Frequently asked questions

What are the Building Regulations?

The government lays down levels of performance for the construction of buildings and installation of some services.

Why are they made?

To safeguard the health and safety of people in or around buildings.  They are also concerned with energy conservation and access and facilities for disabled people in new dwellings, offices, shops and public buildings.

What work is subject to control?

If you want to put up a new building or extend or alter an existing one, the Building Regulations will probably apply.  They will probably also apply if you put a building to a differing use.  Building Regulations approval is completely different from planning permission and it does not mean that if you get one you will automatically get the other.

Do I need approval to build an extension to my house?

Yes, but a porch under 5m2 in floor area or a ground-level conservatory (with a transparent or translucent roof) used as such, under 30m2 in floor area and without a fixed heating/cooling appliance may be exempt.

Do I need approval to convert my loft into a room?

Yes.

Do I need approval to make internal alterations within my house?

Yes, if the alterations are of a structural nature, involve the removal or part-removal or a load-bearing construction (for example wall partition, joist, beam, chimney breast) or, if by altering the layout of a house, the means of escape in case of fire is affected.

Do I need approval to install new windows in my house?

No, provided the window opening is not enlarged and the openable area is maintained.  If a larger opening is required then a structural alteration will take place and approval will be required.  Some bay windows are also load bearing so their replacement will need approval.

Do I need approval to carry out repairs to my house?

Yes, if the work involves alterations to thermal elements of the house including:

  • renewal of pitched or flat roof coverings – for example re-tiling, re-slating of pitched roofs or re-felting of flat roofs
  • renewal or replacement of ceilings under a roof space or flat roof (with or without the renewal of the supporting structure)
  • renewal of a finish or cladding to an external wall area or elevation (render or other cladding) or applying a finish or cladding for the first time
  • renewal of internal wall finishes to an external wall (excluding decoration) or where you are applying a finish for the first time, for example re-plastering or dry lining of walls
  • renovation or replacement of a solid or suspended floor, involving the replacement of screed or a timber floor deck
  • renewal of cladding to external walls or dormer cheeks

Replacement windows/roof lights and doors (more than 50 per cent glazed) are not thermal elements.

No, if the repairs are of a minor nature and you are replacing like for like and the work does not affect the thermal envelope of the dwelling.

Do I need approval to convert my house into flats?

Yes.

Do I need approval to install fittings and appliances within my house that involves:

The installation or alteration of the position of the WC, bath etc?

No, unless the work involves new drainage or plumbing.

The installation or alteration of a heating appliance?

  • gas: yes
  • solid fuel: yes
  • oil: yes

Do I need approval to install or replace electric wiring?

Only for new or replacement lighting circuits.  Energy efficient light fittings are now required for some internal lights and all external lights permanently fixed to the outside of a dwelling.

Do I need approval to build a garage?

Yes, unless it is a detached, single storey garage, which contains no sleeping accommodation, has a floor area not exceeding 30m2 and is either:

Constructed substantially of non-combustible material, or

At any point, greater than 1m from any boundary.

What must I do to obtain approval?

If your building work requires Building Regulation approval, there are two procedures to choose from:

Deposit of full plans

Building Notice (only for alterations to domestic property including extensions up to 10m2 in floor area but not for roofspace conversions of more than 3m2).

For a full plans application, plans need to be drawn up showing all constructional details.  For the building notice procedure, fewer details are required.

Do my neighbours have the right to object to what is proposed in my Building Regulations application?

No, however, objections may be raised under separate legislation – for example, if your proposal is subject to approval under the planning acts.

Do I have to pay anything for the service?

Yes.  A fee is payable to the council unless the work is exempt.  See the Building Control Northern Ireland online fee calculator.  The Building Control department can also be contacted on 0300 013 3333 for advice concerning fees.

What is the difference between full plans application and a building notice?  What will the council do?

The cost is the same for full plans or building notice application.  With a building notice the whole fee is payable at the time of application, while with full plans application a proportion of the fee is payable at application with the balance due after the first inspection.

If you use the full plans procedure, the council will check your plans and consult appropriate authorities, for example fire authorities.  If your plans comply, you will receive notice that they have been passed.  If the council isn't satisfied, you may be asked to make amendments or provide more details.  If you plans are rejected, the reasons will be stated in the notice.  If you use the building notice procedure, the work will be inspected but you will not receive any notice indicating whether your proposal has been passed or rejected.  If work is in progress and we need more information or a plan, you must supply the details requested.

When can I start work?

Once you have submitted a building notice application or full plans application, you can start work at any time, but you must give us two working days’ notice.

Where can I obtain information on the standards to which I must build?

From Building Regulations and technical booklets, published by the Stationery office. You are not obliged to use any particular solution; however, you will have to demonstrate that your solution meets the relevant requirements of the Building Regulations.

What can I do if my plans are rejected?

You can resubmit them with amendments to make them comply with Building Regulations.  Alternatively, if you think the decision to reject is not justified, you can refer the matter to the Department of Finance and Personnel for a determination.

What happens if I do work without approval?

The council has to see that building work complies with regulations.  If the work does not comply, you may be asked to alter or remove it.  If you fail to do this, the council may serve a contravention notice requiring you to do so.

What happens if I disagree with a contravention notice?

Normally the notice will give you 28 days to rectify the work.  You can seek advice from a suitably qualified person. If you tell us that you intend to do this, the 28-day period is extended to 70 days.  If the report you get causes the council to withdraw the notice, we may pay the expenses you incurred as a result of having been served with the notice.  We cannot serve a notice on you if the work you have carried out, is shown on the plans we approved or failed to reject within the relevant period, or if the work has been completed for over 12 months.

Are there penalties for contravening Building Regulations?

We can begin proceedings which may lead to a fine.

Can I get previously unauthorised building work regularised?

It is now possible for unauthorised building work, which was commenced on or after October 1973 to be regularised.  To apply for a Regulation certificate you should fill in the appropriate form, and submit it along with the fee to the council.  Following a site inspection a certificate may be issued if the work appears satisfactory, or if the work does not appear to comply you will be advised of what the contraventions are.  Once these have been satisfactorily addressed a Regularisation certificate may be issued.

How do I get planning permission?

Planning permission is obtained from the council's planning office.  Telephone 0300 013 3333 or go to "Planning permission" page.

Planning permission

Is Building Control approval the same as Planning Approval?

Planning deals with issues such as aesthetics, impact on the environment, traffic, neighbour notifications about development.  Building Control is concerned with health and safety issues, energy conservation and disabled access and use of buildings.

Do I need both approvals?

In most cases approval is required from both Building Control and Planning but some minor works may be permitted development under planning law or exempt from Building Regulations.  You should check with our Building Control and Planning offices. 

When can I start work?

Not until you have submitted a Building Control application to the council.  Once the application is submitted you can go ahead and commence work even if approvals have not been issued.  However, you must ensure that all relevant works are inspected and agreed by building control.  Check whether planning or other statutory approval is required before starting work.

Who enforces the Building Regulations?

The local Council Building Control Officer checks plans for compliance with Building Regulations and carries out inspection work on site during progress of the work.