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

  452 Responses to “Plans & Minor Building Work”

Comments (445) Pingbacks (7)
  1. Hi
    Are plans and approval needed for building structures on a small holding (Plot)

    Thank you

  2. Hi my daughter lives in a estate and want to close her patio with aluminium and glass , and also erect a sunroom same concept does she need a plan.?

  3. Hi,

    We are opening a new shop in a existing shopping centre.Do we need plans to do portioning inside the shop with drywall ?And would we need plans do build a store room inside the shop with bricks?I would appreciate any advise

  4. Pls help I was unaware that building a wall fancing my house Need approval from municipality, now I have build the wall for period of 3 months today municipality came to my house saying I don’t have approval so they Will be demolishing my wall. I was unaware of that, from durban. Is there anything I can do to prevent this?

    • Walls up to 1,8 m do not require plans, but you do need to notify the council that you are building. So if your wall is properly built according to the NBR specs, and is lower than 1,8 m just talk nicely to them and see if you can avoid this action.

  5. Hi there,
    We own a 2 bedroom apartment in Sea Point, Cape Town. It is a old apartment with ample internal space and we want to reconfigure the inside walls to allow for a additional bedroom with en-suite bathroom. There will be no alterations to the outside envelope (ie. windows or doorways).

    Do we need planning permission or what notification do we need to give the Cape Town City Council.



    • Contact the municipality and ask them what they require. They are sure to need plans for the bathroom because this will entail plumbing.

  6. Hi I want yo extent my house with vibracte I need a plan and what can happen if I do need one and build without a plan

  7. Hi there,
    I live in Johannesburg (Melville). Due to a number of security incidents, I want to replace my palisade fence and fence street side with a 1.8m brick wall. I understand from your articles here that I do not need plans I’m not clear though if I need permission from the municipality. If yes, which office? I spent all day yesterday calling CoJ for this information without luck.

    • The NBR state that this is minor building work, but yes you do need to notify (get permission) council. I think it would be the planning department.

  8. Hi there

    I’d like to close off a front verandah to extend my small lounge. Will I need plans? The verandah itself has a roof that is part of the main house and has 2 pillars at the front and side.

  9. HI, I live on hillcrest ,kzn. I have a friend that is putting in an out door jacuzzi. Are plans required for this?

  10. Good Day, I am looking to replace my current wooden doors with aluminium ones. Same space and size will be used, no other alterations to the wall. Do I need plans?

  11. Hi we live in Centurion Gauteng. We wanted to build a carport for a caravan. We explained to municipality that its open and its a minor building work, yet they told us we need to submit plans. The lady daid to me anything that you build id it has poles needs plans, How is this possible?

    • Hi Magda, If you read to the bottom of the post on this page it says:
      “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.”

      I guess you can argue with them as much as you like but they do have the final say.

  12. Hi there. We have a wendy house build in the backyard attached to the house. Problem is we want to replace the one side of the wendy with a vibrecrette wall at about 3m wide and 1.8 high. Do we need a plan? It will be a single. Wall

    • You don’t need a plan for the wall, but the size of the Wendy house will determine whether it should have had plans! If neighbours object you might have a problem.

  13. I have Build and elevated pool deck out of Wood in the Northern Suburbs of cape town – do I require building plans for this

  14. Hi

    I live in a complex on the second floor. All I want to do, is close my balcony with trellidoor (with mesh not glass) as I am allergic to bees but would still like the feel of an open balcony with fresh air. We have another unit that has a balcony with trellidoor (glass) At first my body corp told me I could not, as balconies have to be uniform ( that was before I pointed out the other unit) Then they told me I need to give them photos of what it would look like and a presentation at the AGM. I have been waiting for the AGM to be announced… So eventually I asked if I could get permission from trustees without waiting for AGM. Now they tell me that the city council will require plans and must approve this? Please give me advise?

    • I doubt that you will need plans – but check with the local authority. But your trustees/body corporate will need to give permission.

  15. Hi –

    I live in a RESIDENTIAL area in Bedfordview and have a neighbour who is running a business from home – a trucking/transport business. He has tyres stored and is now building a carport that is more than double the size of the standard 40 metres squared! He has certainly not obtained any neighbours permission, is building the carport within a metre of the boundary wall and certainly has not sought permission to run a business. Please advise who I should appeal to in this regard.

    • Contact the local authority (City of Jhb) … the planning dept for illegal structures. I’m not sure which department handles licenses for business… only areas zoned for business (and specific types of business) may be used for business.

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