Do you need building control approval for an extension?
If you’re planning to extend your home, you will need to comply with the building regulations. This is a legal requirement and, without formal approval and control, your local council could force you open up or re-build sometimes significant aspects of the project. It could even lead to prosecution and unlimited fines. Eek.
But don’t worry, the process doesn’t need to be complicated or lengthy. First of all, you should choose which route is best for you to get your compliance certificate at the end of the job. Luckily, we had Nick from Assure Building Control to help us explain your options:
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1. Full plans application
This is where you submit plans and details to your local council (building control department) in advance of the work starting on site. These documents will usually be more developed and detailed than a set of planning drawings and documents. The building control department will then review the proposals and should issue you a decision within five weeks or, by agreement with you, eight weeks.
Where the proposals do not comply, they may ask you to submit amended or additional details. Otherwise you would be issued a conditional approval, where they will outline specific conditions that must be met, or full plans approval if the drawings show full compliance.
A building inspector from your local authority will then visit your property as the works progress. They should be in communication with your architect and builder as they will need to inspect key milestones of your project, e.g. the foundations, damp proofing and drainage. They will also issue you with a ‘completion certificate’ once the project has completed, to document that the work complies with the building regulations.
A further advantage of the ‘full plans’ application (over a ‘building notice’ – see below) is the fact that most items relating to compliance are likely to have been identified and addressed during the course of the plans being checked.
2. Building notice
This is a much quicker and less involved than the full plans application and may well be most suited to a simple home extension. Basically, you or your builder give notice to the Local Building Authority that work is about to start – you do not need to submit plans to the council first, apart from a location plan for the extension works. Before work starts, make sure you consult with your builder and/or architect and agree who will be responsible for this notice.
For a home extension, we’d recommend working with an architect as you will need to be confident that the work will comply with building regulations, otherwise you might have to demolish/re-do any work that does not comply. In other words, it’s a bit more of a risk than the full plans application, where you have the security that the main design aspects have already been approved.
As with the ‘full plans’ process, the work will be inspected at key milestones as it progresses.
3. Go private – appoint an approved inspector
An approved inspector may be an individual but is more likely to be an organisation which verifies and checks that your project complies with the building regulations, instead of the local council. The Construction Industry Council approves and registers these inspectors and holds the list of approved inspectors. Using an approved inspector can be invaluable, particularly if your proposals are out-of-the-ordinary, or push the boundaries of the ‘approved documents’. Your approved inspector will be on your side to make sure your proposals ultimately comply with regulations. They can:
- provide you with advice during the design process and check for compliance before work starts
- give notice to the council that works are starting
- inspect work for compliance as it progresses
- issue a final certificate on completion to show that the works comply.
- offer speed of service by giving feedback/assessment on the design information quickly.
- offer consistency of interpretation on the building regulations, across county borders in all of England and Wales
- offer a single point of contact for your project.
A big thank you to Nick Paley who helped with this article. Nick is from Assure Building Control. They have local offices nationwide, so if you choose the ‘approved inspector’ route, they’d be happy to hear from you: www.assurebuildingcontrol.co.uk
Above: Extension designs by Design for Me architects. Click on the image to view their profile and shortlist them for your project.
Finding the right architect
If you are still not 100% sure which way to go, speak to your architect and get their professional opinion. Choosing the right architect for your home project is a critical first step, but can also be a bit of a minefield. This is exactly why I set up this website in the first place!
As well as being founder of designforme.com, I am also a qualified architect. I found that many homeowners search online to find an architect and discover well established or high-end practices (it makes sense – these companies have bigger marketing budgets with stylish websites). However, such practices are often too busy, too expensive and, in fact, often less experienced in dealing with small residential projects on ‘normal’ budgets.
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