Walls Support the Roof and other Loads-Part K

Building walls
It is vital that walls are strong, stable, waterproof and fireproof. The way that the roof is affixed to the wall is also very important.

The fundamental structure of a house is formed by its external walls, which must support the roof and take any other load that is built above. The section of the National Building Regulations that deals with walls is SANS 10400-K  and it has several parts, each dealing with building walls, and the elements of how both internal and external walls should be correctly constructed.

Changes to the Legislation

Like much of SANS 10400, Part K: Walls has changed quite substantially, both in terms of the legislation and the section that deals with The application of the National Building Regulations, which is the document prepared by the SABS and published separately to the legislation.

(NOTE: Previously SABS 0400, which became SANS 10400, was published by the SABS in its entirety, with the legislation and a Code of Practice which took the form of “deemed-to-satisfy requirements”. When the legislation changed on May 30, 2008, this was gazetted. The SABS then progressively updated its guidelines and published them over a period of years, as a series of individual documents. These are available from offices of the SABS and from the Bureau’s webstore, HERE. The new version of Part K was published on 29-03-2011 and it costs R517.56 including VAT.)

This article deals primarily with the changes to the legislation, and how it applies to building walls, rather than the South African National Standards.

Structural Strength and Stability of Building Walls

Part K 1 of the regulations states that, “Any wall shall be designed and constructed to safely sustain any actions which can reasonably be expected to occur and in such a manner that any local damage (including cracking) or deformation do not compromise the opening and closing of doors and windows or the weather tightness of the wall and in the case of any structural wall, be capable of safely transferring such actions to the foundations supporting such wall.”

This has been substantially expanded. Previously the legislation simply said the walls should be capable of safely sustaining any loads to which they would be likely to be subjected. It also said that structural walls should be capable of safely transferring such loads to the foundation supporting a structural wall.

There are various walling materials available, made primarily from clay and cement-based products. You will need to decide which is the best material for your particular purposes. Walls can also be built with stone or timber, but each material has its own set of methods to satisfy the requirements.

Solid brick walls normally consist of two brick skins that are joined together and strengthened with brickforce or brick reinforcing and/or wall-ties (a mild steel wire laid between some of the courses to add strength). The interior and exterior surfaces are normally plastered but may be fairfaced (facebrick). Concrete block walls are a more economic option and are often used for garages and outbuildings.

Water Penetration of Walls

Whatever materials you choose to use when you build, the method used for building walls must comply with Part K 2 of the regulations. Primarily they must be built to prevent water penetrating into any part of the building. All cavity walls must be well drained by means of weep holes above a damp-proof course. All cement bricks and blocks are relatively porous and should be plastered or rendered on both sides for thorough waterproofing.

Basements and semi-basements are also referred to in the “new” legislation, and any room below ground must be adequately waterproofed.

The legislation reads: “Where a building includes a basement or semi-basement, the local authority may, if it considers that conditions on the site on which the building is to be erected necessitate integrated designs for the penetration of water into such basement or semi-basement applicable to all construction elements or components thereof, require the submission of such designs for approval. Construction shall be in accordance with the requirements of the approved design.”

In recent years, a variety of alternative construction methods have been developed, most notably in the sphere of cheaper housing. These include the building of walls with insulated fibrecement panels; with fibreglass panels; creating the basic structure with shuttered no-fines concrete; using polystyrene sprayed onto a basic framework; or piling up sausage-shaped bags of sand and cement. If you want to use any altrernative method it would be best to contact your local authority planning division, or building inspector, for guidance.

Roof Fixing

Part K 3 deals with the way in which the roof of any building is attached to the wall and states that this must be done securely and safely and must be able to withstand any natural forces such as high winds or rain and hail. Specifically, it states:

“Where any roof truss, rafter or beam is supported by any wall, provision shall be made to fix such truss, rafter or beam to such wall in a secure manner that will ensure than any actions to which the roof may normally be subjected will be transmitted to such wall.”

While this clause of the legislation is basically the same as it was previously – one word has changed with forces deleted and actions replacing it – there are substantial amendments to the so-called “deemed-to-satisfy requirements” published in SANS 10400, Part K Walls. Similarly there are many changes – more so in the form of additions – to SANS 10400, Part L Roofs.

The Ways Walls Behave in Fire

Part K 4 deals with Behaviour in Fire, and state simple that, “Any wall shall have combustibility and fire resistance characteristics appropriate to the location and use of such wall”.

Brick, block and stone walls are generally accepted as fire resistant. Timber frame with timber or fibrecement cladding need to be certified, and you should check with the supplier regarding these rules for their type of walling, before you decide which material you are going to use for building walls.

Deemed-to-Satisfy Requirements

Part K 5 of the legislation states that Parts K 1 to K 4 will have been deemed to be satisfied “where the structural strength and stability of any wall, the prevention of water penetration into or through such wall, the fixing of any roof to such wall, and the behavior in a fire of such wall” complies with the relevant part of SANS 10400. This standard, “Establishes deemed-to-satisfy solutions for rain penetration and damp-proofing and contains simple design and construction provisions for masonry walls in single-storey and double-storey buildings and framed buildings that do not exceed four storeys; masonry balustrade walls and masonry free-standing boundary, garden and retaining walls.”


Roofs-Part L

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  1. I am an architec from Spain,who is currently working in the MRLGHRD in Namibia, and I need to know this regulations to become familiar with the way and the restrictions,the buildings are design and done in this country.

  2. I am architec working for the Namibian Gov. and for all the profesionalls,who practice in the building sector in this country, It is indispensable to know and consult the Building Regulations in force here.

  3. I am architec and I have seen some manuals about masonry walls where It is prescribed the use of control joints in an exessive extend, I think, and that is why I want to consult the building regulations in order to know what is advised on this regard

  4. I totally agree with you.

  5. Please bear in mind that all building regulations provide MINIMUM specifications. You might consider some specs excessive in the manuals you have come across, and this might well be so in some situations; but in others it is more than likely they are vital. As an a architect, I would assume you are working closely with engineers who would be able to advise you.

  6. Hello Jose, I don’t known anything at all about the building industry in Namibia, but it seems to me that there are no national standards as there are in South Africa. The South African building regulations are not intended to be restrictive, but rather to give sensible guidelines. The NHBRC also has guidelines which are useful. A lot of this information is available on our web site. If there is anything specific you want to know, let me know.

  7. Hi

    I just bought a property and would like to know if there are any regulations that would prevent me from building a double Gerage using Rhino board or Marine-ply for the exterior like this : http://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-build-a-garage-from-the-ground-up/ I know it common in the states and much cheaper than bricks

  8. Not at all Jan. But you will need plans for a garage, regardless of the materials you choose to use. And you are right, it is considerably cheaper than using bricks and mortar.

  9. Hi, I have constructed a small house in George and have used wide brickforce to tie the two leafs of the cavity wall together in stead of butterfly ties. The NHBRC is now on my case and refuse to enroll the house before the non-compliance has not been rectified. I have used face-bricks on the outside. Is my construction method totally unacceptable warranting rebuilding of the house or can it be accepted if certain corrective measures are done i.e. waterproofing of the outside wall with SIKA.

    I have used this method before and have never had any problems and I believe it is being done by many builders.

  10. Are you registered with the NHBRC?

  11. Yes, this is a late enrollment.

  12. I don’t understand. If you belong to the NHBRC then you need to do things their way!

  13. Thank you. Very helpfull advice. I’ll just rewind the clock and re-do it as prescribed.

  14. All cavity walls must be built in accordance with the National Building Regulations. Wall ties must be installed in an evenly distributed pattern (uniformly staggered) and at the specified rate, depending on the face area of the wall and the width of the cavity. According to the NBRs the wall ties must comply with all requirements contained in SANS 28. This national standard covers the dimensional and material requirements of metal ties suitable for walls having cavity widths of up to the largest likely to be found in masonry walling constructed to dimensionally co-ordinated sizes. I think that either butterfly ties or modified PWD ties may be used, but not brick force. The fact that builders are using other methods doesn’t make this legal. The NHBRC was established to improve the standard of building in SA (which is known to be bad) … If cavity walls aren’t corrected reinforced, the house could collapse!

  15. Hi

    I live in a complex. Next to the complex is an open field and construction is underway to build a block of flats there. A road has been build running next to my complex boundary wall. The road however, has been built higher than the level of our ground and any pedestrians walking on the road can see into our yards over the boundary wall and we can see them. I would like to know if this is allowed and if not, how can I take action?

