Why do you need building regulations approval?

Many construction and building projects require building regulations approval (often referred to as ‘building regs’) in order to confirm that the planned work meets the necessary building standards. Conducting building work — whether you’re adding a conservatory to your house, converting your loft or building a whole new home for scratch — is a long and complicated process and there’s a lot to think about. That’s why we’ve put together this handy guide to help you understand building regulations approval and how you can get it, so that your project can progress smoothly.

What is building regulations approval and why is it important?

Buildings regulations approval is a check carried out by building control to ensure that the details of a proposed construction project are compliant with building regulations. These regulations are the minimum standards which construction is required to meet. They are aimed at ensuring that buildings are of an adequate quality and are safe to be used and lived in. The regulations include standards and guidelines for the structure of a building and access to it as well as for electrical safety, plumbing, heating and ventilation, and other rules relating to fire safety, drainage and energy efficiency.

When is building regulations approval required? 

You will need building regulations approval for most developments and projects you want to start. This includes the construction of new buildings, and also extensions, alterations and changes of use for existing buildings. This means even smaller domestic projects which you may not expect to require building regulations approval will in fact call for it. Some (though not all) of the kinds of building work which requires building regulations approval are:

  • All extensions, regardless of size
  • Some conservatories and porches
  • Loft and garage conversions
  • Underpinning a property
  • Installing cavity wall insulation
  • Carrying out drainage works
  • Replacing fuse boxes and electrical systems
  • Plumbing work related to installation of a new bathroom
  • Replacing windows or doors
  • Adding new radiators
  • Installing a new heating system
  • Replacing roof coverings
  • Subdivision of a property into multiple units
  • Removing a load bearing wall

There are some kinds of projects, including a number of common home improvements, which are exempt from needing building regulations approval. These include:

  • Replacements of bathroom items which do not require extra plumbing work
  • Alterations to existing electrical circuits which are not near baths or showers
  • Some conservatories and porches, if they are separated from the property by a door and are not heated
  • Garden greenhouses
  • Carports attached to a property with at least two sides

How to apply for building regulations approval 

Local authorities are responsible for building control in England and ensure compliance with regulations within their jurisdiction. However, you do not necessarily have to seek building regulations approval from your local council, since new government legislation in recent years has made it possible for private Approved Inspectors to carry out these checks. Some tradesmen are also part of a scheme which allows them to issue self-certification. These contractors are part of Competent Person Schemes within their trades, for example the APHC for plumbers and the NICEIC for electricians. This means you have the ability to decide who you to apply to when seeking approval for your project. 

Homeowners are the party who are responsible for getting building regulations approval. They can choose to delegate this task to a builder or other contractor whom they have employed, but they will still be legally ultimately responsible. 

When seeking building regulations approval, you can either make a Full Plans application, or submit a Building Notice. A Full Plans application includes detailed drawings, plans and specifications of the proposed construction, and is necessary for more significant projects. A Building Notice is usually used for simple work on a domestic property, and doesn’t require the same level of detail, but also does not allow for the same level of protection and reassurance. If you have submitted a Building Notice, your compliance with building regulations will have to be confirmed later on via a site inspection. Although a Full Plans application grants a higher level of approval initially, an inspection will still be required in order to confirm the work’s compliance with regulations.

The fees charged for making an application for building regulations approval vary greatly depending on the scale of the work you require the approval for. For example, you could expect to pay approximately £1300 to apply for approval for the construction of a small house, between £500 and £1000 for an extension, depending on its size, and about £400 for the construction or conversion of a smaller garage.

What’s the difference between building regulations approval and planning permission?

Building regulations approval and planning permission are both important kinds of permission needed in order to carry out most building and construction work. Building regulations approval ensures that construction is in line with standards for quality, health and safety, and accessibility. Meanwhile, applications for planning permission are considered in relation to planning issues including the uses of land and property, landscaping and the appearance of buildings, access to highways and transport links, and the environmental impact of construction projects. On many occasions, both of these permissions will be required before work can begin, but not every building project which requires building regulations approval will require planning permission; for example internal alterations within a property will probably require the former but not the latter.

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