With DIY home renovations on the rise and heavily edited home improvement shows blurring the line between reality and entertainment, it’s easy for everyday Americans to misunderstand how much physical labor and hard-earned skill is required for most contractor jobs.
The question remains: What sort of work is most physically grueling and what’s hardest to learn and master? In order to find out, we surveyed 1,609 contractors and 652 consumers, asking them to rank 32 types of contractor work. Check out the results below.
Consumers and contractors agreed roofing and demolition are the most physically demanding trades. And while contractors voted carpentry as the third-most physically demanding trade, it barely cracked the top ten for consumers.
Of course, muscle isn’t all you need on a job site. It takes many years of training, patience, and humility to fully command some trades and consistently produce masterful work. So, we asked each group about what sort of work is most difficult to master. There was more agreement this time—both consumers and contractors rated electrical, carpentry, HVAC, and cabinets/countertops as the most difficult to master.
Finally, we wanted to see which contractors find their own trade the most challenging, both in terms of physical demands and the threshold for mastery. Interestingly, contractors don’t believe painting, carpet cleaning, and electrical work to be very physically demanding… unless it’s their specialty! On the other hand, carpentry was equally saluted by both carpenters and non-carpenters.
A similar pattern emerged when we asked about the trades most difficult to master. According to other contractors, electrical and HVAC are among the hardest to learn, but flooring and cleaning specialists were most likely to call their own crafts the toughest. Again, carpentry was viewed as one of the most difficult by both groups.
Between November 5 and November 30, 2019, we surveyed 1,609 contractors to learn which trades they believe are the most physically demanding and most difficult to master. Additionally, we surveyed 652 consumers to learn what specialties they consider most physically demanding and most difficult to master. Respondents were an average age of 43.
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