Building Regulations  

Building Regulations Explanatory Booklet - Published 28 Nov 2000

Approved Documents Published by the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions and the Welsh Office with effect from June 1992

A          Structure
B          Fire safety
C          Site preparation and resistance to moisture
D          Toxic substances
E          Resistance to the passage of sound
F          Ventilation
G          Hygiene
H          Drainage and waste disposal
J          Heat producing appliances
K          Protection from falling, collision and impact
L          Conservation of fuel and power
M          Access and facilities for disabled people
N          Glazing - safety in relation to impact, opening and cleaning
Reg 7    Materials and workmanship



            What is the purpose of the Building Regulations
            The Approved Documents
            Sources of advice

1-2       The Regulations
3-17     Do I need Building Regulation approval?
18-12   What must I do to obtain approval?
23-24   What will the Local Authority or Approved Inspector do?
25-26   When can I start work?
27-28   What can I do if my plans are rejected?
29-30   What happens if I do work without approval?
31        Are there penalties for contravening the Building Regulations?
32        Can I get a Completion Certificate when the work is finished?
33        Where can I find out more?


This booklet is intended to provide an introduction to the Building Regulations. It is not a statement of the law but is intended to help you to understand the system. You should first read the whole of the booklet before returning to the specific area of guidance you need.

This booklet is only about Building Regulations. Your proposals may be subject to other statutory controls or require other consents such as planning permission (see section 2), Local Act requirements (particularly on fire matters), water by-laws, and the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (see section 33(i)).

Your Local Authority has a general duty to see that building work complies with the Building Regulations - except where it is formally under the control of an Approved Inspector. To ensure that your particular building work complies with the Regulations you must use one of the two services available to check and approve plans, and to inspect your work as appropriate. The two services are the Local Authority Building Control service or the service provided by the private sector in the form a Approved Inspectors (see section 33(ii)). Fees are payable for either service (see sections 21 & 22). Your Local Authority Building Control Department or an Approved Inspector may offer advice before your work is started.

What is the purpose of the Building Regulations ?
The Building Regulations are approved by Parliament and deal with the minimum standards of design and building work for the construction of domestic, commercial and industrial buildings. In addition, they set out the definitions of what is regarded as "building work" (see section 1) and the procedures for ensuring that it meets the standards laid down.

The Building Regulations also contain a list of requirements (referred to as Schedule 1) which are designed to ensure the health and safety of people in and around buildings; to provide for energy conservation; and to provide access and facilities for disabled people. In total there are 13 Parts (A-H and J-N) to these requirements. They cover subjects such as structure, fire safety, ventilation, drainage, energy conservation, and access and facilities for disabled people (a full list is given at the front of this booklet). The requirements are expressed in broad, functional terms in order to give designers and builders the maximum flexibility in preparing their plans.

The Approved Documents
Each Part of Schedule 1 to the regulations is supported by a separate document called an "Approved Document" which contains practical and technical guidance on ways in which the requirements can be met. These documents can be viewed at or purchased from the sources given in section 33.

Each Approved Document reproduces the requirements contained in the Building Regulations relevant to the subject area. This is followed by practical and technical guidance, with examples, on how the requirements can be met in some of the more common building situations. However, there may well be alternative ways of complying with the requirements to those shown in the Approved Documents. You are therefore under no obligation to adopt any particular solution in an Approved Document if you prefer to meet the relevant requirement(s) in some other way.

Sources of Advice
Unless you have a reasonable working knowledge of building construction it would be advisable before the work is begun to obtain professional advice (e.g. from an architect, or a structural engineer, or a building surveyor) and to choose a recognised builder to carry out the work. It is also advisable to consult the Local Authority Building Control Officer or an Approved Inspector in advance.

Separate guidance is available on procedures to be followed where the Fire Precautions Act 1971 also applies (see section 33). This would apply, for example, in the case of construction of offices, shops, factories and hotels.

