Top 7 Hardest Trades to Learn in Construction


    Before getting into construction everyone should be familiar what occupations are easy to catch on the flow and which trades are hardest to learn in residential and commercial construction.

    This topic has absolutely nothing to do with pot paid or popular jobs in constructions. As you can understand and follow the path on our website, there will be a link between hardest to learn and most earning jobs.

    Hardest to learn professions in construction often have to do with specific licensing and years of education before getting an exam.

    Our article can be useful for people who are looking to avoid complicated job positions and get into something simpler.

    Here is our list of what we think are hardest trades to learn in Construction:

    • Structural Framing
    • Heavy Equipment Operator
    • Master Plumber
    • High End Carpentry
    • Tile and Marble Installer
    • HVAC Licensed Professional
    • Elevator Specialist

    There is another way this information can be used. If you are interested in long run carrier and want to avoid competition that can be scared off by length of study, just select one of these trades.

    More technical and hard to learn trades are always in high demand and you can make good money by going through longer path of becoming a master of these work specialties.

    Structural Framing

    Here we are not talking about regular framing job under strict supervision. Hardest to learn trade is to fully understand and read architectural drawings, planning the work with step by step structure supports and load bearing walls.

    Imagine you are getting the set of drawings and off you go to plan the formation of the house. Make sure the right materials is ordered and tell the crew which walls go first and what beams follow on top.

    This work is not only technical but requires tons of attention to finishing details. Frame of the house is followed by window installers, rough ins and drywallers. Everything has to aligned and literally have perfect angles.

    There are plenty of framing specialists, but those who work on high end homes with complete perfection in mind, will charge extremely high.

    It can take up to 10 years to become master framer if you are willing to learn and advance every project, taking on challenges with more complicated work. Some work their entire life as framers and don’t even come close to becoming as knowledgeable.

    Remodel On Point estimates that high end home structural framers that control the process can charge $600 – $1000 per day and will still be in demand.

    Heavy Equipment Operator

    In construction there are many machines you can potentially use on jobsite. Some are small and relatively easy to understand such as bobcat and some are much larger such as dozers, excavators, cranes and boring machines.

    We cannot discuss individually difficulty of each machine and operator’s salary, but can definitely combing them in one category to explain it further.

    Getting to know few moves on machinery does not make anyone a good and experienced operator. Normally machine and equipment operator has to know his excavator or whatever it is like back of his hand.

    After all construction is always a big mess and person in charge of bug equipment can potentially cause a lot of damage. Besides operation techniques, you would need to know wear out or breaking factors. Constant safety trainings and awareness of working around you is absolutely necessary.

    Such workers can become professionals in their fiend within 5-7 years of learning and practice. Their salary should be north of $60 per hour.

    Master Plumber

    One licensed profession that deserves special attention and topic discussion is plumbing trades. Even home builders with years of operation don’t know as much as plumbers because of detailed and technical work.

    These trades have separate code and regulation for residential and commercial construction. They need to know a lot just to be able to work in one specific are of plumbing work. Master plumbers also install basement waterproofing and provide drainage repair services.

    On top of everything plumbers have many tools and equipment that is required to perform daily work. For them it literally doesn’t stop and we have seen plumbers that are struggling to put all their tools in one truck.

    Becoming master plumber and obtaining license can take 3-5 years. Combination of education and work related experience is usually combined or translated into point system that allows examination for license.

    Nevertheless Remodel On Point team thinks it is worth it and master plumber career can bring $60-$80 per hour after 10 year of experience.

    High End Carpentry

    Luxury and high end custom homes need specialists that come last and do what we call magic. These are not typical baseboards and casings that are not hardest trades to learn in basic renovation jobs.

    High end home carpenters work with seamless connections, doors with trims that are hidden within the wall, recessed trims and even lights installed inside shelves.

    Innovation never stops and makes carpenters by on their toes to constantly follow up with products and techniques of installation.

