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. We live in P.E. in a gated community. Our house is situated in such a way that our patio is in a ‘wind tunnel’, therefor we hv about 10% usage of this facility throughout the year, the wind blows onto our glass lounge doors therefor our lounge and house is always cold. Enclosing the patio will enable us to cut down on electricity for heating.
    The Patio has a louvre roof and the construction is such that there is always a gap under the roof and cannot be closed unless we change the roof structure that we have no intention of doing. We wish to enclose the patio with glass sliding doors and windows on both sides. The glass will obviously comply with municipal regulations. The study window opens on to the patio.

  2. Three questions pse. We live in WC.
    1. We changed our garage door into a window without changing the original size of the structure at all – do I need plans for this?
    2. I want to build 2 free standing wendy houses of 18sqm each, away from walls, do I need plans? They will be on stilts and not permanently grounded.
    3. We want to put a covering on top of our balcony, either grass or canvas with 6 gumpoles for shade, do I need plans or permission for this?
    Thank you so much!

    • 1. If this is the door that enables you to drive into the garage then you do need plans because you clearly aren’t using the garage as a garage any more. If it is another door, probably not.
      2. A structure this size does not qualify as minor building works, so you will need plans.
      3. If by grass you mean thatch, this might require plans. Even if you don’t need plans you do need permission from council.

  3. Hi
    I want to extend my house to a double story. I am below road level to houses across the road from me and about the same level as the 2 houses either side of me. I am also above the houses behind me. My question is, do I need permission from any of my neighbours to go up? If my plans are approved can any of my neighbours object to the extent that I will not be allowed to go up? Do plans get approved by council before neighbours or after neighbours approval?

    Best regards

    • You generally only require neighbours’ consent if you are going to deviate from normal compliance. e.g. If you are going to build out of the building line; on the boundary (though in Cape Town neighbours no longer have to give permission for this) etc. So establish these issues first. If you do need neighbours’ approval this is done after plans have been drawn. They need to be able to see exactly what you intend to build. If consent is necessary I presume council would only approve the plans once you have this.

  4. Hi there,
    We’ve had a problem recently with flooding that has occured in Durban. There are shacks and informal settlements that are on our boundary. What they’ve done is they have excavated so deep on their side to build whatever it was , that as a result our boundary wall of 15m collapsed. This wall continues around our entire property.
    Our insurance refuses to cover it. But what i would like to know is for a wall that is 2.5m high, are weep holes needed and how far apart should the pillars be .
    I would also like to know if a plan is needed for this wall.
    Thanks soo much

    • All walls over 1,8 m high require plans. The piers required depend on the height of the wall and its thickness. as far as weep holes are concerned, SANS 10400-K (2011), Walls states: “ Free-standing retaining walls shall be designed and constructed so that …”subsoil drainage is provided behind the wall by weepholes formed by building into the waIl, and 50 mm diameter plastic pipes, with the non-exposed end covered with geofabric, at a height that does not exceed 300 mm above the lower ground level, and at centres that do not exceed 1,5 m.” Free-standing boundary and garden walls … does not refer to weepholes.

  5. Can someone advise on construction of wooden decks that overlook into a neighbouring property. Are plans required for such?

  6. I am planning on demolishing 2 internal, non-load bearing walls to make an open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge. I will be bricking up an internal doorway and an external door in my kitchen (my back door) to give me more space for my kitchen counters. I will therefore be making another exterior doorway (back door) to the outside, accessible from my dining room. The effect will be that the external doorway will move a few meters away from its original position. The roof will not change at all. All windows will be kept the same.

    I have 2 questions : a) Do I need permission from my local authority and, b) do I need to submit building plans?

    • In terms of the NBR you need to inform the council of what you plan to do. They might require plans, but it is unlikely.

  7. Hi there

    Our boundary wall collapsed during he heavy rains we had here in Durban a few weeks ago now our insurance is asking for the plans for the wall. Our house and walls were built around 60 years ago and we cant find the plans. we have been to the planning department to get the plans but they say they dont have copies of the plans for our house they only have the lot number for the plot but no plans. Do you know if plans were neeeded fo building back then, or were else we can enquire about the plans

    Thank you

  8. Hi I live in the Western cape and we have submitted plans to build a carport which has been declined because of a sewage pipe on the area where the carport is to be built. I am aware that we can not build a garage and decided to build a carport which has failed. Is there other option of building a carport which will be approved by the council.

  9. Hi.
    We are planning on breaking a wall (non-load bearing) to increase the size of our bathroom by something like 60 extra centimetres and extending a load bearing wall by the same amount. Will we need plans or permissions for that?

  10. Hi there:)

    2 years ago i hired a builder to break down an interior wall that separated the lounge and dining room, he added a lintel for support. Did I require council approval? Do I need to change my house plans ? Can I change the plans this long after the construction has taken place ?

    Also, I now want to convert a window opening into a sliding door and build a patio outside of that sliding door. Do I require council approval and change of plans for this as well ?

    • Strictly speaking you need council permission even if plans aren’t required. You probably won’t need plans for the sliding door and patio, but check with them first. If they need plans for the lintel – which is probable – you can have “as built” plans drawn up.

  11. Hi Penny, I want to close up what used to be a door along the side of the house – there was a 1m X 1m open area between where the wall and door was, supposed to be a porch, but way too small.

    Do plans need to be approved as I will not be building anything, would just be filling in the open area under an arch with solid brick wall.

    Thanks in advance

  12. Hi there

    I am living in a Sectional Title complex in Bryanston. It seems as though some units wish to do loft conversions.

    Obviously this will require plans and engineering reports. Of course, there are also privacy concerns. Some of the units are single storey and some duplex.

    This matter is complicated, and I would like to know, how and where to get the necessary information, to keep our lovely homes compliant with the law and remaining aesthetically pleasing.

    Your assistance will be greatly appreciated.

    Kind regards


    • You can ask to see any plans submitted – presumably they will also need permission from a body corporate? If the conversions affect you then you can lodge an objection with council and the complex. This article may also be helpful.

  13. Hey I wanna build a precast garage do I need a plan for it?

  14. Hello, I would like to turn my carport into a garage, will I need plans for this? Based in Centurion.
    (Single Garage)

  15. My question to you disappeared ?

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