Hiring Artisans, Builders and Tradesmen in France


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Hiring Artisans, Builders and Tradesmen in France

So you’ve successfully negotiated the house hunt, purchased your property, and you now own a house in France. The plans and ideas you had in mind for the development and renovation of your new property have been drawn up and approved, and now it’s time to start putting those plans into action. For some people, this next stage is even more fraught than all the previous activities put together! Avoid common pitfalls and expensive mistakes with these tips for hiring artisans, builders, and tradesmen in France.

Finding Reliable French Builders and Tradesmen

There are some excellent builders out there, all of which are human beings and want to do the best job they can for you and your French project. So how can you find them and how do you know if they are the right person for the job?

First off, trust your instincts. They are there for a reason and have evolved over many years. If something is making you feel “uneasy” about someone, the chances are that your concerns will be proved right.

Secondly, check all you can, and then check again.

The best ways to find tradesmen in France is through word of mouth, adverts in local papers, or Trouver un Artisan. Neighbours and others who have had experience using builders are a good source of contacts, as is the local Mairie. It’s unlikely that anything you want to have done has not been done before, so listening to the experiences of others is always a good starting point, and local contacts are always worth cultivating. You never know, the next-door neighbour may have been through the same thing and be more than willing to offer advice!

Hiring Artisans in France: What Questions Should You Ask?

Below is a checklist to use when searching for a builder or tradesman for your French property. It provides a valuable insight into what a good artisan can offer to reassure potential clients, and also what good clients can do to help them at the outset of the building process.

First things first: be clear about what you want

Before hiring artisans to carry out building work or renovations, ensure you have a clear idea of what you are looking for and the desired results. When you approach a builder with a project, they will expect to see some form of drawn information showing the envisaged works. This is for your own benefit too. The statement “I want to convert the attic” will generate a very different response from: “I am looking to create three bedrooms in the attic space with one en-suite and a family bathroom, all with roof windows, something like the drawing attached. I have started the planning process by applying for a Declaration Prealable for the roof windows.”

If planning permissions are required, these should at least be in progress.

This tells the artisan two things:

1) the client is serious about the project, and,

2) some thought has been put in as to the outcome, and their project can be regarded as viable from a building and planning viewpoint.

Essential Questions and Credentials

Have you found the right builder or artisan for the job? These pointers will help put you on the right path:

  • Ask to see the tradesman’s registration documents – this is usually either a paper document or plastic wallet-sized card. These should be issued by the relevant chamber of commerce/business, and you will want to check that the date is still valid. Ask for a copy for your records.
  • Check via the Chambre de Metiers website, using the siret number checker, that the tradesmen are registered for the trades that they are claiming they do. You need to ensure that they can carry out the workmanship they say they can. You could also use a French-English translator to make the necessary phone calls, checks if required.
  • Always get in contact with more than one tradesman so you can compare not only costs but also their workmanship.
  • If you decide to use a company that employs various tradesman (such as electricians, plumbers, etc.), ensure that you meet them. You should also check that they are also registered by asking for copies of their registration documents.
  • Ask to see proof of original, signed references. References quoted on the website are fine, but ensure these are backed up by the originals.
  • Also, ask if you can contact some of the tradesman’s previous clients – this should never be a problem.
  • If you are given photographs of their previous work, check they are genuine pictures of work carried out by the building companies. Again, the original photos should be available for you to view.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions and if you are not sure about something, ask again. The majority of tradesmen will spend as much time as necessary to make the customer feel reassured; after all, it is a major step in your life, and you want your property renovations to be as smooth as possible.
  • Ensure that the tradesmen have decennial insurance as this insures all work carried out for 10 years, no matter how small or large the project is.
  • Some tradesmen may offer potential clients the opportunity to visit them at home as an extra reassurance that they are who they say they are.


Renovations on Your French Property: Putting Down a Deposit

Deposits are non-refundable, so ensure you are happy to part with your money before signing any devis.  Check the payment structure with your builder, as payments on big projects are usually done in stage payments, i.e. a 30% deposit, then broken down payments at each stage of the project. Ensure you receive a copy of this information and that you understand it thoroughly.

Good, reputable builders are usually very busy and may not be able to carry out your work in the next few weeks. If your project cannot commence for at least six weeks or more, negotiate the amount of deposit you pay and then expect to pay a stage payment on commencement of work.

Ensure that you get a start date for the commencement of your work, but bear in mind that this could be weather dependent, etc.

Going Ahead With Your Renovation Project

Ensure your chosen builder will give you regular updates on the progression of your work and photographs of each stage of the work. This is especially important if you are not living in France when the work is being carried out. At any stage, if anything gives cause for concern, do not be afraid to voice these feelings. It is, after all, your project and early intervention could save a whole heap of heartache later on.

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Stephen Davies is a long-time FrenchEntrée contributor on building and renovation matters in France. He runs "Renovate in France", a resource of architectural and support services and information for those starting, or already “en-route“ on a renovation, and works full time as a designer, planner and project manager on renovations and new builds.

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  • C McDonald
    2023-04-19 03:44:56
    C McDonald
    Hello, I bought an apartment in the South of France which needed extensive renovation works. The works were not good and the tiling needs to be completely redone, plus other important works. I have had to engage a lawyer... The devis has been paid, part from a small 3%. Now the entrepreneur has gone into liquidation. Can an entrepreneur just go into liquidation and is there any recourse? Thank you for your comments.


    •  Arthur Cutler, French Plans
      2023-04-20 07:57:24
      Arthur Cutler, French Plans
      Hello Sorry to hear of your troubles - regrettably this does happen sometimes, and there is little you can do in terms of redress against the artisan as regards his liquidation. However, he should have had a ten year "decennale" insurance covering his work - this is a combination of liability insurance and poor workmanship, so that customers can claim against the insurance even now that he is in liquidation. If you verified his insurance before employing him, then you can claim directly, but if you didn't, then ask your lawyer to investigate this on your behalf.


      •  TONY BARKER
        2023-06-12 03:32:21
        I have a similar problem in that I contracted a register bulder to build a terrace for me but there are problems with the work and I want to contact the decennaie insurance cover the work but Unfortunately I did ot get a copy of the Insurance policy Is there a central register where I can find this information, preferably online Thanking you in advance for your assistance