The Regulations

1. What building work is covered by the Building Regulations?
The Building Regulations cover building work as defined in Regulation 3 of the Regulations. This means that if you want to put up a new building, extend or alter an existing one, or provide fittings in a building such as drains or heat-producing appliances, washing and sanitary facilities and hot water storage (i.e. unvented hot water systems), the Building Regulations will probably apply. They may also apply to certain changes of use of an existing building even though construction work may not be intended. This is because the change of use may involve the building having to meet different requirements of the Regulations.

Do remember that although it may appear the Regulations do not apply to some of the work you wish to undertake, the end result of doing that work could lead to contraventions of the Regulations. You should also recognise that some work - whether or not controlled - could have implications for adjacent property. In such cases it would be advisable to take professional advice and consult the Local Authority or an Approved Inspector. Some examples are:

a. removal of buttressing support to a party wall;
b. underpinning of a part of a building;
c. removal of a tree close to a wall of an adjoining property;
d. the addition of floor screed to a balcony which may reduce the height of a safety barrier;
e. building parapets which may increase snow accumulation and lead to excessive increase in loading on roofs.

NB: Whether or not the work is controlled due regard should, of course, be given to potential hazards arising and the need for safety precautions - e.g. to children in respect of the construction of a garden pond.

2. Do my neighbours have the right to object to what is proposed in my Building Regulations application?
No. But whilst there is no requirement in the Building Regulations to consult neighbours, it would be prudent to do so. In any event, you should be careful that the work does not encroach on their property since this could lead to bad feeling and possibly an action for an injunction for the removal of the work (see also section 1).

Objections may be raised under other legislation, particularly if your proposal is subject to approval under the Town and Country Planning legislation or the Party Wall etc. Act 1996. Building Regulations are a completely separate matter from planning permission (refer to the booklet mentioned in section 33(i)). Planning applications must be made to the relevant department of the Local Authority. Irrespective of the need to obtain planning approval, you will still also need to satisfy the Building Regulations. Similarly, Building Regulations are a completely separate matter from the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 (refer to the booklet mentioned in section 33(i)).

The questions and answers below will help you to decide whether or not the Building Regulations apply. If they do apply the answers will tell you what to do (see section 18 onwards). It is also advisable to consult your Local Authority Building Control Department or an Approved Inspector for advice (see section 33(ii)).

Do I Need Building Regulations Approval?

The following are some of the more commonly asked questions:

3. Do I need approval to build an extension to my house?
Yes. However, a porch or conservatory built at ground level and under 30m² in floor area is exempt provided that the glazing complies with the safety glazing requirements of the Building Regulations (Part N). Your Local Authority Building Control Department or an Approved Inspector can supply further information on safety glazing. It is advisable to ensure that a conservatory is not constructed so that it restricts ladder access to windows serving a room in the roof or a loft conversion, particularly if that window is needed as an emergency means of escape in the case of fire.

4. Do I need approval to build or alter a garden wall or boundary wall?
No. But, of course, you should make sure that the work is done safely to avoid accidents. A leaflet on safe construction of free standing walls is available from your Local Authority. (There are different regulations in Inner London and you would be advised to make further enquiries of the London Borough where you live before starting work on building a wall over 2 metres high).

5. Do I need approval to build a garage extension to my house, shop or office?
Yes, but a car port extension built at ground level, open on at least two sides and under 30m² in floor area, is exempt.

6. Do I need approval to build a detached garage?
Yes. But a single storey garage at ground level, under 30m² in floor area and with no sleeping accommodation, is exempt provided either:
(i) it is built substantially of non-combustible material; or
(ii) when built it has a clear space of 1 metre from the boundary of the property.

7. Do I need approval for a loft conversion?

8. Do I need approval to make internal alternations within my house, shop or office? (please also read the rest of this booklet and sections 2-17 in full).
(i) my house
Yes, if the alterations are to the structure such as the removal or part removal of a load bearing wall, joist, beam or chimney breast, or would affect fire precautions of a structural nature either inside or outside your house. You also need approval if, in altering a house, work is necessary to the drainage system or to maintain the means of escape in case of fire.
(ii) my shop or office

9. Do I need approval to install replacement windows in my house, shop or office?
No, provided:
(i) the window opening is not enlarged. If a larger opening is required, or if the existing frames are load-bearing, then a structural alteration will take place and approval will be required.
(ii) you do not remove those opening windows which are necessary as a means of escape in case of fire.