    Many Thanks

  16. Good Day,
    Can you please advise on the requirements, especially with the municipality, to replace a palisade fence in front of your home with a solid build wall (and what about when replacing with a precast wall)? What is the requirements to replace and extend an existing boundary wall? Our neighbour wants to replace and extend this wall, but with a style,colour and brick totally different from the present facebrick, and which are also not complimentary to the facebrick of our house. With that he also want to extent the wall and remove the palisade inbetween and claim that the palisade are then his to sell(which we have resently painted). He also seems to want to not dusturb his paving coming right to the fence at present and requisted that we remove our beddings for the foundation and wall to be then in our yard, thus moving the boundary and decrease our yard. No measurements had been done.

  17. Good Day

    I would just like to know what regulations apply to stone masonry walls and where I can read the applicable regulations. Some of the things I would like to know include, for example, what restrictions apply to the height which you are allowed to build with traditional stone and mortar or with slipform stone masonry and what dimensions are applicable to stone masonry load-bearing walls, footings etc.
    Thank you in advance

  18. Good morning-could you kindly advice me with regards the building of a wall right next to the current boundary wall. Are there ay height restrictions applicable. Apparently the height restriction for the boundary wall are 2,1m. I live in Nelspruit, South Africa

  19. Hi,

    What is the maximum height, in Kwazulu Natal, that I would be-able to build a wall on the boundary of my premises, with out the need of having plans approved? I currently have a hedge.


  20. I am currently having a house built through a developer (plot and plan, free-standing, own titled). I would like to know what the regulations are when interlocking bricks from internal wall to exterior wall? The interior wall being built was initially in the incorrect place, after shifting it, there are much less interlocking bricks now. The builder is insisting that they have done the necessary, but it has now been plastered and I cant check it. What are the regulations regarding this?

  21. When you say “interlocking bricks” do you mean bonding? Bricks essentially “interlock” when they bond. i.e. Each one should overlap the next by half. If the bricks are not correctly bonded, then the structure could collapse. My book on Owner Building describes the process well. In fact any book on brickwork will describe the process, and probably have photographs. Or you can do a search on the Internet that shows what it looks like.
    The regulations regarding structural masonry can be found in SANS 10164.

  22. Darren you cannot build a wall without plans. You can though put up a precast wall if you wish. The manufacturers will be able to advise minimum and maximum heights.

  23. Hi Martin. It isn’t clear what the wall is for, but there will definitely be height restrictions. There will probably also be restrictions in terms of building another wall right next to the current boundary wall. I suggest you contact your local authority for guidance.

  24. Hi Steffan,

    Part K of the NBR specifies the regulations as they apply to walls of all types. The important elements are whether the wall is structural or non-structural; and if structural, whether it is load-bearing. The relevant SANS specify things like foundations (and footings) as well as the compressive strength of the mortar that should be used, as well as wall dimensions. While the SABS has standards that relate to stone retaining walls, I cannot find anything that relates specifically to stone and mortar walls, so assume that the general masonry wall specs apply. In any case you will need plans to build a wall from stone and mortar; and a “competent person” (who is qualified in construction) will need to submit these for you. Such a person should have the knowledge to advise you.

  25. All solid masonry or stone walls require plans. When it comes to precast (vibrecrete) walls, I think that most local authorities have standard requirements in terms of both manufacture and erection. Check with your local authority.
    Who erected the palisade fencing? Do you know? If neither of you did, then you could dispute removal and insist that he builds the new wall adjacent to the palisade. i.e. Say you don’t want the palisade facing removed. If neither of you own it, and you agree to its removal, then insist that any money made from the sale is split 50:50.Perhaps you could check with your local authority whom they say “was” the fence. Some municipalities state that walls and fences are owned jointly by neighbors.
    In terms of foundations for his wall. He has absolutely NO right to build anything on your property. Make sure that you accurately plot the boundary and don’t allow any building to be done on your side. And finally, your neighbour cannot go ahead and replace the fence with a wall without your written consent PLUS the approval of the local authority.

  26. Hi Ross, It’s difficult to say whether this is legal or not. Is it a private road or a municipal road? Your first port of call should be your local authority. It seems to me that this could open an interesting can of worms should you wish to extend the height of your boundary wall.

  27. Hi

    1) Our boundary wall is in the process of collapsing and as a result we are going to break it down and rebuild it. Will we require any permissions to do so?

    2) Since we are rebuilding the boundary wall we would like to extend the boundary wall right up to our neighbours wall and have 2 roll up garage style doors fitted for our driveway. Will we require permission to do so?


  28. Bruce if there are already plans, you wouldn’t need new plans. But if it is collapsing, it was likely built sub-standard without plans. Regarding the garage doors, I am not sure. Maybe not. But you might need neighbor’s consent.
    I have two suggestions:
    1. Give your local authority a call and ask what their general requirements are.
    2. Call a company that manufactures the type of doors you plan to fit and ask them what procedures you need to follow.

  29. Hi
    I have an existing wall of 1 m in height. I want to increase the wall by about 1.5 m. Do I require plans to build on the wall.

  30. If it is a brick or block wall and you intended building up, then you might need plans. It depends on the requirements of your local authority and the original plans that were submitted. You could raise the height of some walls with wooden slats or something similar, in which case you’d get away with not submitting plans (because these can be removed and won’t affect the stability of the wall).

  31. I have a similar problem. No consent was asked and the new wall being erected does not compliment my house plus its going to need to be plastered and painted and I’m not willing to bear these costs and maintenance expense. Who can I contact to complain? I live inn Winchester hills Johannesburg south. I need to resolve this as my neighbour is hostile. The wall is not boundary wall but next to my driveway my house is a pan handle, does this make a difference?

  32. Hason I don’t think your neighbour is obliged to build so that the wall complements your house, and I am not sure about the consent issue. But he will need plans. I suggest as a matter of urgency you contact the Johannesburg South municipality and ask them to send a building inspector to the property to investigate.

  33. Thanks for the response. Appreciate the assistance and excellent response, turn around time

  34. Dear Penny,

    Firstly, I think your site is fantastic and I would like to congratulate you on it. It is so insightful and helpful. We are from the UK so your South African property advice is invaluable!

    I’m sure you do not deal with property disputes, but I am tearing my hair out here, so I thought I might ask!

    Last year we bought and renovated a house in Parkview, Johannesburg. As part of the renovations we built a 1.8m perimeter wall, which we had planning permission for. The wall was built according to the GPS co-ordinates for our plot. Before we built the wall there was a hedge and an old, low, precast concrete wall, which we removed in the process of building. I was in hospital having a baby when the builder took the old wall and hedge down so we were rather distracted and didn’t get the opportunity to get the neighbour’s permission. We are of the understanding that the old wall and hedge were on our plot, so although it would have been neighbourly to talk to our neighbours first, we just didn’t get the opportunity. We did write to them all at the time, apologising for any inconvenience and giving our contact details in the even they needed to talk to us.

    Our neighbour on one side (the side with the precast wall) has subsequently claimed that the wiring for her intercom was in the ground under our new perimeter wall, on our plot, and that the intercom is no longer functioning since we built the wall. As a gesture of goodwill I have offered to have a new wire put in to run along her side of the wall at my cost. She will not accept this as a solution and insists I have the wire ground into our new wall and the wall completely plastered and painted on her side so there is no evidence of the grinding into the wall.

    She also claims a zinc awning, that she says she put up two weeks before we started work on our house, was damaged when we built the new perimeter wall. I can see it was damaged and, again as a gesture of goodwill, I have bought the zinc and I am employing a builder to fit it for her. However, this awning that she has put up is about 10cm from our perimeter wall, is that a safe legal distance?

    There is also a tiny amount of damage to her front door portico, which again is about 10cm from our perimeter wall (built on our plot – not hers). I have offered to paint the small areas of damage but she is asking that I repaint the whole house as the paint will not match exactly.

    Do you have any advice? I am feeling very bullied by this lady, I keep trying to help but every time I think we have a resolution she asks me to do more, even though our building work was completed almost a year ago and we have continually tried to resolve the matter.

    In summary there are three areas that concern me:

    1. She is claiming we must put right her intercom, that was on our plot, by grinding it into the new wall and plastering and painting the wall at our cost. This feels wrong to me, I’ve offered to run wiring at my cost but she insists this is not sufficient and the wiring must be invisible. Am I liable to do this for her?
    2. She is claiming damage to two areas that practically touch the new perimeter wall. I can’t see how we could have avoided the small areas of damage given how close she has built to our perimeter and I’d like to know if that is a legally safe distance? I am happy to put the damage right (it will take a painter about an hour and a builder less than a morning) but given how close her structures are I want to know if they are legally built? Am I legally required to paint her whole house?

    Again, my husband and I have continually tried to help and offer solutions (I have a long history of emails to evidence this) but the demands just seem to grow and although she holds up progress by not responding to emails, she is holding me responsible for not getting the work done.



