Minor Building Works

What is “Minor Building Work”?

two barbecues
“I only want a braai on my patio.” you might say. Well these two are both on a patio and both have braais but the one on the left will be minor building work and the one on the right is not.

Whatever you construct on your property needs plans, unless it is defined as “minor building work”. Even so the Act states very well 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 approval by your local authority’s building control officer before you can commence with any work . So long as you make an application to get the proper approval 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 adhere to the regulations.


Temporary Buildings

Short-term structures also need permission from the local authority. This includes builders’ sheds, on-site toilets, and any other structure you may want to build (or be obliged to erect) for the building project.

The local authority will not give you approval to build a temporary building until you give certain information, so they are able to evaluate it. At very least they have to know:

• what the planned use and life span of the building will be
• the space in which it is to be built (in other words where you are intending to put it)
• the availability of proper materials from which it may be constructed

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

a ) the erection of poultry houses (hoender hokke or chicken coups) that are no more than ten square metres in size, aviaries that are no bigger than 20 square metres, 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, tool sheds that are smaller than ten square metres, childrens’ playhouses that are no more than five square metres, cycle sheds no more than five square metres, greenhouses that are a maximum 15 square metres, open-sided car, caravan or boat shelters or carports that do not exceed 40 square metres in size, 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, any pergola, private swimming pool (although most local authorities do insist on plans), 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 example , it is up to the building control officer to make this assessment.

How This Affects You

We have had quite a few inquiries on this site relating to when and where plans are required. As you will see, there are some exceptions, but in the end it is up to the local authority to determine whether or not you need plans.

It also makes sense that the structures defined as minor building work will all need to be fit for purpose. So you can’t say you are putting together 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:  Plans & Minor Building Work, A Garden Structure

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  1. Does a pizza oven need counsil approval?

    • Technically yes, usually not. It’s like a braai. They are brick structures and although not mentioned in the section on minor building works, are usually regarded as minor building work. But check with your council to be sure.

  2. Celeste Steegmans

    Good day

    I want to extend my garage by 1.3m in width and them change the roof from zinc flat roof to a a frame and will not be a boundary wall but it will be extended to the inside of my garden. The builder says it’s ok no plans needed. I want to check if this is ok.

    • Sorry Celeste but your builder is telling you an untruth as many builders do to get work. You will need plans approved


      you start building. Many people have been caught out this way and when the council have caught up with them then the fines can be very costly. If you want to sell your house at a later stage and you did not get plans done and the proper approval you might not be allowed to sell the house until this is put right and this could be very expensive.


  4. Desire oosthuizen

    Good day

    I would like to know if I can extend my existing carport. I live in Centurion and my existing carport is 12x 6 m. It was there when I moved in years ago and I see it is not on the house plans.I want to extend it by 10 m. Therefore in the end it will be 22x 6 m. Do you think I ill have a problem as the existing one is not on the plans and do you think I will be able to erect it with just asking for permissions. I need to urgently extend the carport due to the hail season. I am a woman and do not know all about this kind of stuff and i do not have alot of money to pay architects ect.

    • If you have a look at our post on “minor building work” it explains what is allowed. The regulations say: “an open-sided car, caravan or boat shelters or carports that do not exceed 40 square metres in size,” so you will need plans. It may cost a lot more at a later stage if you build without plans and permission first.

  5. We are looking at replacing a 1m high brick wall with a 1,8m pre cast wall in Cape Town. A builder told us we don’t need plans/ permission. Is that correct?

    • Hi Ian, Up to 1.8m is allowed in Cape Town without plans and you should be OK as there is already a wall and, hopefully, this wall is on your plans. What they would normally require if there was no wall previously would be to inform them in writing, without plans, of the intention of erecting a wall.

