Frequently Asked Questions: Building Regulations

What are Building Regulations?

In England and Wales, the Building Regulations apply to defined building work and they set standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the safety and health for those in or about those buildings. The building regulations do not stop there but also include requirements to ensure that fuel and power is conserved and facilties are provided for people, including those with disabilities, to access and move aroudn inside buildings.

Is Building Regulations Approval the same as planning permission?

Building Regulations approval is a separate matter from obtaining planning permission for the work you may wish to carry out. In certain cases, you may not require planning permission but will require meeting building regulations. For example, if you need to underpin your foundations or wish to install double glazing.

Do I need Building Regulations Approval?

It is of paramount importance to check at a very early stage to establish if the project you intend carrying out requires the benefit of building regulation approval. What you must remember is that certain works that may not require planning approval but may actually require building regulation approval. If you are intending to carry out "Building Work" as defined in Regulation 3 of the Building Regulations, then it must comply with the Building Regulations. If that is the case, you will then need to seek approval from a building control body (who doesn't necessarily have to be the local authority).

Who and what is a Building Control Body?

You are required to use one of two types of Building Control Service:-

Approved Inspectors are private sector companies or practitioners and are approved for the purpose of carrying out the Building Control Service as an alternative to your local authority. Approved Inspectors can provide a service in connection with most sorts of building project involving new buildings or work to existing buildings, including extensions or alterations to homes. They should all be registered with the Construction Industry Council.

If you are employing a builder to do your work you should be clear from the outset whether they are taking responsibility for ensuring that the building work complies with the Building Regulations, and also whether they are taking responsibility for liaising with the Building Control Service you have decided to use. In the case of some minor works, the contractor (if approved to do so) may be able to self-certify the work, meaning you will not need to seek approval directly - the contractor will notify the Building Control Body of their work and that it has been done in accordance with the Building Regulations.

What Projects amount to Building Work?

Within the meaning of Regulation 3, the following projects must comply with the Building Regulations

Do I always need Building Regulations Approval?

Say I wish to have my windows replaced or new heating installed for example. Would I need Building Regulations approval then?

In certain circumstances, if the work consists of only installing certain types of services or fittings (such as re-wiring a house, installing a new boiler, air-conditioning, replacing your windows, toilet or shower for example), you may not necessarily need to involve a Building Control Service. This will only apply if you employ an installer registered with a relevant Competent Person Scheme. However, this is strictly restricted to that specific type of installation and does not cover any other type of building work.

Do I require Building Regulation Approval if I wanted to create a Patio?

The answer to this is no you do not need approval if you wish to create a patio. What you do need to consider however is that if you carry out any works and as a result, you make access to the property less satisfactory than it was before, you would be in contravention of the regulations. Say for example you changes levels and introduced stairs that were not there before, you would then be in contravention of the regulations.

What is the Competent Person Scheme?

Competent person schemes allow individuals and enterprises who are competent in their field, to self-certify that their work complies with the Building Regulations as an alternative to submitting a building notice or using an approved inspector and thus incurring their fees.

The work of organisations or individuals accepted as members of a scheme is not subject to Building Control inspection. Instead, the competent person self-certifies that the work is in compliance with the Building Regulations.

In all schemes, the competent person reports the work to the scheme organiser, who in turn informs the local authority or Approved Inspector that work has taken place and issues a certificate to the customer. This reporting process must be completed within 30 days of the work being finished. For example, if you are having your windows replaced, that competent person may belong to FENSA (Fenestration Self-Assessment) or if you are having work carried out to your plumbing, heating or hot water system, you may equally employ a person who belogs to CORGI (which is the national watchdog for gas safety in the United Kingdom).

What should I expect when having this work undertaken?

As set out above, any work you have carried out must meet current Building Regulations and must not make other fabric, services and fittings less compliant than they were before or indeed dangerous. For example, if you were having your windows replaced, the installation must not make compliance worse in relation to means of escape, air supply for combustion applicances and their flues and ventilation for health.

Do I need Building Regulations to repair or re-cover my roof?

If you wish to carry out repairs on or re-cover less than 25% of the area of a pitch or flat roof, you will not normally be required to submit a building regulations application. You will require approval if:

Kitchens and Bathrooms

If you intend to refit a kitchen or bathroom with new units and fittings, this generally does not require building regulation approval. However, any associated drainage or electrical works that form part of the refit may require approval under the building regulations.