  35. Hi Sarah, Thanks for the compliments. I think your experience deserves to be part of a full-on blog post that elaborates a bit more on neighbour disputes. In fact a lot of people who have asked for advice have had neighbour-related problems… usually totally illegal things the neighbours are doing. But in the meantime I’ll share my thoughts.
    First of all it sounds to me that you have been more than reasonable, and in so doing, your neighbour is now trying to take advantage of you!
    1. You say you had planning permission to build the wall, and say it is on your property (i.e. your side of the boundary?) If you have proof that the boundary wall is entirely on your property you have a big advantage; otherwise there are all types of issues e.g. reciprocal servitudes, encroachment and “common ownership”. GPS co-ordinates should be adequate, but you might need to get a land surveyor to verify the points for you. Unfortunately many people measure incorrectly and do encroach on neighbours’ land. But this doesn’t seem to be the issue with your neighbour.
    Presuming that the wall has been built on your property, unless the planning permission states that you need neighbor’s consent, you don’t have to get neighbor’s consent. But it is your responsibility to maintain and repair the wall (though not according to your neighbor’s specifications). Since both parties benefit from the wall, a decent neighbour will be happy to paint their side. Of course if the wall is badly built and it starts to crack or the plaster starts to fall off, that is another issue (which some of our readers have written to me about). Some people opt to build their own walls adjacent to a neighbor’s to avoid or overcome arguments about wall type, style, finish etc! Crazy but true.
    As an aside; often when a property owner decides to build a wall (or upgrade as you have done), they ask the neighbour for a contribution. This is not obligatory unless the wall is jointly owned (usually when it is centered exactly on the boundary line).
    2. You say you wrote to the neighbors. Was this prior to building commencing? This would be important if the dispute came down to legal action. If you only wrote after you had started building, they could maintain that they weren’t aware of what was happening. Specifically, if your precast wall neighbour knew that there was wiring under the old wall, she should have alerted you when the wall was demolished. I presume she did not object to the precast wall coming down? This is also important for two reasons: i) you can then assume that she knew that the old wall was on your property; ii) she was probably happy that you were upgrading the wall.
    If you really feel it is your responsibility to rectify the wiring issue, then offer to have it laid in the ground in suitable cabling alongside the wall. I see no reason to have to chase into the wall, replaster and repaint. And frankly, if she continues to be bloody-minded, don’t do anything!
    3. The “zinc awning”. What structure is it attached to? Perhaps you can take a pic of it and email it to me. Generally you cannot build anything any closer than 1,5 m from a boundary. People do sometimes apply for exemptions from their local authorities, but in this instance you would definitely need a neighbour’s consent. So your neighbour might be in a little bit of trouble here, depending on the structure. Also, can she prove that your builder damaged her awning? How long after the incident did she draw your attention to the damage?
    4. The portico. Is this a complex that the houses are so close? 10 cm is virtually on top of your wall! I think you need to clarify this issue before you go any further. I’ve tried searching the City of Johannesburg web site, but can’t find anything much that helps.
    My guess is that her structures are illegal! See what you can find out – try phoning, even it takes a while to get through to the right person. If you can ascertain that her building work is illegal, you can make her life very unpleasant …
    5. Last of all, even if you were legally liable in terms of damage to her portico, there is absolutely NO WAY she can expect you to paint her whole house. If it was an insurance claim they would laugh at her!

  36. Dear Penny,

    Thanks so much for your response – I am so impressed with your knowledge.

    I will need to check the records, but I have a feeling that my husband only wrote to the neighbours on the day, or day after the work started unfortunately.

    Where does that leave us?

    I will email you a picture of both structures just now. I will also try to find out what the restrictions are in terms of how close she can build to the boundary – do you have any idea which department I should start with?

    We had a surveyor draw up the GPS co-ordinates fortunately, so the wall is within our boundary.

    Unfortunately, her path is so close to the boundary wall there is nowhere to bury the intercom wire, so I can’t do it that way. I have given her five options:

    1. Last year I offered to have my security company do it,
    2. She declined and said she wanted to do it herself using her own provider, we agreed and offered to reimburse her
    2. She came back to us six months later saying no one would do the work for her, would we please get our security company to do it
    3. I agreed and they provided me with three different quotes for her – trunking, grinding the wiring into the wall, and a wireless intercom system – at her request. I offered to pay for the first option, if she chose another I’d contribute the cost of the trunking. She is insistent that we must pay for grinding.

    Incidentally, we plastered the whole wall on her side and had it all painted to her specifications.


  37. She sounds like a neighbor from hell! Since the wall, it seems, is definitely on your property (and I assume you were not instructed by the council to get neighbor’s consent), I don’t believe you have anything to worry about – other than living next door to an unreasonable person. I also assume that she didn’t rush over and go into panic mode when you started pulling down the old wall. One question, when the builders dug the foundation trenches, did they come across this wiring? You should probably check this as well.
    Before you do anything further, contact the council. If her structures are illegal – I would refuse to do anything more to assist her.
    Re the City; ask for the planning department or someone who is knowledgeable in terms of building by-laws that relate to boundaries and structures. You might have to explain in a bit more detail. Or you could ask to speak to a building inspector or someone in that department – in which case have your erf number on hand – they may ask you for it. I would ask if they would send a building inspector to look at her structures.
    Just out of interest, did an inspector check your foundations and/or the completed wall? Technically someone should have done both, but I think they are hugely overloaded.

  38. Hi Penny,

    She did complain when we took the old wall down – I think because she was not warned that it was coming down, rather than because she wanted to keep the wall. I will need to check that with my husband – I was in hospital having a baby:). I know she has already threatened verbally to take us to court for criminal damage because we took the wall down without notifying her though.

    This is too much information I am sure, but she used to drive the previous owners of our house crazy, complaining about the mess their hedge made of her garden, so she was delighted to hear we were building a wall….

    Regarding the intercom, the builder maintains that there was no wiring, my security company say they cannot see how there was wiring there before… Neither are keen to help her out because she is so irrational. The lady doing my curtains has just said to me that many years ago the same neighbour asked her to do blinds for her, after measuring she never went back because my neighbour was so difficult at the measuring stage! Unfortunately, even though everyone can see how irrational and unreasonable the neighbour is we need to somehow resolve this so she stops bullying us.

    I am not sure if the inspector checked the foundations, etc., I’ll need to ask my husband, but we have had a huge amount of contact with the inspector. The same neighbour complained about our renovations to the department and harassed them daily at a senior level until they came out to us. She complained again, daily, when they said that we had built to plan.
    They came out again and said again we had built to plan…

    They were probably too stressed and busy throughout that to notice if anything had been built out of permission on her side.

    To make matters worse, the neighbour in question has a relative who works for a legal firm, so she keeps threatening me with legal action. Every time she does that I just calmly smile and nod and say I’m happy to speak to her legal advisor. After months of those threats I still haven’t heard anything from her ‘legal advisor’.

    I’ll send those photos to you as soon as I get a moment!


  39. Sarah, Since it was a wall on YOUR property that you removed, she cannot sue you for damages.
    I came across a legal (SA) question and answer site yesterday, where someone was doing some building work and was concerned about a stone wall nearby possibly collapsing (though they were not working on this wall at all). His concern was that if the wall collapsed in the direction of the neighbour’s property, and someone was injured, would he be held liable. “I am just concerned that if it falls over – the neighbour (who is not pleasant) may try to pin me with some kind of liability.”
    The lawyer’s response was based on a judgement in the Cape High Court. He said that while it was the owner’s responsibility to “take all reasonable steps to make sure the property of your neighbour is not damaged as a result of the wall falling on his property”, the property owner could not be held liable for damage if the wall collapsed. The implication was that it is the contractor’s problem.
    Regarding the wiring. I guessed nobody had seen it. She probably made the whole thing up!

  40. Good morning Penny.
    Please can you offer your advise. We reside on a Golf Estate in Johannesburg and we live on the perimeter. Recently the Estate has been doing renovations on the perimeter walls and the walls that was on our perimeter was also identified as a hazard and needed to be replaced. That has been done in the last week, where they came and destroyed the wall and rebuilt it. The body corporate has informed us that the liability is on us to paint the side of the wall that is our property. I am not sure what the law states, but would like to know. Reason is that we did not request that these walls need to be replaced, so why must we incur the costs? I have a letter that was sent to my husband from them, if you need more clarification. Thanks for your assistance,

  41. Generally it is the responsibility of the owner to paint the side of any wall that is on the inside of his or her property. But the issue of ownership can complicate the things. For instance if you owned the wall and decided to replace it, your neighbour might demand that you paint their side for the very reasons you have given. Some municipalities state that in the absence of proof of who owns the wall, it becomes jointly owned. In this instance neither party may remove the wall or make a hole in it, without the other party agreeing. Both would then pay jointly for replacement of the wall and do whatever they wanted on their side, at their cost. Other than that I haven’t been able to pinpoint any general legislation that covers this issue. Some municipalities, though, have specific regulations.
    In the case of most “private” estates, there are built-in regulations that all owners and residents have to abide by – over and above general laws and regulations. These often include the type of building materials used, paint colors etc.
    So first I think you need to check the paperwork you have signed.
    Then there are some questions you could ask the body corporate (depending on your contractual obligations).
    Who does the wall actually belong to? It may be that all perimeter walls are the responsibility of the estate; though there may be a clause that states you are responsible to maintain the inside surface – i.e. keeping it clean, painting etc. Did they ask (or even need to ask) permission to rip the wall down and rebuild it? If they didn’t – and if there is NOT a clause that states you are liable for upkeep etc – then I would say it is their responsibility to paint the new wall. Lastly, are you obliged, within the estate, to have painted walls? If so, do they specify either paint type and/or colour? If not then you don’t have to paint it.
    Over and above all of this, it might be that they are liable because the construction was hazardous. It could be construed as a latent defect. However this might end up with lawyers and even higher costs than paint. If you are going to be forced to use a contractor and/or the extent of the wall is such that it is going to cost you a lot even if you take the DIY route, a lawyer’s letter might be the answer. It shouldn’t cost more than a few hundred rands – about what a couple of litres of good quality paint will cost you (probably not enough to paint the wall!).