    Clients or home owners may request doors and other products from different countries, installation of which requires critical thinking and craftsmanship that can only be learned in many years.

    The only way to become such a professional and have schedule booked by high end custom home builders is to learn as you go. It all depends from which level you start and how experienced is entire crew, but we estimate that 3-5 years is minimum time needed to mater carpentry.

    Not everyone can understand and repeat what these guys do, and for their labor it’s not crazy to charge $50 – $80 per hour.

    Tile and Marble Installer

    After all technical and behind walls work is completed its time to move on towards finishes that home owners pay attention to.

    There are many workers that claim to be truly good in tile installation, but we fast and quality is not the same.

    Due to growth of materials on market and sophisticated designs introduced every day, tile installers have to learn on the go. Of course if we talk about regular installers that work on subdivisions, condo buildings or small remodeling projects its one thing.

    The hardest trades to learn falls on to tiling masters when project requires modern bathroom tiles installations with large size tiles (24 x 48 inch or larger), creative design system and customization of work as you go.

    Luxury homes nowadays have designers tile inserts, linear drains and curbless shower systems that can only be achieved with cutting and sloping entire surface towards the drain.

    On top of that porcelain slabs are getting popular for installation by fireplace. And they get as big as 60 by 120 inches. Imagine cutting that in 45 degree angle and placing together vertically to avoid seeing connection.

    There are so many ways and techniques to install tiles, that we believe 5 or even 7 years may not be enough to learn the trade. You have to constantly progress to be ahead of the game.

    This work is very hard physically and not everyone can continue in the trade for over a decade. Therefore masters in tile work can easily earn more than $50 per hour. Most charge per work and believe it or not, making $1000 a day is not over the limit.

    HVAC Licensed Professional

    Like other educated and licensed trades, workers that do HVAC are involve in many aspects of construction and renovation. Main heating source can be ducting system that connects to furnace, boilers with radiators or electrical heat.

    Few other specialties that hvac professionals participate in are in floor heating, gas line installation, exhaust for bathrooms and kitchen hoods.

    HVAC Licensed professionals made our top 7 hardest trades to learn due to variety of work and similarly to plumbers enormous number of tools used.

    Although licensing for professional can be obtain within 2 or 3 years, it can take few more years to know all aspects of above stated work.

    Starting profession does not guarantee high wages, but as you move up the ranks they pat increases. Working as a contractor is noted to be most profitable way for HVAC trades and without a problem can earn $500 a day. Installation of kitchen exhaust costs $200 on average and it can be done within 2 hours.

    Elevator Specialist

    We had to throw in elevator specialist in our top 7 hardest to learn trades simply because they are mentioned literally in every union as high earners.

    The trade is very technical and to be honest not that popular. It seems pretty complicated in the beginning, but most elevators have similar operating systems and as technicians say you just follow the manual.

    The fastest time to become licensed elevator specialist is 4 years or 8000 hours of working experience as apprentice. It always drags a little bit more and we estimate real time to be 5 years. Just like other license there is requirement for examination of knowledge.

    Most of elevator masters are unionized and there is no demand for contractor of this hardest trade to learn profession. Average wages are $50 per hour to start as licensed elevator specialist.

    Which from All Hardest Trades to Learn People Choose?

    Our job here is to list what we think are toughest to learn trades in construction and not to suggest what to get into for rest of your life.

    Everyone should choose what they feel like doing by using available resources and information we provide. Some of you want to double check specific trades and simply researching them, some may try to avoid certain jobs.

    To summarize this topic we should mention that licensed trades require education for a reason and responsibility follows with it. Other complicated work specialties are found in detailed finishing craftsmanship. Luxury high end home construction need professional to complete project and impress buyer.

    Steven H.
    Steven H.
    General Contractor and Home Builder with over 20 years of experience. Write and Edit educational posts for several Remodeling Blogs. Specialize in trade management and technical construction details.

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