FAQs - Technical
Technical Policy Manager
Q: What are the Building Regulations?
A: The Building Regulations are made under powers provided in the Building Act 1984, and apply in England and Wales. The current edition of the regulations is ‘The Building Regulations 2010’ and the majority of building projects are required to comply with them. They exist to ensure the health and safety of people in and around all types of buildings (i.e. domestic, commercial and industrial). They also provide for energy conservation, and for access and facilities to buildings to ensure they can be used by everyone.
Q: What is the difference between Planning Permission and Building Regulations?
A: Planning rules determine whether you are allowed to go ahead with a building project and Building Regulations set standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety and health for people in or about those buildings.
Q: Who administers the Building Regulations?
A: The local authority has always administered the regulations, however since 1984 Building Control has been open to competition from the private sector and Approved Inspectors can now also provide the building control service. Since 1999 all service providers have been obliged to adhere to the "Building Control Performance Standards" document which lays down a suggested framework for level of service provision. Only local authorities have powers to enforce the regulations. All suppliers of this service will charge a fee; local authorities are only permitted to charge a fee sufficient to cover the service they offer, whereas private bodies will invariably make a charge that includes an element of profit.
Q: What do the regulations cover?
A: The erection of new buildings, the extension or alteration of existing buildings and the provision of a controlled service or fitting (e.g. drainage, heat producing appliances). The regulations also apply where certain changes of use to a building occur. There are certain minor building works that do not require approval.
The Regulations are arranged in a series of Approved Documents, each covering the following:
- A Structure
- B Fire safety
- C Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture
- D Toxic substances
- E Resistance to the passage of sound
- F Ventilation
- G Sanitation, hot water safety and water efficiency
- H Drainage and waste disposal
- J Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems
- K Protection from falling, collision and impact
- L Conservation of fuel and power
- M Access to and use of buildings
- N Glazing – safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning
- P Electrical safety
The guidance in the documents is not statutory and do not have to be followed. If you wish to design and construct your building work in some other way, you may do so providing you can show that it still complies with the relevant requirements of the regulations. The guidance in the Approved Documents will be taken into account when considering whether your plans of proposed work, or work in progress, comply with particular requirements. In addition, there is a legal presumption that if you have followed the guidance in the documents, this is evidence that your work has complied with the Building Regulations.
Q: How do I get permission to carry out work?
A: Depending upon the scale and type of work involved you may have the option of following one of two different procedures available within this service:
- the deposit of a full plans application; or
- the submission of a building notice (except for certain types of building work – primarily in respect of fire safety issues where a building is used as a workplace or where it may affect a drain).
Full Plans application
An application deposited under this procedure needs to contain plans and other information showing all construction details, preferably well in advance of when work is to start on site. Your local authority will check your plans and consult any appropriate authorities (e.g. fire and sewerage). They must complete the procedure by issuing you with a decision within 5 weeks, or if you agree, a maximum of 2 months from the date of deposit.
If your plans comply with the Building Regulations you will receive a notice stating that they have been approved. If your local authority is not satisfied, you may be asked to make amendments or provide more details. Alternatively, a conditional approval may be issued. This will either specify modifications which must be made to the plans; or will specify further plans which must be deposited with your authority. Your local authority may only apply conditions if you have either requested them to do so or have consented to them doing so. A request or consent must be made in writing. If your plans are rejected the reasons will be stated in the notice.
Your local authority will carry out inspections of the building work once it is in progress. They will explain about the notification procedures which the regulations require you to follow at various stages of the work – e.g. in connection with foundations, damp proof courses and drains. In addition, if you request a completion certificate when you first make your application, the local authority will issue it to you provided they are satisfied the completed work complies with the Building Regulations.
A further point to bear in mind is that if a disagreement arises with your local authority, the ‘full plans’ procedure enables you to ask for a ‘determination’ from (in England) the DCLGr or (in Wales) the Welsh Assembly Government about whether your plans do or do not comply with the Building Regulations.
