French Building Terms

By | 12 Nov 2014

Bob le Builder

Sometimes I don’t even know what building terms are  in English let alone French, but I’m gradually getting to know some words (although forgetting many more that they tell me).

I will write a list of the ones that I’ve learned so far here (as I remember them) and will add to it as and when I learn some new ones in case they are helpful.  They are in no particular order at present.

A propos builders, I had wanted to find a nice vintage image to accompany this post, something like a photo of builders with moustaches and baguettes.  The nearest my search got to this invented stereotype was a photo of the Village People.  So I settled for something else more instantly recognisable: Bob the Builder, and as if to fully fit in with this post on French/English building term translations, the French website for Bob calls him Bob le Bricoleur.  However, although it has alliteration, I don’t feel that’s an accurate translation, unless they change what his work in France is, as a Bricoleur is a DIYer.  The British Bob, as ‘head of his own construction yard’ must have his nose quite put out by this demotion.

If you have any building terms to add, please write in/comment with them, especially if they are beyond the usual:


Couvreur (m) – roofer

Maçon (m) – mason/bricklayer.  Maçons tend to be the equivalent of an all-round British builder and usually do roofing too.

Entrepreneur – general builder/contractor, but most tend to be referred to by their qualification.  Interior work such as insulation, plastering, painting, etc, will be done by those specialisations and even our largest building firm had a completely separate company for those workers.

Serrurerie – locksmith, but they also do a lot of general iron work such as repairing gates, railings etc.  Like most specialists they often work regularly with other accompanying specialists so you can ask them for referrals.

Ouvriers – although I understood this to mostly mean factory workers, the building firm referred to their workers generally as ouvriers.  I was always avoiding the word in case it seemed derogatory.

Poutre (f) – beam (or girder)

Poutres apparentes – exposed beams

Chevron (m) – rafter

Lucarne (f) – dormer window, can also by a skylight

Chien Assis (m) – dormer window

Jambage (m) – jamb (the vertical parts)

Linteau (m) – lintel (the horizontal parts)

Carrelage (m) – tiling

Dalles (f) – paving slabs, particularly used for pure stone flagstones

Tommettes (f) – hexagonal floor tiles, and particularly for terracotta typical tommettes de Bourgogne.


Jointage/jointoiement – pointing (inside and out)

Faire les plâtres – plastering

Joints beurré – a type of plastering that shows only the best stones and covers over the smaller or damaged stones.  (The time to plaster is reduced but more plaster is used, so isn’t necessarily cheaper to do.)

Crépi – the rendering, a term that tends to be used for the exterior house walls.

Enduit – coating or filler – this term is used for the product put on inside or outside of house.

Enduit de chaux – lime plaster

Joint d’étanchéité (m) – seal

Tuyaux – pipes (all purpose word)

Canalisation (f) – drains

Gouttière (f) – guttering

Câble – cable!  (Often used when you need to redo your main electric supply – these are expensive!)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *