Building regulations apply whether you are self building, renovating or extending. In fact, the majority of construction work – even fairly minor alterations – will require building regulations compliance of some kind of the other.
Of course, if you're building a new home entirely from scratch, you'll be required to get to grips with a lot more of these regulations than those looking at building regulations for extensions or if you're just undertaking some light remodelling to your home.
The latter half of 2022 saw some important changes to several documents concerning those building or altering their homes — changes to Part L and Part O were particularly notable and within this guide, we'll take a quick look at what these new rules could mean for you.
What are building regulations?
Building regs are a set of standards designed to ensure a property is safe and comfortable to live in, and, increasingly, energy efficient and mitigating its contribution to carbon emissions.
It is important to realise that building regulations are not set in stone — the Approved Documents that make up building regs tend to evolve as housing policy does, and in June 2022, there were some major updates that you should be aware of.
These changes affected Part L and Part F. Two new Approved Documents were also introduced: Part O and Part S.
"Part O is the new regulation covering overheating (I guess this should be fairly easy to remember)," explains energy expert David Hilton, "which is a long overdue update. It not only looks at mitigating solar gain (heating due to direct sunlight) but also other causes of overheating due to uninsulated heating pipes, cylinders or lack of heating system controls."
Part S, however, focusses on electric vehicle charging points. "As petrol and diesel vehicles get phased out we are going to see more and more electric vehicles on our streets, so having electric car charge points properly planned and installed is now a ‘must-have’ rather than a ‘nice-to-have’ addition to the services in the home," says David.
Here's what you need to know about building regulations as a self builder, renovator or home extender.
Do I need building regulations approval?
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In short, if you intend to carry out any new structural work or alterations to your home, you will require building regulations approval. There is a big difference between planning permission and building regulations.
Additionally, work involving the following areas also requires approval, although in some of these cases, competent persons can self-certify their works for compliance:
- Heat-producing appliances
- Cavity wall insulation
- New electrics
All new homes need to adhere to building regulations too, and for this reason a building control inspector will visit at key stages of the build to inspect the work and ensure it complies.
These stages include:
- Excavation for the building foundations
- Pouring concrete for the foundations
- Building the oversite
- Building the damp proof-course
- A visit prior to completion
A completion certificate will then be issued following the final inspection.
Which building regulations do I need to comply with?
Once you’ve secured your planning approval, the focus needs to shift to showing that your design ticks all the right technical boxes.
The main exemptions for building regulations are peripheral things such as small porches, conservatories or detached garages (up to 30m2 floor area).
The Approved Documents of the Building Regulations comprise of a series of detailed guidance manuals (ranging from A to S) covering everything from structure and fire safety through to security and electronic communications.
The Regulations are very detailed, and can be read in full on the Communities and Local Government website.
In brief, your project will have to comply with these areas:
- Part A – Structure
- Part B – Fire Safety
- Part C – Contamination and damp
- Part D – Toxicity
- Part E – Sound
- Part F – Ventilation
- Part G – Hygiene
- Part H – Drainage
- Part J – Fuel
- Part K – On-site Safety
- Part L – Conservation of Fuel and Power
- Part M – Access
- Part N – Glazing
- Part O – Overheating
- Part P – Electrics
- Part S – Infrastructure for Charging Electric Vehicles
You will need to appoint a building inspector, who will ensure that your project meets building regulations.
Do I need building regs for an extension?
If you are building an extension then you will most likely need building regulations approval. Most extensions will need to meet a minimum set of technical standards.
The regulations you'll need to consider are likely to be:
- Energy performance (ensuring your build is insulated enough and has good airtightness so heat doesn’t just leak out)
- Structural integrity as most extensions require foundations
- Protection against falls and unsafe walls
- Electric and gas safety as most extensions require new systems
- Fire protection which means ensuring there is safe passage from your home to a safe external area
How much is a building regulations application fee?
Most local authorities offer fee calculators on their websites. Their fees will depend on several factors including the type of work involved, size of the project and number of visits required. Private companies will negotiate their fees directly with you.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, once an application is lodged, work can commence on site within 48 hours.
Remember, on top of application fees, you will need to budget for plans and structural calculations, which can come in between £1,200-£4,000 plus, depending on the scale of your project.
What are the different types of building regulation applications?
Before any work can begin, you need to decide whether to make a Full Plans or a Building Notice application.
With a Building Notice, it is possible to carry out the work without prior approval while a Full Plans application is where you submit plans and documents to be approved.
What is a Full Plans application for building regulations?
For most construction projects a Full Plans application is made to building control.
If you choose a Full Plans application, you will know from the start that the working drawings have been checked and approved by the building inspector and that the plans fully comply with all of the Building Regulations.
Importantly, this means that any issues regarding non-compliance with the regulations can be thrashed out before building work actually starts.
The application comprises of:
- A full description of the proposed works
- A set of technical drawings
- Structural engineer’s calculations
- A location or 'block' plan
What is a building notice application for building regs?
With this method you’re basically promising in advance that you’ll comply with building regulations on site.
This might be feasible for some small domestic alterations or a very simple home extension but it’s harder for larger projects.
If your site inspections uncover stuff that contravenes the regulations while it’s being built, such as the wrong type of insulation or too much glazing, work has to be stopped or re-constructed, which could prove disruptive, as well as costly.
