Finding a builder in France

Finding a builder in France

Finding a reputable builder can be difficult. British expat and project manager Charlie May explains how to find a builder in France and how to decide if they are the right person for you

When it comes to renovation in France, ‘artisan’ is a general title that describes a tradesperson here. Those using the blue artisan logo are demonstrating they are qualified to carry out their ‘métier’, or trade. The body that registers and regulates artisans is the Chambre de Métiers et de l’Artisanat (

Not everyone here in France who describes themselves as an artisan falls within this definition though, so it’s a good idea to check first if you want your renovation work to be carried out by a true artisan who is properly insured. A quick internet search for artisans will bring up any number of websites, and none appear to have a client-regulated rating system – the take-up is limited and the idea is in its infancy here.

Often a good place to start looking for an artisan in France is your local mairie, as the administration staff will have a good knowledge of the artisans in your area. As you would expect though, most of these artisans will be French.

A great number of expats I have met set out with the intention of employing local French artisans. However, many fall foul of the language barrier and are often surprised by the cost of building here. It is fair to say that a building project in France can cost a lot more than similar projects in the UK. It can be very tempting to look towards the unregistered and/or unqualified builders for a cheaper job, but in reality you may end up paying just as much or more; rectifying shoddy workmanship or poorly thought-out work can be expensive.

It is important to undertake your due diligence in much the same way as you would at home. This means that it is vital to set out your expectations for your renovation project very clearly before you start, and also to make sure that you fully understand the expectations of your chosen artisan.

Here are some simple pointers that will quickly identify whether you can work with this person or not:

• Ask for references or to meet other clients they have previously worked for.

• Ask to see some examples of their completed work.

• Have they undertaken similar projects to yours, in scale or cost (or both)?

• If your project requires multiple trades, does your artisan have the relevant project management experience?

• Is there a 10-year guarantee (this is common in France)?

• What VAT rate will the work be subject to?

When it comes to setting out quotes, estimates, or ‘devis’ as they are known in French, are a bit of a moveable feast at times. Ask for a fixed-price contract, but always leave room for a little play in the budget. An experienced builder will know the pitfalls and will be able to advise you on areas of work where there may be surprises.

Charlie May works for ECM³ in Cognac

Further help with your renovation project: how to carry out a renovation in France, 21 French words to help with your DIY or renovation project in France and 5 properties to renovate in France

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