Builders language

English translation of French building words in a quote or devis

France > Property

When you receive a quote for work (assuming you are using a French builder) it will be in French! Sometimes this can cause problems of understanding, so
here I list a few of the more common expressions used, with their English
language equivalent. The lists are divided into 'General', 'Building',
'Electricity', 'Plumbing' and 'Roofing and Carpentry' sections.


Apparent: visible

Devis: quotation for work

Diverse: various

Enterré: buried

Etanchéité: water tightness

Frais: expenses

Gravats: rubble, rubbish

Mains d d'oeuvre: Labour cost

Marche: step

Nettoyage: cleaning

Nivellement: levelling

Percement: pierce, make a hole

Remplissage: filling back in

Travaux annexes: related / necessary works

Building Terms

Béton: concrete

Coffrage: temporary wooden boxing that concrete is poured into while it sets

Dalle béton armé: reinforced concrete floor

Dépose: take down

Encadrement: framing, surrounding

Enlèvement: removal

Fondation: foundation

Film polyane: plastic sheeting, used under concrete as dampproof course

Linteau: lintel

Pierre: stone

Sablage: sand-blasting

Sable: sand

Electricity terms

Allumage: lighting

Ligne alimentation: electricity supply line

Piquet de terre: earth rod

Prise: socket

Prise spécialisée: special socket for washing machine, oven etc

Rableau de répartition: distribution box / fuse box

Va et vient: two way switch

Plumbing terms

Alimentation: supply of (e.g. water)

Baignoire: bath-tub

Chaudiére: Central heating boiler

Chauffage: heating

Cuve: reservoir/storage tank

Douche: shower

Evier: sink (kitchen)

Fourniture: supply of (e.g. bathroom equipment)

Lavabo: sink (bathroom)

Pose: installation

Raccord: joins

Receveur de douche: shower tray

Robinet: tap

Robinetterie mitigeur: mixer tap

Tube cuivre: copper pipe

Vanne: valve

Roofing and carpentry terms

Bardage: wooden cladding on building

Cadre: frame

Chevron: part of wooden roof structure

Faitage: the apex ridge of the roof

Fenêtre: window

Menuiserie: doors, shutters and windows

Panne: part of wooden roof structure

Planches de rives: wooden planking around the bottom/outside dge of a roof

Porte-fenêtre: door with glass in

Poteaux: support post

Rabotée: planed smooth

Serrure: lock

Quincaillerie: ironwork (handles for windows and doors, fittings for shutters)

Vantaux (abbreviated often to vtx): number of openings for door/window

Volet: shutter

Volige: wooden boarding on top of roof structure

Zinguerie: zinc items - refers to gutters etc

this ilooks like a free online version…

I can recommend The Concise Dictionary of Housebuilding Terms (French English) available from good bookshops. We used this a lot during our last renovation project.


UK Stores Delivering Overseas

Great stuff Kevin!

When I first moved to France I picked up a little book from Point-P that translated a lot of terms and or words for tools and material from French to English they may still have them. So go in and ask! ;)

I am also a contractor here in France and want to give a little advise to you all when dealing with Artisans.

1)No less than 3 bids

2)When dealing with artisans ask for copys of there assurance decennale and a copy of there No.Sert. from the chambre du Métier if they don't have or are not willing to give it to you say thank you and good by. Why?

There are Some Artisans ??? That are working with out or not the right assurance.And/or a No.Sert this is there licence to do business as an Artisan !! A simple call to the Chambre de Métier in your area will give all the info you need about your contractor. Better safe than sorry!!

These thing are very important as they list the things they have the coverage for.

3) When ever possible use a Artisan that is known by friends or someone you trust. Word of mouth is still the best advertisement. With Electrical,plumbing,heating an air you will want a Guarantee!! and so will your Insurance!! :)

4)You don't need to use the guy in your little village just because! Most of the time you'll get a better price from someone that is a little farther away. If he tells you he has a lot of work and can't do it right away are you willing to wait?! thats a good thing as he probably has a good reputation! In this Economy the good one's have work the others well there looking!