10. Do I need approval to install, alter or replace my shop front?

11. Do I need approval to carry out repairs to my house, shop or office?
No, if the repairs are of a minor nature - e.g. replacing the felt to a flat roof, repointing brickwork, or replacing floorboards.

Yes, if the repair work is major in nature e.g. removing a substantial part of a wall and rebuilding it, or underpinning a building. In the case of reroofing, if the tiles are the same type then no approval is needed. If the new tiling or roofing material is substantially heavier or lighter than the existing material, or if the roof is thatched or is to be thatched where previously it was not, then an approval under Building Regulations is probably required.

12. Do I need approval to convert my house into flats?
Yes, even where construction work may not be intended.

13. Do I need approval to convert my house to a shop or office?
No, if you are not proposing any building work to make the change. Where building work is proposed you probably will need approval if it affects the structure or means of escape in case of fire. But you should check with the local Fire Authority, usually the County Council (see the Approved Documents at the front of the booklet and section 33), to see whether a fire certificate is needed. (You will probably also need planning permission whether or not building work is proposed - see section 33(i) which mentions the separate planning booklet).

14. Do I need approval to convert part or all of my shop or office to a flat or house?

15. Do I need approval to install fittings and appliances within my house, shop or office?
(i) To install or alter the position of a WC, bath, etc?
No, unless the work involves new or an extension of drainage or plumbing.
(ii) To install or alter the position of a heating appliance?
a. Gas: Yes, unless the work is supervised by an approved installer under the Gas Safety (Installation and Use) Regulations 1984.
b. Solid fuel: Yes.
c. Oil: Yes.
d. Electric: No, but see section 16.
(iii) To alter in any way the construction of fireplaces, hearths or flues?
(iv) To install hot water storage?
Yes, if the water heater is unvented (i.e. supplied directly from the mains without an open expansion tank and with no vent pipe to atmosphere) and has storage capacity greater than 15 litres. Such systems must be installed by a person competent to do so.

16. Do I need approval to install or replace electric wiring?
No, but:
(i) your contract with the electricity supply company has conditions about safety which must not be broken. In particular, you should not interfere with the company's equipment which includes the cables to your consumer unit or up to an including the separate isolator switch if provided; and
(ii) whoever undertakes electrical work it should be acceptably safe. This can be achieved by ensuring full compliance with BS 7671. If you use an electrician they should be complying with the Electricity at Work Regulations which for domestic building work are usually enforced by the Local Authority.

17. Do I need approval to insert cavity wall insulation?

What Must I Do To Obtain Approval?

If your building work is subject to the Building Regulations the following options, in sections 18 or 20 below, are available.

18. Use of the Local Authority Building Control Department
(i) The deposit of Full Plans;
(ii) The giving of a Building Notice (except for work where the building is to be put to a use designated under the Fire Precautions Act 1971 such as a shop, office, hotel, boarding house, or certain type of factory).

For a Full Plans application plans need to be produced showing all constructional details, preferably well in advance of your intended commencement on site. For the Building Notice procedure less detailed plans are required. In both these cases your application or notice should be submitted to the Local Authority and should be accompanied by any relevant structural calculations, i.e. to demonstrate compliance with safety requirements on the structure of the building. It is advisable that this be undertaken by a person competent to do so.

