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

  139 Responses to “Minor Building Works”

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  1. Hi. Do I require building plans for a metal structure on my patio in my back yard? I want to erect a metal structure with a sliding door , windows , and an IBR roof. No solid brick walls and I have an existing floor surface. I reside in Parow, Western Cape.

  2. Hi Penny

    I will be doing some bathroom and kitchen renovations, adopting the open-plan/wet shower concept. This will include breaking down internal walls (creating an arch where the original walls were) as well as closing a window and widening an opening on another window. Will I need my municipality’s permission to widen the opening of an existing window and to close the other one? I’m based in Cape Town?

    • As soon as you change plumbing you are going to need to have approved plans. You may not need plans for the windows, but you need to check with the municipality.

  3. Hi we want to build a small storage room/garden shed to store boxes and furniture. Cement foundation and sink walls. What is the max height can we make the roof. And do we need plans we stay in Roodepoort Johannesburg

    • Check the dimensions given for minor building work. If bigger than this you will need plans. In terms of dimensions, the regs give minimum rather than maximum heights. Just remember you will need to notify council of your intention to build. BTW what are “sink walls”?

  4. Hi,

    I am on the ground floor of a flat complex and the people above me wants to build a balcony which will destroy my natural light. How can I stop them from building the balconies or prevent the balconies from being too wide?

  5. Hi
    I have bought a house in Randpark Ridge and I would like to know the process for the following:

    I need to:

    1. Build a boundary wall at the front of the house. I have the SG drawings and the setting out. Do I need permission and neighbours approval? In writing?
    Do I need drawings? It is a simple wall with a standard foundation.

    2. I am planning to extend the house with new foundations and a slab with engineer’s sign off.
    What process do I need to follow with this? (With regards to council, neighbours etc)
    This is a small extension but will certainly change the size of the house’s footprint by about 10%

    Your advise would be appreciated.

    • 1. If the wall is 1,8 m or lower you don’t plans according to the NBR. But check with the council because they might want plans. You will only need permission from neighbours if you are asking for regs or bylaws to be relaxed.
      2. You do need plans for an extension.

  6. Hi
    Do I require a plan for a 14 X 1.8 m boundary block wall with driveway gate.


  7. We want to enclose one side of our afdak with a wall half way up and put in sliding windows. We have plans for our afdak when we had it done, but dont have any for erection of a wall half way up.

    would we need plans?

    • Hi Michelle, You don’t say which municipality you are from. Most municipalities would only require that you notified them in writing that you are doing this and refer them to your approved plans.

  8. Hi I want to build wooden cabin attached to out building, for human inhabitation,what action should be taken.

    • Hi Bruce, Any building or structure, no matter what size or building materials used, that will be used for “human habitation” will require plans and approval from your local council before building starts.

  9. Hi There

    I have a question. A school next door to me (we share a boundary wall, which is my back wall) has put two 20FT containers right next to the wall. Firstly I hate the fact that now I look into them from my kitchen, but what concerns me is that if someone climbs on top of the wall they can simply step into my property? So from a security stand point I feel now that this has been overlooked by the school? I have asked them to move it and which they in a very nice way told me NO as they need the space for storage and that is the most suitable place? surely they are over stepping some regulation? Let me know please

    • I’m not sure how municipalities deal with containers in general, but if these are being used for storage then I would say they qualify as “temporary structures“. The first step in any controversy like this one is to contact your local authority and ask them to do something. I would also be concerned about the security risk.
      Please note that while we do answer as many queries as possible, we are not in a position to get involved in disputes. This is a voluntary service and one that takes up more time than you can imagine.

  10. I desperately need help. My dad’ s neighbour has built a lapa with a thatched roof on the boundary wall. With the slightest breeze smoke fills my dad’ s house. My dad can no longer have a braai out of fear that the lapa’ s roof might catch fire.They have long periods without water and the neighbour is seldom home The lapa is attached to the neighbour ‘s house and there are gasbottles in and outside the lapa. The walls are covered in unsightly plastic and wooden panels. During rainy periods water from the roof drowns my dad’ s plants.The building inspector was not sure whether the neighbour had submitted building plans. He promised to write a report about the lapa but is now ignoring all my e -mails.. Potential buyers indicate that their insurance companies will not insure the property,because of the unsightly lapa and the potential fire hazard.Where can I get help?The neighbour is very aggressive.My dad did not give his permission to build against the wall..Thank you.

    • Chances are it is an illegal structure. Contact your local authority and ask them to send out a building inspector to assess the situation.

  11. I want to erect a balcony(2.5m width x 4m length) in a Sectional scheme. the flat does not have a view other than that of the building next door and nobody would actually be able to see the balcony other than the other flatlets in the sectional scheme as well as the apartment building next door – provided they hang out the window. the reason for the balcony would be to make a washing line as the scheme has sold off all the communal area where washing was previously hung.

    Would council need to authorize the balcony? (PS: i will need to change a window into a door using the same size of course) Your help on the above is greatly appreciated.

    City: Cape Town Metro – Building is NOT heritage or infringing on boundary walls…

    • You will need approved plans to erect any sort of balcony, unless the council gives you a waiver. Also, since this is a sectional scheme, you will probably need body corporate (or similar) approval as well.


    • You don’t say how it was built Karl, but if it is a minor structure you shouldn’t need permission as long as it is within legal boundaries etc. If you are worried, then give your local council a call and ask them if they have any requirements.

  13. Hi i have a big marbelite swimming pool (11×15m).I want to make it smaller by building a wall in the middle and re marbelite the one side and then fill up the other end to plant grass.Do i need to get out a building inspector and do i need to get plans drawn up.Thanx herman(bloemfontein)

    • Swimming pools are not covered by the NBR … but rather by bylaws. But if you are changing an existing pools I really don’t think plans will be necessary. If you want to be certain contact the municipality and ask.

  14. Please advise if I require plans to build a wall which is 1.8 meters high on fairly flat land. I reside in the Durban area.

    Alternately please advise up to what height can you build a wall without plans.

    • 1.8 m is the maximum height allowed without plans. You do though need to notify your local authority of your intention to build the wall, and they can quite legally demand plans if the feel they are necessary.

  15. I am not professionally registered as a technician or technologies but have the relevant experience working for a mechanical engineering consultant,What i would like to ask is if i am eligible to draw carport plan without any registration.

    • Without the registration you are not a “competent person.” However if the carport qualifies as minor building work then you don’t need plans.

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