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External Build Changes Regulations

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 3 Nov 2014 | comments*Discuss
Extension Build Building Planning House

Although planning permission will be required for most extensions, building regulation approval is almost certainly required too. As long as what you are doing conforms to the government's definition of 'building work' then it will be required, and extensions are the first in the list on their Planning Portal website.

Planning Permission and Building Regulations

The difference between building regulations and planning permission is that the regulations are about the way that buildings are constructed, whereas planning permission is more about the sort of building that is put up. The regulations ensure that whatever is built is constructed to the correct standards so that it is safe, energy efficient, accessible, soundproof and so on. Planning permission ensures that what is built will fit in with the area in the way it looks and what kind of building it is.

Building regulations separate out into many different areas depending on the type of work that's being done. In order to obtain approval you can go and see the Inspectors at the beginning of the project or seek approval as the work is being done and when it's completed. More details of the approval process itself are on our separate article in this section.

External Walls

The walls of the extension (conservatories have separate rules) should be cavity walls and the effectiveness of the insulation is now controlled by building regulations that have been strengthened to encourage more energy efficient building in the UK. There are also stringent rules concerning the depth and type of foundations that must be put in place.

Changes to the walls where the extension meets the house will need approval too, as they are classed as external walls until the work is completed, which have separate rules to those for internal walls. Often an opening will be made, or an existing window or door opening significantly enlarged, to allow access into the new part of the home, and it's critical that any lost strength is replaced when this is done.

Roofs and Loft Conversions

Roofing is also covered by a number of building regulations, depending on the work that is being carried out. If your extension is a loft conversion then there may well be some building regulations approval required for changes to the roof, but also many other aspects of the build.

You will need to make sure that the strength of the ceiling is not compromised. Access to the loft will be subject to stringent scrutiny, in particular the pitch of the stairs and the fire safety angles. It could be that you will have to make provisions for a separate fire exit, perhaps from a window, and there must be adequate sound insulation between the loft and the rooms below it.

Assuming you aren't doing a loft conversion but perhaps extending the roof to cover the new extension, then that will probably be considered a structural alteration and building regulation approval will be required. It is likely that work of this kind will affect the original roof structure too, particularly where the new part joins the old, but as long as less than 25 percent of the roof area is replaced, and the covering material weighs no more than 15 per cent of the original material, then approval is not required.

It's Worthwhile in the Long Run

However, as it's more than likely that an extension will require building regulation approval for something, then it’s worth going through the approval process for the whole build to be on the safe side. If the work is deemed non-compliant then a completion certificate will not be issued and this will make it hard to sell your house when the time comes.

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@Stillsey. When building work is finished, the onus is on the builder, project manager or home owner to contact Building Control in order to get a completion certificate. If done properly then the building control officer would make regular visits throughout the building stages too. It is always advisable to have a survey carried out when buying a property (regardless of whether you are taking out a mortgage) - a survey might have highlighted these problems before the purchase went through. Your conveyancing solicitor would have discovered details of the build and would/should have viewed a completion certificate. But do bear in mind that building control is only responsible for complying with regulations concerning health, safety, conservation of fuel and access for disabled persons - they do not have control over the quality of work or workmanship. If you want to pursue this one further you would have to take professional legal advice.
ExtensionBuild - 4-Nov-14 @ 12:03 PM
Hi my mum bought a bungelow two years ago and as she was a cash buyer she did not have a structural survey, however the solicitors involved obviously done the relevant checks on the property and there was an extension on the property which had building regulations signed off. In the last week mum's roof on the extension to the property started to collapse and when they had someone out to inspect it they were told that the roof had not been built correctly as there was not sufficient beams in the roof and they were surprised the council had signed of the building regulations. Mum had the council out and they told her that the roof would not have been looked at as part of the building regulations and I wondered if anyone could tell me is this correct?? Do they have to look at a roof in order to sign an extension off. The works mum has paid out for has come to £5000 and we want to know whether she chould be able to claim compensation from the council. Thank you Kay
stillsey - 3-Nov-14 @ 8:12 PM
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