Joiner sector trends

What has been happening in the construction industry in relation to joiners and carpenters 

The construction industry generally enjoyed plentiful demand for its services between the late 1990s and the mid 2000s. There were some problems - skilled labour was hard to find and insurance costs rocketed for some - but a strong housing market and a growing economy meant there was generally plenty of work to go around. Most joiners had no trouble getting enough work to keep them busy.

Unfortunately things came unstuck a bit during the late 2000s as the economy nose-dived and the housing market slumped. Many construction businesses were forced to lay off staff and some joiners struggled to find enough new work. The economy remained very weak during the early 2010s. 2013 did see the economy start to pick up" and the construction industry enjoyed much better conditions during most of 2014.

The recovery in the construction industry continued strongly into the first half of 2015 due to wages going up low interest rates falling oil prices and people's confidence in their employment. This produced the longest period of sustained growth since the financial crisis with uninterrupted growth from May 2013 until June 2015. The recovery in the construction industry lost momentum in the third and fourth quarters of 2015 however and slowed further in January 2016. In February 2016 house building was at its lowest for two and a half years.

The loss of jobs in the industry resulting from the downturn following the financial crisis has led to a skills shortage. Some 300 000 skilled craftsmen left the industry many for good. This has led to higher potential earnings for joiners.

The faltering recovery of the construction industry has been alleviated to an extent by:

  • the popularity amongst homeowners of extending their homes because of the high price of moving up to a larger property particularly in areas where prices are high for example in London
  • the increase in buy-to-let landlords creating a spike in renovations

The market remains competitive and it's still very important for trades-people like joiners to run their businesses professionally and efficiently - and to offer customers excellent service and value for money.

Building in wood

While wood remains a fairly niche building material in the UK beyond its common uses within a traditionally-constructed building recent years have seen something of an upsurge in wood use. Timber-framed construction paired with a brick or block outer skin has become a very popular option because of the speed at which buildings can be erected while decorative wooden cladding such as red cedar is commonly used to brighten up large developments of offices and flats. Garden buildings like home offices and studios have also become popular with home owners - these are very often made from wood.

The nature of demand

As house prices have rocketed over recent years more and more home owners have turned to expanding their own homes as an alternative to moving house. Loft conversions have become a popular and reasonably affordable way of creating more space. Other types of wooden structure have also become popular such as wooden home-offices other garden buildings and oak-framed conservatories. Staircase 'make-overs' have also gained popularity too.

Alternatives to wood

Not so very long ago wood was the standard material for making almost all exterior fixtures such as doors and windows fascias decorative trims and so on. However plastic (UPVC) is now a very popular low maintenance alternative. Although you might decide to supply and fit UPVC products their long life has led to a fall in demand for traditional wooden joinery items.

There is also a wide range of engineered products available that can be used in place of standard timber including oriented strand board (OSB) medium and high-density fibreboard (MDF and HDF) engineered wood flooring laminated timber beams and so on. Recycled plastics are increasingly being used to make wood-substitute products such as fencing decking and exterior cladding.


Although wood is in many ways a very sustainable natural building material recent years have seen growing efforts to ensure that timber supplies come from properly managed forestry sources. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for example is an international organisation dedicated to promoting responsible management of the world's forestry and operates a certification scheme for sustainably-sourced timber. The EU Timber Regulation came into force in March 2013 making it an offence to place illegally-harvested timber on the market within the EU and setting up due diligence and traceability requirements for timber traders.

Quality standards

For many years the construction industry as a whole has been plagued by unqualified and unscrupulous 'cowboys'. Much has been done in recent years to rid the industry of these cowboys and improve standards. For example the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) enables workers from many different areas of the industry to demonstrate to would-be clients and employers that they have relevant training and qualifications. In 2005 the government launched TrustMark a quality scheme for the whole construction industry.

The Buy with Confidence - Trading Standards Approved scheme vets and approves businesses that operate in a fair an honest way helping would-be customers to find a business that they can trust. A growing number of local authorities participate in the scheme. You can find out more and check whether your local authority has signed up on the Buy with Confidence website.

Health and safety

Health and safety rules covering many different aspects of construction work got more and more stringent during the 2000s. Working at height in particular is now covered by very strict regulations.

The health and safety regulations which relate specifically to the construction industry as a whole were updated in 2015.

Keeping up to date with developments

Joining a trade association is an excellent way of keeping up to date with developments in your industry. Professional joiners and carpenters are represented by several trade associations including the Institute of Carpenters and the Guild of Master Craftsmen. You can find out more about these organisations on their websites.

Subscribing to a trade journal is another excellent way of staying up to date. Timber Trades Journal (TTJ) covers developments in the main timber end user industries " including the construction industry. You can find out more on the TTJ website.

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