What is Architectural Woodwork?

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Put simply, architectural woodwork – sometimes known as architectural millwork – refers to any custom-made wood products that are featured in a building’s interior or exterior, whether residential or commercial.  But, the reality is a lot more complex than that. Architectural woodworking is a creative process involving the design, fabrication and installation, often by hand, of beautiful structures such as wall paneling, trims, casework, staircases, and ornate moldings.

What is Architectural Woodwork – the Detail

Architectural woodwork or millwork requires a detailed set of architectural shop drawings that are used to build the required piece. This piece can be a design element in a room or it can have a functional use – often, woodwork serves both aesthetic and functional purposes. The point is that the piece will be seen and/or utilized by users of the space, whether that’s in a home or in a commercial property.

Architectural woodworkers often work with fine woods, creating beautiful designs using intricate cuts. An experienced woodworker has a deep knowledge of different design practices, techniques, and cuts, and will use a range of manual and powered tools to create attractive, custom, or semi-custom made woodwork pieces.

Architectural woodwork is typically part of the structure of a building, and that means that woodworkers also need to understand other trades. For example, it’s often essential to know plumbing and electricity specifications and locations before any woodworking starts, as well as specs for build elements such as framing and flooring.


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Examples of Architectural Woodwork

Almost anything made of wood that is either built into or attached to the interior of a building can be classed as architectural woodwork. This can include:

  • Shelves
  • Paneling
  • Ceilings
  • Staircases
  • Moldings
  • Cabinets (for example in kitchens, bathrooms, storage, offices, and closets)
  • Doors
  • Trim

Structural elements of a building such as supports and beams are sometimes put in the category of architectural woodwork, but are more frequently classed as general carpentry.

Standards For Architectural Woodwork 

To ensure architectural woodwork complies with the highest quality standards, woodworkers can follow and incorporate the AWI Standards, that outline the guidelines, principles, and best industry practices for the fabrication, finishing, and installation of architectural woodwork.

While the AWI Standards are not a legal requirement, following them demonstrates compliance with the industry’s most stringent quality standards. It also ensures that the piece is built to last and will exceed client expectations.

Architectural woodworking projects can also be certified by the AWI Quality Certification Program if the woodworking firm is QCP licensed and the piece passes a quality inspection. QCP project certification shows that the woodworking project was fabricated and installed as specified and is in compliance with the AWI Standards and the project specifications. In addition, the AWI Quality Certification Program does provide limited inspection services, at additional costs, to confirm conformance to the project specifications and the AWI Standards for projects not performed by QCP licensed firms. Architectural Woodwork Firms either work across a range of products and have a wide project scope, or they specialize in certain areas within a building, such as casework or wall paneling. They may further specialize in materials (Plastic laminate vs. Wood Veneer) or project type (schools and hospitals vs offices and courtrooms) . In some cases they may also specialize in their services. They may only fabricate product or they may only provide the installation of product.

An architectural woodworking company can radically change the overall look and feel of a room or space with attractive design and skillful build. This is why it’s important to choose a firm that is reliable and dedicated to quality.

QCP-licensed woodworking firms have taken additional steps to qualify to be licensed. They must pass tests and submit to inspections to demonstrate their knowledge and show compliance with industry guidelines, and the AWI Standards. This not only means they’re committed and trustworthy, it also ensures they will follow the project specifications and the AWI Standards, providing a streamlined process for design professionals. 

Contact us to find out more about how you can join the Architectural Woodwork Institute’s Quality Certification Program and build your reputation for high-quality woodwork that will help you generate repeat business and greater demand for your services.