How to Hire a Good Carpenter in Washington D.C.
About 77% of homeowners that undertake a home remodeling project are said to feel a major sense of accomplishment at the completion of these projects, with another 65% reporting an increased enjoyment of their homes. When undertaking any of these types of projects in Washington D.C that involves woodworking, it is always in your best interest to hire a professional carpenter near you to perform the required work instead of attempting to do it yourself. Professional carpenters are generally trained and equipped to handle various types of woodworking-related issues expertly, while also mitigating on-the-job hazards, ensuring that your project is gotten right the first time around. Considering that over eight percent of all work-related compensable injuries are estimated to be caused by hand tools, hiring a professional for the job is a sound financial decision to make every time you have a home remodeling project.
While it is common to find carpenters near you by asking family, friends, other construction and home improvement professionals, or via online sources, you should always do your due diligence before employing any of these individuals. You can do this, and thereby ensure that a carpenter near you is the right person for your home improvement project, by asking the following questions:
- Are You Licensed to Practice as a Carpenter in Washington D.C.?
- How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Carpenters in Washington D.C.?
- Do You Comply with the Washington D.C. Building Code for Carpentry Work?
- Will You Get the Home Improvement Permits as Required by the Washington D.C. Code?
- What Kind of Carpentry Services Do You Offer?
- Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Carpenters in Washington D.C.?
Are You Licensed to Practice as a Carpenter in Washington D.C.?
The licensing and regulation of all contractors in Washington D.C. that perform new construction, renovation, or home improvement activities is handled by the district's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA). These contractors, which include carpenters, are required to obtain either a General Contractor/Construction Manager License or a Home Improvement Contractor License, depending on the scope of the project. Individuals with a Home Improvement Contractor license are limited to only the repair and remodeling of residential property. On the other hand, individuals with a General Contractor/Construction Manager license can perform both residential and commercial new construction work and remodeling and can also oversee the activities of any other contractors that are involved in the project.
The requirements for obtaining these licenses involve providing proof of corporate and tax registration to the DCRA, proof of liability insurance, and any other additional documentation that the department may deem necessary at the time of the license application. License applications can be made online via the DC Business Portal or in person at:
- 1100 4th Street SW
- 2nd Floor
- Washington, DC 20024
Carpenters that perform home improvement or new construction work in Washington D.C. without an appropriate contractor license can be found guilty of a Class 1 Infraction. This offense carries a minimum penalty of $2,000 in fines for first offenders. You should always confirm that any carpenter you intend to employ in the district has been duly licensed by the DCRA, and you can do this by calling (202) 442-4400. You can also confirm the licensing status of your preferred carpenters online by accessing the DCRA's Access DC portal. Note that using this portal requires the creation of a user account.
How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Carpenters in Washington D.C.?
Per figures published by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, carpenters in the Washington D.C. area earn a mean wage of more than $24 per hour. With that being said, it should be noted that the specific amount of money that you will have to pay any carpenter in the district that you intend to hire is dependent on a number of factors. These include the specific nature and scope of your woodworking project, the amount of time and labor that will be needed to accomplish this project, and the cost of materials that the project will require. To this end, it is always a good idea to get and compare quotes and bids from several carpenters near you before undertaking your project to help you determine the average rate of your required carpentry service within your vicinity.
A carpenter in Washington D.C. earns an annual average wage of $51,950. The table below provides a comparison of the mean hourly wage for carpenters in Washington D.C. against those of carpenters across several other major American cities:Washington D.C. Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage$24.98Boston Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage$31.31Chicago Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage$34.74Houston Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage$21.53Los Angeles Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage$32.37New York City Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage$34.16
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Do You Comply with the Washington D.C. Building Code for Carpentry Work?
Hiring a carpenter in Washington D.C. that is not only licensed but is also familiar with the requirements of the district's Construction Codes is a sure way to ensure the success of your home improvement project. The Washington D.C. Construction Codes control all matters that involve the construction, reconstruction, alteration, repair, maintenance, addition, removal, use, demolition, location, equipment, and occupancy of all buildings, structures, and premises in the district. These include existing or proposed structures, as well as any appurtenances that may be attached or connected to these buildings or structures. Knowledge of these codes is important because they were designed to ensure the health, welfare, and public safety of residents of Washington D.C. through the regulation and governance of the conditions and maintenance of premises, buildings, and structures in the district. Failure to adhere to the requirements of the district's Construction Codes can lead to criminal and civil penalties that include jail time of up to 90 days and a fine of up to $2,000 per violation. You can get information on the Washington Construction Codes and the provisions of these codes that govern your intended home improvement project by contacting the district's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs at (202) 442-4400 or via email.
Will You Get the Home Improvement Permits as Required by the Washington D.C. Code?
