Getting the Right Building Checks Before Renovations

Renovating or extending your home is not as easy as picking up a sledgehammer and getting stuck in. There are several hoops you’ll have to jump through before you can even bang in that first nail.

Who needs approval

Because it’s your home that’s being renovated, whether you are doing it yourself or having a builder do it for you, you are responsible for getting any permits that are required.

If you are using a builder, he can take care of this on your behalf, as long as the contract you both sign clearly specifies whose responsibility it is.

What needs approval

If you are planning to change the shape or structure of your home, you are going to need approval first. This includes adding rooms, moving or removing internal walls and adding windows or doors.

Carports and outdoor shade solutions such as patio roofs and pergolas may also require approval if they are attached to the existing structure. Garden sheds, fencing, outdoor awnings and other minor additions don’t generally require approval, but if in doubt, find out from your local council first.

Approval is required in line with the Building Code of Australia for such things as:

  1. Structural soundness
  2. Health and safety
  3. Local planning regulations
  4. Environmental requirements
  5. Heritage requirements
  6. Electrical and plumbing work
  7. Demolition
  8. Cutting down trees.

Regulations vary from state to state and council to council, but as a general rule, if you are planning a major extension or renovation of an existing structure, you will have to draw up detailed plans, which will need to be approved by a local authority or building certifier. A site survey may also be required.

Where to get approval

Your first port of call should be your local council. Check their website or pop in for a chat. They don’t bite and they’re generally more than willing to help you get it right first time. Before you go to all the trouble of submitting an application, talk to a council planner first.

Other approvals

As well as the normal permits, there are other approvals that may be required. If your home is heritage listed for example, you may require approval before you can renovate or add to it. You will also need to talk to your home insurance company to make sure you have adequate coverage both during and after the renovation.

Once you have approval

Once you have all the necessary paperwork and the project gets underway, you will receive inspection visits from the relevant authority to make sure the work being done complies with the plans and specifications. Any electrical or plumbing work will also need to be inspected to ensure it conforms to Australian standards.

If you don’t get approval

The consequences for undertaking renovations without a permit don’t bear thinking about.

In the best-case scenario, the council will issue a ‘Stop Work’ notice until you obtain a permit. In the worst case, they will issue you with an on-the-spot fine, take you to court, make you have the work redone, or even make you remove it from the property altogether.