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How to start a green oak framing business

One of Britain's oldest trades, green oak framing is the ancient craft of building using freshly cut oak timber. Still a popular choice for many homeowners, especially in the country, oak offers a rustic beauty. Thought about adding a new skill and starting a new business?

Green oak framing may be an ancient craft but that doesn’t mean it’s outdated. In fact, green oak is a popular choice for many of today’s eco homes and gardens, especially in rural areas. There are also added benefits of durability and flexibility in design.

Despite being on offer for thousands of years, there is still need for green oak carpentry skills. That’s why many homeowners seek out tradespeople like you who have the skill to bring their green oak house designs to life.

Given this demand, it makes perfect sense to start your own green oak framing business and capitalise on the wealth of opportunity out there. That said, making the jump to self-employment can be daunting, so read on to find out everything you need to get up and running.

Do I need qualifications to start a green oak framing business?

It takes a high degree of skill, knowledge and experience to be a green oak framer. Homeowners will want to know their property is in good hands, so it’s a good idea to demonstrate your technical ability through recognised qualifications.

You’ll also be more competitive in the market if you have some credentials to back up your services. Even if you’re experienced and have only learned ‘on the job’, it might be useful to consider one of the following courses:

You could also complete a green oak framing course to highlight your knowledge and demonstrate a willingness to complete jobs to the highest standard.

timber treatment

What skills are needed to start a green oak carpentry business?

Whether it’s managing technical projects or keeping on top of your taxes, as a self-employed green oak framer you’ll face day-to-day challenges running your business.

When working in the area of green oak carpentry, you’ll need a range of different skills, including:

  • Building and construction knowledge to conduct site surveys and install green oak framing correctly for different projects
  • Numeracy skills for managing business finances and putting together accurate frame layouts
  • Technical understanding to achieve the right specifications and create well-structured framing designs
  • High level of customer service to help you gain recommendations
  • Time management for balancing jobs and business admin
  • Attention to detail to ensure everything is hand-crafted with precision

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What equipment is required for green oak framing?

It’s vital to have a full inventory of high-quality tools for a specialist craft like green oak framing. Cutting corners will result in sloppy work that leaves customers unhappy and your business with a poor reputation.

Shoddy tools are also more likely to break, resulting in project delays and unnecessary spend for replacements. The following list covers all but the most bespoke projects. You’ll need:

  • Chisels for wood finishing
  • Gouges for chopping out mortices
  • Planes for shaping joints and smoothing surfaces
  • Drawknives and spokeshaves for removing excess sapwood and shaping edges
  • Saws for cutting braces and curves
  • Measuring kit for precise design marking
  • Drills and augers for drilling peg or pin holes
  • Protective equipment including goggles, safety boots and ear defenders
  • Framing pins or pegs for construction and assembly of frames

Keep in mind that you’ll also need a van for transporting all your equipment between jobs, as well as a valid driving licence.

When putting together a green oak house, or renovating an existing property, there are a lot of skills and tools you’ll need. Oak timber framing is an ancient trade, but modern regulations mean it should be carried out safely and effectively.

How do I start a green oak framing business?

Before you do anything else, you’ll have to legally register your business as a sole trader or a limited company. Take time to weigh up the differences between these business structures — each has its own pros and cons to consider.

For example, sole trading involves much less paperwork but higher tax rates, while limited companies offer greater financial security but more legal responsibilities.

Setting a business plan

You’ll need a thorough business plan that covers the ins and outs of your service, as well as your target audience and long-term goals.

Green oak framing is quite a specialised trade, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your service unique. You could specialise in new-build extensions, gardens and porches, or look to repair and renovate older outhouses and barns.

Once you’ve settled on your area of expertise, you should identify a target marketThe most successful green oak framing businesses rely on steady demand, so it’s important to identify a market that’s likely to need your services and isn’t oversubscribed.

For instance, if you specialise in green oak framing for barns, you’ll want to be approaching affluent rural neighbourhoods to maximise business. If you’re thinking about offering green oak house building, there will be other trades you may need to partner with.

Bear in mind that any retrofitting may require extra support, like an assessment from a structural engineer to determine soundness. Green oak carpentry might be an old skill, but you’ll still need to do it properly.

