Building Regulations (Building Warrant in Scotland) cover the structural aspects of a build project, by reference to the regulations themselves.

Where planning permission may be more subjective, Building Regulations are largely objective. An application for Building Regulations either conforms to those regulations and is approved, or fails to conform and is rejected.

However, there is room for pragmatism and inspectors do have the power to negotiate a relaxation in certain circumstances.

What Are the Building Regulations?

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 documents:

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 P – Electrics

The Building Regulations are profiled in Approved Documents, which are updated fairly regularly.

Your designer/builder will need to be aware of the Regulations and any changes to them. You will need to appoint a building control inspector, who will ensure that your project meets the Building Regulations.

When is Approval Required?

You will require Building Regulations approval if you intend to carry out any new structural work or alterations to your home.

Additionally, work involving these areas also requires approval, although in some of these cases, competent persons can self-certify their works for compliance:

  • drainage
  • heat-producing appliances
  • cavity wall insulation
  • electrics.

When is Approval not Required?

You do not need Building Regulations approval for most minor works, particularly where like-for-like replacements are used. Certain small buildings, such as conservatories not containing sleeping accommodation, are also exempt. Check with your local authority for a full list.

If in doubt, check with the local authority before starting work.

Who Grants 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 new builds, as well as alterations, 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.

How Much Does it Cost?

An application has to be accompanied by the relevant fees covering both the application and the eventual inspections.

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 — that is not possible in Scotland, however.

Choice of Full Plans or Building Notice Application

Before any work can begin, you need to decide whether to make a Full Plans application or submit a Building Notice.

Building Notice

With a Building Notice, it is possible to carry out the work without prior approval, but the responsibility of ensuring the work fully complies is entirely with the builder.

Full Plans Application

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.

A Full Plans application would need to include a set of plans that demonstrate to the building inspector that what is being proposed conforms fully to the regulations.

The other advantage of this route is that the approved drawings will show everything the builder will need to know in order to provide a fixed quotation.

The Inspection Process

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
  • oversite
  • damp-proof course
  • foul water drains trenches open
  • surface water drains trenches open
  • occupation prior to completion (second fix)
  • completion.

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
  • security
  • fuel storage
  • remediation of contaminated land
  • chimneys and open flued appliances.

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  • Laura Taylor

    "You can, however, do much of the electrical work yourself on a DIY basis and simply get it signed off (inspection) by an approved electrician." – Does this still apply now in 2012?

    Also providing plans to them, do you have to get an architect to do this?

    We are knocking down a timber structure/room that connects our main house to a brick out building (currently the kitchen and bathroom is in this outbuilding) and rebuilding in it’s place a brick extension the same size as the current timber structure… not sure what rules apply here.

  • Samuel Joy

    Hi Laura,

    The rules regarding Part P are still the same – you can do the work yourself but it must be signed off by a Part P registered electrician or Building Control.

    In terms of the plans, it can be anyone – an architect, designer, main contractor, builder or yourself. Obviously depending on the size of the job and the extent your own knowledge it may not make sense to do the the plans yourself, but this doesn’t mean it would have to be an architect.

    Hope this helps

    Sam Joy (Online Editor)

  • christine cooney

    My plumber and gas boiler installer seems to have disappeared without giving my cert for building regs on my new build I paid him 6000.What can I do? Can I get someone else to give a gas safe cert so I get signed off. Thank you Christine.

  • Samuel Joy

    Hi Christine,

    I’ve reposted your question in the Q&A area of the site, as I believe you are more likely to receive a response to it there. The link is

    Kind regards,
    Sam (Online Editor)

  • Oliver Hall

    When do the building regulations apply: At the beginning of the project when you submit the application, or once the build is complete. If it is at the beginning, how long does this application apply for? This question relates to the new regulations kicking off in 2016 which will have a major baring on my budget.

  • Neil Clarke

    We have owned an 1840s terraced house since 1993, which we know has been uninhabited since c1970, & now want to renovate it in 2014.
    We know we need building regs for gas installation (boiler, cooker & fires), heating (if we decide to use the open fires or install stoves), & re-wiring.
    We need to replaster all the walls & ceilings & replace some floorboards, & propose to insulate the outside walls & between floors & ceilings at the same time.
    The attic bedroom still has the original staircase with banisters but needs the roof & wall insulation increasing & Velux windows fitting.
    The original wc was outside & a bath is installed in the cellar kitchen so we need to add bathroom(s) upstairs.
    While we intend to employ certified tradesmen for gas, heating & electrics, we hope to do the rest of the work ourselves with family help, (hopefully following Building Regs), as we are on a very small budget & would be doing the work as & when we have spare cash.
    Do we need to inform the Council’s Building Control Department & have them inspect any work at all if the registered tradesmen will certify their own work, & our D.I.Y. work is just repairing & redecorating plus plumbing & adding a few partition walls for bathrooms?
    I would be grateful for any advice, please.

  • V Guzina

    Neil Clarke, would love to hear from you to find out how you are getting on as we are in the very similar position ourselves.
    Kind Regards

  • Lindsey Davis

    For general refurbishment and remodelling you don’t need to contact building control.
    However, if you are altering the attic and turning it into habitable space (for use as an office, bedroom or living area) then you will need building control to sign off the work to ensure you have the correct fire safety measures in place.

    You need to have an enclosed ‘fire-proof’ escape route from the loft to an external ground floor door, or in some cases, a first floor means of escape window will be allowed.

    Here is a helpful piece on fire safety


  • katrina krol-mekarska

    We’ve just bought a property (mid-terraced house) and we are planning to do loft conversion, however we would like to do it properly… By signing it off, we want it to be counted as a third bedroom. etc. do you know what is the cost? (Obviously excluding labour and building materials etc)

  • Lindsey Davis

    Hello Katrina,

    Cost can be very variable and it is dependent upon what needs doing. If you have an adequate landing to put stairs up from then you will be looking at costs for a staircase, insulation, 18mm-thick flooring chipboard, roof lights and electrics at least.

    Then there are extras to make sure you comply with building regulations in relation to fire safety such as fire doors and possible additions to your fire alarm system. Without doing this, you won’t be able to count it as a third bedroom.

    Here is a beginners guide to loft extensions. It tells you pretty much everything you need to know
    There is also a costs PDF at the end but be aware that this is 5 years old and costs will have risen due to inflation.

    Done on a DIY basis – with no remodelling of first floor space needed – then you should be able to do it for around £5k materials only (I’m basing that on something approximately the size of a two-up-two-down).


  • Daniel Judd

    Stansted Environmental Services can assist you in complying with Building Regulations. Services include; SAP Calculations, Air Tightness Testing & Sound Insulation Testing

  • ian ward

    is it possible to change from a council inspector to a private one? We’ve had the council round to do a first inspection and work has been stopped for a week because the inspector (who took over from his holidaying boss and had read none of our paperwork and plans) isn’t able to make clear what he wants from the builder and structural engineer. We don’t know how to proceed, apart from starting all over again.

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