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Licensed Carpenter in Philadelphia, PA

How to Hire a Good Carpenter in Philadelphia

According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, an estimated 10,000 finger amputations are performed on different individuals in the country annually. Some of these injuries are caused by improper handling of carpentry-related tools, especially during DIY attempts. While improving your home's woodwork may significantly influence its aesthetic value and general worth, this should not be at the expense of your safety or health. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you hire only licensed and professional carpenters for your woodworking projects, as they can better ensure that your project will be up to relevant industry safety standards and reduce your exposure to carpentry-related hazards. Also, the proper handling of your woodworking project can increase the value of your home by up to seven percent.

As such, when looking for qualified carpenters in Philadelphia, you can ask friends, neighbors, and family or by consulting online directories like Better Business Bureau. Nevertheless, you should do your due diligence to ensure the carpenter is suitable for the proposed projects by asking the following questions:

  • Are You Licensed to Practice as a Carpenter in the City of Philadelphia?
  • How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Carpenters in the City of Philadelphia?
  • Do You Comply with the City of Philadelphia Building Code for Carpentry Work?
  • Will You Get the Home Improvement Permits as Required by the City of Philadelphia Code?
  • What Kind of Carpentry Services Do You Offer?
  • Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Carpenters in the City of Philadelphia?

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Carpenter in the City of Philadelphia

  1. Are You Licensed to Practice as a Carpenter in the City of Philadelphia?

    Carpenters in the City of Philadelphia who plan to carry out construction, demolition, or repairs services on buildings must obtain a contractor license. The City of Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections (DLI) issues contractor licenses to eligible individuals via its Permits and Licenses Center. Offering services without obtaining the license is classified as a Class II offense that attracts civil and criminal penalties of up to $1,000 or 90 days imprisonment.

    Individuals who satisfy the requisite contractor requirements, like completing the OSHA-approved training, disclosing subcontractors working for them, and proof of insurance certificate, can apply for a contractor license by completing an application online via the eCLIPSE portal. Applicants who experience difficulties navigating the online platform can schedule a virtual appointment with DLI. Alternatively, they can schedule an appointment to visit the Permit and License Center in person at:

    • Permit and License Center
    • 1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
    • MSB, Public Service Concourse
    • Philadelphia, PA 19102
    • Office hours: 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday

    For more information regarding licensing requirements and processing, interested persons can contact the DLI by calling 311 or (215) 686-8686 if calling from outside Philadelphia.

    To confirm the validity of your intended carpenter's license, you can use the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections's find a licensed contractor platform. Similarly, you can use the suspended contractor's directory to confirm if there are any recent or ongoing disciplinary actions against your intended carpenter.

    It is important to note that home improvement contractors in Philadelphia must also register with the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General as required by the Home Improvement Consumer Protection Act (HICPA). Contractors can register online or they can complete and submit an application form to the mail address indicated in the form. Applicants must accompany their completed forms with a $50 non-refundable processing fee. For more information regarding the registration process, interested persons can contact the Pennsylvania Office of Attorney General at (888) 520-6680.

  2. How Much Do You Charge Compared to Other Carpenters in the City of Philadelphia?

    When you plan to hire carpenters in the City of Philadelphia, it is best to get bids and estimates from at least three different carpenters near you. This is to help you determine the average rate charged by carpenters in the city and protect you from hiring fraudulent carpenters who may want to overcharge you. It is important to note that carpenter charges are influenced by factors like the nature and scope of your project, the cost of materials for the project, permits required, the expertise of the professional, and the labor required.

    A carpenter in the City of Philadelphia earns an annual average wage of $64,190. The table below provides a comparison of the mean hourly wage for carpenters in the City of Philadelphia against those of carpenters in the rest of Pennsylvania as well as across several other major American cities:

    Philadelphia Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage
    $30.86
    Pennsylvania Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage
    $26.62
    Los Angeles Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage
    $32.37
    Chicago Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage
    $34.74
    Houston Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage
    $21.53
    Phoenix Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage
    $23.50
    Boston Carpenters Mean Hourly Wage
    $31.31

    Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  3. Do You Comply with the City of Philadelphia Building Code for Carpentry Work?

    The Philadelphia Building Code and the Philadelphia Residential Code apply to the construction, alteration, replacement, repairs, maintenance, and demolition of buildings and structures in the City of Philadelphia. The Codes also provide the minimum requirements and standards for safety, public health, and general welfare of people in Philadelphia when carrying out construction-related projects in the city. This is why you need to hire only carpenters who are qualified for the job and well versed with these Codes' provisions that relate to your project. For instance, a well-versed carpenter will know what type of permits are required for your proposed project. Noncompliance to the city's Building and Residential code can result in city-imposed penalties. You can direct your queries relating to the city's Building Code and Residential Code to the city's Department of Licenses and Inspections by submitting an online request to 311 or by calling 311 directly.

  4. Will You Get the Home Improvement Permits as Required by the City of Philadelphia Code?

    You need to obtain a building permit before starting any project that involves:

    • Construction of a new building.
    • Enlargement or addition to an existing structure.
    • Changes to the interior or exterior of an existing structure.
    • Partial or complete demolition of a structure.
    • Changes in occupancy classification of any part of the building.
    • Significant repairs that are not part of regular maintenance.

    However, certain works do not require permits, like replacing doors and windows in one-or-two-family dwellings, interior finish work, repairs relating to regular maintenance, accessory structures, and features. The Department of Licenses and Inspections (DLI) is responsible for issuing permits, and either project owners or their hired contractors can apply for a permit.