19. What are the differences between (i) a Full Plans application and (ii) the Building Notice procedure? What might influence my choice?
(i) A Full Plans application will be thoroughly checked by the Local Authority who are required to pass or reject your plans within a certain time limit; or they may add conditions to an approval, with your written agreement (see section 23(i)). If they are satisfied that the work shown on the plans complies with the Regulations, you will be issued with an approval notice within a period of five weeks or up to two months if you agree to this. This will give you the protection of being able to show that your plans were approved as complying with the Building Regulations. If your plans are rejected, and you do not consider it is necessary to alter them you will have two options available to you:

a. you may seek a ‘determination’ from the Secretary of State if you believe your work complies with the Regulations but you should apply before work starts (see sections 27 and 28); or

b. if you acknowledge that your proposals do not necessarily comply with a particular requirement in the Regulations and feel that it is too onerous in your particular circumstances, you may apply for a relaxation or dispensation of that requirement from the Local Authority. You can make such an application at any stage but it is obviously sensible to do so as soon as possible and preferably before work starts. If the Local Authority refuses your application you may then appeal to the Secretary of State within a month of the date of receipt of the rejection notice (see section 27(iii)).

(ii) Under the Building Notice procedure no approval notice is given. There is also no procedure to seek a determination from the Secretary of State if there is a disagreement between you and the Local Authority - unless plans are subsequently deposited (see section 27). However, the advantage of the building notice procedure is that it will allow you to carry out works without the need to prepare full plans - e.g. for minor works. However, you must feel confident that the work will comply with the Regulations or you risk having to correct any work you carry out at the request of the Local Authority (see section 23(ii)).

20. Use of an Approved Inspector
Where you use an Approved Inspector, the Initial Notice procedure (see section 24) takes the place of the Full Plans application and Building Notice procedures. In addition, Approved Inspectors can give formal plans certificates to give similar protection to that provided by a Local Authority Building control service.

If you use an Approved Inspector, the information needed to ensure that the work meets Building Regulations standards is a matter for arrangement between you and the Approved Inspector who will advise you about what is required.

21. Do I have to pay anything for the services of the Local Authority or Approved Inspector?
Yes. A charge is payable to the Local Authority and will be subject to VAT. Each authority is required to set their charges according to the type of work involved and to publish them in a Scheme which they will be able to make available to you on request. The basis for setting and making the charges is contained in The Building (Local Authority Charges) Regulations 1998. Regulation 9 of these Regulations exempts from payment of a charge certain types of building work which is solely required for disabled persons.

If you use an Approved Inspector a fee will be payable which will be a matter for negotiation between you and the inspector. The fee will be subject to VAT.

22. Is there any difference in cost between a Full Plans application and a Building Notice when using the Local Authority?

Not necessarily - it will depend on whether the Local Authority decide that an inspection is necessary. A Full Plans application may therefore involve a two-stage payment of charges - one which must be paid at the time you submit your plans (a ‘plan charge’), and another following a first inspection on site (an ‘inspection charge’) but only if such an inspection takes place. A ‘building notice charge’ will amount to the same as would be payable for a Full Plans application plus a site inspection; and is payable when you give the notice to your Local Authority. Your Authority will be able to tell you the exact charges which will be payable by referring to their Scheme of charges.

What will the Local Authority or Approved Inspector Do?

23. Local Authority
(i) Full Plans
If you use the Full Plans procedure, the Local Authority will check your plans and consult any appropriate authorities (such as fire and water authorities). If your plans comply with the Building Regulations you will receive a notice that they have been approved. If the Local Authority are not satisfied you may be asked to make amendments or provide more details. Alternatively, a conditional approval may be issued. This will either specify modifications which must be made to the plans; or will specify further plans which must be deposited. A Local Authority may only apply conditions if you have either requested them to do so or have consented to them doing so. A request or consent must be made in writing. If your plans are rejected the reasons will be stated in the notice.

(ii) Building Notice
If you use the Building Notice procedure, as with Full Plans applications, the work will normally be inspected as it proceeds; but you will not receive any notice indicating whether your proposal has been passed or rejected. However, you will be advised where the work itself is found by the building control surveyor not to comply with the Regulations - see section 19(ii). If, before commencement or while work is in progress, the Local Authority require further information such as structural design calculations of plans, you must supply the details requested.

