Planning permission is largely subjective and governs whether you can build at all and, if so, what your new home will look like. Building Regulations (Building Warrant in Scotland) are, on the other hand, largely objective and confine themselves to the structural aspects of the build, by reference to the regulations themselves. An application for Building Regulations either conforms to those regulations and is approved, or fails to conform and is rejected, although 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 in-depth, and can be read in full on the Communities and Local Government website (communities.gov.uk), but in brief, your project will have to comply with the following documents. They are recognised by lettered Parts.

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. New ‘Parts’ are published periodically.

How does this affect you? Well, it means that your designer/builder will need to be aware of the Regulations and any changes therein. Certainly, as a self-builder or renovator, you won’t be expected to have all of these committed to memory.

Who Administers the Regulations?

Building Regulations approval can be granted by either your local authority building control (LABC) department or any private company acting as an Approved Inspector. Around 20 per cent of all approvals are now handled privately, without recourse to the local authority.

When is Approval Required?

You will require Building Regulations approval if you intend to carry out any new structural work or alteration to your home. Additionally, work involving drainage, heat-producing appliances, cavity wall insulation and electrics requires approval — although in some of these cases, ‘competent persons’ can self-certify their works for compliance (e.g. under Part P for electrical work).

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 – i.e. conservatories not containing sleeping accommodation (check with your local authority for a full list) – are also exempt.

As a general rule, structural work as well as anything to do with electrics and drainage needs building control approval; most other works don’t. If in doubt, check with the local authority before starting work.

The Application Process

An application has to be accompanied by the relevant fees (currently £533 plus VAT for new dwellings, less for most extensions) covering both the application and the eventual inspections. Most local authorities offer fee calculators on their websites. 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.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is also possible, in the case of certain minor works, to proceed on what is known as a Building Notice (meaning works are inspected without needing subsequent plans approved). In general, the forms are quite complicated and must be accompanied by detailed drawings, calculations and specifications, which can often only be provided by professionals in possession of the right or relevant software.

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, and 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); and 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).

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Comments
  • 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 http://www.homebuilding.co.uk/community/qa/plumbing-certificate

    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.
    Neil

  • 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
    V

  • 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 http://www.homebuilding.co.uk/advice/project-tips/building-regulations/fire-safety

    Lindsey

  • katrina krol-mekarska

    Hi,
    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 http://www.homebuilding.co.uk/advice/existing-homes/converting-loft/beginners-guide
    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).

    Lindsey

  • Daniel Judd

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

    http://www.stansted-environmental.com

  • ian ward

    Hello,
    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.
    Thanks.

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