A building permit is generally required for the construction, enlargement, alteration, repair, movement, demolition, or change of the occupancy of any building or structure in Washington D.C. However, some types of carpentry-related construction and home improvement projects can be undertaken without a building permit. Examples of these types of projects include:
- Repairing fences with the same kind of materials
- The installation of cabinets, countertops, floor covering, and other similar types of finish work
- The installation of window screens and storm windows
- Carpentry work involving movable fixtures, counters, cases, racks, and partitions that are not over 5 feet 9 inches in height
Building permits are issued by the Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA) and individuals that wish to obtain them can do so via the following steps:
- Establishing the full nature and scope of the project and make sure that the property in question does not have any development restrictions that apply to it. This can be done by contacting the DC Office of Zoning at (202) 727-6311 or online via the DCRA's SCOUT platform
- Submitting a building permit application online via either the DCRA Permit Wizard Portal if the project involves a one or two-family residence, or the DCRA Citizen Access Portal if the project is a commercial one. Note that applicants will be required to create a user count to utilize either of these platforms. Also, depending on the nature of the project, the provision of additional documentation like building plans may be required after the permit application has been submitted and screened. This additional documentation will have to be submitted via the DCRA's ProjectDox portal
Once all the necessary documents have been submitted, reviewed, and approved, applicants will also have to pay a stipulated permit fee before the required building permits can be issued. Note that once these permits have been issued and the project begins, the DCRA may conduct inspections at several stages to ensure compliance with the relevant provisions of the Washington D.C. Construction Codes. These inspections are usually performed before the work done is covered or concealed. You can direct inspection-related queries to the DCRA at (202) 481-3524. General permitting and inspection-related inquiries can also be directed to this department via phone numbers (202) 442-4400 and (202) 442-8959, email, or in person at:
- 1100 4th Street SW
- Washington, DC 20024
- Hours: 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., Mondays - Wednesdays, Fridays, and 9:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays
What Kind of Carpentry Services Do You Offer?
Carpenters in Washington D.C. provide several types of carpentry and woodwork-related services, and so it is essential to make sure that your preferred carpenter is duly equipped to perform the specific task you require. Services provided by Washington D.C. carpenters include new construction carpentry, cabinet, countertop and furniture making and modification, and the construction and installation of doors and windows. Some of these services require a higher level of expertise and attention to detail than others, and so you must always get confirmation from any carpenter you intend to hire that they are up to the task. It is a good idea to request proof of this via pictures of previously completed projects and by requesting references that you can contact to get first-hand reviews on the carpenter's prowess. Once you have done this, you should always get confirmation on the exact cost of the carpenter's services. Some cost estimates for common carpentry services that are readily available in Washington D.C. are provided below:Interior trim and molding installation (with mid-grade trim or molding)$9.99 - $11.22 per linear footCarpentry framing (for unfinished home addition framing)$29.28 - $34.19 per square footExterior trim installation/removal$28.96 - $44.67 per linear footExterior trim repair$1.1 - $2.23 per square footBuilt-in wardrobe and furniture construction$147 - $230 per hourInstalling a custom closet organizing system$1,500 - $15,000
Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Carpenters in Washington D.C.?
Figures published by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that about 11,960 non-fatal work-related injuries occurred amongst carpenters in 2020. With common carpentry-related handheld tools accounting for approximately eight percent of all compensable workplace injuries that occur in the country, it is important to always work with insured carpenters. Hiring an insured carpenter provides you with financial cover in the event of situations that involve workplace injuries during your project or if the carpenter happens to damage your property while working on said project. As such, any individual that possesses a General Contractor/Construction Manager license in Washington D.C. is required to have a minimum liability insurance coverage of $500,000 per occurrence. Likewise, individuals with a Home Improvement Contractor license must have a minimum coverage of $50,000 for bodily injury or death per person in any single accident and $10,000 for property damage, as well as a surety bond of $25,000.
You can get more information on the mandatory insurance and bonding requirements for carpenters in Washington D.C. by contacting the DCRA at (202) 442-4400. It is also advisable to request proof of this insurance and bonding from any carpenter near you that you intend to hire and confirm it with the appropriate insurance or bond provider.
In October 2017, a Washington D.C. home improvement contractor was sentenced to 10 years in prison for defrauding homeowners of hundreds of thousands of dollars and also defrauding a government program for needy families in the area. Unfortunately, punishments like these have not stopped unscrupulous individuals from trying to take advantage of residents of the district that require home repair and improvement services. In 2019, the construction and home improvement industry ranked second in the number of consumer complaints made across the country for the third consecutive year. A majority of these complaints arose from matters involving a failure to start or complete work that had already been paid for, shoddy service delivery, and unlicensed contracting. As such, when searching for qualified and competent carpenters near you, it is necessary to take certain measures to ensure that you do not end up with a fraudulent contractor looking to scam you. These steps include:
- Get referrals to carpenters near you from reputable sources. These can include trusted relatives and friends, and online platforms like the Better Business Bureau website and the DCRA's Find a Contractor portal
- Make sure that any carpenter you intend to hire has been duly licensed by the DCRA by calling (202) 442-4400 or by utilizing the Access DC portal that the department provides for this purpose
- Beware of unsolicited home improvement and repair offers
- Always get multiple estimates for any project that you wish to embark on
- Make sure that you are given a written contract for the project and review it properly before signing. Never append your signature to any contract that you do not clearly understand
- Never pay the full cost of your project until it is completed. Limit any advance payments that you have to make for this project to a portion of its total cost. This should not exceed 30%
- Avoid cash payments and be wary of contractors that insist on this form of payment
- Make sure that the work was done to your satisfaction before making the final payment for the project
- Keep all paperwork related to your project. These include invoices, contracts, receipts, and warranties
In situations where you are contacted by a suspected fraudulent contractor, or if you happen to fall victim to the schemes of these individuals, you can file a complaint with the Office of the Attorney General for the District of Columbia. Complaints can be filed with this office by calling (202) 442-9828, by completing an online complaint form, via email, or by texting complaint to (202) 738-5212.
Alternatively, contractor-related complaints can be reported to the Washington D.C. Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs online. You can also take further steps by filing a lawsuit against the party named in your complaint in an appropriate District of Columbia Court. If you decide to take this step, you should utilize the resources available on the D.C. Bar's Hiring a Lawyer webpage to get referrals to attorneys near you that can offer you legal advice on the proper way to do this.