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”

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  1. I recently extended my home by 50 m sq. Do I need COC as well as plumbing clearance certificates

    • You should have had approved plans before you extended the house. And yes you do need the necessary plumbing certificates.

  2. Hi

    I have a single storey house and need to make alterations by adding a second storey ( i.e.converting it to a double storey house). What are the requirements for this to happen?

  3. Please advise on average cost per square meter for adding a second floor (100 sqm with full bathroom and open plan bedroom). thanks Yes – second floor needed as an open plan floor with bedroom, bathroom, lounge and study

    • Pat we are not builders and so do not supply quotations. Furthermore very few builders today are prepared to suggest costs per square metre because these are so variable. You need to contact a construction company or private builder for quotes.

  4. Hi,

    I am in the process of buying a house in Ferndale, Randburg but what I can see one of the neighbor has his building built on the solid fencing. I think the fencing is his but what I want to know does he have a right to build on the fence? I am concern as anyone can go on his roof and jump in my yard.

    Please advise what can I do?


  5. Hi,

    I would like to remove the internal wall that divides my kitchen from my lounge thus making it more open plan.
    Do I need to submit plans for this?

  6. 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.

    • Felix – do yourself a favour and contact the municipality to find out their requirements

    • As far as my knowledge goes, you do not have to submit plans, as it is in the inside of your house. what you need to focus on is not to remove “pillars”, which can cause your house to collapse. My advise would that you get hold of a building contractor (Preferably NHBCR registered) and follow his advise

  7. 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:

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. Hi

    Am trying to get a general sense of COSTS associated with building alterations (free-standing property).These would include, taking down some walls. The whole building is: Floor Area: 216m2, but about two or three walls would be taken down to merge rooms/spaces.

    Any indication is welcome.


  14. I am in the process of purchasing a house, I requested the latest plans from the current owner. The changes below have been made on the house but they are not on the plans:
    1) Garage converted in to a living area, windows added to this living area
    2) Interior wall added to convert open area into a room.

    The owner says he bought the house like that (1990), are new plans showing the latest structure of the house required

    • You have the right to demand he gets the plans amended. If you are getting a bond the bank will likely demand this too. The fact that he didn’t have plans is irrelevant. At the end of the day, if you don’t get him to make the amendments (or if he refuses to), you will have to accept that these will be for your account. It may well become part of your negotiations.

  15. If alterations was done before 2008 what was the norm for ceiling brander spacing? Currently 400mm.

    • Brandering should not be @ more than 400mm centres, see the illustration below.
      Brandering spacing
      This has been the norm for many years.

      • What if alterations was done in 1983 and house was build in 1976 and brandering is 600mm? Does that mean the brandering is illegal?

        • Generally any changes in the standards are not retrospective, but it depends largely on the extent of the alterations. If the alterations were done legally, there shouldn’t be a problem.

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