French building words

Words and expressions on your French building estimate (devis)

When you have received a quote, assuming that you are using a French builder, it will be in French! Sometimes (often…always…) this can cause problems of comprehension, so in this section I have listed some of the more common expressions used, with their English language equivalent.

The lists are divided as: ‘General’, ‘Building’, ‘Electricity’, ‘Plumbing’ and ‘Roofing and Carpentry’:


Apparent: visible

Devis: quotation for work

Diverse: various

Enterré: buried

Etanchéité: water tightness

Frais: expenses

Gravats: rubble, rubbish

Mains 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

Tableau 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 edge 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

5 responses to “French building words”

  1. Alan Farr

    (Alan posted various corrections and additions to the above list. These have been incorporated in the list of building words above)
    Many thanks Alan!

  2. Lorne Grimston

    French is not a language that can be phonetically pronounced – like Italian. The pronounciation is considerably different from what one would think it should sound like. The addition of a “phonetic” spelling of each of the building words would be very helpful.

  3. John

    This site has produced a good insight to a lot of informastion regard how to renovate in france, I hAve several question to pose you, I am a retired builder still active, I was wondering if you can shed some light on certain things, i have many friends who are plumbers electricans, is there a law against them doing there trade in france, if they are helping me out to renovate a property, i am on a low budget so i want to keep my overheads down, I have thirty years experience in the building trade, worked in germany ten years and holland for three renovation programs and general building,but you site gave me a lot of useful info and good tips thanks for that, and would like your advice on the questions i have posed.
    Thanking you in advance

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