Plans & Minor Building Work

You Don’t Need Plans for Minor Building Work … But you DO Need Permission to Build

minor building work
If this little 7.5 sq m garden building is to be used as a tool shed, you won’t need plans. If it is to be used as a child’s playhouse, you will.

Anything you build on your property needs plans, unless it is defined as “minor building work”. However the Act states very clearly in Part A: General Principles and Requirements (this was previously Part A: Administration), that any structural building work that is defined as “minor building work” requires authorization by your local authority’s building control officer before you can commence with any work. As long as you have made an application and have received the necessary permission from the local authority, you DO NOT NEED PLANS. But the law is also very clear in terms of compliance with the regulations; minor building work must comply with the regulations.


 Temporary Buildings

Temporary buildings also need authorization by the local authority. This includes builders’ sheds, on-site toilets, and any other structure you might want to erect (or be obliged to erect) for the construction project.

The local authority will not give you permission to erect a temporary building until you provide certain information, and they are able to assess it. At very least they need to know:

  1. what the intended use and life of the building will be
  2. the area in which it is to be erected (in other words where you are planning to put it)
  3. the availability of suitable materials from which it may be constructed

The Definition of “minor building work” in Terms of the Law

a) the erection of:

  1. poultry houses (hoender hokke or chicken coups) that are no more than ten square metres in size,
  2. aviaries that are no bigger than 20 square metres,
  3. solid fuel stores (for storing wood, coal, anthracite or similar) that are no more than ten square metres in area and no higher than two metres,
  4. tool sheds that are smaller than ten square metres,
  5. childrens’ playhouses that are no more than five square metres,
  6. cycle sheds no more than five square metres,
  7. greenhouses that are a maximum 15 square metres,
  8. open-sided car, caravan or boat shelters or carports that do not exceed 40 square metres in size,
  9. any freestanding wall built with masonry, concrete, steel, aluminum, or timber or any wire fence that does not exceed 1,8 m in height at any point above ground level and does not retain soil,
  10. any pergola,
  11. private swimming pool (although most local authorities do insist on plans),
  12. change room at a private swimming pool not exceeding 10 sq m in area.

b) the replacement of a roof (or part of a roof) with the same or similar materials,

c) the conversion of a door into a window, or a window into a door, without increasing the width of the opening,

d) the making of an opening in a wall that doesn’t affect the structural safety of the building concerned,

e) the partitioning or enlarging of any room by the erection or demolition of an internal wall, as long as it doesn’t affect the structural safety of the building,

f) the section of any solar water heater not exceeding six square metres in area on any roof; or 12 square metres if the water heater is erected elsewhere,

g) the erection of any building that the local council doesn’t believe plans are necessary for.

In the last instance, it is up to the building control officer to make this decision.

How This Affects You

We have had numerous queries on this site in terms of when and where plans are required. As you will see, there are a few exceptions, but ultimately it is up to the local authority to decide whether or not you need plans.

It also stands to reason that the structures defined as minor building work will all need to be fit for purpose. So you can’t say you are building an aviary (which can be 20 square metres in area), and then build a brick building with windows, suitable for human habitation!
Read more about this here: A Garden Structure

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  1. Hi There

    Do you need plans and permission to knock down internal walls in a flat?


    • Hi Kate, there are two things here, firstly the property owners agreement and or the lease agreement will state if this is allowed. Secondly the wall that is being knocked down must NOT be a load-bearing wall. If you are unsure ask a structural engineer, registered builder or ask the local building inspector to have a look.

  2. Hi Janek
    A friend has bought a house in the Eastern Cape and their architect says there are no plans in council? Surely that’s not right? Architect also saying they can’t just pull out the bathroom, have to have plans drawn for it AND the house.
    Here in WC, you have to have plans passed before you can dig a hole on the property.

    Any advise please? Who’s smokelling who here?

    • Hi Mecheal, It seems like the building was built illegally if there were no plans with the council – unless of course the council has mislaid or lost them. The bathroom renvation will certainly need plans. Ask the estate agent who sold the house why they did not supply plans with the sale. If you do not get any joy from them then I would report them to the Estate Agency Board.

  3. Lloyd Griffin

    I recently boughta housewith as all wooden wendy house ( tool shed) and a timber deck that dont appear on the plans.

    Should they appear on the plans and who’s responsible for it now.

  4. Hi Penny

    I’ve got palisade fencing with concrete pillars in between in front (street side) of the property which I want to convert to brick or block wall. Durbanville, Cape Town. Do I need plans for it?


    • Hi Nenad, The Cape specifications without plans are: Solid boundary walls may not be any higher than shall 1.8 m on street boundaries, and no higher than 2,1 m on lateral boundaries.

      • Does neighbors Cape Town have to give permission if you want to close you front yard or if you do have vibacrete wall that 1,2 m and extend it to 1,8m

        • Hi Jaco, No you do not need neighbours permission so long as it is not over 1,8m. But what we have found is that to have a good and friendly relationship with the neighbours we suggest that you speak to them and let them know what you are doing.

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