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Guide to Building Regulations

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The Building Regulations are a set of minimum standards to which your project must adhere. Find out what’s involved in meeting the requirements
UK Building Regulations explained

However beautifully designed your home, and however easily it got planning permission, you still have to ensure it's built to the correct standards, laid out in the Building Regulations. It must be safe and structurally sound, from the foundations to the electrics, conserve energy and provide access for those with disabilities.

The regs are objective, unlike planning permission, and a house will pass or fail according to this set of rules. Although the exact regulations differ slightly between England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, they essentially cover the same areas (see panel, 'Building Regs: breakdown').

Building regs: breakdown

The regulations are split into 14 technical parts, known as 'Approved Documents':

Structural safety Part A
Fire safety Part B
Resistance to contaminants and moisture Part C
Toxic substances Part D
Resistance to sound Part E
Ventilation Part F
Sanitation, hot water and water efficiency Part G
Drainage and waste disposal Part H
Heating and appliances Part J
Protection from falling Part K
Conservation of fuel and power Part L
Access to and use of buildings Part M
Glazing safety Part N
Electrical safety Part P

For a list detailing the requirements in full, go to one of the government websites: DCLG in England; Building Standards in Scotland; Building Control in Northern Ireland; or the Welsh Government website. Also worth a look is www.planningportal.gov.uk.

For a readable version of the regs, with explanatory detail and drawings, you could do worse than study the manuals of warranty suppliers such as the National House Building Council

What work needs to comply?

The regulations cover new buildings and extensions, but also major alterations to services, underpinning and some changes of use, such as barn conversions.

You also need to take care that any alterations to an existing building don't make adjacent fabric, services and fittings less compliant with Building Regs than they previously were, or even dangerous.

For example, if you replace external windows or doors the building should comply regarding energy efficiency, fire escape, air supply for boilers etc, and ventilation.

You don't necessarily need Building Regs approval for the erection of a detached single-storey building less than 30m2, or any building less than 15m2, as long as there's no sleeping accommodation, or conservatory extensions with an internal floor area of less than 30m2.

You also don't need approval for repairs, as long as the materials are replaced like for like. If in doubt about whether your work needs approval, consult your local building control officer

How do I obtain approval?

You can either use the building control services of your local authority or an approved inspector. Using your local building control officer can have many advantages, especially if you get in early.

Jon Hollely, director of approved inspector firm JHAi, says: "Find a building control officer you can work with, and talk to them as early as possible. Good ones will give you lots of advice, and ask the difficult questions now, rather than later, to help you find the best solution. This will ultimately save you both money and time."

Another advantage is that building control officers can now provide the warranty, thus removing an extra layer of inspection from the process. If you use the local authority, there are two types of application you can make:

Building Regulations application With this system, you need to submit a form, fee and full plans showing all construction elements and how you intend to meet the regs. This should preferably be submitted well in advance of when work is to start on site.

Working to a fully approved plan or specification gives you peace of mind, avoids potential problems and can even save you from the agony of abortive work.

Your local authority will check your plans, consult appropriate agencies and utilities (water, sewerage, etc), and give you a decision within five weeks of you handing them over, after which you might be asked to make amendments or provide more details. Alternatively, a conditional approval may be issued, which will either specify modifications you should make to the plans, or define further details you need to provide. Or, indeed, your plans may be approved without alterations made.

If your application is refused you can appeal to a magistrates court or, in certain circumstances, refer to the Department for Communities and Local Government for a 'determination'. This is a time-consuming process, so only go down this route if you care so much about your design that you're willing to wait a year or more before starting on the build.

Building notice This is simply a statement of the address and description of the work, giving building control 48 hours' notice of your intention to start work. It avoids the preparation of detailed 'full plans', and is designed to enable some types of building work to get underway quickly, with inspection happening as the work progresses.

Building notices are best suited to smaller and more straightforward works, such as extensions that fall within permitted development. Using it for bigger projects is risky, as you have no assurance that the project meets the regulations.

If it all goes horribly wrong and during an inspection your building work is found not to comply, all that exertion could come to nothing if the work has to be altered or even taken down and re-built, wasting precious time and blowing your budget.

Timeframe

Both full plans and building notices are valid for three years from the date they were given to the local authority, and will automatically lapse if the building work is not started in that timeframe.