Remember you still need to complete a form giving details of the building work together with a site plan (1:1250 or 1:12500 scale) showing the boundaries of site and drainage details.
You may also be asked to provide marked up sketch drawings (typically copies of those used for planning) together with structural engineer’s calculations and energy performance details.
Do I need a structural engineer?
The plans required for building control are considerably more detailed than those submitted for planning, and are often commissioned as an additional service.
Whether you choose to submit a Full Plans application or not, building control normally require calculations from a qualified structural engineer who you can employ at the structural drawing stage.
What’s more if you plan to make any structural alterations to your existing house, such as knocking down internal walls and openings, these may also need calculations.
Depending on the size and complexity of the project, and whether site visits are needed, engineer’s fees typically range from around £400 for run-of-the-mill extensions to £3,000 plus for more complex houses.
How much do building regulation drawings cost?
For building regs drawings, expect to pay from around £700 for a single-storey extension, and around £1,200 for a two-storey extension, excluding additional charges for structural calculations, building control application fees and any party wall agreements.
LABC fees are published on local authority websites and typically cost around £1,000 for a new house but less than half that for an average extension or loft conversion.
In total, for the average new house you could expect to pay around £2,000, less if planning drawings have first been commissioned as there’s a certain amount of overlap.
Large architectural practices can charge £75 or more per hour for this sort of work, and producing detailed technical drawings with a specification for a bespoke new house could set you back as much as £10,000.
How long do building regs take to come through?
This depends on how busy your designer is. A reasonably straightforward job shouldn’t take much more than three or four days. If the engineer’s calculations are holding things up, it’s normally possible to save time by submitting them after your main application.
For building control to process a Full Plans application the stipulated period of five weeks should be sufficient assuming there are no major issues.
Remember, you don’t have to wait for ‘plans approval’ before starting work on site.
Who is responsible for building regulations approval?
You can choose to use:
- A local authority inspector from your local council and run through Local Authority Building Control (LABC)
- An approved inspector from a government-approved private building inspection company. Around 20% of all approvals are now handled privately, without recourse to the local authority
This is the case for those that self build, as well as all manner of projects such as renovating a house, extensions and loft conversions.
Approved inspectors are registered with the Construction Industry Council. They must re-register every five years to maintain high standards.
A building inspector appointed through LABC and an approved inspector will carry out the same duties for a self-builder. They will check plans for compliance when a full plans application is made, and carry out site inspections when requested to check work on site at various stages.
However, only an inspector from your local authority has powers of enforcement. An approved inspector must hand the project over to the local authority if there are problems with the project that cannot be resolved informally.
There's very little difference in cost whether using an approved inspector or working directly with the local authority.
Will my builder know how to meet building regulations?
While all good builders will know how to ensure their work meets building regulations standard, and the process for having their work signed off by Building Control, the onus of ensuring that building regulations are met lies with you as the homeowner.
You can delegate this responsibility to your build team, but the legal responsibility remains with you.
What is the inspection process for building regs?
Although work on a new build or extension may proceed before any formal approval, nothing can proceed beyond the inspection stages without the approval of the inspector.
Those inspection stages are:
- Excavations for foundations
- Foundation concrete
- Damp-proof course
- Foul water drains trenches open
- Surface water drains trenches open
- Occupation prior to completion (second fix)
How do I get a completion certificate?
When the building is completed to the satisfaction of the inspector, a completion certificate will be issued. This is a vital document that must be retained alongside the written planning permission for use if you ever want to sell.
It is also required in order to release final funds from lenders, obtain the warranty certification and in order to reclaim VAT (if applicable).
The completion certificate will not be available until all your certificates have been passed to the building control officer and a final site inspection has passed.
The relevant certificates vary from one project to another but usually include:
- Electrical safety
- SAP rating
- Air pressure test
- Boiler installation and hot water services
- Water efficiency calculations
- Fuel storage
- Remediation of contaminated land
- Chimneys and open flued appliances.
Can I sell my house without building regs?
Any diligent solicitor will ensure that evidence of building regulations compliance such as a completion certificate is provided during a house purchase.
If you don't have a record of this for some reason, perhaps from work carried out by a previous owner, there are a few ways this can be tackled.
A regularisation certificate involves a retrospective application in which an inspector checks the build or alteration, but against the regulations that were in place at the time the work took place.
Indemnity insurance is also an option if the work has not been signed off, or paperwork is missing. This safeguards the property from legal action such as a building regulations enforcement from the local authority for the new owner.
However, this course of action does not offer the peace of mind that the work is safe, and with the property's structure and fire safety at risk, it's worth further exploration.
What is the competent person scheme?
In some instances, when an application to Building Control would be required, certain qualified fitters and installers are able to sign off the work and report it to the Local Authority. This includes trades such as window and door fitters, gas installers for the likes of new boilers and electricians.
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Chartered surveyor Ian Rock MRICS is a director is Rightsurvey.co.uk and the author of eight popular Haynes House Manuals, including the Home Extension Manual, the Self Build Manual and Period Property Manual.
Ian is also the founder of Zennor Consultants. In addition to providing house surveys, Zennor Consultants provide professional guidance on property refurbishment and maintenance as well as advising on the design and construction of home extensions and loft conversions, including planning and Building Regulations compliance.
Ian has recently added a 100m2 extension to his home; he designed and project managed the build and completed much of the interior fit-out on a DIY basis.
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