Alterations and Additions to Existing Buildings
May 272013

What the National Building Regulations say about Alterations and Additions to Existing Buildings

alterations and additions

If you build onto an existing home you will need to submit plans and comply with the “new” building regulations, including Part XA which deals with energy usage.

In general, the National Building Regulations are not retroactive in their application. This means that if you are adding to or altering a building, you won’t have to ensure that the entire building complies with new regulations that have been imposed since the building was originally erected.

This will be of particular interest to people who are concerned about the implications of the new energy efficiency legislations and regulations


But if you need plans for any additions or alterations, then you will need to ensure that the new section of the building complies.

Part A of SANS 10400, General Principles and Requirements, deals with alterations and additions.

This part of the National Building Regulations states that where an application is made to make an alteration or addition to any building that was approved before this version of the Building Regulations and Standards Act (i.e. prior to 2008):

  • The  alteration must comply with the requirements of the Act, but “consequent changes to any other part of the building which would be necessary in order to make such other part comply with the requirements of the Act shall not be required unless in the opinion of the local authority such consequent changes are necessary to ensure the health or safety of persons using the building in the altered form”
  • The addition must comply with the requirements of the Act, “but no changes to the original building shall be required unless the addition :
    1. will affect the structural strength or stability of the original building;
    2. will render any existing escape route from the original building less effective; or
    3. will affect the health of persons using the original building.

Problems May Occur When Adding to Older Buildings

In addition to the above, the law-makers are aware that problems might arise when alterations or additions are carried out on buildings that were erected in compliance with earlier building by-laws.

In the case of such an addition the local authority (which is of course the body that will approve any plans that might be required for such an addition or alteration) might decide to treat the new portion as an entirely separate part. If this happens, then the alterations will have to be designed to comply with the National Building Regulations “without having any effect on the original portion of the building”.

This is not likely to happen often with alterations, though the local authority will decide “to what extent that part of the building which is not to be altered should comply with the National Building Regulations”. Generally they will be more stringent when it comes to the application of fire regulations (Part T, Fire protection), and particularly when it comes to escape route requirements. Since this doesn’t affect “dwelling houses”, it is unlikely to have any effect on residential buildings.

The regulations state: “It is obvious that a pragmatic and essentially practical approach is necessary.”

Their primary concern is the health and safety of those people using the building. But they advise local authorities that any decisions “should be within the context of what might be practical and economically sound in an old building. If an owner or entrepreneur cannot alter a building to suit his purpose at a cost which will enable him to have a reasonable economic return, he will probably not alter the building at all. This could lead to the perpetuation of a situation which might be dangerous but one which is in compliance with old by-laws and is thus perfectly legal. Such a situation could often be considerably improved by making certain changes that are practical and economically sound even though they would not provide the same standard as would be expected in a new building.

“Both the owner and the local authority will have to consider what they are trying to achieve with the Regulations and the answer should be tempered by the knowledge of what is reasonable and practical to require of an existing building.”



  334 Responses to “Alterations & Additions”

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  1. Hi, i am about to a house in Randburg, Ferndale and my aim is extend few rooms on the ground, do i need to get a permission from the council? i won’t touch the current structure but will start separate rooms in the same yard.

  2. Hi

    I want to know if the contractor I use to do renovations to my house is required to be NHBRC registered or if this is only a requirement for the building of a new house or additions to an existing house?

    • Hi James, The NHBRC registration only relates to new houses but the chances are that if they are reputable builders they will also do renovations as well. You can check with the Master Builders if they are regisrered, all good builders should be:

  3. Gauteng – Can you please advise if there are special requirements that must be met when the addition (living room) to a house with a tile roof has a thatch roof?

    • I do not understand the question. If the addition has a different roof to the existing house that is not a problem so long as it is stated on the plans.

  4. Hi – I would like to close in my courtyard – extending existing walls and adding roof to change into a laundry room. Kitchen door leads onto courtyard… what do I need to do.

  5. Hi
    I need help how long does it take the contractor to do alterations in a house according to the law.

    • Hi Mogomotsi, There is no time limit according to the law. That is why when you hire a contractor to do work you must put the agreement for the work and the costs in writing and put time limits in there.

  6. I want to extend my rear patio with a wooden deck by 2meters no roof covering.Will I need to submit plans.

    Thank you,Ken

  7. Hi. Why do plans that have been submitted for approval have an expiration date of 1 year attached to it? I’ve been told that I need to resubmit my application from scratch after having gone through the entire process for 2 years and having spend about R20000 for an architect, engineer and application fees. My architect just told me he needs to requote me for additonal work as some of the building laws/requirements have now changed. Confused and frustrated

    • Roberto you do not have to start from scratch unless the plans have expired and the local authority states you must begin the process again – which is unlikely. You can usually apply for an extension – but it will depend on what your local authority says. If you ask your architect which sections of the regs he is referring to I can tell you whether he is correct or not. Most of the current NBR deemed-to-satisfy regs were completed by 2012. There have been some minor adjustments to some standards.

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