Importantly, you don't have to wait for approval before commencing work - provided that 48 hours' written notice is given of your intention to start work, following a successful full plans application or issue of a building notice.

Inspectors will assess the work as it progresses, so any faults will be picked up. In Scotland, you mustn't start work without approval of plans, while in Ireland the system relies on 100% self-certification.

Inspection

With both Building Regulations applications and building notices, building control will inspect the work to ensure compliance at particular stages (see box below). You have to notify the inspector when you have reached the particular stages, and give 24 hours' notice for them to inspect the work

Inspection stages

Main inspection points in a build and the notice required (some projects may differ):

Build
stage
Notice required
Commencement 2 days
Excavation of foundations 1 day
Foundations laid 1 day
Oversite preparation 1 day
Damp proof course 1 day
Draings testing 1 day
Occupation prior to completion Within 5 days of occupation
Completion Within 5 days of occupation

If you don't inform them as you reach a particular stage, the local authority can ask you to open up the work for inspection at your expense. On the other hand, if they arrive later than 24 hours after notice is issued, they cannot ask you to take down the work.

If they approve it, you may then carry on to the next stage - this is crucial for most self builders, as stage payment mortgage funds are only released upon approval.

If you choose to use an approved inspector, he or she will take responsibility for checking the plans and inspection of your building work. You and the approved inspector need to jointly notify your local authority of your intended building work.

When the project is finished, the approved inspector must issue a final certificate to the local authority to say that the work is complete, inspected, and that it complies with the regulations. To find an approved inspector visit the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI) website

Certification

Not only do you have to comply with the regulations, you also have to be seen to be doing so. Without the inspections, and final sign off, you could be fined up to £5,000 and/or forced to re-do work. You'll also find it nigh-on impossible to sell the completed house - lack of compliance will emerge in local authority searches carried out in the buying process.

Contractors, if registered with competent person schemes, can self-certify (be responsible for compliance) for some elements, such as boiler installation, electrical work and drains testing.

However, as the owner it is you that will ultimately be served with an enforcement notice if the work does not comply with the regulations. Builders, who are deemed to know the regulations, are liable for the first six months, after which time responsibility for non-compliance reverts to the owner.

Once building work is finished, your home has to go through a completion inspection. If all is well, you will then get a completion certificate from your building control office. This valuable piece of paper confirms that the project, as inspected, complies with the Building Regulations, and it's vital as it will help you re-mortgage or sell your home in the future.

For some elements of the project, such as electrics, certification of the work and the approved status of the person who carried it out, inspected and tested it, will be needed before a completion certificate can be issued. It is always advisable to get your completion certificate before making final payments to contractors.

In Scotland, the procedure requires the owner to submit a completion certificate for the work and await its acceptance.

Is that it?

Nearly! Your project may be subject to other statutory requirements such as planning permission, fire precautions, water regulations, licensing/registration and the Party Wall Act 1996. Also, don't forget that you are not allowed to occupy a building or new rooms without an energy performance certificate. This is part of the building control process.

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27 comments

Frances Inglis
Posted on
21/10/14

I have been told by the person responsible for building regulations (for my self build house) that the status "occupancy before completion" does not exist for domestic properties.
Could you point me to where in the regulations this status is described please?
Thank you.

Chris
Posted on
22/10/14

Hi Frances. Different local authorities (LAs) may refer to this in different ways, but is certainly possible to occupy the house prior to completion provided that it is safe to do so - you simply need to obtain the right consent and notify the LA appropriately.

If you look at Part 3, Regulation 16 of The Building Regulations 2010 it states the following:

(5) Where a building is being erected, and that building (or any part of it) is to be occupied before completion, the person carrying out that work shall give the local authority at least five days notice before the building or any part of it is occupied.

Hope that helps!

Chris Bates, deputy editor & online editor, Build It magazine

Dan
Posted on
24/10/14

We occupied our barn conversion a year before we got our completion certificate. In fact I would say its quite common especially for self build. All we needed was permission from the building control officer and of course ensure your paying the council tax

David1949
Posted on
17/03/15

I'm thinking about doing a loft conversion - can you tell me all the points that I will need building inspections to be carries out by the local authority?

