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.”



  365 Responses to “Alterations & Additions”

Comments (364) Pingbacks (1)
  1. I am starting the building and project management company and will
    like to know what is required, more on building construction company.
    Your advise is highly appreciated.

    kind regards

    • Molpone to start a company of this type you will need to register as a business with the Companies and Intellectual Property Commission (CIPC). You will also need to register with the NHBRC. They will tell you what their requirements are.

  2. Hi,
    I would like to extend my house on the one side, there is only two electrical points in that wall, no windows or doors, i would only like to extend it by approx. 1.5m.
    What approvals would I need or what regulations would I have to comply with?

    Kind Regards

    • Hi Nazeem,
      Each Municipal area in South Africa has it’s own local by-laws for extensions and additions. All structural additions or alterations will need plans to be submitted and these have to be drawn up by a “competent person”. To move the electrics you will have to get a qualified and registered electrician to do this as he will have to supply you with a COC for council. As for the distance you want to extend have a look at our page for boundary lines here: boundary-lines-walls-fences

  3. Hi
    I intend to install a roof with downpipe and gutter over my kitchen entrance door. The dimensions will be 1.7m by 3.8m. This will be open ended.
    How close can this be erected to my boundary wall. Will I need a building plan?

  4. Hi

    I am getting an extension to an existing building done. I have approval to build on the boundary wall from my neighbors and the approved plan shows the extension will be along the boundary.

    There is an already existing precast fence along my boundary so when digging the trench we dug it next to this existing wall and there will now be a 50cm space between precast fence and extension wall.

    Will this be a problem with the building inspector?

    Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Pooven,
      So long as you are within the approved boundary line there will not be a problem. The only problem will be keeping the space clean, you should also create a few weep holes (drain holes) so that the rainwater does not dam up between the walls and undermine the foundations.

  5. Hi
    Do I need to appoint a health and saftey officer for residential alterations ? If so what is their function ? thanks

    • Hi Ava (aka. Amelia),
      For residential alterations, additions and extensions you certainly do not need a health and safety officer. If the extent of the alterations goes beyond the definition of “minor building work” (See here: minor-building-work and here: minor-building-works) then you will need the assistance of a “competent person”. You can read up more about this on our other site here: a-competent-person

  6. Hi

    Our complex is looking to allow owners to erect carports at their
    respective units. We cant seem to find out if we need approval from
    the necessary authorities or not. We are looking at a cantilever
    structure that will be free standing from the units i.e. at no point
    will the carport be attached to the units garage or owners house

    Could you please advise if we need approval from the necessary
    authorities. Secondly could you advise who will be the correct people
    who we need to contact. The complex is situated in Wilgeheuwel,

    Best Regards
    Janneman Kaljee

    • Hi Janneman,
      Carports as you explained fall under “minor building work” and includes: “open-sided car, caravan or boat shelters or carports that do not exceed 40 square metres in size”. You can read more here minor-building-works But you are advised to let the council know in writing of your intentions.

  7. Good day, Do I need to have building plan for the installation of louvre awning at my home. It would be in my backyard, against 2 sides of external part of house. Awning Size roughly 6 x 4 metres. Thank you

    • Emily this would fall under minor building work (“open-sided car, caravan or boat shelters or carports that do not exceed 40 square metres in size,”) even if it was to cover a patio. You just have to notify the council that you are erecting it.

  8. Hi,
    I have read through the regulations, but need clarification on whether an application is required when changing existing steel framed windows into aluminium framed windows (not altering the openings). Specifically- do we need to comply with Part XA?

    • No Melissa, this is not a structural alteration, and you don’t have to comply with XA. Rule of thumb – only if alterations needs plans. Note that minor building work relating to doors and windows, that is specified in the NBR:
      the conversion of a door into a window, or a window into a door, without increasing the width of the opening,
      the making of an opening in a wall that doesn’t affect the structural safety of the building concerned,

      If you are simply replacing same size windows, I don’t think you even need to inform the council. Looks like you work for an architectural firm; to be sure, why not give the relevant local authority a call?

  9. Hi
    We’re currently considering building a “granny-flat” but am not sure about the regulations for this. We have about 600 square meters available to do this and are thinking to build 1 x 3 bedroom and 1 x 2 bedroom flats.
    Can you please, if possible, let me know what we’re allowed to build and what not.

    Thank you

    • Charlene, You need to have plans drawn up by a competent person (see this link) who should know what is permitted in your area. It depends largely on the zoning by-laws – you can check these with you local authority (council or municipality).

  10. Dear Penny
    Our neighbours at the back of us have started to construct. Initially we thought it was going to be a garage with a granny flat on top, but we think he has now put up a small cluster complex, as there is more than one dwelling of this nature on the property. They are very close to the boundary wall and they have gone double storey, but have not come to ask our permission in terms of relaxation of the building lines, or to go up double storey.

    Now I remember in the past one required permission from your immediate neighbours if you were going to build beyond the building line and/or if you were going up double storey, but I cannot find any building by-laws, acts or regulations that support this. Further to this there is the re-zoning issue from Res 1 to Res 2, or other zoning.