24. Approved Inspector
If you use an Approved Inspector they will give you advice, check plans, issue a plans certificate, inspect the work etc as agreed between you both. You and the Inspector will jointly notify the Local Authority on what is termed an Initial Notice. Once that has been accepted by the Local Authority, the Approved Inspector is responsible for supervision of the building work. The Local Authority will not then be involved further although you may have to supply limited information to the Local Authority to enable them to be satisfied about certain other powers which are linked to Building Regulations - e.g. about the point of connection to an existing sewer.

If the Approved Inspector is not satisfied with the proposals the options set out in section 27 will still be open to you: namely you may alter your plans according to the Approved Inspector's advice; or you may seek a determination from the Secretary of State of any disagreement between you and the Approved Inspector, provided the work has not been started; or if it is appropriate it may be open to you to apply to the Local Authority for a relaxation or a dispensation from the Local Authority of a requirements of the Regulations and, in the event of a refusal by the Local Authority, to appeal to the Secretary of State (see sections 19(i)(b) and 27(iii)).

If, however, you do not exercise these options and you do not do what the Approved Inspector has advised to achieve compliance, the inspector will not be able to issue a final certificate. The inspector will also be obliged to notify the Local Authority so that they can consider whether to use their powers of enforcement (see sections 29 to 31).

When Can I Start Work?

25. Using the Local Authority
Once you have given a Building Notice or submitted Full Plans, you can start work at any time. However, you must give the Local Authority a Commencement Notice at least two clear days (not including the day on which you give notice and any Saturday, Sunday, Bank or public holiday) before you start; and if you start work before you receive a decision on your Full Plans application, you will prejudice your ability to seek a determination from the Secretary of State if there is a dispute (see section 19(i)(a)).

26. Using an Approved Inspector
If you use an Approved Inspector you may, subject to any arrangements you may have agreed with the inspector, start work as soon as the Initial Notice is accepted by the Local Authority; or is deemed to have been accepted if nothing is heard from the Local Authority within 5 working days of the notice being given. Work may not start if the Initial Notice is rejected.

What Can I Do if my Plans are Rejected?

27. You can start work provided you give the necessary notice of commencement required under Regulation 14 of the Building Regulations and are satisfied that the building work itself now complies with the Regulations. However, it would not be advisable to follow this course if you are in any doubt and have not taken professional advice. Instead you could:

(i) resubmit your full plans application with amendments to ensure they comply with Building Regulations; or

(ii) if you think your plans comply and that the decision to reject is therefore not justified, you can refer the matter to the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions, or the Secretary of State for Wales as appropriate, for their determination, but usually only before the work has started (see section 19); or

(iii) if you think that a particular requirement of the Regulations is not appropriate or too onerous in a particular case, it would be open to you to ask the Local Authority to relax or dispense with it. If the Local Authority refuse your application you could then appeal to the appropriate Secretary of State within one month of the refusal (see section 19(i)(b)).

In either cases (ii) or (iii) the address to write to is the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), 3/C1, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU. In Wales, you should refer the matter to the Secretary of State for Wales, Welsh Office, Crown Buildings, Cathays Park, Cardiff CF1 3NQ. A fee is payable for determinations but not for appeals. The fee is half the Plan Fee, excluding VAT, subject to a minimum of £50 and a maximum of £500. DETR or the Welsh Office will then seek comments from the Local Authority on your application or appeal which will be copied to you. You will then have a further opportunity to comment before a decision is issued by the Secretary of State.

28. What happens if I wish to seek a determination but the work in question has started?
In seeking to ensure your work complies with the regulations you may well refer to the appropriate Approved Documents which give guidance and examples on how to meet the requirements of the Regulations in some of the more common building situations. However, they are not intended to show the only solution to meet the requirements and you are free to make alternative proposals to achieve compliance.

You will only need to seek a determination where you believe the proposals in your Full Plans application comply with the Regulations but the Local Authority disagree. You may apply for a determination either before or after the Local Authority has rejected your Full Plans application. The legal procedure is intended to deal with compliance of "proposed" work only and therefore, in general, applications relating to work which is substantially completed cannot be accepted. Exceptionally, applications for "late" determinations may be accepted - but it is in your best interest to always ensure that you apply for a determination well before you start work.