TVM
Posted on
01/06/15

Hi David, please remember that due to changes in regulations over the past few years that in order to obtain a mortgage on the property or indeed allow potential buyers to obtain a mortgage on your self-build in the future, you will need to be covered by a structural warranty. For more info on this please feel free to visit BuildSafe.
Hope that is of some help to you

Iceman321
Posted on
10/07/15

Dear Sirs, I am purchasing a property built in 2013 and my solicitor has been provided with the Building Regulation Completion Certificate which states "1. Details of work Description: Erection of semi-detached house." It has been signed off. However, the seller says they do not have the Gas Safe Register Certificate for the brand new installation of the boiler when the house was built, nor do they have the NECEIC Electrical Installation Certificate for when the house was built. They have indicated that this will all be covered by the Building Regs Completion Certificate. However, from the above text, under certification, it seems as though the certificates will be present for the inspector to see and sign the building off. Should the seller have these two certificates in his possession or would the original developer have them? Would I need them or would the Building Regs Completion Certificate do? Thank you.

kenn_Exeter
Posted on
20/07/15

hello.. Hopefully My planning should go through in the next 4 weeks for my grade 2 cottage. I then need to start the proj planning process. In the building regs application form it talks about providing builders name and contact details and cost of project. If I am project managing and getting independent trades in who should I name as the builder. What is the best way of estimating costs for each stage, is it to just get 3 quotes in for each stage.. Sorry 1 more question if I just have plans but no technical dimensioned plans can most trades work from these to quote....... Thanks for any advise CRaig

1966uk
Posted on
26/07/15

Hello ,, im a bricky and built a extention to my house 9 years ago all got passed and siigned off im sure i received a certificate in the post but have misslayed it now im selling up can i obtain one from the council . im from southampton and cant seem to find anything on the gov site for obtaining another certificate which is much needed . thanks in advance

Homeowner
Posted on
02/10/15

I'd like to enquire about the scenario whereby a building project has been regularly inspected and found to be compliant but has not been completed due to a change in circumstances requiring a different use of the premises such that some of the installations are not installed. The work carried out has been deemed safe and compliant but has not been completed to the extent of the plans. Can the local authority issue a partial completion certificate and what are the implications of not having a full completion certificate?

nic87
Posted on
19/10/15

I am considering building a two storey house and wondering if the downstairs was habitable, with a downstairs shower room and bedroom, and the upstairs was wired and plumbed but no fittings installed, would we be allowed to occupy the ground floor and finish the first floor while we were in? Or would we need to have stairs in and all bathroom fittings plumbed in upstairs before they would permit occupation?

Autumn-macy
Posted on
24/11/15

I have recently had an extension built where my conservatory was I didn't apply for planning permission but have had a lovely lady out to say planning permission was not needed but building regulations are. Can they tell me to take my extension down ?? They have said I need to pay £572.00 could they still make me take it down .?

Andrew Hobbs
Posted on
02/12/15

Hi Autumn-macy. Even when an extension doesn't require planning permission, it still needs to comply with building regulations. If you used a builder, he or she should have built it accordingly and are accountable, if they didn't.

If you have further questions, please use our Q&A section:

http://www.self-build.co.uk/questions-category

Andrew (Build It digital assistant editor)

ajm398
Posted on
02/03/16

hi, i had some work completed in 2013 new window and new back door. this wasn't registered with fensa at the time, can you advise quickest route to get certificate as was due to be moving house 11th March

ajm398
Posted on
02/03/16

hi, i had a new window and new back door fitted, but didn't get a fensa certificate at the time, any advice?

Angel7
Posted on
02/04/16

Hello I had a conservatory taken down and the back of my kitchen had a flat roof extension too (both conservatory and flat roof was next to each other across the back of the house). We basically turned both into a beautiful long extension onto the back of the house with velux Windows and a pitched roof and a door leading to the back garden this was built in 2014.
Since then we have now started to experience water stains on the inside of the room all in all 7 places where rain water has stained the plaster board ceiling. We also noticed that the builder did not change the bedroom window above So there is no one course brick running across the pitched roof ( the roof literally runs straight off the window sill). I have had a builder come out and tell me the roof tiles are too big for the pitch roof, I have no completion certificate and no drawings of the extension. I called the independent building control company who signed it off to come and check the works and advise on what is happening with the build they came and took photos and he commented that it is not tied to the house, I asked what will happen as they approved the roof tiles and works (we do not have communication with the builder and do not want to as he is an aggressive and vindictive person) I am still waiting for the building company to advise on what is wrong with the extension and what to do next, we do not want to pursue the builder as it would cause trouble what advice do you have

popracing
Posted on
19/07/16

My son moved into a barn conversion he had done 3 years ago (2013), but the building inspector said 2 velux roof lights weren't shown on the submitted plans and will not "sign off" unless they are removed. My son has been told that if he leaves things as they are, the work will eventually be signed off any way. Is this true?