5) If you go with a Artisan ask for a start date and how long it should take! When giving a check du Accompte no more than 35% and you need a facture for the 35%. As the date starts to arrive just give him a friendly call to see if his start date is the same and needs you to do something like more a trailer, a pile of sand or gravel or and old car that may impied him from getting to the site. I alway appreciate when the client has everything out of the room I'm working in so I don't have to move things as I go. It's always good to cover thing if you can't move them! In renovation "DUST" is part of it and it gets EVERYWHERE don't do a big cleaning until the job is done!! LOL

Just a few things to think about when getting bids for a job!

Cheers Michael

Hi Jeremy,

Thanks very much for your email and sound advice. There's clearly no substitute for experience and your references to your own costings are pretty astounding. Fortunately, I am a French speaker, I'm just a bit lacking in plumbing vocabulary - or rather, I was, until I learned my list of words last week prior to tackling the first contenders. I'm used to dealing with craftsmen, as I worked on interiors of prestige houses for London based designer after leaving the Army, from rip out to final finishes, so thankfully, not too 'green'. However, any help with specialist vocabulary is very gratefully received as it's really satisfying to be able to communicate with these guys (they tend to be men in the Basque country) on a more professional level. If you have an idea of the correct phases for 'First' and Second' Fix, that would be good, thanks. Last week was hilarious - the first of five plumbers clearly didn't want to be there and there was a lot of teeth-sucking (we've seen it all before but you've got to put a smile on and just get on with it). He was swiftly followed by a second who couldn't have been more 'can-do'. We'll see what the devis produce. Unfortunately, we can't move the chaudiere ourselves, so that needs to be given to someone who knows what they are doing. We intend to do as much as we can ourselves, but while my husband is away getting his electrical qualifications, I'm running with the estimate for the job. If anything, it's good to get an idea of the locals' fees and character for future reference.

Thanks again for the top tips!

100% agree with your closing statements Jeremy. We do it all ourselves. Obviously I am using the royal we here as Mr.H gets to do it. I just get to write about it…!

Hi Tanya

I hope this reply isn't too late to be of help.

You need to ask them to "couvrir, cacher or encaisse les tuyaux apparents. Cacher is probably the most common expression. Get several quotes because you may be taken for a ride not being a French speaker. I know! I have been renovating in Perpignan for the past 8 years. I intitially had builders in to do various bits of major construction work and then fired them for bad workmanship, theft of tools etc.... I have had quotes from artisans ranging from the absurd to rediculous, ( double glazed windows an example ranging from twice the purchase price of the house to 17 times less for the job eventually done by a still very expensive company. I have done all my plumbing, electrics, sewrage, swimming pool, walls, floors, ceilings etc etc. If you have the time to do research on the net as to how to do things - (you tube is incredible for that), sometimes fix or do again and lots of patience, and TIME then doing it yourself is undoubtably the way to go.

If I can be of any help let me know.

Tanya i think the phrase you are looking for is recouvrir


Ok thanks. I haven't got the quotes in yet. I need to explain that I'd like the devis to come back with separate costings for first and second fix. At least, that's what I was used to in the UK, but maybe that's not done here???

Finally, would I use the term 'encadrer' if I need to ask for any exposed pipes to be 'boxed' in the bathrooms? Sorry if I'm asking too much, but thanks for any help.


Hi Tanya

Not sure but the easyest way for me is scan the doc and translate in (google translate) translator-bar 5 community tool bar

Hi Kevin,

This list is great. Thanks for taking the time to do it.

May I ask a question? Are you familiar with the expressions that plumbers here use for 'first fix' and 'second fix'? I'm getting quotes in for a project and I want to break down these costings.

Very grateful for any help, thanks a lot.


Very useful glossary, thanks Kevin.