      • I managed to get hold of a building inspector who says that ANY changes to the current structure would require plans. all the contractors I have spoken to seem to agree with you (no plans needed up to 1.8m) but we live in a relative’s house (she is supportive and will fund the job) and she lives overseas. my only concern is the repercussions of doing this without plans…

        • Hi Ian, This is unfortunately the way it is, any municipality has the right to demand plans if they want them even though the building regulations say that what you are building is “minor building work”. If you are concerned about the repercussions then you must go in person to the planning department that deals with your area with your address and erf number, and possibly a few photos of what is there at the moment, and speak to a senior planner and ask for the reason why they want plans for “minor building work”. Please let us know the outcome.

  6. Dayalan Govender

    Hi. I have spoken to the NHBRC and they will not help me with a builder who put in a new roof for me and the roof still leaks. This is my existing home that i did extensions/alterations on. Who can help me. Thanks, Dayalan Govender

    • Hi Dayalan, Unfortunately the NHBRC only deals with new houses that are registered with them. They do not get involved with other building and alteration disputes. If the builder is registered with one of the reputable organisations such as the MBA (Master Builders Association) then you can contact them and complain. If it is a bakkie builder that did the work and he is not a registered builder then you can try and take him to court. Many people have been taken by “builders” who take cash and do a bad job. That is why it is always best to use a reputable builder even though it might cost a bit more.

  7. Garth Petersen

    Good Morning…please can you advise if their is a place that i can report the company that i used to.

    They have installed and manufactured my balustrading which definitely does not conform to any regulations?

    Thank you in advance.

    • Hi Garth,
      Your first stop is to get hold of the Building Inspector at your local municipality. We have a list of all municipalities and contact numbers here: municipality-contact The section of the Building Regulations that deals with balustrades is Part-M Stairways as well as Public Safety Part-D. There is more on this here: stairways The other option you can use is the “Hello Peter” website: http://hellopeter.com/

      • Thanks Janek…i did explore that option but after speaking to the guys at SABS…sounds like it only applies to public areas and not residentual…thanks again! We have a gap of 300mm on two of the corners which a child cld easily fall thru.

        • Hi Garth,
          A bit more info in this post gives me more of an idea of what you are looking for and I think it is this.
          In Regulations Part-M Stairways it says this, (and this is ALL stairways not only public);
          4.3 Prevention against falling
          4.3.1 Any flight of steps which contains more than three risers shall have protection on both sides provided by a secure wall, screen, railing or balustrade which shall be not less than 1 m high and so erected that any such wall, screen, railing or balustrade in any occupancy classified as E2, E3, E4, H1, H2, H3, H4 or H5 shall not have any opening above the pitch line that permits the passage of a 100 mm diameter ball; provided that such protection in any occupancy that is not an occupancy classified as E2, E3, E4, H1, H2, H3, H4 or H5 shall consist of at least a handrail and one other rail midway between such handrail and the stair tread.”

          H4 & H5 are domestic dwellings.
          Hope this helps 🙂

          • Gee thanks again Janek! I really hope you right on this one as i assumed that the gent from the SABS which is apparently the guy in charge of stairways etc would know his stuff. He was very adamant that it would not apply to myself as my house is not used as a public area hmmm.

            Let me give it another go Janek and i will keep you updated along the way. Thanks again

          • Yes, please let us know the outcome so we can help others in the same situation.

  8. Hi

    I cannot post pictures here to enable you to see what I am talking about. We have this covered patio area (roof only). We would like to convert it into a braai room – would we need plans to build a braai there for starters?

    • Hi Tracey,
      You can send a pic if you go to “contact us” in the top menu. Just be aware the setting is for a max 2Mb file. What is the distance from other buildings and boundaries? What suburb are you in greater CT?