Alexandr
Posted on
20/07/16

I am interested is insulation product must be certified by BBA or CE mark is sufficient for the building control? I was told BBA approval for insulation product required, eg CE mark is not sufficient....is it really true? Thanks a lot

Alexandr
Posted on
20/07/16

if I use insulation material to improve my home - should it be BBA certified or CE mark is sufficient for the Building Control officer approval? could you please clarify? thanks a lot

AnnoyedNoSleep
Posted on
21/08/16

Hello,

Our neighbours didn't need planning permission for their loft (we did not even know we had new neighbours until one fateful 7:50AM when the heavy construction tools began), even though I'm highly certain that they removed their chimney spine considering all the debris that fell into our home, now they've finished their 7 months of hell project which included trespassing and working until 730PM even on Saturdays, and I can hear every stompy step their 5 kids make.

Is there anything in the building regulations about adequate sound proofing or does the law not care about that?

Eileen C
Posted on
09/10/16

I got approval for installing gas heating 16 yrs ago but i need a new boiler and ive been told o need to pay again. Its just the boiler being replaced. Is this correct?

helenENGLAND
Posted on
18/10/16

IF THE INSPECTOR SAYS EXTRA INSULATION REQUIRED IN ROOF SPACE (NO LOFT) OF NEW BUILT BEDROOM, SHOULD THE HOUSEHOLDER PAY OR THE BUILDER WRITE IT OFF ITO THEIR EXPENSES ? OUR QUOTE ISNT AS DETAILD AS THE MM OF KINGSPAN IN THE ROOF

cesca
Posted on
01/12/16

I apologies for the length of my query. Hope you can reply.
In 2006 I applied for building approval for moving the kitchen in another area of my flat. A council surveyor did two inspections before the works were completed. I was told that a Part P electrical certificate was necessary before getting a final approval. And here is the problem: I never got the Part P installation certificate as the guy who did the job disappeared. A registered electrician who made some adjustments in 2012 never gave me a certificate (I stupidily payed him before getting it).

I have been told that only the electrician who carried out the works (in my case in 2006) can supply "an installation certificate", and this of course makes sense but is not possible. And that a "periodic inspection report" is not enough.

More importantly I was told by the council that I cannot apply for regularisation as I DID apply for the Building Control.

I would like to sell my flat and I think it might be a problem not having the building approval. I am stressed and worried.

Not sure if it matters: I recently bought the share of freehold and the floorplan of the flat shows the kitchen where it is now, not where it was before the works.

I hope someone finds some time to reply to me. Thank you so much in any case.

David2017
Posted on
17/01/17

I would like to do a loft conversion on my property. However the previous owners have had various works carried out such as conservatory and strengthening of walls without building regulations. As a result I have an indemnity insurance policy in place. As I will need to have the building inspector visit the property in relation to the loft conversion, how much of a risk is there that the inspector will look at other parts of my property and query whether building regulations were obtained for other works taking place? Or is it a case that they would only consider the loft conversion?

David670
Posted on
23/01/17

We had to retrospectively install P.V. panels to our detached garage because of a SAP mess up via our architect. Despite this being more hassle and expense ,the building officer is now refusing to accept them because of fire vulnerability. The glass is 3.2mm thick when it should be 4mm thick . The installation company refuses to acknowledge this as they say they have never heard of this requirement.Even the panel supplier says they have never been asked for this specification.We don't know where to turn ? Do we sue the solar installation company or challenge the building control officer ?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated
Regards
David

Klopp1958
Posted on
19/02/17

I'm a builder. I've done a job for a client without building regs. I advised them to have them but they decided to do it when all works are done. I used standard materials which I would use it that situation to pass building control. Now after 8 months client is accusing me that I put wrong lintel, which I didn't and refuses to pay. I didn't have any drawings or building regs to work with and client wanted to have job done. Am I responsible for it now and have to pay for replacing it? Client still didn't obtain plans or building regs, he only asked for another builder opinion.

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