A Building Notice
This procedure does not involve the passing or rejecting of plans. It therefore avoids the preparation of detailed ‘full plans,’ and is designed to enable some types of building work to get under way quickly; although it is perhaps best suited to small work. There are also specific exclusions in the regulations as to when building notices cannot be used. These are for building work which is subject to section 1 of the Fire Precautions Act 1971 or Part II of the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997; for work which will be built close to or over the top of rain water and foul drains shown on the ‘map of sewers’; and where a new building will front onto a private street. If you decide to use this procedure you need to be confident that the work will comply with the Building Regulations or you will risk having to correct any work you carry out if your local authority requests this. In this respect you do not have the protection provided by the approval of ‘full plans.’
Once you have given your ‘building notice’ and informed your local authority that you are about to start work, the work will be inspected as it progresses. You will be advised by the authority if the work does not comply with the Building Regulations. If before the start of work, or while work is in progress, your local authority requires further information such as structural design calculations or plans, you must supply the details requested.
A local authority is not required to issue a completion certificate under the building notice procedure; and because no full plans are produced it is not possible to ask for a determination if your local authority says your work does not comply with the Building Regulations.
Q: What will it cost?
A: A charge is payable dependant on the type of work being carried out and the type of Application used. A Full plans Application has both a plan charge (payable at submission stage) and an inspection charge (payable after the first inspection). A Building Notice has one charge (payable at submission stage) but this is exactly the same amount as the Full plans charge. To establish the cost please visit the local authority website where the work is to be carried out.
Q: What happens if I don't comply with the regulations?
A: If work is carried out without Approval it is classified as unauthorised. The Local Authority has powers to take legal action to require an application to be made and to open up work to check for adequacy. You could also be fined for failing to comply and pay to have offending work altered. In extreme cases work may be required to be taken down.
Probably the most serious problem will be the effect on any future house sale. Approval Notices and Completion Certificates are now needed as standard for any conveyancing and you may experience problems selling. You may also find that your house insurance is invalidated.
Q: What can I do if I have already carried out work without permission?
A: If you have already carried out work without obtaining permission then if the work was carried out after November 1985 you can apply retrospectively for a Regularisation Certificate. You may have to expose certain areas of work to establish compliance with Regulations in force at the time the work was carried out. There is a charge for this equivalent to the relevant charge for carrying out the same work today plus a further 20%, however there is no VAT payable. There are some areas that the Local Authority may exclude from the Certificate because it is impossible to determine adequacy (e.g. floor slabs) without substantial damage.
Q: How long will I wait for permission?
A: With a Building Notice, there is no delay once your Notice is accepted. So work could be underway within a few days. With a Full Plans submission the situation is a little different, as the plans have to be thoroughly examined before an Approval Notice is issued. A council must give a decision on an application within 5 weeks of receiving it – extended to 2 months with your written consent. If the deadline is not met, the council loses some of its enforcement powers and is liable to repay part of the charge.
Q: Once the Approval has been granted, what is the deadline for completing the work?
A: There is no time limit laid down. But if you do not start the work within 3 years, the council can serve you with a notice declaring your plans “of no effect,” which means they are out of date. If you want to go ahead after receiving a formal notice, you will need to submit a fresh application.
Q: If I apply for building regulation approval, will the council consult with my neighbour about the plans?
A: No. Councils are not obliged to consult adjoining owners about building regulation applications (as they normally do with planning applications). If a proposal interferes with a neighbour’s property or legal rights then it is up to the neighbour to safeguard those rights. However, it is always advisable to let neighbours know about any proposals that may affect them before work starts.
Q: Can I appeal if I am refused building regulation approval?
A: If your plans are rejected because they do not meet the regulations technical requirements, you will be informed and given the chance to amend your plans and re-submit. If you do not agree with the councils interpretation of the regulations, you can refer the matter to the Secretary of State for a ‘Determination’. Let the council know you want to take this course of action, and you will be advised of the necessary procedure and costs involved.
