6 useful tips for renovating a house in France

6 useful tips for renovating a house in France

Looking to renovate a house in France? Helen Heslop of Le Studio des Artisans gives some useful tips in making sure your project is a success. ADVERTISING FEATURE

Renovating a property or doing any building work in France can be a challenge.

I recently renovated a small village house in Cessenon s /Orb (Languedoc-Roussillon). After 15 years of living in France, speaking French and renovating several properties, I have learnt that preparation is the key to success!

Lesson 1 – Understand the property you are buying

Many of us fall in love with a property and we don’t want to imagine that the roof could leak or that it is built on a spring! Even though the seller must provide an expert report (“Expertise”), this will often not give you all the information you need.

The requirements of the “Expertise” will vary by Region but the standard reports will cover the existence of asbestos, age and quality of electrics, whether the property is on a flood plain or prone to other natural risks. In the South of France, termite analysis is often required.

These reports will not give you any confidence about the structural quality of the floors, walls or roof. If you are investing a sizeable amount of money in a property, it is wise to seek out an experienced builder to assess the quality of the property and give you an appreciation of the future work that may be necessary. Consider this the advisory section on a MOT.


Lesson 2 – Do market research – and not just at the local bar!

It is easy to meet a builder at a local bar and be relieved that you have found a builder who speaks your language and is sometimes ready to give you a cheaper cash price.

Costs are very high in the French building trade. This is mainly due to high employee labour charges and the 10 year Building insurance ‘Décennale’.

Nevertheless, if you have building work done by a builder with a company Siret No. and Insurance Policy it is unlikely that he will run off with your money, leave a site half-finished or disappear when the terrace starts to leak.

The local town hall “Mairie” will provide you with a list of the recognised builders in the area and should be able to identify the builders who cater to an international audience.

Always ask your builder for the names of his other clients so you can talk to them and assess the quality of his previous work.

Finally, ask to see the builder’s Insurance policy so you can understand the nature of the building services that are covered within the policy.


Lesson 3 – Understand the rules and regulations for building in your village

Go and ask the “Mairie” for the Plan Local d’Urbanisme “PLU” or local town planning document. This will explain the different planning requirements or building specifications in your area. In some villages building work is controlled within a certain distance of the church or clock tower.

Furthermore in some cases you will not be allowed to build a roof terrace or you will be required to use a certain type of paint and colour for shutters or exterior walls.

If you need to obtain planning permission “permis de construire”, or notify the “Mairie” of building work “declaration préalable”, make sure that your builder, architect or project manager can manage the process for you, especially if you do not read and write fluent French. Many difficulties and delays can be avoided if you understand the process up front and respect it!


Lesson 4 – Make sure you understand the building quote and above all what is not included

Builders are required to prepare a written quote in French. The detail and quality of these quotes can vary considerably and it is worthwhile making sure that you fully understand what is included before signing.

Some companies will provide a translation service, the cost of which will be refunded upon signing the deal.

Make sure you understand the assumptions that have been used and the materials that have been included in addition to labour. Also make sure you understand when you are expected to provide items such as tiles and sanitary ware so work is not delayed.

Also ensure that any subsequent changes to the order of work are signed off in advance. The additional wall to be demolished may make a lot of sense when you are talking about it to your builder but quite another when you see the additional cost on the invoice!


Lesson 5 – Budget appropriately

The cost of a renovation project can quickly over-run if you have not carefully planned.

Surprises often crop up along the way – the rotting beam that needs to be treated or the termites that appear once the ceiling comes down. It is wise to have a 10-15% financial buffer so that you are comfortable to manage unforeseen surprises.

In addition to building costs, you should also budget sanitary ware, kitchens, lighting, furniture and fittings. You can be surprised how these items can add up!


Lesson 6 – Enjoy!

Although to the inexperienced, a renovation project may seem a daunting task, it can also be a satisfying and enjoyable experience. It allows you to design and create a home for your specific family needs.

Clearly there is always a value equation to consider when undertaking significant work but there are important intangible benefits to factor in. The pleasure a great cook gets from a well-equipped and designed kitchen or that parents get watching their kids having fun in the pool is immeasurable, so enjoy it!

I enjoyed the process of renovating my house in the South of France so much that I partnered with the builder, William Sainsbury, who renovated my house to create Le Studio des Artisans – a renovation and design house to facilitate the design and renovation of French properties. There are some beautiful properties for very reasonable prices that can be renovated into stunning homes with the right team and the right organization!



Le Studio des Artisans is based in the Languedoc Roussillon. We employ local builders and utilise the skills of a range of craftsmen, designers and decorators to guide you through each stage of your property renovation.


Our building team are highly skilled craftsmen with a wealth of experience across the entire building spectrum including renovation or new build: general building, façade, tiling, roofing, electricity, plumbing, painting, decoration, terraces, swimming pools and ironwork.


We also provide an extensive range of ancillary services to facilitate the creation of a family home in France. Services include management of property planning process, architect designs, interior design and fitting, furniture sourcing and upholstery, telephone, electricity and internet connections. We are the French distributor of Heritage Bathrooms and partner with a variety of quality suppliers of bespoke hand crafted kitchens, natural stone tiling, wood flooring, windows and lighting. 


For more information and advice call 0033982320044 or email [email protected]




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