Building Regulations guide

Building Regulations: an updated guide

Why you must comply with the rules and how to go about it

By Staff Writer |

Certain building works must meet Building Regulations requirements. To comply, the correct procedures must be followed, and the relevant technical performance standards met.

If your project does not conform, the work will not be legal, it may not be safe, could cause health problems, injury or even death, and fail to meet energy-efficiency standards.

Should the work be faulty, your local authority could insist you put it right at your own expense. You might even be prosecuted and face an unlimited fine.

Who can help?

In England and Wales, a local authority Building Control (LABC) team or a private approved inspector can handle your project from the planning stage. If you opt to hire an approved inspector, they will inform the local authority about the work by submitting an initial notice.

Or if the work consists of installing certain types of services or fittings, such as heating appliances or replacement windows, the Competent Person Scheme enables some trades to issue the relevant certificates and notify the local authority, in which case a Building Control team does not need to be notified.

In Scotland, Building Regulations are known as Building Standards and administered and enforced by local authorities only. Only LABC teams have powers of enforcement, which may give peace of mind in the event of a dispute with your builder.

By contrast, an approved inspector must hand the project over to the council department if there are problems that cannot be resolved informally.

Building Control fees vary depending on the complexity of the project, the number of inspections needed and the experience of the person doing the work.

Generally, there is little difference price-wise bet ween using an approved inspector and an LABC team. Both ensure your work complies, as far as can be ascertained by inspections, with all the relevant parts of the Building Regulations.

Building Regulation. light coloured herringbone floor bed white duvet loft bedroom grey curtains

New windows were installed in this two-bedroom converted Victorian dairy in Herne Hill, south London, ventilation standards for which are now detailed in Approved Document F. Photo: Darren Chung.

Use the resources

The full Building Regulations for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales – each has different rules – are available on the central government website.

These are lengthy and written in official and technical language, so you may prefer to use more accessible sources such as Front Door, the LABC homeowner resource, or the Planning Portal. These provide general advice on Building Regulations and a directory of Competent Person Scheme operators.

The Construction Industry Council, known as the CIC, has a list of approved inspectors for England and Wales, searchable by location. Visit the LABC website to find a contact for your local officer or council department.

Recent changes

The minimum standards for both new and replacement thermal elements, including the walls, floors and roof, are defined by the permitted U-values.

This applies when building something new, such as a house or an extension, or when removing and replacing a thermal element – though there are exemptions for a ground-floor porch or unheated and thermally separated conservatory with a floor area of less than 30sqm. See Part L of the Building Regulations, which covers the conservation of fuel and power.

If working on more than 50 per cent of the surface area of a thermal element or more than 25 per cent of the entire external surface area of a building, the entire thermal element must achieve at least the U-value given in Approved Document L Table 4.3, column (b).

‘Reduce heat loss by taping and sealing around pipework or services,’ says Anna Thompson, head of engagement at LABC. ‘When installing windows and doors, draught-proof and fill any gaps that air can leak through and make sure they are well fitted.’

The guidance also requires certain U-values for work on a pitched roof with insulation bet ween the rafters, and for a flat roof or a roof which has integral insulation.

Standards for ventilation and new or replacement windows are detailed in Approved Document F. These apply to new homes and those being extended or renovated. They include the need for new or replacement windows to have trick le vents to prevent the risk of condensation.

With new and replacement windows, roof windows, roof lights and doors, if the entire unit is changed it must meet the minimum standards
set out in Approved Document L Table 4.2. Insulated cavity closers, which prevent cold bridging, damp penetration, air infiltration and condensation, must be installed where appropriate, especially if the building’s openings are altered.

Heating systems such as gas boilers, standalone water heaters and heat pumps must be at least as efficient as the value set out in Approved Document L Section 6. A new appliance should use the same fuel as the old one with an efficiency that’s equivalent or better – or use a different fuel.

The maximum flow temperature of a new or replacement heating system should not exceed 55°C. The standards for low-energy fixed lighting have also been updated.

wooden cladding exterior of house steel beams overhang roof floor to glass ceiling

This five-bedroom self-build in Padstow, Cornwall, has an overhanging roof. The risk of overheating is assessed in any new-build home, with requirements detailed in Approved Document Part O. Photo: Mark Bolton.

Self-build specifics

The issue of overheating is addressed in the new Approved Document Part O, which requires an assessment of this risk in a new-build home. Your architect will be asked to supply this information to Building Control.

Plus, a self-build that includes a car parking space will need to provide an electric vehicle charging point.

Did you know?

In some instances, Building Control approval and planning permission is a necessity before demolishing a building.

In retrospect

If a project has not been notified to a Building Control body or carried out by a Competent Person Scheme-registered installer, the local authority will have no record that the work complies. Having official records is important when you come to sell your home as you’ll be asked to provide evidence of compliance.

Your buyer’s mortgage company will want to see the Building Regulations completion certificate.

You may be offered the opportunity to buy indemnity insurance if any paperwork is missing. This is designed to protect the new homeowner – and subsequent owners – against legal action if the local authority were to serve a Building Regulations enforcement notice but shouldn’t be taken as proof that the work is compliant or up to current standards.

Sometimes the seller pays, sometimes the buyer, or the cost – which will vary depending on the scale of the work undertaken – is split bet ween both parties.

A conveyancing solicitor will be able to find the most suitable provider. But it is vital that you are aware that having an indemnity policy does not make the work safe and won’t protect you and your family from death or injury in the event of a fire or a structural failure.

A better alternative may be applying for a regularisation certificate. This retrospective application involves checking what has been built or altered against the regulations that were in place at the time it was carried out. Obtaining a regularisation certificate gives you peace of mind.

Building Regulations Small stairs roof terrace glass rooflight small grey sofa black sideboard unit

A two-bedroom self-build Passivhaus in east London. Part L of the Building Regulations covers the conservation of fuel and power. Photo: Fiona Walker-Arnott.