Q: Are there any penalties for not complying with the building regulations?
A: Yes. If your council considers the work does not comply with the regulations it has powers to order you to pull down or alter the work. In the case of serious and persistent contraventions, you could be fined for failing to comply.
Q: I have carried out some building work without getting regulations approval. Is it too late to apply?
A: No. Recent amendments to the building regulations have made it possible to apply for retrospective approval to cover work that has been carried out without permission. You will need to get a Regularisation Certificate, and you might have to open up some parts of the work for inspection.
Q: I want to build a new home (i.e. a house, bungalow, maisonettes or block of flats) or any other type of new building. Do I need permission?
A: Yes. As a new building all the relevant requirements in the regulations will apply in full.
Q: Do I need permission to build an extension to my home?
A: Yes – but a porch or conservatory built at ground level and under 30m2 in floor area is generally exempt provided that the glazing complies with the safety glazing requirements of the Building Regulations (i.e. Part N: ‘Glazing – safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning’). Your Building Control Service can supply further information on safety glazing. You may wish to look at the homeowners guidance document on conservatories elsewhere on this website.
You should not construct a conservatory where it will restrict ladder access to windows serving a room in the roof or a loft conversion, particularly if any of the windows are intended as a way of facilitating escape or rescue if there is a fire.
Q: I want to build a garage extension onto my home. Do I need permission?
A: Yes – but a carport extension, open on at least two sides and less than 30m2 in floor area, is exempt. You should ensure that a carport does not interfere with the proper working of a low-level flue outlet from an oil or gas appliance (guidance on the location of flues can be found in Approved Document J).
Q: Do I need permission to build a detached garage under 30m2 in floor area?
A: No – the building will be exempt from the regulations providing it is:
• under 30m2 in floor area;
• single storey and does not contain any sleeping accommodation and either:
– it is built substantially of non-combustible material; or
– when built it is no less than 1m from the boundary of the property.
Q: I want to put up a greenhouse or a small detached building such as a garden shed or summerhouse in my garden. Do I need permission?
A: No – these buildings will be exempt from the regulations but only providing the building is fully covered by the definitions and conditions given in Schedule 2 to the Building Regulations.
Q: I want to carry out a loft conversion to my home. Do I need permission?
A: Yes – The relevant requirements of the regulations will be applied so as to ensure, for example :the structural strength of the proposed floor is sufficient; the stability of the structure (including the roof) is not endangered; safe escape from fire; and safely designed stairs to the new floor.
Q: Do I need permission to carry out internal alterations within my home or any other type of building?
A: Yes – very likely. The regulations specify what forms of alteration amount to ‘material alterations’ and are therefore ‘Building Work’, taking account of the potential for the proposed work to adversely affect compliance of the building with specific requirements. On this basis the regulations are very likely to apply if your project will involve alterations to the structure of the building (e.g. the removal or part removal of a load bearing wall, joist, beam or chimney breast); will affect escape or other fire precautions either inside or outside the building; or will affect access or facilities for disabled people. On the assumption that the regulations do apply, all the work involved in the alteration must comply with all the appropriate requirements.
Q: I want to replace one or more windows in my home, or any other type of building. Do I need permission?
A: Yes – if you are replacing the whole of the fixed frame and opening parts. If the work is to your home and you employ a FENSA (Fenestration Self-Assessment Scheme) registered installer, you will not need to submit a full plans application or building notice, all the formal aspects of compliance will ne dealt with by your installer. On completion the installer must give your local authority a certificate that the work complies with Part L and other appropriate parts of the Building Regulations. You will be provided with a certificate of compliance for your records by the installer.
No – if the work amounts to no more than, for example, replacing broken glass, replacing fogged double-glazing units, replacing some rotten sashes (i.e. opening parts) in the main window frame, or replacing some rotten sections of the main frame members.