  42. Thanks for sharing your knowledge with us Penny. I see on one of the comments above you have said that one can put up a precast wall without plans. But what about the consent of the neighbour. The reason I am asking this is that I have a similar neighbour with the one described by Sarah on this forum. There is a section of the boundary wall that is just 1m high and since my dogs are now one year old, I would like them to be able to go to that part of the yard. At the moment I have to restrict them in the backyard because I fear they may jump over to the neighbour’s yard and there may be problems. I live in Pretoria. Thanks in advance.

  43. Vuyo I am not sure which comment you are referring to, because most local authorities DO require plans for precast and other walls. Some even want plans for fencing of any type! In terms of neighbours’ consent, provided you are building on your side of the boundary, and complying to both building regs and the local council’s requirements (which is why you need to submit plans), then you don’t need neighbours’ consent. If the council allows you to build let’s say higher than normal, then you would probably be required to get consent from your neighbour.
    In your situation, presuming the wall belongs to your neighbour (and is therefore on his/her side rather than on the common boundary, and was built by him/her or by a previous owner … and not by you or a previous owner of your property) then you can either come to an agreement to increase the height of the wall OR build a second wall or erect fencing on your side of the existing wall. It seems a bit crazy to have two walls side by side, but it happens quite a lot I believe!
    Regarding dual ownership of walls and fences:
    Party walls or fences In the absence of proof that a boundary (party) wall is entirely on one of two adjoining properties, it is presumed to be half on one property and half on the other. Some legal authorities state that then each part is separately owned by the owner of the property on which it stands, but that there are reciprocal servitudes of support.” Reader’s Digest Family Guide to the Law in South Africa

  44. Hi

    I have a block brick border wall of about 1.2 meters high that I have build on my own expense. I would like to know if I could build on top of it and attache a small store room to it BUT making sure not encroaching my neighbors property. What are my rights?


  45. I hope you had plans to build the wall, because if you don’t, the local authority could make you demolish it. You certainly cannot build on top of it, attaching a room, unless you have plans that have been approved. Apart from anything else, you would need to ensure that you have proper foundations for the structure. And if you were to build on the boundary, you will need you neighbor’s consent (via the local authority).

  46. Hi Penny,

    I am busy renevating a house in a holiday complex where the allowable building size is 200 m2. I have had a snag. The one foundation wall started cracking as it was on a steep slope, we proceeded to build a new wall parallel to it. We put steel reinforcing inbetween the two walls and filled it with a strong mix of concrete.Unfortunetly this has now added 10m2 to the building size. I am led to believe that if one renevates there is a ruling that one can over or under shoot the m2 size by 10% of the plans due to these unforseen circumstances. Is this correct?

  47. Peter that is not an NBR rule. It is obviously a rule that the complex developers imposed. So they would be the ones who would complain, if anybody did. They would also be the people who may or may not have made a rule regarding renovations. Since you are reinforcing a foundation wall, I hardly think this has any bearing on “allowable building size”. I would think it’s a safety factor that has to be carried out.

  48. hi penny
    we have a partly boundery wall. i had a problem with smoke emissions if my neighbour are making fire. after complianing of the smoke he errected a wooden structure on top of boundery wall without my consent. the result of the closure of the wall is having an adverse effect on my natural light and ventilation. i have complained to the local authority, but the neighbour instead is applying to build a concrete structure. what are my rights as a neighbour in this regard. i have objected against the idea and forward my objection to the local athourity.
    waiting for your comments

  49. The problem with smoke is that, even if the wall is quite high, it will rise. If this happens often, and your neighbour refuses to do anything about it, then you can take legal action in terms of it being a “nuisance”. If it is really bad, you could report your neighbour to the local council for air pollution. But if the smoke is from an occasional braai, you won’t get much joy.

  50. Hi Penny
    I live in a sectional title unit. The boundary wall around my garden has developed cracks and bricks have started falling off. Now I know this is an issue for the body corporate to repair, my questions relates to the regulatory issue of height, width etc. The walls cover 2 sides and are higher than 1.5m but are only single brick width and have no supporting pillars. I am led to believe that the walls, over 1.5m should be double-bricked and have supporting pillars every couple of meters of running wall. Can you provide further information on the requirements?

    Thank you

  51. John the magic height is 1.8 m – which links to “minor building works” & here too (scroll down to the end). See if the links I have provided here help you, otherwise get back to me. I will in the meantime try and get something onto the website regarding walls in general – because there are also building standards relating the the NBR – supporting pillars, brick force and so on – that must still be adhered to, even if the wall is lower.

  52. Good afternoon

    I bought a house 10 years ago in Stillbay. It is a thatched roof house and on applying for approval to have the roof changed to an “aluzink”roof the building inspector found that the wall between my house and garage is not a firewall. (It was bought that way and apparantly it was changed from a seperate single garage to an attached double garage.) As the wall seperating the house and garage is a normal external double wall,how do I change it to a firewall?


  53. You can probably use a non-combustible cladding. I am surprised the building inspector didn’t make any suggestions. What I would do is to approach the local authority and ask them to give you acceptable options.

  54. Hazel Lethabo

    Dear Penny

    Good Day

    I need some clarity and assistance in resolving an issue with regard to the property I recently bought from Cosmpolitan Projects. I recently went to show the house to an architect friend of mine who pointed out structural defaults that I was not aware of. (Skew walls and windows) . He alluded to the fact that the Inspector should not have approved the building until Cosmopolitan broke down the wall to rectify the mistake and re-built it. I also consulted a builder in the area who also concurred that the kitchen wall must be broken down to fix the mistake. In this case I called the bank (FNB) and informed them of the problem and they referred me to the Chief Building Inspector at the City of Tshwane. What
    I want to know and need assistance with-is whether as a home owner I am within my rights to demand that Cosmopolitan Projects breakdown the wall anf fix it before I occupy the house or what other remedies are available to me to resolve this matter. Your urgent response will be appreciated!

  55. Since you posted this query twice, I have responded to it HERE.

  56. How far from the road must the boundary wall be?

  57. By-laws generally regulate the distance between boundary walls and the road – or any other land owned by the council/municipality. There is no one rule or regulation. Generally though this would be the boundary of your property.

  58. What would be the boundary of my property?

  59. All land is formally surveyed and boundary pegs are inserted at each point of the boundary (i.e. four points if the plot – erf – is square or rectangular.) Once people build they often removed the boundary pegs. You can get a diagram of your area from the Surveyor General’s office in Pretoria that will show where the pegs should be. If there is doubt as to the boundary, and there are no pegs, you may need to employ a surveyor to re-survey the plot and insert new pegs according to the Surveyor General’s diagram.

  60. How close to a neighbours boundary wall can a neighbour build a garage? Does this require planning permission and if so where can one ascertain whether this has in fact been approved?

  61. Hi Dino,
    If you go to your Local Authority with the address and erf number you should be able to see a copy of the plans and check if any alterations or additions have been approved. If you go to our sister site Owner Building there is a plan and an article on boundary distances and some guidance on Boundary walls and fences.

  62. Good day,

    I am an insurance assessor dealing with a retaining wall that collapsed, allegedly due to a plumbing trench being left open near the wall and subsequent rain water washing away the foundations. We did not see the wall in its collapsed state, but looking at the wall as it has been rebuilt, it seems to me that it has not been built according to regulations that I have found, which seem to give a maximum height for a retaining wall of 1, 4 m. Is this correct? The wall in question is at least 1,8m high in places, and there are no piers.

    We did get some photos of the wall in its collapsed state, which also doesn’t show any piers. We also did not see the alleged trench in their photos. It was also higher than 1,4m. There are no weepholes in the wall, but it looks as if they are waterproofing the back and intending to put in an agricultural drain at the bottom, which I believe is acceptable, but not mentioned in the regs.

