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. Hello.

    I live in Parkhurst and would like to build a patio 5×6, steel structure with IBR sheeting do I require plans.


    • Hi Ross, It depends how high off the ground the floor level will be, and if the structure will be covered then you will need to submit plans. Call your local planning department and ask them

  2. Hey, I have two projects that I need to know if I need building plans for.

    1. Existing open sided carport that that has a corrugated iron roof on, that I just want to enclose by bricking the sides up. Do i need plans for this?

    2. I want to build a wooden poled carport with shade net roof attached to the main house and boundary fence. Do i need plans?

    Thanks. 😉

    • 1. You will need plans if you are going to brick up an open-sided carport.
      2. As long as the wooden carport is no bigger than 40 sq m you don’t need plans – unless the council decides you do!

      • Thank you… You wouldn’t perhaps know who the right person is to contact at the Municipality for permission do you? Eg. Is there a specific department for this type of request?

  3. If i want to build a three bedroom log/wendy house (7.3 x 9), does it constitute minor works or temporary buildings?
    does it require municipal approval especially when it is in a village?

    • No it doesn’t constitute either minor building works or a temporary building. You need properly drawn up plans that must be approved by the local authority.

  4. We would like to enclose our verander. It is already under the roof so no change to the outside walls. We would just put in a door and sliding windows obove the ballistrade. Would this require plans?

    Thank you in advance

    • By enclosing the verandah you are changing its function and making it part of the internal area of the house so the council might require plans. You need to check with them.

  5. Hi Please advise as I am getting no help from my queries with Ethekwini Municipality. We have recently bought a small wooden hut that does not have an floor, but it does have n window, door and airvents. We want to be able to rent it out. It’s 3×3 square meters and we have placed it more then 3m away from the boundary wall with the window facing away from the neighbors side. We have a very low boundary wall between our properties and they have an granny flat next to the wall with a huge window and the back door looking into our back yard. (The neighbors favorite pass time is to look into our back yard esp when we outside so we don’t use the space) Due to us not using the space we figured an hut would be a good extra income and the space won’t just be unused. We have an outside room that has an bathroom for use until as the hut is not a permanent fixture. Please can you tell me what is required and how to get our hut legal. The neighbor wants to have it removed as its invading his privacy and to him its a start to low cost hosing, but to us its an extra income that will allow us to to do more to improve our property. The hut is very basic and will need some work done before one can actually move in, like insulating it and having the wood treated. It is made from old palasades so its recycled wood. Please any advise or help would be very welcome as Ethekwini is not coming back to me with their requirements. I get the feeling our neighbor has friends there and that is why we having such an delay in getting advise.

    • You are on very dangerous ground and are lucky that the council hasn’t told you to remove the hut! In terms of the structure you have erected, the only legitimate use you could make of it right now is a tool shed (viz. tool sheds that are smaller than ten square metres do not require plans – however you would still need council approval to have the shed). If you are planning to use the hut for accommodation, you will need plans and approval from the council that you can in fact erect what will be a second dwelling. That opens up a whole new can of worms since the National Building Regulations state that “The overall plan area of any dwelling house shall be not less than” … “27 m2 in the case of permanent category 1 buildings, or 30 m2 in the case of any other permanent building.” Furthermore, the Act states: “The floor area of any dwelling unit shall not be less than that necessary to provide one habitable room and a separate room containing toilet facilities.” So you are going to have to plumb in a bathroom – and this must be done a) with plans and b) by a qualified, registered plumber. There are also regulations in terms of roof height – minimum is 2,1 m.

      • Thanks. Just one more question, the hut is not permanent as we are going to be moving it later on. We just need a little extra income for now. We are however planning on putting up a full granny flat at an later stage for family to stay with us. But that will be much later as we are still not financial able to do so.
        Can I also ask would we be able to clear it as an tool shed then slowly upgrade it to a level for someone to stay and then have it reclassified or won’t that be allowed? As I said it is very basic and needs some work done on it so if we had time we could do it a little at a time? We had no idea that we needed plans as those we spoke to that have huts they are renting out said they did not need any plans and that those that rent the space share bathroom facilities with the outside room. So you can see where we were taken by surprise when told we needed plans by our neighbors and that they were going to have it removed. If we’d known we’d have sorted the paperwork first then put the hut up.

        • If the council allows you to keep the “hut” as a toolshed, in the event of you wanting to upgrade, you will need plans. The problem with illegal structures is that if a neighbour complains, or if the council becomes aware of them some other way, you risk having to demolish.

  6. Do I need an city council approval fo a patio 3 x 4 meter – woden beam with fibre glass sheets.
    Living in Pretoria RSA

  7. Charles Botha

    Hi Penny,

    What would be the structural implications if the square tube support columns for a carport are 76x76x2mm instead of 76x76x3mm/

  8. Thanx for this info. So a carport 6m x 6m x 3m, built on a concrete slab, don’t need “plans”, since it’s considered “minor building works”?

  9. Hi
    I would like to found out. Is true we don’t need plans to put a 80 square log cabin

  10. From Tswhane, we want to dlighly enlargd the kitchen, this mean we gave to break thought the current wall where the sink is and build a 5m wall closing off the lounge, this will be at the back of the lounge snd then move our machines, sink and dmall pantry in that area, it will thus be a extension to current kitchen just nakung it bigger, will we need plans or will s building inspector come out snd check and tell us if we do? Thx

  11. Hi there. I am wanting to build a roof deck at the back of my house in observatory. it has a slightly pitched roof and would possible require converting the roof to a flat roof before building the deck. Do I need to acquire formal building plans and permission for such a structure?

    Any help would be much appreciated!


  12. I had an floating carport erected do I need a building plan cape town

  13. I’ve bought a house with a Double Garage and carport in 2014. I recently received a notice to obtain written approval for the unauthorised building work(Double Garage and carport). Can anyone please help me?

  14. Hi Penny.

    I replaced my carport shade net with corrugated sheets.

    This in a complex that is run by a body corporate.The structure of the carport exists of 3 brick pillars with a wooden frame structure on top.This was build when the complex was build years ago and all ready approved on the plans by the city council.The previous owner had the carport covered with shade net.I replaced the net with the corrugated sheets.

    Do I need plans for this?
    The carport is open on 3 sides.

    Thank you

  15. Hi I want to build a carport but hearing I needs to do so whether freestanding or not its about 7×4 many people are doing it in the area so why should I get plans for it I don’t think any of them got plans etc? I’m in city of cape town can you please advise as it is it extremely necessary for my car thank you

    • Contact the local authority and see if they want plans. If they do you would be advised to comply because they have the right to tell you to demolish any illegal structure! You could of course raise the question that other people have built similar structures …

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