room will require cutting around – so the more chimney breasts, thresholds and irregularities, the more complicated the job becomes.

Carpenters in our survey estimated between £155 and £290 to lay oak flooring on a flat, prepared floor in a hallway 1.5m x 3m (with the customer supplying the flooring). See our full range of estimated carpentry costs for more details.

‘The condition of the existing floor makes a big difference,’ Gerry told us. ‘If you have uneven floors, you may have to pack up extra underlay under the floor to even it out, or, if it’s really bad, you have to put self-levelling compound on it.’

‘In most cases people will leave the existing floor down,’ Tony said, ‘so you’ll have a sub-floor. But depending on its condition and thickness, you might have to take that floor up, put down hardboard ply, and lay wooden flooring on top of that.’

How can you help?

‘Clear the rooms out completely,’ Tony advised. ‘There’s nothing worse than going in and finding all the furniture still in place. It’s a waste of time.’

If you’re sourcing the materials, make sure you have enough. ‘There’s always a lot of wastage with flooring,’ Gerry said. ‘Always allow an extra 10% on floors and make sure you have decent underlay.’ Find out more about how to buy wood flooring in this Which? guide.

Tips to keep costs down

  • Material costs vary hugely for a hardwood floor. Some types of wood are more pricey than others - for example, a walnut finish is much more expensive than oak.
  • Consider an engineered wood floor (made from layers of timber stuck together and finished with a thin layer of hardwood), rather than solid wood. It will save on the labour costs, particularly if it’s already sanded and sealed. It’s also less prone to movement and distortion.

Construct a built-in wardrobe

What’s involved?

Your carpenter will need to:

  • make up a base and wardrobe carcass to fit the space
  • make up the doors
  • fit the carcass
  • fit the doors, internal shelves, rails and so on
  • paint the wardrobe.

The duration of the job will depend on the size and location of the wardrobe, and whether there are any additional complicating factors. However, Gerry estimates that building an alcove unit with Shaker-style doors (a simple, minimal design) would take around three days, and cost in the region of £900.

Not everyone wants a full wardrobe carcass, either. Tony told us: ‘A lot of people use the walls to maximise space, so you make a façade and put the insides in. It’s something I’d discuss with the customer to see what they want – shelving, long hanging – there are lots of variations possible.’

We’ve got more storage solutions to help organise your home.

What makes it more complicated?

‘Your trader will have to assess each job,’ Tony told us. ‘Wonky floors, walls that are out of square and out of plumb, and working around period features (picture rails, dado rails and cornicing) can all make the job more complicated.’

It’s also important to take existing furniture into account. ‘You need to make sure the doors will be able to open against other furniture and radiators,’ Tony said. ‘It sounds obvious, but not everyone considers it.’

How can you help?

Our traders emphasised the need for space to work in. Ensure you clear out the furniture, turn beds on their side or push them across the room.

Try to have some ideas about what style you want for the fittings. ‘Have a look online at your carpenter’s website, or manufacturers’ sites, to work out what kind of handles you want on the doors,’ Gerry said.

Tips to keep costs down

  • Consider using the walls of an alcove as the ‘wall’ of your wardrobe. This means your carpenter won’t need to construct a full carcass, which could save on the cost of labour and materials.

Remember, if you need a carpenter for any home-improvement projects, you can find one of our endorsed traders in your local area.

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