  9. Janene Oosthuizen Oosthuizen

    Can u tell me how a brick boundry wall should look like hight and then it was said that there should be pillars between dont know what and how to start

    • Hi Janene,
      Any flat wall longer than a few metres is in danger of falling over if it does not have any lateral support. This could be dangerous as well as costly if at a later stage the wall has to be rebuilt. All you have to do is look around at some of your neighbours walls and see how they are constructed. Sometimes you might not see the support pillars/columns from the outside but they will be there on the inside. The average height that most municipalities in SA allow without plans is 1.8 metres, check with your local council on this. Precast walls have support columns embedded in concrete every 1.5 to 2.0 metres or so. Some people plan and build their walls incorporating features such as planters. Have a look at this picture of a wall with pillars and a planter built in between two of the pillars:

  10. Hello

    We recently bought a caravan and would like to build a chromadek carport.
    The size of the carport would be 7.5m x 3.5m with two of the sides attached to the house.

    We live in a estate that follow the Tshwane city counsel’s laws / guidelines. The property is a full title property. The big question… do I need plans for the structure?

    Thank You

    • Hi Andre,
      You can see the Tshwane Town Planning Scheme and by-laws on our other site here: tshwane-town-planning-scheme-2008 Generally all carports under 40sq m are considered “minor building works” and are allowed without plans BUT you must notify the council in writing of what you are doing. Height of the carport is also restricted, page 30 has this clause:
      (d) a single storey garage; car-port or shelter; laundry; private swimming-pool; change room for a private swimming-pool, tennis court, squash court; or storeroom may be erected on any portion of a building restriction area other than where such structures are adjacent to a street boundary:
      Provided that
      (e) (i) the position thereof is not detrimental to the amenities of the adjoining property or properties;
      (ii) the height above natural ground level thereof shall not exceed 3,00 metres;

      As you are part of an estate there are also rules that each body corporate has and you will more than likely have to inform them first and get their approval to put up your carport.

  11. Hi, I want to demolish our current prefabricated garage as our caravan does not go through it. I would then like to rebuild it with bricks. The one wall is on the neighbour boundry. Do I need a plan for this? Then I also want to replace the existing roof of our house and increase the pitch as the roof is leaking, do I need a plan for this?

    • Yes Linley you will need plans for the garage and the roof. You don’t say where you live, but unless it’s Cape Town, you’re going to need neighbour’s consent to build on the boundary as well.

  12. Hi. I recently purchased a home in parow north and would like to put up a boundary wall. From reading the above, I understand that I do not need pland if 1.8m or less but I do need to inform my local authority. Can you assist me with who my local authority would be or where I could get this information? Thanks

  13. I am a bit confused.
    All building to be done, minor or bigger projects must be registered and a competant person be involved.
    Surely the above does not apply when building done on small holding or on a farm?
    I want to start building in a month from my own drawings on small holding just outside residential area of Pretoria.

    • Hi Louis,
      You should not be confused as the law is very clear about this. All building and construction projects must have a “competent person” prepare and submit plans to the local authority for approval. If your plans are underwritten by a “competent person” then the council might approve them. You must have approved plans before you build, the only difference with farmland is the the building boundary lines and the handling of sewage, and these may vary depending on your area, check these first before you start. As an owner builder, you do not have to register with the NHBRC – but you will then need to apply for an exemption from them – and you will not be allowed to sell the property for at least five years. We have a Town Planning Scheme for JHB here: town-planning-scheme-jhb – even though it is not your area, it will give you some idea of what is required on the Highveld. Minor building work such as a braai or carport etc. on the other hand does not need plans, but the local authority needs to be informed in writing. It is advisable to follow the regulations – otherwise you risk having your home demolished for non-complicance!

  14. Clint Dalglish

    I put up a 29m2 carport in front of my double garage. Will I need plans for this?

    • Hi Clint,
      As you have seen from the info on this “Minor Building Works” page, these sizes are a general rule and each municipality will have it’s own set of by-laws. If it is under 40 square metres in size then no plans are required in terms of the NBR, BUT you will have to notify the Local Authority Planning Department in writing. This has to be done before construction starts. I suggest you do this ASAP before they ask you to demolish it (which they are entitled to do). The other thing is, you have not said how close to the boundary your carport extends, as this could also affect the approval if neighbours boundaries and street boundaries are encroached. I would contact your local Planning Department and ask them what the by-laws for your area are, then get all your paperwork into them quickly.

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