Beginner’s Guide to Building Regulations

What are the building regulations?

Building regulations are a set of standards for design and construction that apply to alterations of existing buildings and most new builds. The standards are very in depth and include consideration of materials and workmanship requirements, structural matters, fire safety, sound insulation, energy conservation and access to and use of buildings. You can download the full documents for free at Planning Portal

How do building regulations differ from planning permission?

Building regulations look in detail at the construction and materials used for any building works unlike Planning Permission which is used to guide the way places are developed, the appearance of buildings, the impact to the environment, highway access and use of the building.

What’s the difference between building regulations drawings & planning drawings?

Building regulations drawings are more detailed than planning drawings due to the level of information required to explain how things are constructed. This can make them more difficult to understand if you are not used to reading drawings. A good set of building regulation plans should have a high level of detail & include detailed construction notes to explain the proposed construction methods of your project. This extra detail can make it easier to price a job more accurately so more accurate estimates can be obtained from a good set of building regs plans.

When would I need to apply for building regulations approval?

Nearly all types of building work require approval. Typical examples of works that require approval include:-
  • Building a new home
  • Erection, extension or alteration of a building
  • Change of buildings use
  • Internal structural alterations
  • Loft & garage conversions
  • Forming a structural opening IE – New window or through room
  • Installing cavity wall insulation
  • Underpinning a house
  • Installing a WC
Please note this list is not exhaustive. As a general rule of thumb if the work is structural then it probably requires approval. If in doubt you could check with your local building control department (or contact us).

Can I extend my home without building regulations?

There are certain types of small extensions that are exempt from building regulations. These include:-
  • Conservatories, Porches or other Covered Passages / Yards
  • Carports with at least 2 open sides
There are some conditions that still apply. The new floor area must be less than 30m2 and any glazing in conservatories & porches must still meet the requirements of Part N Building Regulations. Conservatories must have at least 75% glazing on the roof & 50% glazed walls and maintain existing walls, windows & doors from the existing house.

Are there any other exemptions from building regulations?

Detached single storey buildings (such as garages, sheds & greenhouses) are exempt if less than 15m2 floor area and containing no sleeping accommodation. Buildings between 15 – 30m2 floor area are still exempt if built at least 1 metre away from your site boundary or if within 1 metre of your site boundary & built of mainly non-combustible material.

How can I get building regulations approval?

There are two main ways to obtain building regulations approval, a full plans application or a building notice.
A full plans application will need to include a completed application form, the correct fee and a detailed set of plans with enough information to explain how your proposed work will meet the regulations. If you already have a set of planning drawings for your project you should also include these as part of your application. The application will be approved, refused or approved with conditions.
The other option is called a building notice. No plans need to be submitted for a building notice, all that is required is a completed application form & the correct fee. Building notices are more commonly used for small works such as DIY alterations.
With either route to approval a building control inspector will make site visits at certain key stages to check that completed work meets the regulations and if you submitted a full plans application you will receive a completion certificate after the work is completed.

How much does a building regs application cost?

The costs will vary depending on nature of the work & your local authority. If you are building a new home you can expect to pay around £170 to submit a full plans application & around £375 for the required inspections. Works to existing houses such as extensions, conversions or renovations will cost around £110 to submit the plans & a further £200 – £400 for inspections. If using an approved inspector the costs are usually similar to using your local authority building control department. Your local authority can advise on the latest schedule of fees.

Is it cheaper to submit a building notice?

The application costs will be the same as a full plans application. You may however save money elsewhere as you do not need to any drawings or plans to accompany a building notice. Depending on the type of work you are planning you may still need drawings for a planning application or at least to obtain more accurate builders quotes.

What happens if my full plans application is approved with conditions?

An approval with conditions means that, in principle, your proposals meet the regulations but there may be certain minor changes required in order to fully comply. The conditions may also request additional information such as structural calculations or extra detail to fully explain the construction.

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