What Happens if I do Work Without Approval?

29. The Local Authority has a general duty to see that building work complies with the Regulations - except where it is formally under the control of an Approved Inspector. Where a Local Authority is controlling the work and finds after its completion that it does not comply, then the Local Authority may require you to alter or remove it. If you fail to do this the Local Authority may serve a notice requiring you to do so and you will be liable for the costs.

30. What happens if I disagree with the notice?
Normally the notice will give you 28 days to rectify the work. You can seek advice in the form of a report about the work from a suitably qualified person, and provided you tell the Local Authority you intend to do this the 28-day period is extended to 70 days. If the report you get from this person causes the Local Authority to withdraw the notice, the Local Authority may pay the expenses which you have incurred as a result of having been served with the notice and obtaining the report. The Local Authority cannot serve a notice on you if the work which you have carried out is shown on the plans which the Local Authority approved or failed to reject within the time limit of five weeks (or two months with your agreement) from deposit of the plans.

A notice to rectify work is suspended if an appeal against rejection of an application by the Local Authority to relax or dispense a requirement is under consideration by the Secretary of State in circumstances where the procedure in section 9(i)(b) has been followed (i.e. the appeal has been made within the time limit prescribed). If that period has expired and if you have not complied with the notice, no appeal to the Secretary of State can be made.

Are there Penalties for Contravening the Building Regulations?

31. If you contravene the Regulations by building without notifying the Local Authority or by carrying out work which does not comply, the Local Authority can prosecute. If you are convicted, you are liable to a penalty not exceeding £5,000* (i.e. level 5 on the standard scale) plus £50 for each day on which each individual contravention is not put right after you have been convicted. If you do not put the work right when asked to do so, the Local Authority have power to do it themselves and recover costs from you.

* at date of publication.

Can I get a Completion Certificate when the Work is Finished?

32. Where full plans are submitted for work which is also subject to the Fire Precautions Act 1971 the Local Authority must issue you with a Completion Certificate about compliance with the fire safety requirements of the Building Regulations once work has finished. In other circumstances, you may ask to be given one when the work is finished, but you must make your request when you first submit your plans.

If you use an Approved Inspector, they must issue a Final Certificate to the Local Authority when the work is completed.

Where can I Find out More?

33. You can find out more from: (i) the Local Authority’s Building Control Department; (ii) an Approved Inspector; or (iii) Other sources.

(i) Local Authority
Your Local Authority Building Control Department will be pleased to give you information and advice. They may offer to let you see their copies of the Building Act 1984, the Building Regulations 1991 and the accompanying Approved Document which give additional guidance.

The Fire and Building Regulations Procedural Guide which deals with procedures for building work to which the Fire Precautions Act 1971 applies, and the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions’ (DETR) leaflet on safety of garden walls, are available free of charge from your Local Authority.

DETR’s and the Welsh Office’s separate booklets on planning permission for small businesses and householders are also available free of charge from your Local Authority.

A free explanatory booklet on the Party Wall etc. Act 1996 is available from the DETR Free Literature, PO Box No 236, Wetherby, LS23 7NB (Tel: 0870 1226 236 Fax: 0870 1226 237).

(ii) Approved Inspectors - commercial buildings
The latest list of Approved Inspectors is available on the Association of Corporate Approved Inspectors web-site (

NB: Only NHBC Building control Services Ltd (Tel: 01494 434477) has the necessary insurance cover (at the date of publication) to carry out building control on houses and blocks of flats.

(iii) Other sources
Most of the documents, including Approved Documents A to N and Regulation 7, can be purchased from The Stationery Office (TSO - formally HMSO) and from any main bookshop. Orders to TSO can be telephoned to 0870 600 5522 or faxed to 0870 600 5533. Amendments and new Approved Documents are issued from time to time. Copies should also be available in public reference libraries.

Published 28 November 2000


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