    Do you know if the owner should have obtained my permission to relax the building line, build double storey and re-zone the property. I want to have my facts straight first, before I approach the owner. If he should have obtained my permission, but has not, what steps can I take. I would appreciate your input.
    kind regards

    • Cathy where do you live? The only rezoning that I am aware of that allows building close or on a boundary without neighbors consent is in Cape Town. The Sh hasn’t hit the fan yet, but I think it will soon. If you are in CT I have the zoning regs; if not I will see what I can find.

      • Hi Penny, thanks so much for your reply. We are in Randburg, JHB. Do the neighbours have to give consent if the owner is going double storey? Regards Cathy

        • Cathy I have emailed you a City of Jhb Town Planning document that may be helpful.
          Basically both boundary and height restrictions are governed by local bylaws.
          As far as I know in Jozi you do need neighbors consent if the building is less than the minimum distance from the boundary – but this distance varies. And as far as height is concerned I am pretty sure that you do NOT need neighbour’s consent to build double storey.
          Your best bet is to contact the City’s town planning department and ask them what the bylaws state.

  11. Hi there, I would like more info. with regards to building a second story for a house I am interested in buying(first time) . I am a complete novice when it comes to building and the house in question is currently at 75m2 and it does have approved plans for the extension. Some question with regards to this project:
    1. Would I be able to get finance for the house?
    2. What would I be looking at per-m2?
    3. Would I be able to put prefab concrete floor in?
    4. What should I look out for?
    5. Is there any person/contractor that might give me a quote before I purchase the particular property?

    Regards Jean

    • Hi Jean,
      Here is a copy of the reply that I put up on Facebook Owner Building to the same query, just in case you missed it:
      “Hi Jean, There are a few technical factors that will determine if you can put a second story on the existing house. The main one is if the foundations are strong enough to support a second story. Even if you have approved plans. The best place to get your answers is to get suspended flooring expert in to give you advice. This company has a good reputation: They will give you prices as well. As for finance, well that depends on the bank or a home loan company, give one a call and ask. The estate agents usually have answers to all your questions.”

  12. We have a small cluster homeon 450m2 of land.

    Would like to build a pool in the small backyard but we have a 2m
    sewerage servitude that impairs things somewhat.

    We have heard that if we get the pipe enclosed in concrete with an
    engineer’s supervision we could utilise the space to pave on or build
    on. Is this correct?

    Thank you.

    • Hi Fiona,
      Encasing a servitude pipe in concrete is a solution that is often used when construction of some sort needs to be done over the pipe.
      If you use an engineer to supervise and specify materials then you should have no problem.
      You also need to check if the 2m servitude is registered on the site plans with Council.

  13. Dear Penny, Thank you for a very speed response,
    As an oridinary person i will not have access to the SANS regulations, I thank you for the references,

    However considering that i as an ordinary person, have built a pool , and have been told by the fibrepoolsa, the contractor that i did not need plans, i subsequently went ahead with the installation of a fibre glass pool, which is retain on two side, where the intersecting point meet, is the highest point which less than one mtrs. Retained with retaining block, approx 6 block high.
    I have subsequently lost my job and the net effect, i have to sell my house.
    Fortunatley i have a strike it luck buyer, and the sales agreement stipulate that i must confirm that all alteration and build work must be according to an approved plan or that there must be an intent to have it approved.

    Right now i cannot afford to lose the sale , nor do i have the fund to resurrect this problem and execute the intent if so be it.

    What are your thoughts on this issue, can you provide some advice.

    • Prem, Everybody has access to the South African National Standards. Perhaps you are referring to the fact that there is a fee for them? However you can access them – and read them – no charge at any SABS library. So it really depends where you live.
      The quickest way to resolve this matter is to contact your local authority planning department (i.e. the municipality, City or local council) and ask them to confirm that you were not required to submit plans for the pool. If they say they need plans, you will have to get a competent person to draw these quickly. A draughtsman will charge the lowest fee, but he/she will need to know the specs of the pool. If it is a factory-moulded fiberglass pool, get the specs from the manufacturer or contractor.

  14. Hi

    I have a query. I bought a sectional title townhouse about 8 years ago with a lapa and braai area. What are the regulations with regard to municipality requirements and such regarding this type of structure?

    Thanks and regards

    • Tania, Municipal requirements are detailed in the by-laws – not the building regulations. You will have to call the local authority planning department and ask them.
      In terms of the National Building Regulations, a lapa and braai area will often be regarded as minor building work.

  15. Please confirm what is the regulation for the installation of a pool with retaining wall less 1 mtrs.

    • Prem there are two national standards that pertain to swimming pools:
      1. SANS 10209, The design and construction of private swimming pools
      2. SANS 10134, The safeness of private swimming pools
      The first one is probably the one you need to refer to. Unfortunately I don’t have immediate access to it.

 Leave a Reply


(required but will remain confidential and not be published)