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What are building regulations? 

Whether you are having a new extension built, self-building a house, renovating a period property or having a new kitchen or bathroom installed, it is vital that the work being carried out meets the requirements of current building regulations (also known as building regs). 

When it comes to domestic properties, the building regulations are a set of standards that are designed to ensure that new buildings, renovation work, alterations, extensions and conversions are carried out in a manner that results in safe, energy efficient and healthy homes. There are in-depth sets of regulations each relating to specific areas of construction, including structural performance, electrical and gas safety, drains, ventilation and fire safety.

Unlike a planning application, where the aim is to gain approval to carry out a development of some kind, when you make a building regulations application it is to get the details of that development checked and approved for compliance. Work will be checked by either your local building authority or an approved inspector — you can choose which route to take.

If you are carrying out the work yourself, you need to get to know how the building regulations will affect your project — you will be the one responsible for ensuring the work complies with them. If you are employing a builder or other type of contractor (an electrician or plumber for example), the responsibility to conform generally lies with them — but you need to confirm this will be the case from the outset.

Ultimately, it is you, as the homeowner, who could be served with an enforcement notice if the finished job does not comply with the regulations.

Not only is it a legal requirement that certain aspects of your home improvements, including services such as gas, electrics and water meet the standards outlined by the building regulations, but it also means that you can sleep easy, knowing that you and your family are safe in this respect.

Building regulations differ depending on where in the UK you live. See the which building regulations apply section below.

Do building regulations apply to your project? 

Although some types of home improvements and building work are exempt from the building regulations, if you are planning to carry out ‘building work’ as defined in regulation 3 of the building regulations, you will need to comply.

Building regulations approval is generally required for the following work: 

  • Electrical work or electrical installations.
  • The installation or addition of services that fall under the regulations including:
    • creating a new bathroom or shower room.
    • new electrical cabling.
    • installation of heating appliances.
    • fitting a new boiler.
  • Installing new windows or doors where there were previously none there.
  • Making doors/windows larger.
  • Altering openings for new windows in roofs or walls.
  • Construction of a garage.
  • Cellars/basements.
  • Building or rebuilding a new building.
  • Structural alterations, including knocking down a load-bearing wall or partition wall.
  • Constructing a new chimney or flue.
  • Alterations which will change the thermal or energy performance of a building.
  • Removing a chimney breast.
  • Replacing roof coverings (unless exactly like-for-like repair).
  • The “material alteration” of a building (such as changing a house into flats, for example).
  • The “material change of use” of a building — from office to home, for example.
  • Extensions (including loft conversions).
  • Insulating cavity walls.


Should any of the work be deemed to have contravened the building regulations, the local authority may serve you with an enforcement notice which requires you to put right or remove the work in question. If you believe the decision to be incorrect you can appeal against the notice.

You need to be aware that any work that does not meet regulations could well render your household insurances void. And, you must be able to produce the relevant documents that certify the installation of new services, should you wish to sell your property in the future, otherwise prospective buyers are likely to walk away.

If in any doubt, speak to your local building control team

How to apply for building regulations approval

There are several ways to obtain building regulations approval. Firstly you need to decide whether you will use a local authority inspector from your local council, run through Local Authority Building Control (LABC), or an ‘approved inspector’.

An approved inspector should be registered with the Construction Industry Council and can  advise, assess information from your architect, builder, structural engineer etc. and, finally, issue a certificate to say work complies with the building regulations.

Most local authorities have their own building control departments — and you can submit your project for approval directly to this department in order to be granted a completion certificate (the same as you would get from an approved inspector).

There are three ways in which to apply for building regulations approval using a local authority inspector:

1. Full Plan Submission

You need to provide in-depth plans and information about the proposed works, including drawings of structural details. This is the best route for new builds and complex extensions and remodelling projects. The benefit of this route is that you will have a firm decision on whether the work is acceptable or not — and can proceed in the knowledge that your project will meet the required regs (providing the work is carried out in accordance with the plans you submitted of course). Your local authority will check the plans, consult with any necessary agencies and utilities and inform you of their decision within five weeks, after which you may be asked to make some changes or give further information.

Alternatively, ‘conditional approval’ might be given, detailing modifications you should make or asking for further details.

2. Building Notice

If you use a Building Notice you can begin work without prior approval. You simply give building control at least 48 hours notice that you plan to start on the project, along with the address and a description of the work. There is no need for detailed plans and work can get underway quickly.

The local authority will then come out to inspect your project at various stages — when these stages are reached, work should be stopped whilst the work is checked to comply with the regs. If you fail to inform the local authority when each stage is reached, you may be required to open up the work for inspection and, if it is shown to breach the regs, they may serve an enforcement notice requiring you to alter or remove the work.

A ‘building notice’ is valid for three years after the date notice was given.

3. Regularisation Approval

This is a retrospective application, where work has been carried out without building regulations consent on or after 11 November 1985. Whilst the owner could be prosecuted for this, this process was designed to allow those wishing to have work approved to apply for approval — work may be required to be exposed, removed or amended in order to comply.