    Any comment you can give, particularly with the collapsed wall in photos 4 & 5, will be appreciated.

  63. Mark, the regulations you need to refer to are SANS 10400: Part K Walls. The table you have referred to is in the old regs (SABS 0400 1990 – which you can download free on this site) and I am not sure whether it has changed. Probably not, although they might have added to it. BUT – retaining walls MUST have plans. And you are absolutely correct in terms of the need for piers. As far as the agricultural drain is concerned, that needs to be constructed BEFORE the wall is built. Have you investigated what foundations have been constructed? Seems to me they are getting it back up as quickly as possible. This may not be sinister – but it also probably isn’t legal. What I find strange is that from the photograph, the earth that is being retained does not appear to have shifted. You need to talk to an engineer, but it seems to me that the foundation trenches and the foundations were probably not adequate in the first place. This all points back to a need for plans drawn by a competent person.

  64. Shaun huggins

    Good day team.

    I would like to find out if there are any standards governing plastering that should be adhered to by a contractor when building new structures. More specifically are there regulations for depth of the plaster to cover brick, and also mixing ratios of the content.


  65. Shaun there are standards – and there is good building practice. Not regulations as such. There are some leaflets that you can download FREE from our sister website Owner Building – here’s the link. I have also emailed you a copy of the C&CI publication, CONCRETE basics for building that covers the subject well.

  66. Hi, I have bought a home with a lapa extended from the back of the house. There has been a single brick wall build by the previous owner on a foundation around the lapa strengthened with brickforce and waterlayer applied. The lapa roof rests on its own legs and is not in contact with the single brick wall as there is a space between the wall and the lapa roof structure. Must the brick wall not be double or can one get away with a single wall built like that. The wall seems to be steady. Two small sliding windows on top of the wall and a sliding door has been installed in 2 sides of the wall. The two outer corners of the wall away from the house was joined correctly and the corners bordering the house seems to be joined with rods. Please advise.

  67. Hi Ernst,
    You don’t say how high the walls are but I am guessing that if it is up to the lapa roof then it must be about 2m high. The regulations allow a wall up to 2.2m high without supporting pillars (piers), BUT the wall must be 220mm-290mm thick. With a single brick (correct term is a half brick) wall 90mm thick then you can go to 0,8m without piers and up to 1.7m with piers (490mm X 290mm) at 1,6m centers. These figures are extracted out of quite long tables that are too long to repeat here. You might be OK if the wall is anchored to the lapa uprights with steel rods as you mentioned. If you are concerned then get a “competent person” (engineer or architect) to have a look.

  68. Dear Penny,
    Please can you advise on the following:-
    – Do I have any legal claim against a builder for damp rising in my
    – what is the maximum legal height of walls internally allowed is one
    brick wide?
    my ceilings are over 4 M high with single break walling.
    My house is 2 years old. please can you advise?

  69. Hi Mark,
    Firstly was your house registered with the NHBRC? And secondly is the builder registered with them? Both of these have to be done by law. If both of these are true the you have to follow the procedure set down by the NHBRC and claim from the builder first in writing. Then after a set time you can claim from the NHBRC. You have 5 years for major structural defects, and if the dampproofing was not put in under the floor and walls, then that might be considered a stuctural defect. The full procedure is explained on their website here: nhbrc.org/consumer-info/
    Your “single brick wall” (the correct term is half brick wall) can be that high so long as it is not a load bearing wall and is only a room division.

  70. Hi.
    I am extending my driveway gate and I will need to break down the boundary wall pillar on one side of the gate so as to allow for this extension. My boundary wall is 2 brick course thick (220mm) x 2m high with pillars of 440x330mm on each side of the gate. When I rebuild the pillar I will need to throw a foundation for the extra thickness of boundary wall at this point (220mm x 330mm), i.e. the pillar.
    My question is – what should the dimensions of the foundation be for the new pillar (220x330mm)? The pillar is not load bearing, just the gate-end of a boundary wall.

  71. Hi I just want to now how far from n broundary can I build a garage and do u need the permission from neighbours.

  72. Morne CLoete

    Good day Penny

    I am a new proud home owner and I have a few questions that I know you will assist me with.
    My neighbour has gone and ereceted a wall on an existing boundry wall without my consent or even consulting me about it.They have not reinforced it with any wire.It is now higher than 1.8 m.It looks very untidy because they did not even plaster the wall.My questions is :-
    1- Do they need a plan to have erected this wall?
    2-Are they obliged to have plastered the wall?
    3-Do I have the right to break the wall down ( the piece that they have now built)?
    4-How/where can I found out as to who the wall belongs to?

  73. i need sabs for retaining walls. I am doing a project on them and i can’t get it. PLEASE

  74. Go to an SABS library Mandla. You will be able to access all the SANS there.
    The only pointers I can give you are:
    1. The SANS define a retaining wall as “a wall intended to resist the lateral displacement of materials”
    2. As you will see from this link, if soil is retained by a boundary wall, the maximum permitted height of the retained soil is 2,1 m. This should be measured from the natural ground level in front of the wall. A balustrade wall not exceeding 1 m in height is permitted above the level of the retained soil. Plans are required for retaining walls.
    3. As you will see from this link, Part K of SANS 10400 establishes deemed-to-satisfy solutions for various walls and other elements, including garden and retaining walls.

  75. Morne, While the National Building Regulations specify that you can build a wall up to 1,8 m without plans (see minor building work), some municipalities allow walls to be up to 2,1 m without plans. They do though need to approve the build. They do not necessarily have to use reinforcing either.
    To answer your questions:
    1. Most local authorities do require plans for walls over 1,8 m – check with yours to see if this is the case.
    2. No they are not obliged to plaster the wall – but they are obliged to ensure that what they built looks aesthetically acceptable. But if they built without consultation with you (i.e. they did not reach an agreement with you that you would plaster your side), you have every right to put in an objection with the local authority and demand that he does plaster the wall.
    3. No you do not have the right to break down the wall. See this page for more information about positioning boundary walls and fences and ownership + rights etc.
    4. The link above goes briefly into ownership.

  76. Jack there is some generic information in this article on our sister site http://www.ownerbuilding.co.za However it depends on your local authority zoning regs and bylaws. Generally you will need neighbour’s consent if you want to build closer to the boundary than allowed in the bylaws or zoning regs. This is not the case in Cape Town. You will need plans that must be drawn up by a competent person and approved by council.

  77. Where can I find out about the SANS speciffications on the material used for a dry – wall.
    Tank you

  78. I suggest you contact the SABS and ask them which SANS specify dry walling materials. SAnS 10400 (i.e. the National Building Regulations) only govern the basics of timber frame construction.

  79. Hi Bob,
    All foundations are “load-bearing” they must just be designed and built to carry the load that is needed. A good rule of thumb is to calculate the width that should equal twice the thickness of the concrete, thus forming a 45-degree angle between the base of the wall and the bottom edge of the footing. See the diagram here: Footing Calculation

  80. Hi, Ive been asked this question many times. Firstly, do wall ties and brickforce both need to be used in cavity walls and secondly, in how many courses of brickwork should wall ties be placed and how far apart should they be placed?

  81. Hi Adam,
    Here is a pix of a common cavity wall. You can see the butterfly ties are spaced out every second or third brick along. This is done on every third course. Brickforce should be used in your foundation walls (this is not usually a cavity wall) if the soil you are building on is unstable in any way. In a cavity wall brickforce should be used above openings such as doorways, windows and any part of the wall that might be subject to cracking. In a single brick wall (a 230 mm thick wall) brickforce should be used every fourth course.
    Butterfly ties

  82. Hi, is there a regulation size for weepholes in boundary walls?
    My diagonal neighbour (we do not share any boundary walls) has dug a channel to our boundary corner and my property is getting flooded. I don’t want to block the flow of water completely and want to comply with building regulations, by-laws etc. He is threatening to sue me if I build a boundary wall or otherwise stem the flow of water from his property since I am lower.
    Thank you.

  83. Hi Susanne, There is not any regulation for the size of the weep hole, so long as the wall remains stable.
    But the point is the lower lying erf is obliged to take stormwater from a higher erf if there is no other way for it to go.
    Here is a paragraph from the by-law:

    2. Where, in the opinion of the Council, it is impracticable for stormwater to
    be drained from higher lying erven direct to a road, the owner of the
    lower lying erf shall be obliged to accept and/or permit the passage over
    the erf of such stormwater: Provided that the owners of any higher lying
    erven, the stormwater from which is discharged over any lower lying erf,
    shall be liable to pay a proportionate share of the cost of any pipe line or
    drain which the owner of such lower lying erf may find necessary to lay or
    construct for the purpose of conducting the water so discharged over
    the erf.
    Ask your local building inspector to arbitrate the matter.