If your building is listed nationally, or locally in some way, for its architectural or historic interest and/or is located in a sensitive urban or rural environment (e.g. a Conservation Area or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), you will more than likely need to make a formal application for the work.
Q: I want to carry out repairs to my home, or any other type of building. Do I need permission?
A: No – if the repairs are of a minor nature: e.g. replacing roofing tiles with the same type and weight of tile; replacing the felt to a flat roof; re-pointing brickwork; or replacing floorboards.
Yes– if the repair work is more significant: e.g. removing a substantial part of a wall and rebuilding it; underpinning a building; or installing a new flue or flue liner. In the case of re-roofing; if the new tiling or roofing material is substantially heavier or lighter than the existing material – then the Building Regulations may apply; and if the roof is thatched, or is to be thatched where previously it was not – then the Building Regulations will apply.
Q: Do I need permission to convert my house into flats?
A: Yes – the regulations define this as a ‘material change of use’ and specify the requirements with which, as a result of that change of use, the whole or part of the building must comply (e.g. those concerned with escape and other fire precautions, hygiene, sound insulation, and conservation of energy). The whole or part of the building may therefore need to be up-graded to make it comply with the specified requirements.
Q: I want to install, alter or replace my shop front. Do I need permission?
A: YES – because of the likely affect on the structure, escape and other fire precautions, and access and facilities for disabled people, this type of project is likely to be regarded as a ‘material alteration’, and therefore ‘Building Work’. The appropriate requirements will be applied so as to ensure, for example, that these aspects are addressed together with others such as the safety of the glazing. However, shop display windows do not have to comply with the energy efficiency requirements.
Q: Do I need permission to build or alter a garden wall or boundary wall?
A: No, but you should, of course make sure that the work is done safely to avoid accidents.
Q: Do I need permission to insert insulation into a cavity wall?
A: Yes – the regulations specifically define this as ‘Building Work’, however it is more than likely your installer will be able to carry out this work and inform the local authority on your behalf.
Q: Do I need permission to underpin all or part of the foundations to my building?
A: Yes – the regulations specifically define this as ‘Building Work’. The requirements will be applied so as to ensure that the underpinning will stabilise the movement of the building. Particular regard will need to be given to the effect on any sewers and drains near the work.
Q: I want to install or replace electric wiring. Do I need permission?
A: Since 1st January 2005 YES – but some minor work does not require permission. Any electrical work will have to be carried out and certified by a competent electrician or certified by a competent electrician at the relevant installation stages and an application will be required unless your electrician is also a member of a Competent Persons Scheme and is therefore able to self certify the work.
Your contract with the electricity distribution company has conditions about safety which must not be broken. In particular, you should not interfere with the distribution company’s equipment which includes the cables to your consumer unit or the cables up to and including the separate main isolator switch if provided.
Q: I want to install fittings such as a WC, shower, washbasin, or kitchen sink within my home, or any other type of building. Do I need permission?
A: Yes – if the installation of the fitting or fittings will involve alterations to, or new connections to, a drainage stack or an underground drain. You should also check with your Building Control Service to find out how much information is required about the fittings you intend to use.
No – provided the work only involves installing an additional fitting or fittings in the same or a new location which does not involve extensions to the drainage pipework.
Q: I want to install or replace a hot water cylinder. Do I need permission?
A: Yes – if you are installing or replacing a hot water cylinder within an unvented hot water storage system (i.e. a system supplied directly from the water mains with no open-ended pipe for venting and with a storage capacity greater than 15 litres). The requirements are for hot water to be safely stored under pressure and for the installation to be energy efficient. The cylinder should be installed by a person competent to do so.
Yes – if you are installing or replacing a hot water cylinder within a vented hot water storage system (i.e. a system fed from an open-ended pipe for venting). The requirements are for the installation to be energy efficient. If you employ an installer registered with the Institute of Plumbing for a vented system, you will not need to involve a Building Control Service .
