Do I need building regulations for a conservatory?
Conservatories are usually exempt from building regulations and they can also be exempt from Planning Permission if they fall within ‘Permitted Development ‘rights or PD as this is commonly known so the answer to the question, do I need building regulations for a conservatory is usually no.
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Normally building regulations will apply if you want to build an extension to your home, however conservatories are largely exempt from this but not always; to be exempt, they have to fall within defined parameters contained in guidelines issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government and these include:-
- The conservatory must be built at ground level and less than 30 square metres in floor area
- The conservatory is separated from the house by quality and substantive walls, doors or windows
- There should be an independent heating system with separate controls
- Glazing and any electrical installations must comply with the appropriate building regulations
However, any new structural opening between the conservatory and the existing house will require building regulation approval even if the conservatory itself is an exempt structure.
What are building regulations?
Building regulations are a set of standards for the design and construction of buildings to ensure the health and safety of the occupants. There are environmental requirements which typically ensure that fuel and power is conserved and that, in the case of public buildings, there is free access for disabled people plus the ability for them to move around inside the building. They also ensure that buildings are free from the risk of fire and properly ventilated.
How do building regulations differ from planning permission?
Building regulations and planning permission are two quite distinct sets of rules and cover two completely different areas. They are often confused with one another and there can be situations where a conservatory may require building regulations approval and not planning permission or vice versa – there are scenarios when a conservatory could require both planning permission and building regulations approval.
Planning permission is geared towards development and how buildings are built and refurbished across towns, cities and villages. Sometimes people become confused between the two as both the local planning office and building regulations control are usually run by the local council.
Most conservatories fall within ‘Permitted Development’ rights so do not usually require planning permission, however, if your house is listed or in a conservation area then you may require planning permission to build a new conservatory or to refurbish an existing one.
Do building regulations apply to open-plan conservatories?
Open-plan conservatories are very much in vogue at the moment as they offer a seamless open-plan feeling from the living room or dining room to the conservatory creating a sense of size and space.
An open-plan conservatory is a conservatory where the exterior doors or walls or both between the house and the conservatory are removed and these conservatories will not be exempt from buildings regulations and will require approval.
Where an application is necessary, the householder will have to submit full structural drawings with heat loss calculations. The idea is that the new structural opening mustn’t result in the conservatory or the rest of the house becoming less energy efficient. Some larger conservatory installers will employ their own building control surveyor who will look after building regulations approval for their customers who are opting for an open-plan conservatory design.
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Solid tile roof conservatory
In 2010, the regulations changed to allow conservatories to have part solid roofs or a complete tile roof finish and still fall within the classification of a conservatory. Solid tile roofs are popular because they resolve many of the issues associated with older-style conservatories like poor thermal regulation meaning that the conservatory is often too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer. New lightweight materials mean that solid tile roofs can be added to existing conservatories without the requirement for expensive upgrades to the frame.
However, whilst your conservatory will still be classified as a conservatory and was possibly exempt from building regulations when built, adding a solid tile roof does constitute a significant change as the percentage of the overall structure which is glazed is significantly reduced. This change of roof may mean that your existing conservatory will now become subject to building regulations so other changes to the structure could be required to bring the conservatory up to an acceptable standard.
This begs the question of how much of the roof has to lose its glazing for building regulations to bite and the answer to this is within the hands of your local building control officer. Each case is looked at individually and may vary from area to area which is why it can be helpful to use a local conservatory installer who will be familiar with recent decisions made by the building control inspector.
Is it possible to avoid building regulations by keeping an element of glazing to a solid tile roof?
There is the option of adding rooflights or Velux windows to your solid tile roof which can offer the householder the best of both worlds and may also avoid the need for building regulations approval. However, how much of the area needs to be clear to the sky will be a matter of local interpretation and the buildings control officer will have the final say. There are also solid panel designs which can be interspersed with glazed panels and this can create a really design-driven and stylish effect; this type of roof may be easier to keep the right side of the line when it comes to avoiding building regulations.
Are there other approvals required apart from building regulations and planning permission for a new or refurbished conservatory?
There are other approvals and consents which may be required but not all of them will apply to every conservatory, these include:-
Water Board authority approval- if you are building within three metres of a public sewer, you need permissions from the local water board authority but this is usually a formality. The local building control officer will ensure no damage has been done to the sewer once the conservatory installation is complete.
Listed buildings and conservation areas – if the conservatory is attached to a listed property and/or situated in a conservation area then strict rules will apply to its appearance based around the premise that either a new build or a refurbishment must be in keeping with the property and those that surround it.
Restrictive covenants – some properties are built subject to restrictive covenants which is a private provision incorporated into the title deeds which defines how they may be used and developed. This can restrict homeowners so that any conservatory they add to the property is sympathetic to its overall appearance and follows certain guidelines.
Party wall approval – The 1996 Party Wall Act refers to any building works which take place near or immediately adjacent to a neighbouring boundary – this doesn’t have to be a wall, it can be a fence and it can be external to the property so a conservatory adjacent to a semi-detached neighbour or in a terraced row where a Party Wall agreement may have to be made with two neighbours. The usual trigger point is excavating foundations near to a neighbouring house. The 1996 Party Wall Act is a piece of legislation which is designed to protect neighbours from nuisance, damage and disruption from works that a homeowner is carrying out and to provide a process of resolution in the event of a dispute.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does building regulation approval cost?
Fees depend on how much work is involved for the inspector and are usually around £300-£500.
What happens if building regulations are not complied with or approval is not sought?
Failure to obtain building regulation approval could make life difficult when it comes to the sale of the property as the buyer’s solicitors will want to see evidence that building regulations approval was granted and also that planning permission was given if that was also a requirement. It is possible to apply for retrospective building regulations approval just as it is possible to apply for retrospective planning permission. However, if the conservatory does not comply with current building regulations then approval will be refused and make your property very unattractive to future purchasers who will not be keen to take on the risk of a building that does not comply. Sometimes indemnity insurance can act as a sweetener in these situations but if the building regulations approval is applied for and refused retrospectively then you are unlikely to be able to arrange indemnity insurance. The current householder may also find he experiences problems even if he doesn’t want to sell. If he were to have an issue with the conservatory that formed the basis of an insurance claim, say a fire for instance, insurers could refuse to cover the claim if the conservatory has not complied with current building regulations.
So, the answer to the question, do I need building regulations for a conservatory is maybe. A lot depends on what you intend to build and this is where a good conservatory installer will come into their own.
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