  84. Selvan Chetty


    I live in Umhlanga Durban. My neighbour has occupied their home for the past thirteen years on their original plans, they showed a boundary which was never built, and there is a sand bank on their property that is slowly eroding, Only recently did they get legal occupation (friends with the building inspectors) and further their storm water soak pit was never constructed and inspected which is a requirement, I allowed them to run a storm water pipe through my property (temporary) to avoid their storm water collecting in my property.

    What recourse do I have with regards to the boundary wall and the storm water soak pit?, I addressed this problem with both the inspectors and the owners to no avail.

    please help


  85. Hi Selvan, Here is an extract from the Jhb bye-laws:
    “Where, in the opinion of the Council, it is impracticable for stormwater to be drained from higher lying erven direct to a road, the owner of the lower lying erf shall be obliged to accept and/or permit the passage over the erf of such stormwater: Provided that the owners of any higher lying erven, the stormwater from which is discharged over any lower lying erf, shall be liable to pay a proportionate share of the cost of any pipe line or drain which the owner of such lower lying erf may find necessary to lay or construct for the purpose of conducting the water so discharged over the erf”
    All the municipalities will follow the same bye-laws, so Durban-Umhlanga wil be the same.

    When it comes to the wall:
    The common law is that “in the absense of proof that a boundary wall is entirely on one of two adjoining properties, it is presumed to be half on one property and half on the other. Some legal authorities state that then each part is separately owned by the owner of the property on which it stands. Other authorities state that the wall is owned jointly in common by the owners of the adjoining properties.”
    It is up to you to make an arrangement with your neighbour about the wall, I do not see that you can force him to build.

  86. Hi ! I stay in Witbank, and need advise pleas.

    I am building a 1.8 m brick wall. The one side is 38m and the onther is 18m.

    Do we need to use brickforce?

  87. Hi Liechelle, No it is not always necessary to use brickforce but it MUST be build with supporting pillars. You do not say the thickness of the wall and if it is a brick or block wall. You can safely build a half-brick wall about 100 mm thick to a height of 450 mm without piers (pillars), and to about 700 mm if two brick piers are built at 3 m centers. A thicker one-brick wall may be built to a height of at least 1.35 m without piers and to 1.8 m with 400 mm square piers at 3 m centers.


    i have tresspasses who have built a large block dwelling on my farm with no plans and without me the owners permission. they have now started building a septic tank 50 mt from on of my farm dams thus creating a contamination issue and increasing the rates and taxes on my farm of which i am responsible for paying. please advise as the municipality in ladysmith cannot/or do not wish to assist me.

  89. Fred van Zyl

    Internal wall

    We need to close a portion of our factory. The wall will be internal and the lenght is 30m x 4.5m high between upright I beam steel couloms spaced at 10m onto a existing factory floor 150mm thick. Can we build a single wall without foundation? or must it be double wall. Springs area

  90. Jaco de Bruyn

    Builder is a no show

    Please help me! I have a builder that started to build a wall end of
    Dec 2013. He said to me that he will be done in 2 weeks time. I asked
    him to give me a quote for building a wall on the front with palisides
    and lifting the remainder of the wall with the precast slabs that is
    taken out. He said it is R20500 for all the work and I said we accept
    the quote and he can start. He started immediately with ripping the
    old wall off and digging the holes for where the pillars should be.
    They started building 7 pillars and it took about a week and a couple
    of days. after that he just started to not come for days. I sent him
    numerous emails to ask him to continue the work because our house is
    now completely open and that there was people in our yard the one
    night. He kept on saying that he is busy building the palisides and he
    will be the the next day. Every day being he will be there the next
    day and so days turned into weeks and now it has been more that 3
    weeks since he last were there. He refuses to pick up the phone when I
    call him and after that his phone is off. Yesterday he said he will
    try to bring the palisides and today he was speaking to me on WHATSAPP
    then i try to call him and he doesn’t answer saying it is noisy where
    he is. Finally he said that he has a trailer finished loading and is
    on his way. 2 hours later I try to call him and his phone is off, so I
    sent him a message and ask where he is and an hour later it shows
    delivered so I call again and it rings, the call then gets dropped and
    the phone is off after that again. Now he said to me that the lifting
    of the walls was not part of the qoute but he intended it to be as a
    favour, but to me he said it was part of the qoute in labour. His
    contact detail is:
    Rayno Diedericks
    RNH Projects

  91. Peter Benjamin


    I live in a sectional title complex, I have discovered what I believe is rising damp in an exterior wall, when I had a look outside I discovered that the weep holes on that particular wall are below ground level (soil level).
    Firstly can this be the cause of the problem and secondly who is responsible to cure the problem.

  92. Yes Peter that could easily be the problem. They probably filled in once construction was complete, without taking any precautions, e.g. painting on a bitumen compound (apart from the fact that it is bad building practice to fill above weep holes). Unless it says otherwise in the title deeds, then it is the owner’s responsibility to fix problems that relate to the section in which that person lives.

  93. Jaco unfortunately I don’t know how we can help. I hope you have a proper written quotation and do not pay until the job is complete. Alternatively cancel the job.

  94. Fred you shouldn’t build any type of wall without a foundation – that is if it’s built with bricks or blocks and mortar!

  95. Charmaine my only thought is that you should contact Carte Blanche! I am too far away to even begin to try and help. This sounds like a situation out of control.

  96. Clive Norman

    Building cavity walls with bricks on edge

    Hi There,
    Just noticed a building that is going up on the corner of Wyndover and Belverder road in Claremont, Cape Town where the outside cavity walls are being built with the bricks on edge. Is this normal?
    Lekker Bly
    Clive Norman

  97. Hi Norman, Yes this is normal. Bricks can be laid in many ways so long as the structural integrity of the building is not compromised. The most common ways are your standard “stretcher course” then there is the “sailor course” and “”soldier course” that stand upright widthways and sideways then the “header course” with the smallest face of the brick facing outwards and the “brick-on-edge stretcher course” which is the one you might be referring to. Architects have been using these patterns in their designs for thousanhs of years. As soon as I get a few moments I will post a feature, with pix, of the various patterns.

  98. Hi,

    Do we need building plans to replace an existing wooden fence (boundary wall) with a brick wall. We live in Johannesburg?

    And what about an engineering certificate?



  99. Alida any freestanding wall that is no higher than 1.8 m high is regarded as minor building work and you don’t need plans (in terms of the NBR). However as you will see from the link I have given you, you do need to notify your local authority (the City of JOhannesburg) of your intention to build the wall. In some instances they might require plans in spite of the NBR. Unless it is a retaining wall or one that is very high, there should not be any need for an engineering certificate.

  100. Hi, a developer built a holiday house in Clanwilliam for me 4 years ago, there are damp problems on the inside of the exterior walls, and i have only now notices that there are no weepholes or cavities, i.e., the exterior walls are 230 mm brick walls. Is this legal and do i have recourse. The plans are approved by the municipality and the Nhbrc was paid their fee ?.

  101. Wayne if there are structural issues you may still be covered by the NHBRC warranty which is for five years. If it is just damp, you’re out of time. Was the house approved by the council and an occupation certificate issued?

  102. Hi,

    I recently discovered that I have a lateral crack in my house walls, I live in a pan handle property so access to initially view this was not possible when I bought my property about 2 years ago.
    The crack is going from ground up and I believe this is where a new room was joined to the existing wall.
    from what I could see, there is no expansion joint in the wall.
    The walls are about 4m high. how serious is this? because if I go up into my ceiling, I can see the light outside.


  103. Neil I suggest you consult with a structural engineer to ascertain whether this is serious or not.

  104. Hi

    I hope you can direct me to the documents that deal with the issue I have. The wall of my bedroom, which has the window and therefore also has an exterior side is only one brick layer thick.

    A handyman I called in to help me with damp in my bedroom explained that exterior walls should be doubled (apologies about the misuse of terminology here).

    Do I have reason to make a complaint about this (the wall not being up to standard) to my landlord as I am trying to get out of my lease.

    Thanks for the help.

