Expert Article: Do I need Building Plans for my Home Renovations

Experienced designer, Curtis Fleur, answers the most popular question when it comes to any residential renovation projects in Johannesburg and the greater South Africa.

Table of Contents

All you need to know about your Building Plans

In terms of compliance, the first and most important step is the knowledge that no home build, be that new or an upgrade, will be approved by any local council authority unless the home building plans have been submitted by a registered professional. The architect will be able to advise whether your ideas can be interpreted through design, and if indeed they are even legal.

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Submitting applications to Town Planning departments

Town Planning ascertains if the proposal is in-line with the permitted zoning or use of site, after which the plans go to the Building Inspectors where all aspects of the building elements are scrutinised, such as foundations and building specification, energy efficiency, and fire safety.

During the Construction Phase

Once building plans have been approved, the relative council issues a building inspectors form outlining all inspection stages. Once the building has been validated through the inspection process, the council stamps the plans, and they are registered as final.

Consequences of non-approved construction

If you’ve undertaken major renovations or construction without plans, a building inspector is entitled to enter your property and stop construction. Thereafter you may be allowed to complete the process of obtaining plan approvals before construction can restart, or you may be issued with a court order to demolish the structure at your own expense, in which case you would be liable for any associated legal costs.

After the Construction Phase

After the renovation you should have your home revalued, to document the positive return of your investment into your own home. In order to do so, the building will have had to be inspected at specified stages by a licenced building inspector. The same process should have been followed on any subsequent alterations or extensions.

Often an inspector will be called in during the initial stages of construction but not towards the end – with the result that no Occupation Certificate was ever issued. Quite often, extensions and alterations are done without any plans being submitted to the council for approval, or without the building inspector being brought in. To prevent these problems, it is advised that the architect oversee the building contractors work, quality, and that the contractor does not cut corners, or else it will result in the engineer not certifying the structure as habitable and safe.

Real world examples

Sometimes an owner may add on a patio without permission and then, a few years later, enclose it as an enclosed porch or entertainment room, again, without any plans being submitted. Another example could be, an owner converting a garage into bedroom, again, without any attempt to make it legal. Sometimes owners simply do not know when they need to get approved plans. Others think that by doing the work themselves and not having a professional oversee the renovations, they are saving considerable sums of cash. This is not the case as it will make it difficult to sell the home or sometimes in an extreme case an insurance company may not pay-out for portions of works not specified on approved plans.

While it is always a good idea to add on to or upgrade a home in any way possible, thereby making it more convenient, efficient and aesthetically pleasing, homeowners should realise that this has to be done in accordance with and in full approval of the municipal regulations. In order to receive occupation certificates, every stage of the construction has to be inspected and signed off. Remember to always confirm with your architect who will be submitting the building plans for approval and who will be overseeing all the inspections.

In conclusion

The benefits of having an architect oversee the whole renovation project, no matter how small or how large, has long term value if you view every expense on your home as an investment. Most people pay a home loan off over 20 years – Would it not be wise to view any improvements and their costs in the same manner?


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2 Responses

  1. Can I just say what a comfort to uncover a person that really knows what they are discussing online. You actually understand how to bring an issue to light and make it important. A lot more people should look at this and understand this side of the story. I was surprised that you are not more popular because you most certainly have the gift. Jake Clopper

    1. Hi Jake, Thank you very much for your praise. I truly do apprecaite the positive feedback.
      Please feel free to email me for any further questions you may have.
      Yours Sincerely,
      Curtis F.

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