Plans & Minor Building Work

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

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

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


 Temporary Buildings

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

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

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

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

a) the erection of:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How This Affects You

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

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

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  1. Hi

    I’m in Krugersdorp, I would like to extend my verandah by 1 sqm and build it with steel and glass. Do I need a plan?

  2. Hi,
    I am in MIlnerton and would like to enclose my stoep to turn it into an additional bedroom. The stoep already has a roof and a floor level to the rest of the house, so I would only have to build the walls and break out the windows out of my existing room.
    Do I need plans for this?

  3. jashmer Debising

    Hi Penny,
    We have a large open bay parking area for 60 cars. This open area, however is on a level above an enclosed parking area .This parking bay stands on pillars and is showing signs of spalling, ie rusting rebars. Some of the residents to the building are demanding carports to protect their vehicles from damage. People from the higher floors are throwing stones at night and two cars were already damaged. Will a carport protect a vehicle from stone throwers, Can carports be built on a pillar raised parking area. Will it not add more unnecessary weight to the pillars and further compromise the structural spalling. The residents do not want to prioritize the work. We have other major problems which needs money and therefore your input will help dissuade their persistence.

    • With a parking area that caters for 60 cars you are out of the category for home building, and there will be other regulations that come into play. Nothing I do or say is going to help you I’m afraid. Good luck.

  4. Good day,

    Thank you for the informative articles.

    We would like to enclose the area above our pool with a steel structure bolted into the external walls of our home and plates bolted onto floors, covered with IBR sheeting, its approximately 11 x 6m, do we need to have plans drawn up? We are in Johannesburg, Randburg area.
    We would also like to add on a diningroom adjacent to the kitchen and garage, it will require converting the kitchen window to a door of same width and no changes to garage. Do we have to have our whole house’s plans redrawn or can we have it drawn only to indicate the part of the kitchen that will be affected and the new room?

    • Hi Bianca, Any structure that has a roof covering has to have plans. Most times the councils just need plans for the new additions but I suggest you phone the planning department and check or ask the competent person who does your plans for you, they should know.

  5. If a swimming pool is put in the yard do l need plans or just permission.

  6. Richard Barnes

    Hi Penny,

    I am plaaning on erecting a steel shadeport 6m x 4.5m, i am from welkom Freestate, this work is being done by a qualified boilermaker. Do i need permission from our local municipality.

  7. Hi
    I’d like to convert my large cottage pane windows into the same width cottage pane doors.
    I’d like to build a pool approx 4x7m. Do I need plans for either?

    • Hi Debbie, You do not say where in SA you are, local authorities around the country vary in what they allow. Generally if you keep the same width and height of the windows then you can change them out to doors. You will though have to notify the local council in writing of the change. Personally my mother changed a window for a door and when she sold the house and the inspector came to check the house he would not approve the sale (the new buyers needed a bond and the bank needed the inspectors approval to allow the bond) so she had to get an architect to draw plans at a cost, and the sale was delayed by a number of weeks. This was in KwaZulu Natal.

  8. Hi Penny,

    I would like to know whether it mandatory to submit and have plans approved when I want to build and extra room using concrete slabs which will then be cemented in/out to look like a brick structure? I am in Uitenhage. There seems to be a grey area as some of my neighbours have done that but I am not sure whether its the right thing to do or not.

    • Hi Siyasanga, Any structure that has foundations, floor and a roof needs plans. If you are in an area that has relaxed by-laws then you need to contact your local planning department and ask them what they will allow without plans.

  9. My neighbour is housing people in two caravans, and is now erecting a wooden structure, which looks like it will be a kitchen and a bathroom. This backyard construction is not only keeping my 8 month old daughter from sleeping, due to all the noise, but it is also affecting the sale of our house. Our kitchen overlooks the backyard, and it is a very unappealing sight. Surely it is illegal?

  10. Hi, if you say say you need to permission to build, does that mean you can just send them a letter informing them of what you intend to build, or do you have to make drawings on your plans indicating what you intend to build and show it to the council where and what you intend to build and how would their permission be given?

    • Hi Berndt, In most cases more info supplied is better as the councils do not want to be caught out giving permission to vague plans. A reasonably done sketch should be ok, with a reasonably worded letter. But again you are a bit vague with your question as you do not say what you are wanting to build. The other factor is each local authority has their own requirements regarding plans so it is best to ask them.

  11. I want to build a fence infront but there is avtree on the building line. I do not want to cut the tree down. What can i do

  12. Anthony Putter

    I let a registered builder / steel worker erect one of these 6x3m D.I.Y. galavanised steel carports bought ready-made from Algoa Steel. The “front” part (crossbar) of roof was attached against my garage wall and the “rear” part was assembled onto it’s steel “legs” and concrete into ground. Do I need plans?

    • Anthony Putter

      Ps. I’m in Port Elizabeth and this D.I.Y. bought carport will be errected infront of existing garage opening and not next to it.

    • As the article on this page states – You Don’t Need Plans for Minor Building Work … But you DO Need Permission to Build. And this includes an “open-sided car, caravan or boat shelters or carports that do not exceed 40 square metres in size,” You structure is only 18 sq m. If you didn’t get permission from council to build they might get grumpy.

  13. hi penny
    I want to build a 3m by 3m tool shed in my back yard for storing tools. using hollow blocks and cement. how high can it be and do I need a plan to build this. Durban

    • Tool sheds that are smaller than ten square metres do not require plans in terms of the building regs but you DO Need Permission to Build – as the article on this page states.

  14. Hi,

    I have a neighbour who submitted plans for a new carport/shadeport at his property. He essentially changed an existing lapa into a steel structure. He hired a draughtsperson who submitted the plans. Now months later, the building inspector says that the plans were not approved. But the structure is already built. What happens now? Can he hold the draughtsperson accountable?

    • It seems a bit odd that your neighbour assumed plans had been submitted and approved. I would think he would have asked for a copy of the approved plans before going ahead and building. Wouldn’t you? Presuming the building was completed according to plan, he can ask if they can approve them “as built”. If there is a problem with the plan, then the council can force him to demolish.

  15. Hi,
    We are planning to put up a lean-to (“afdak”) outside our house; it will cover 21 square metres.
    According to the above it might then be considered as minor building work.
    Is that correct?
    Can someone please confirm whether we will need building plans, especially if the structure is bolted onto the walls and the uprights bolted onto the cement floor of the veranda? As I understand it, when it is bolted on and not ‘built’ on, it is not considered a fixture?
    Advice would be greatly appreciate. Thank you.

    • I don’t believe what you describe is necessarily minor building work, you really do need to check with the municipality. Ultimately it is their call whether you need to submit plans or not.

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