  105. Nichole that is not necessarily so. As I point out in my book Owner Building in SA, external walls may be “one brick” or single leaf (see drawings below) – in which case the wall is the thickness of the length of the brick (to allow for bonding) – or cavity walls – in which case there is a gap between two skins of brickwork – defined in the NBR as “wall that consists of two parallel walls (called leaves) of either solid or hollow units, that are built side by side and tied to each other with wall ties so that there is a cavity of width at least 50 mm between the leaves”. Walls may also be collar-jointed – defined in the NBR as a “wall that comprises parallel single-leaf walls with a space between them that does not exceed 25 mm, solidly filled with mortar and tied together with wall ties.” Cavity walls are not mandatory in South Africa but they are advisable in areas that have high rainfall in winter or summer. There are though numerous specified dimensions in the National Building Regulations including the thickness of units (bricks or blocks) used to build external walls; as well as maximum wall heights and wall areas where there are openings. These though would be indicated on the approved plans. Many other things need to be taken into account as well including lintels, reinforcement and of course damp proofing. Frankly your landlord should be sorting out any damp proofing issues. If he won’t you might be able to get out of your lease because of that rather than the thickness of your walls.
    Wall types
    Single-leaf external wall

  106. Hi there
    I wonder if you can help me.
    I own an apartment that is located on the roof of a building in Cape Town. The outside patio wall = the exterior wall of the apartment complex.
    My current tenant has now lodged a complaint with the city of cape town, saying this wall is too low. (It is pretty low, but it was like that when i bought the apartment about five years ago and obviously it was also that height when the tenant decided to rent the place).
    What are my responsibilities in this regard? is it the responsibility of the body corporate, or mine? And surely it would have needed to pass a building inspection at the time it was built?
    I can’ afford to build the wall higher, but I also feel that if it should be done, it should be the responsibility of the body corporate as the wall is part of the building’s construction?
    And what is the actual rule in terms of wall height? (It’s on the fifth floor).
    Your advice would be appreciated.

  107. Ella I think the minimum height is 1 m. Part K of SANS 10400, Walls states “ Balustrade and parapet walls shall not be less than 1,0 m in height unless unauthorized access of persons to the edge of a flat roof or similar structure is excluded by a physical barrier properly erected and monitored.”
    But if it is an exterior wall then it would indeed be “common” property and therefore the responsibility of the body corporate. Essentially common property in a sectional titles scheme comprises all the land on which the scheme is situated and all exterior parts of buildings. Roofs, the exterior (outer portion) of walls and foundations also form part of the common property, as do gutters, downpipes and boundary walls.

  108. Thank you so much, Penny!
    Your comment is very helpful.
    Thanks for a great service!

  109. In brick work affter how many line should I use brickforce?

  110. Generally every third course.

  111. Hi there, I have converted a garage to a bedroom and en suite bathroom, we built a new 110mm interior wall. After how long can you tile on that wall? Thanks

  112. Hi Ehren, Normally as soon as the plaster is dry, that should be in a day or two depending on the weather conditions and altitude above sea level.

  113. Good Day

    I have recently built a house with parapet walls. My concern is that whenever it rains or when there is dew the water runs down the walls and leave water streak marks. I am being told by the builder and the engineer that this is normal and I should expect this to happen. This also tends to be happening under the window.

    Please inform me if I am wrong to complaining about and please advice me on what I can do to prevent water from running down the exterior walls of the parapet walls and under the window sills.

    Your assistance is appreciated. Thanks

  114. Dirk Joubert

    I need to know the following : The beamfilling between trusses was allways done with 110mm brick line only partly due to the fact that the wallplate for the trusses is continuous and a 230mm wall will be unnecessary. According to one builder, that claims that there is a new regulation stipulating the beamfilling as a 230mm wall, we now have to cut the wallplate into pieces to accommodate the 230mm beamfill. Is this allowed and/or what is the regulation?

  115. Hi
    Please help me …. I’m busy building a double storey house . My neirgbour lodge a complaint about my high roof walls . Yes I agree I went a bit more brick course I wanted a high roof . My challenge ? Must I break down the walls I already build to meet the plan standard or my neighbor needs or is there anything I can do to save my walls please assist . This is real working on my health my high blood pressure is on top
    Kindly assist me … If I must break the walls I will just to be at peace
    Thank you

  116. Hi Litha, Every suburb in South Africa has height restrictions and they can be different for different suburbs. Your plans were approved for the height that is on your plans. You cannot just change the plans as you want without getting approval first. You need to check what the maximum height is that is allowed in your area from the building inspector. You might be under the maximum allowed and you will just have to submit a rider plan. If you are above the height allowed and you want to change the plans and ask for approval from council they will require you to get neighbours permission to go beyond the restrictions. Now that you have a complaint lodged I am not sure that you will now get your neighbours approval for the walls to be higher.

  117. Hi Dirk, It is the first time that I have heard of something like this. Please give me a few days to make a few enquiries and I will repost another as soon as I get an answer for you. It does not make any sense to compromise the fixing of the wallplate by cutting it into pieces.

  118. Hi Penny. I live in a townhouse complex and we are submitting plans to have the sectional title plan amended. The one building houses 3 garages. 2 of the garages belong to one section in the complex and the 3rd garage belongs to another section. Currently there are no dividing walls between the garages. The Land Surveyor has said that in order to measure the garages to allocate them accordingly there has to be a dividing wall between the single garage for one section and the double garage for the other section. Can you give me some specifications for this wall? i.e. single skin, brick wall and to what minimum height. I cannot find any information in the building regulations. Thanks for your help.

  119. Hi

    I want to convert a totally unused space right next to my house, currently paved, into an entertainment area. I plan to build a 6m long wall witch will have double brick colums every 1.5m apart. The columns will reach from the foundation to the roof and will be strengthened with brickforce, but the wall will only be a single wall. The planning is to build the wall 2.5m high.

    The roof cover will be normal zink and the roof is a flat roof. Beams similar to those of the house that currently carries the roof will be properly linked with those on the existing house and will be placed across the width of the area to support the roof. Brandering will then be installed to fit PVC ceilings.

    At the open end of the new entertainment area, a 4.8m steal beam will be installed to enable the installation of a 4.8m sliding door and treli-door, and to support the weight of the small amount of bricks that will be duild up to roof level.

    Will this be accpetable, or must I build a double wall. I am trying to save on costs as far as possible.


  120. I intend to build a small house with solid stone walls in the Waterberg. The founding conditions are good with rock close to the surface. What thickness of wall will I require for strength and water tightness and are there and special requirement for the foundations?

  121. Hello ,

    need some advise, we are building wall 98m long , partly retaining ( almost completed) . in some places heights of the wall 3.5 -4m high . there is some disagreement on reinforcements and foundation between builder and engineer . is there any independent specialist who can come on site for an opinion . Thank you

  122. Hi

    We are about to start with alterations and the building contractor has had common bricks, to be used for construction, delivered to our house. My concern is that the quality of the bricks seems to be sub-standard, as many of the bricks are partly broken, chipped and full of cracks. Is this reason for concern? Is there a certain minimum grade and/or requirement that bricks need to meet in order to be used for building internal and external walls? How would I be able to confirm whether the bricks are in fact sub-standard or not?

    Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

  123. H Katie, Clay bricks have to be made/manufactured to specific SABS/ISO standards. If you are worried you can contact the Clay Brick Association, you can also find out who supplied the bricks and check if they are accredited: http://www.claybrick.org/location/views

  124. Hi Liana, The best is to contact the Master Builders of SA and ask someone there to adjudicate for you.

  125. Do you need plans if you want to brick up an outside opening to a servant’s room?

  126. You will have to submit plans to the local council because the law says that ALL buildings ANYWHERE in SA must have plans. So you will have to have a “competent person” draw up the plans and they will specify the foundations for your specific site. You can read more about foundations here: foundations

  127. Hi
    I intend to do major changes to the interior of my house, eg a new passage and room size change.All interior walls broken down are not going to influence the roof structure.What is the regulation regarding the building of the new walls that will be to ceiling height?Thinking in terms of foundations.

    Thanking you

  128. Hi Glen, all the things you want to do might affect the roof structure and sounds as though the new walls that you want to erect will certainly have no supporting foundations if they are being moved from where they are at present. You will have to get an architect and or a structural engineer to draw up plans and give a report justifying the re-siting of the walls. I doubt that you will get approval if the proper foundations are not in place.

  129. im about to build garden cottage.
    builders have submitted plan with 150mm maxibrick exterior walls
    An architect friend said max. length without lateral support is 3m (ie to closest internal/ external wall-as i understand it). The plan has a wall which is 5m (external) long-can it get passed?

  130. It’s totally up to your local authority. But I think your architect friend is right!

  131. We intend building an ensuite bathroom for our bedroom. We have a swimming pool and the bathroom will be build between our room and the swimming pool. Is there any restrictions on how close the outside wall of the bathroom may be to the swimming pool?

  132. Swimming pools are not covered in the National Building Regulations Nelda. I have seen many swimming pools built right up to external house walls, so it shouldn’t be a problem providing all other specifications are met. You will of course need to have approved plans to build the bathroom and a qualified, registered plumber will need to do all the plumbing work.

  133. No you are not wrong in complaining. It really depends what they mean by “normal”, and just how much damage this causes. The only thing you can do is get an independent engineer to consult on the issue – to see if it is in fact a problem. That will though cost you.

  134. Aston you need plans for a structure such as this – and you need a competent person to draw them for you. This person will be able to advise.