With all routes, on satisfactory completion of works, you will be issued with a completion certificate under either the full plans or building notice procedure.

If you use an approved inspector, rather than the local authority, you will need to jointly inform your local authority that you intend to start work by submitting an ‘initial notice’, notifying them that you will be using an approved inspector — responsibility will then be handed to them to see that the work is carried out in compliance with the regulations.  

 

Which building regulations apply? 

  • Electrical work should conform to Part P of the building regulations.
  • If you plan on moving or changing a boiler or gas appliance, you will need to adhere to Part J of the regs.
  • Building work that will affect the current drains will need to comply with Part H.
  • New ventilation should comply to Part F.
  • Part G concerns new cold and hot water supplies.

The building regulations that apply to you differ depending on where you live in the UK. Follow these links for more:

 

Electrical installation

All electrical work in the home must meet the requirements of Part P of the building regulations.

An easy way to ensure work meets these requirements is to use a contractor who is registered with a Competent Person Scheme, such as NICEIC or ELECSA.

These contractors will be able to self-certify their work and notify the local building control department on your behalf, issuing you with an electrical safety certificate once they have finished the job.   

If you use a contractor who is not registered with a Competent Person Scheme (or carry out the work yourself), they must get the work signed off by a registered third party. These non-registered electricians must notify their work to the Local Authority Building Control (LABC) before work starts.

You can use our free Find A Builder tool to find expert electricians in your area. 

Although a large number of electrical jobs around the house are non-notifiable, such as adding a new socket, certain jobs will still require approval, including:

  • Adding a new electrical circuit to a room.
  • Carrying out a full or partial rewire (a common job in many house renovation projects).
  • Installing a new fuse box.
  • Electrical work near and around baths or showers.
  • Installing a fixed air conditioning unit.

A full list can be found within Approved Document P.

You can check the details of your Building Regulations Compliance Certificate using the number on the certificate you should be given by your installer at www.checkmynotification.com and can even get a copy of it sent out to you.

Installing gas appliances

Anyone having new gas appliances fitted in the home must ensure work is carried out properly in order to ensure the safety of the household — as well as compliance with the building regulations.

You should begin by getting in touch with a Gas Safe Registered installer. Be sure to get quotes in from more than just one — three is ideal.

You will need to give them full details of the jobs you require carrying out, including make and model details of any appliances (gas fires, boilers, cookers etc.) that they will be fitting or moving.

Ideally you want to find a gas engineer or plumber who has experience of the kind of work you are asking them to do — and don’t forget to ask for references from previous clients. Public liability insurance is also a must.

Before work begins, confirm the following:

  • What exactly does the price you have agreed to pay include? For example, can they dispose of old, defunct appliances?
  • When can they start and how long will work take?
  • Details of subcontractors that might be working on the job and proof that they are qualified to take on the work — (a Gas Safe registration number or membership of the NICEIC, for example.)
  • What after-sales services and warranties can they offer?

On completion of gas work you should be given certain completed documents — such as a gas safety certificate, or Benchmark certificate in the case of new boilers.

Your engineer should also notify the work to the Local Authority on your behalf. If you have used a Gas Safe Engineer, they can notify through the Gas Safe Register. Once they have done this, the Gas Safe Register will inform the local authority and you should receive your Building Regulations Compliance Certificate within 10-15 days.

You should also remember that all gas appliances in the home should be serviced annually by a Gas Safe engineer.

Hiring a plumber

Plumbers fit, repair and service anything concerning plumbing equipment, including new bathroom and kitchen fittings, pipes to take water to, from and around the house, central heating systems and gas boilers (see above).

Although there is a great deal of plumbing work that is not notifiable, certain home improvement jobs will need building regulations approval, including:

  • The installation or replacement of a heating system.
  • Adding extra radiators to a heating system.
  • Moving or adding a new bathroom (simply replacing taps or sanitaryware will not require approval).
  • Work to add or alter drainage systems.

Aside from asking trusted sources for recommendations, or using our Find A Builder tool, you can also find a plumber by searching on the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering’s (CIPHE) website. Members will have been vetted to ensure they are suitably qualified and up-to-speed with new, relevant developments.

Plumbers who are members of the CIPHE and part of their Approved Contractor Person scheme (ACPs) will be able to self-certify their work.

Whilst qualifications, such as an NVQ (minimum Level 2) or City & Guilds qualification in plumbing at the Advanced Craft level are good to have, sound experience can be just as important, as can a roster of satisfied customers.

When should I receive my completion certificate?

You should be given your compliance certificate by your contractor once the work is complete. It’s your responsibility to keep this certificate so check with your contractor when they will pass the completed documentation to you. Make sure you store it safely along with your other important paperwork, so you can produce the necessary certificate whenever needed. A good tip is to scan the document using a scanner app on your phone. You can then store a copy of your certificate as a PDF file on your computer and a back-up version can be kept in the cloud.

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