    To successfully submit a permit application, applicants must include the complete scope of work and current owner information in the applicable application. Applicants must also ensure that the project is within the boundaries of Philadelphia as established by the Office of Property Assessment (OPA). In addition to this, applicants may be required to get pre-approval from other government agencies depending on the type of projects to be carried out. If the project does not require submission of plans, applicants may apply for a permit through the EZ Permit application. It is essential to note that a Zoning Permit is necessary for most building projects in Philadelphia, and this permit must be obtained before a building permit can be issued. If the project requires submission of plans, the applicant must submit it alongside the the applicable Building permit application in person after booking an appointment to visit the Permit and License Center at:

    • Permit and License Center
    • 1401 John F. Kennedy Boulevard
    • MSB, Public Service Concourse
    • Philadelphia, PA 19102
    • Office hours: 8:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Monday through Friday

    Applicants must come along with the applicable fees. Alternatively, applicants can complete a building permit application and submit relevant plans online using eCLIPSE. If they need help completing the application online, they can schedule a virtual appointment with the DLI. Upon the issuance of a building permit, permit holders must contact their local inspection office at (215) 255-4040 or online to book an inspection at relevant stages of the projects. Once all inspections have been carried out, the DLI will issue a certificate of approval.

    You can direct your queries regarding the permitting process and requirements to the Philadelphia Department of Licenses and Inspections by calling 311.

  5. What Kind of Carpentry Services Do You Offer?

    Services offered by carpenters in the City of Philadelphia include rough carpentry services, which require work that will usually not be seen after completion. They also provide the finish carpentry services, which involve more detailed carpentry work visible after the work is completed. When hiring carpenters in the City of Philadelphia, it is best to hire carpenters with the required expertise and experience to handle such proposed projects. For instance, some carpenters carry out only furniture and cabinet making and repairs, while some carry out new building carpentry work and maintenance. It is advisable to inquire from your intended carpenter if they specialize in your proposed project and have experience handling it, especially technical carpentry work. In addition, you should inquire about how much their services cost.

    Listed below are average cost estimates for some common carpentry services available in Philadelphia:

    Interior trim and molding installation (mid-grade trim or molding)
    $8 - $9
    Interior trim and moldings repair (per linear foot)
    $55 - $100
    Carpentry framing (plus materials)
    $50 - $100
    Carpentry framing (unfinished home addition framing)
    $49 - $69 per square foot
    Carpentry framing (unfinished new home framing)
    $7 - $10 per square foot
  6. Do You Carry the Necessary Insurance Policy for Carpenters in the City of Philadelphia?

    Carpentry work is considered hazardous, especially when carried out by individuals who are not skilled. In 2020, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded more than 11,900 non-fatal occupational injuries amongst carpenters, including carpenters in Philadelphia. Hence, carpenters licensed as contractors in the City of Philadelphia, are mandatorily required to carry a Certificate of Insurance that includes the minimum amounts of:

    • General Liability: $500,000 per occurrence
    • Auto liability insurance: $300,000

      As such, when hiring carpenters in the city, you must ensure they are fully covered by an active insurance policy, as listed above. Where your carpenter has active insurance coverage, you as the project owner are protected from incurring personal costs due to an unforeseen event leading to property damage or work-related injuries during your carpentry work. You can confirm the insurance status of your intended carpenter by requesting a copy of the compulsory insurance certificate and contacting the relevant issuing insurance provider to verify its validity. You also have the option of contacting the city's Department of Licenses and Inspection by submitting an online request to 311 or calling 311 to make inquiries about your intended carpenter's insurance certificate.

    How to File a Complaint Against a Bad Carpenter in the City of Philadelphia

    When hiring carpenters for your planned project in Philadelphia, you must make sure you are very cautious so that you do not end up with an unscrupulous carpenter. Several deceptive individuals try to take advantage of unsuspecting residents of the city by employing different methods, like unsolicited inspection and repair offers, high-pressure sales tactics, door-to-door solicitation, and refusal to provide copies of their licenses. In March 2021, the Bucks County Sheriff's Office arrested a Philadelphia-based contractor accused of accepting more than $1,300 for projects and then abandoning them. To reduce your chances of falling victim to such a scammer, you can take the following precautionary steps when hiring carpenters for carpentry work:

    • Always take your time understanding the scope and nature of your intended projects.
    • Request for bids and estimates from at least three carpenters, as this gives you an idea of the average hourly rates. It also reduces your chances of being overcharged for the work.
    • Verify the licensing status of your intended carpenter by utilizing the DLI's find a licensed contractor platform. You can also confirm any subsisting disciplinary actions against the carpenters or access closed disciplinary actions by using the DLI's suspended contractor's directory.
    • Request for references from the carpenter and ensure you take steps to verify the work carried out by the carpenter. You can also use third-party review websites like Better Business Bureau and Google Review to check reviews of this carpenter if registered on such platforms.
    • Get a written contract detailing the carpenter's duties, the agreed pay, and other relevant information. Ensure you understand the terms of the contract before signing it, and do not sign a contract with any blank spaces.
    • Always verify the insurance status of your carpenter. Make sure the carpenter is not carrying below the mandatory liability limit.
    • Avoid paying in full before the completion of the project. If you have to pay upfront, pay a fraction of the overall cost.
    • Keep a record of all documents flowing from the project.

    If you have fallen victim to a contractor scam or have any type of complaint against a carpenter, you can report to the Department of Licenses and Inspections by using an online Philly 311 form or calling 311. If you are calling from outside Philadelphia, you can contact the DLI at (215) 686-8686. Complaints can also be filed with the Consumer Protection Bureau of the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General by completing an online complaint form. If the resolution of your complaint is unsatisfactory or you seek monetary compensation, you can file a civil action at the Philadelphia District Court. Note that it is best to seek legal advice from a qualified attorney before commencing an action. You can use the lawyer referral services provided by the Philadelphia Bar Association to find active lawyers near you.