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
    I was wanting to know, does one require building plans to erect an
    awning? Specifically a louvre type awning. And do building regulations
    differ from one municipality to another?

    • Muneera,
      1) An awning would normally be minor building work and so would not require plans.
      2) The National Building Regulations apply to all construction work throughout SA, regardless of municipality or locale – e.g. farms, cities, villages… However, different local authorities (councils and municipalities) have their own by-laws, and some of these will affect what is and is not permitted in terms of building work. Remember that the NBR are minimum standards.

  2. One more thing

    I am quite competent in drawing up my own plan , can I submit this plan even though I am not an architect

    • Mo, Unfortunately not. This has to be done by a competent person – i.e. a qualified person who is registered as required by the National Building Regulations. I have given you a link to our sister web site, Owner Building where I have written an article about competent persons. You might be able to find someone who would sign your plans – which would save you some money (rather like they might use a draughtsperson in their office to draw the plans) – but a competent person must be appointed, and this person has to submit the plans and follow through to the end of the build.

  3. Hi There ( This is a great site for the public well done )

    I have a house with an existing stoep
    The stoep is already on the plan I aim to put a roof over the stoep , will I require a plan for this the stoep is 2m X10 m

    Thank yopu for your answer

    Best regards

    • Mo, it is up to the building control officer to make this decision. Probably not, since I presume it is open-sided, and would then be regarded as minor building work.

  4. Hi there!

    I am doing internal alterations to an existing building. It is currently being used as a Student Residence and the buyer wants to turn it into bachelor units. Do I need to take part XA into account even though it’s just an internal alteration? Will I need to brick up existing windows to meet with the fenestration requirements so forth?

    Thanking you in advance

    • Kazerne, As I understand the regulations you will only need to comply with the new XA if plans are required. In general “the National Building Regulations are not retroactive in application”. Health and safety are the primary issues they are concerned about. I have added a page with some more information that might help you.
      One thing you will need to take into account is the fact that the function of the building is being changed, and this will need to be note on the plans. For this reason the local authority may demand compliance with Part XA.

  5. I will like to extend my existing veranda by about a meter, how can I go about getting approval for this

    • Craig, if you need plans to do this, you will have to consult with a competent person. That person will then submit the plans to council and make sure the work is done according to plan. You local authority might consider this to be minor building work, in which case you won’t need plans. But you will need to check with their planning department, and if it is minor building work they may need you to fill in a form or provide a letter, stating that you are going to be doing the work.
      The major issues will be how close to the boundary the extension will take the verandah – if the house is already close to the boundary line you might have to get approval from the council. And how structural the work is. e.g. if it is built with bricks and mortar and is elevated (which a true verandah usually is) then you will probably need plans.

  6. I have enclosed a stoep & balcony with windows/glass bricks as weather protection. Is this considered as minor building work, when the original stoep and balcony structures were in place and previously approved by council?

    many thanks

    • Presuming the roof structure was already in place, I would think so Ed. It doesn’t sound as if you have altered the floor space or done anything to affect the structural safety of the building. Just bear in mind function. You can’t now make this an en suite bedroom! When/if you sell, make sure that it is clearly functioning as stated on the plans. i.e. Being used for what you would normally use a stoep (e.g. sitting/casual eating etc).

  7. hi,

    i want to renovate and alter my house and not sure if the work would need plan approvals.
    there is a big bedroom that i need to partition into 2 rooms and then convert a smaller partition into a kitchen and then change the existing kitchen into a bedroom. do i need approved plans for this work or is it minor change.

    dumsani ndzabe,

    • Dumsani, You can partition the room without plans, but as soon as you change the function of a room, e.g. kitchen to bedroom or part of a bedroom to a kitchen, you do need plans. You can probably submit a rider plan that just shows this part of the house, but you will need to indicate new plumbing and electrics and have this work installed by qualified, registered people.

  8. We’d like to build a “patio” – just foundations and slab – 25m2 – no roof or walls. Do we need plans?

  9. Hi,

    What happens if an addition has been made to a property before you purchased the property and no no permission was sort?


    • Craig – you might have a problem. However it is possible to have a rider plan drawn up and submit this to the council. You will need to ensure though that the addition was completed according to the Building Regulations. If not, you might have to alter the alterations! If it is totally illegal – i.e. does not comply, the council could demand that you demolish it. So weigh up all these issues.

  10. Please advise:
    We would like to extend our kitchen, living room and study – by making use of lots of wasted space (large open areas)… how would we need to approach something like this:

    1. would I need to have an architect draw up plans for approval by the municipality?
    2. do we only need permission to do minor building work?

    we will not be breaking down any other walls

    • Nadiya, You say you won’t be breaking down “any other walls” so this probably IS minor building work.
      If so, then I suggest you outline the work you intend to do and submit this to your local authority. They should have some sort of a form you can fill in.
      In more general terms, if changes don’t involve load-bearing walls then you probably wouldn’t need plans. For instance, there might be a wall that you could bash out to make extra space. But if this WAS a load-bearing wall, you would need input from an architect, possibly even an engineer – and you definitely would need plans. The existing plans will show which are load bering walls and which aren’t. If the alterations don’t change the usage of the areas involved you also probably wouldn’t need plans. But if the end result involves a total reconfiguration, you’d be advised to submit a rider plan anyway – simply so that you are covered when/if you decide to sell the property.
      I hope this helps.
      When in doubt contact your local authority. At the end of the day they have the final say.

  11. We have a braai area next to our back wall. We are planning to enclose the area with a pergola. Would we need to get approval to do this?

    • Hilda if the structure is open sided and smaller than the area specified in the regs then no. If you are in fact going to enclose it – e.g. with glass or some sort of wall – then yes you will.

  12. I have an existing patio (it is part of my house, on my plans, has a built in braai, connects to my house on the one side with a glass sliding door, has same ceiling as the rest of my house and ‘shares’ the roof) and I wish to enclose it with aluminium&glass folding and sliding doors, do I need council approval and do I need plans? I’m not changing the structure – just putting in sliding doors/windows. I’m not even planning on taking out the existing sliding door to the rest of my house.

    Would the new fenestration regulations apply to this part of the house?

    All the contractors who gave me quotes said that I don’t need approval, but I’m not so sure…

    • The new fenestration regs apply to all parts of the house including additions to an old house. Your local authority MAY not require plans, but you should check with them because you will effectively be changing the function of this space – and function is an important part of the National Building Regulations. Contractors often tell people that approval isn’t required, because it is a hassle for them. My guess is that this will be regarded as minor building work, but that you will be required to submit a rider plan showing the new doors and windows. It’s as well to make sure because otherwise if you decide to sell at a later stage, there may be objections that hold up the sale.

  13. What do I need to do before I start to extend my cottage e.g. One
    front unit wall? Minor building work. Who do I contact to come and
    inspect the cottage to be extended

    • The planning department of your local authority.

      • Hi Penny, I would like to extend the height of my boundary wall with either palisade steel panels or precast panels. Will I require a plan for this? Thank you.

        • Sally, 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 is regarded as minor building work in terms of the National Building Regulations, and does not require plans. However in terms of the legislation, you are obliged to notify the local authority of the work you intend to do. If you are going to extend it higher than 1,8 m, they might require plans. It’s their prerogative.

  14. I’d like to know if a structure of 4 poles with a shade-net roof is considered a structure – even a temporary one or a minor alteration.
    Such a construction could easily be used as a car port but it is not permanently enclosed in any way – merely tensioned between the posts.

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