  135. This is far too specialized Jill. I don’t think anything in Part K Walls even hints at this. You will probably find there are specs in the townhouse regs.

  136. Hi there,
    I have to build a house soon and am pondering with the idea of casting the walls. Both external and internal. What are the implications and any recommendations please.

  137. I came home during the course of last week to find that our neighbour has knocked down one column section of our adjoining vibracrete wall and had placed a thicker taller concrete pillar there…in a way it increases the security barrier, but does she not need plans to have to have this done? Also she has a garage and has recently, removed the garage roll gate and had a window frame fitted and converted it to a living space…does she not also need plans for this and our permission? What can be done in this regard?

  138. This is a huge subject which would take many pages to answer. You need a competent person to draw your plans; that person should be able to advise you. Alternatively contact the Concrete Society of SA or the Concrete Institute of SA.

  139. If the wall column is hers she doesn’t need permission (presuming it is 1.8 m high or less). If it is yours or is common property she needs YOUR permission. It terms of the garage, she does need permission – not not necessarily yours. Alert the local authority in this regard.

  140. Amanda Louis


    I was told that it is illegal to build with concrete blocks,have to use bricks just like to confirm that.
    For the area of KZN

  141. Hi there
    Long story, but a portion of my boundary wall between me and my neighbour was very badly built. Single brick, 2.4m high, no lateral support. Needless to say, it started collapsing 2 years ago. The enighbour refused to fix it, or to allow me to replace it. It finally collapsed completely a couple days ago.

    Now to my question: the builder he got (fortunately he has accepted responsibility), built a double layer foundation, but then used single brick above ground. He added piers projecting only to the neighbour’s side, in a hollow sort of design, every 3m or so. He intends building it to the original 2.4+m height.

    Is this ok? I’m only paying a part of it (again a long story), so I’m not sure if i can object if necessary? As you may have gathered, the guy isn’t very reasonable, and I would prefer not having any further confrontation with him.

  142. That’s absolute rubbish. Of course you can build with concrete blocks – they should though be specified on your plans.

  143. Hi Penny,

    We’ve recently built a house through a developer and there is a couple of things that bothers us.
    One of these is the strength of the bricks. We have a double storey and the lower level is build with bricks that average 6.3MPa. They had to break out quite a few bricks after we had a batch tested and it came out at 3MPa, but they left the 6.3 MPa bricks stating that NHBRC allows 10% variation. Is this true?

    Thanks in advance for your response.

  144. Which mortar class and strength should you specify by cement face bricks at the coast?

  145. There are SANS that specify mortar class and strength – but these are not part of SANS 10400 – The National Building Regulations. I have an info sheet on making concrete bricks and blocks that I can forward to you if you let me have your email address, however it doesn’t give this specific information – it is more general. But if you contact an SABS library they will be able to tell you which standard you need to look at.

  146. The best thing is to contact the NHBRC and find out from them what they allow. You can also contact the SABS because there are other SANS that cover the strength of bricks… Or you could contact the Concrete Manufacturers Association. They would know.

  147. All freestanding walls over 1.8 m require approved plans and they must be built according to the building regulations, which include where and how piers must be built. Table for wall piers Here’s the table for solid units (i.e. bricks vs hollow blocks).

  148. When we bought our house we knocked down an external BRICK WALL that strangely dissected the property
    It did not support any structures and was not on the boundary of the property
    Please let me know if we need to have plans passed to confirm this as a new buyer is querying the change

  149. If it wasn’t structural there shouldn’t be any need for plans. However if your buyer requests the change, you might have to do it to ensure the sale goes through. Perhaps the best approach would be to ask your local authority if they need the change on your existing plans.

  150. HI
    we are about to buy a house. the challenge that we are faced with are as follow
    1 roof leak – according to the seller his little bro has fixed the roof and we have asked for certificate of competency on working on the roof then the estate agent told us she will sue us if we pull out of the deal
    2 wall cracks – the same you brother was the one who fixed the walls.
    3 after they repair the walls they did not paint the house claiming they are out of cash.

    It sound like we are been force to accept the house even thought its incomplete and the young men who just completed matric was the one renovating and fixing the roof. So i need help regarding the matter, i havent sign the OPTC from the bank. what should i do

  151. Hi Penny what is the minimum corridor width, this is for a factory of 600 people. The corridor is between offices.

  152. Dariza Grobler

    HI Penny,

    I have a commercial property that has pillars and arches down the middle of it. I would like to brick it up to make a closed facade, the arches are currently closed of with “dry walling” and serves as a separation between two shops. Do I require building plans to brick up the arch? The height is about 3.6 to 4 m. Who should draw up the plans if so required. i would also like to build a brick wall inside the premises of 3 m high and take it further to the roof height of 6 m with dry walling. is this legal? and would i need plans?

  153. Hi im preparing to build a house my problem is i want to use face brick out side and blocks instead of mampara is it okey like that?

  154. hi.

    Im wanting to build a single garage with a facade wall and carport. What is the maximum height one can build if using 140mm blocks. I also will have support walls on either side of the facade. One on the common boundary and the other tied into my existing house.


  155. If it’s on your approved plans it is fine. However I don’t know what you mean by “mampara” – inferior product?

  156. You need a “competent person” to draw up plans that must be submitted to, and approved by Council. You can instruct the person you work with that you want to build with 140 mm blocks. They will advise.

  157. Sounds to me as if you will need plans.

  158. I am not aware of a specification of this sort in the NBR

  159. I think you have every right to pull out of the deal. If you tell the bank the story they will probably withdraw your bond! That would sort it all out.

  160. Hi

    What is the tolerance (straightness in section) allowed for stock brick walls to be plastered and stock brick walls to be bagged in section ( floor to ceiling height 2400mm internal, and 6000mm external).
    What is the maximum mm plaster allowed on internal and external stock brick walls.

  161. This kind of detail is not included in the NBR

  162. Hi, I’ve been issued a ‘non compliance’ by an NHBRC inspector for a wall not being plumb. He stated SANS 2001-CM1 : 2012 sec
    I don’t seem to be-able to find this reference.
    What is the tolerance on this

  163. Would a wall that is close to 5m high be able to support a full roof structure? |Client does not want a slab in between floors but rather wooden decking.

  164. Hi Herman, WOW! 5m is VERY high. This would all depend on how the architect designed the structure. If it was designed to take a concrete slab you cannot just assume that the wooden floor can be substituted. Best to contact the architect for advice on this.

  165. Hi Dave,
    “ All masonry units shall be built true and plumb into walls with all alternate perpend joints in vertical alignment.”
    There is no tolerance. This is basic building practice. Quite simply, unless design specifies otherwise (and this would be on the plans), all walls must be built at right-angles to each other; all horizontal surfaces must be flat and level; ad all vertical surfaces must be straight and plumb (perpedicular). It really isn’t rocket science!
    Apologies for the delay in responding, we have had very high volumes of queries and only two people available in spare time to respond.

  166. When building a face brick wall, is there any regulations or specifications regarding the lining up of pips or tolerances the builder need to adhere to in order not to be torn down. We have an Architect that keep asking the builder to break down parts of walls where the vertical pips is out of line with 2 to 3mm. Is this standard?

  167. Charmaine Human

    We have a boundary wall between two townhouse complexes. The one complex insists on us building the top layer sideways to prevent water penetration. However, when we build the wall, we filled the top layer with cement. What does the law say, is it necessary or is it for decorative purposes only. All our other boundary walls were built on the same principle

  168. It sounds as if you used concrete blocks to build the wall. The regulations state that proper methods of construction must be used. They don’t specify things like filling with mortar (ie cement:sand:water mix). What the NBR does specify is: Nominal wall thickness (T)
    mm – Maximum height above ground (h) m – Nominal dimensions of piers (overall depth (D) × width (W)) mm – Maximum centre to centre pier spacing (s)

  169. I doubt he would be getting the builder to demolish if it was being done correctly. You must have a competent person for every build, and that person will determine whether workmanship is up to standard or not. If someone other than your architect is your competent person, then ask that person to check the workmanship. You should be grateful that your architect is taking action!

  170. I am just a little concerned about the firewall between the apartment on the left and the right off the townhouse I live in
    My unit is in the middle off the two
    I dit a check in the Ceiling and found that the firewalls on both sides is only a single wall and at some places you can see right through the wall .the building off these walls are so poorly done and not level at all looks like it can fall over .does the MANAGING AGENT off the townhouse complex take responsibility for this .as far as I know it should be a double wall
    In case off a fire I will definitely have a problem claiming. From my insurance
    What is my right to get this rectified
    According to the building law this should be done the correct way
    Must I get a building inspector to give me a certificate to have this problem rectified
    I would appreciate your feedback to this matter
    I thank you

  171. I suggest you contact the building inspector Piet. And ask him how they got away with it in the first place. The managing agent will not be responsible. It will be the owner/builder of the property.

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