For either type of system your installer should leave you with a completed installation record and commissioning certificate such as the one produced by the BENCHMARK scheme. Some manufacturers attach BENCHMARK certificates to cylinders ready for installers to complete.
Q: Do I need permission to lay new drains and/or install a septic tank within the boundary of my property?
A: Yes – they will apply to new rainwater or foul drains inside as well as outside the building. The Building Regulations also apply to all non-mains foul sewerage arrangements (i.e. those using septic tanks), including their outlets and drainage fields.
Except in an emergency, your local authority should be given at least 24 hours notice of any intention to repair any underground drain (section 61 of the Building Act 1984).
Q: I want to install, replace or alter the position of any type of fuel burning appliance (including a gas boiler with a flue). Do I need permission?
All Gas appliances: Yes – but if you employ a GAS SAFE registered installer with the relevant competencies to carry out the work, you will not need to involve a Building Control Service .
Solid fuel appliances: Yes – but if the building is no more than three storeys and you employ an installer registered with HETAS (Heating Equipment Testing and Approval Scheme) to carry out the work, you will not need to involve a Building Control Service.
Oil appliances: Yes – but if the building is no more than three storeys and you employ an installer registered with OFTEC (Oil Firing Technical Association for the Petroleum Industry) to carry out the work, you will not need to involve a Building Control Service.
In general, but with certain limitations (e.g. relating to appliance output and the height of the building),the above registered installers may also carry out associated building work necessary to ensure that the appliance complies with the Building Regulations, without involving a Building Control Service . This may include work on a hearth, fireplace or flue.
The fuel burning appliance installer should provide you with information about the safety performance limits of the installation and should also fix a notice plate in a place where it will be readily seen – e.g. adjacent to the mains water stop cock or adjacent to the electricity consumer unit.
If you are having a boiler installed, your installer should leave you with a completed installation record; a commissioning certificate such as the one produced by the BENCHMARK scheme; and a User Instruction Manual.
Q: I want to install a fixed, flueless, gas appliance such as a cooker or fire. Do I need permission?
A: Yes – but if you employ a GAS SAFE registered installer with the relevant competencies to carry out the work, you will not need to involve a Building Control Service .
The installer should follow the appliance manufacturer’s instructions or take other steps such as following the guidance in ‘Installation and Maintenance of Flues and Ventilation for Gas Appliances (etc)’(BS 5440) so that adequate means of ventilation is available for dispersing the water vapour produced by the appliance to the outside air.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) provide free leaflets on the hazards posed by domestic combustion appliances and how these can be safely managed – ‘Gas appliances. Get them checked – keep them safe’ and ‘Landlords: A guide to landlord’s duties.’
Q: I want to alter in any way the construction of fireplaces, hearths or flues, or to repair them in any way which could affect their safe operation and containment of heat. Do I need permission?
A: Yes – if the work involves the provision of a new or replacement flue or flue liner, or the provision of a new or replacement hearth, fireplace or chimney. But see also question above regarding building work which is a necessary part of installing a new fuel burning appliance.
No – if the work amounts to no more than alterations to fireplaces, hearths, flues and chimneys it may not be subject to the Building Regulations. However, this type of work should always take account of the guidance in Approved Document J (‘Combustion appliances and fuel storage systems’). It is vital that flues should operate efficiently, and that risks of the building catching fire or of people suffering burns should be minimised.
Q: I want to install or replace an oil or liquid petroleum gas (LPG) tank (and/or connecting pipework) outside my home. Do I need permission?
A: Yes – if the installation is above ground the requirements will be applied to achieve adequate shielding of the tank from any surrounding fire and, in the case of an oil tank, containment of oil leakages so that ground water is not contaminated. Where new oil connecting pipework is proposed, a fire valve will be needed at the point where the pipe enters the building. If you are installing an oil tank and/or connecting pipework and you employ an installer registered with OFTEC (Oil Firing Technical Association for the Petroleum Industry), you will not need to involve a Building Control Service.