About Building Regulations

Building Regulations (England and Wales) and Building Standards (Scotland) are the national standards that make sure buildings are safe, warm and dry.

As a homeowner, before you construct or change a building in certain ways you will need to make sure that it complies with the building regulations. 

The building regulations are detailed technical standards set down by the Government to make sure homes are built to reasonable standard and are safe, warm and dry. They also set standards for accessibility, water use, energy use and security.

Building regulations approval is separate from planning permission and you might need both – the latter will depend on the scale and extent of your project.

When you do one of the following, building regulations are likely to apply:

a. Put up a new building

b. Change or make bigger a building that is already built

c. Change the use of a building that is already built or

d. Alter the building services if they are either what is legally called a ‘controlled service’ or a ‘controlled fitting’ (a replacement window is an example of a ‘controlled fitting’; a replacement boiler is an example of a ‘controlled service’).

Generally, the building regulations set out the required standards for the building work. For example, a home must be insulated, but the building regulations do not tell you how you should do it. 

The government publishes guidance called 'Approved Documents' on ways to meet building regulations for many common building situations. These contain general guidance on the performance expected of materials and building work in order to comply with the building regulations as well as practical examples and solutions on how to achieve compliance for some of the more common building situations.

A searchable copy of all the Approved Documents is available here

Building works that do not comply with the building regulations are deemed unauthorised and you could be prosecuted. Furthermore, if the work is found to be faulty or dangerous, or if it doesn’t meet energy efficiency standards, your local authority could insist you put it right at your own expense.

If the work has not been notified to a building control body or carried out by a competent person scheme registered installer the local authority will have no record that the work complies with building regulations. These records will be important when you come to sell your home as you may be asked to provide certificates of compliance with the building regulations.

There are some minor works that can be carried out in the DIY sphere without the need to inform a building control body (although the use of competent persons is recommended). 

These include:

• Most repairs, replacements and maintenance work (except replacements of combustion appliances, oil tanks, electrical fuse boxes or glazing units, which do need to be notified)

• Additional power points or lighting points or any other alterations to existing circuits (except around baths and showers)

• Like for like replacements of baths, toilets, basins or sinks

Other types of building work can be ‘exempt’ from the building regulations. These include sheds, summerhouses, conservatories, porches, satellite dishes,detached garages and carports. However, before these can be declared ‘exempt’ they have to meet certain criteria and it is recommended that proposals for such buildings are checked over by building control. Unless the work you propose is exempt, you will need approval from a building control body. 

This can be done by making a building regulations application to therelevant building control body prior to the start of the work.

Which type of building regulations application will I need?

There are generally  two types of building regulations application: full plans and building notice. 

Full plans

This is the most thorough option where detailed plans for the proposed scheme are sent to the local authority’s building control department, along with an application form and the required fee.  The required fee is dependent on the work involved, such as the number of site inspections that will be needed, and with extensions, the total floor area. 

The council will then check the details and following consultation with the builder, will issue building regulations approval.  You will usually be provided with an inspection plan before you start work. This outlines the stages of work that require inspection, which will vary on the size and complexity of your project, age of your home, the construction type, ground conditions and your builder’s experience. 

Once the work is complete, a completion certificate is issued within eight weeks – as long as the work complies with the building regulations.

Building notice

This type of application is a much quicker process and designed for smaller extension projects. You can start work two days after your notice has been submitted to your building control body but you do not get formal approval as with a full plans application. 

Once work has commenced, a building control surveyor will visit the site to meet the builder to discuss the plans, agree how the work should be carried out and when site inspections will take place. They will also discuss if further information is needed, such as technical drawings or structural calculations. Procedures will need to be followed throughout the build and notifications given to the local authority both during and on completion of the project.

When the project is satisfactorily completed, a completion certificate is issued that shows that it complies with the building regulations.

Regularisation approval

You can also apply for ‘regularisation approval’ – but only from a local authority building control body – for work that has already been carried out but without consent. This type of approval only applies to work carried out after 11 November 1985 and alterations may be needed before the local authority building control body can agree the work complies with the building regulations and the regularisation certificate is issued. 

Competent person schemes

Competent person schemes are a way for tradespeople to prove their ability to carry out certain work to required standards, instead of you applying for building regulations approval. 

An installer (of windows or boilers for example) who is registered with a scheme can self-certify that their work complies with buildings regulations and they can deal with any building control issues should they arise.

If needed, they will tell your local authority about work on your behalf. They will also give you a certificate within eight weeks of completion which can be used as evidence of compliance - it will also show up in solicitors’ searches if you come to sell your home.

Competent person schemes have insurance-backed warranties and complaints procedures if there is a problem with the work.

A list of all the types of work covered by competent person schemes and contact details can be found here.


It’s always best to check with a building control body if you can’t decide the best route to building regulations approval. Before you start to plan your project, you should seek professional advice. Building control bodies usually provide this free of charge and this could save you a lot of time and money.

Click here to contact your local authority building control team.


Make an online application

Using the Planning Portal you'll be able to submit your building regulation application direct to the building control team.