There may also be opportunities on smaller new-build estates that are looking to keep design similar to other properties in the area – you’ll need to approach developers if this sounds of interest. Older, listed buildings in cities may also have a lot of oak timber framing in need of repair or reconstruction.

Do your research and assess where competitors are absent.

Green oak carpentry insurance

Your day-to-day business will involve a lot of hand crafting and working at height, which can unfortunately leave room for accidents. That’s why it’s crucial to protect yourself and your green oak framing business with insurance. Here are the types you’ll need:

  • Public liability insurance – Protects your business against claims made by customers if an injury occurs or they believe you’ve damaged their property.
  • Employers’ liability insurance – If you take on employees, you’re legally required to have them covered with this insurance policy.
  • Professional indemnity insurance – In the event you make a mistake in your work that causes the customer financial loss.
  • Tools insurance – Covers the cost of replacing your tools if they’re lost or damaged due to flooding, theft or fire.

Pay rate

As a niche trade, green oak framers can charge around £2000 per square metre of floor area, but you should do your own local research before settling on pricing.

Scouting out competitors and their price structures allows you to get a good idea of the market and where you may be able to offer savings. But be careful not to set your prices too low, or you may find yourself struggling to cover expenses and make a profit.

How do I manage my finances?

To keep your business running smoothly, you’ll need to keep on top of all your revenue and outgoings.

Cashflow

Simply put, cashflow is income versus expenditure for your business. It’s vital you keep an eye on your cashflow to ensure you’re making profit at the end of the day.

With a niche trade like green oak framing, you may initially find yourself running at a loss, but this is expected because of the upfront costs you’ll be paying for equipment, insurance and registration.

Think about how you will price up a job with our handy pricing template. When you think about all costs, you won’t end up out of pocket. Those studying for green oak carpentry qualifications may also find they’re paying more to being with, due to training course costs.

Taxes

You should file your taxes on a regular basis to avoid drowning in paperwork come the new financial year. Different taxes will apply depending on your business structure, so make sure you’re aware of which you need to be documenting.

If you find yourself needing help or advice, you could hire an accountant or bookkeeper. This will allow you to focus on the technical side of oak timber framing without having to worry about the numbers.

Checkatrade can help to boost your business

Upskill as a green oak carpenter and offer more services

Find out more

How can I market my green oak framing business?

If you want to maximise opportunities, you’ll need to rely on more than just word-of-mouth recommendations. Using different marketing strategies is essential for raising your profile and acquiring more business.

Digital marketing

Three times as many consumers use Checkatrade for hiring tradespeople compared to similar directories, so you’ll certainly be gaining maximum promotion for your business. Not only this, Checkatrade improves the SEO for your business which is really helpful for enhancing visibility — especially for a niche trade like green oak framing.

You could use a simple template to put your website together, or hire a freelance designer to create your site for a one-time fee. If you want to keep costs low, you can even use a free online template to get started. Having a website gives customers a handy source of contact details and information, plus it builds a recognisable brand for your business.

Green oak framing is a visual trade and lends itself well to good photography. Consider investing in a good camera to share your best work – this can then be shared on social media to give customers an idea of skills. Before and after shots are very popular on trade accounts.

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Print marketing

While online marketing is great for reaching out to large audiences, print marketing can still be very effective for building a local reputation and securing new clients in your area.

One approach you can use is door-to-door distribution of leaflets advertising your services. You never know, there may be several homeowners in your area thinking about building a framed extension or garage to improve their property. You could also place an advertisement in the local newspaper to promote your business in surrounding neighbourhoods.

Your van is a perfect tool for marketing

Simply have signwriting applied, including your business name and contact details, to turn your van into a 24/7 advertisement as you travel between jobs. If you’re a Checkatrade member, you could also add the Checkatrade logo to promote your credibility and enhance your image.

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Summary

While there is a lot to be gained by upskilling from standard carpentry to green oak carpentry, tradespeople need to be careful.

Green oak framing is a niche trade, and while there is much demand, there is not as much need as other trades, such as plumbing, central heating, or electrical work.

If you’re looking at how to start a green oak framing business, we hope this guide has been useful. If you’ve got some extra time, why not learn how to become the boss too, and really master your new oak timber framing company!

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