Pinterest Pipe Dreams vs Regulation Reality

Clients often gather images of the look they want to achieve with their renovation into a virtual scrapbook on Pinterest or Houzz.  These are excellent tools to provide ideas that convey visually exactly what you’re looking for.  However, bear in mind that the images are collected from all over the world, and some arrangements won’t be possible in the UK due to our building regulations (and other constraints).

This fabulous image shows a beautiful but completely unlawful stair configuration!  In the UK, a bannister is needed on at least one side of a stair run and a balustrade (horizontal barrier) for any drop over 600mm height.

When you are planning a design, it is important to consider any regulations and associated costs early on. The best way to ensure you’re not investing in a pipe dream is to involve a professional designer early on – use someone familiar with the relevant regulations.

Although these regulations seem like an obstacle to overcome, remember the Building Regs are to protect you and anyone else in your house (including visitors or workers)! You should adhere to them for your own safety and for the value of your house – most mortgage lenders/ lettings insurance will require evidence of compliance with the applicable regulations.

Typical regulations to consider-

Building Regulations –

These cover all aspects of design and construction 

  • In residential projects, consider fire escape routes, bathroom/ kitchen extraction and stair heights, angles and bannisters. If you hire a competent designer, these regulations will be considered and incorporated into the design from the start.
  • Work with specialists who will provide detailed drawings or certification for Building Control sign off. This could include electrical and gas safety certification or structural drawings/ safe construction.
This beautiful staircase fully complies with Building regulations

Planning Permission –

This is typically required for changes to the exterior of the building though will depend on whether there are specific planning restrictions on your property or the area.  Check directly with the planning dept of your local council or employ a local architect.

Listed Building Consent –  

If your property is listed you may need permission to make changes, both inside and out.  Contact your local Council’s conservation team for confirmation about applicable Listed Building.  

Party Wall Award

If the work will affect any shared walls (or the foundations) between you and a neighbour, you may also require a Party Wall Award.  More on this coming soon…  

Health & Safety

Health and safety regs including the CDM Regs (Construction Design & Management Regulations 2015) – these govern the planning, design and execution of building work and apply to anyone involved – including clients.

Remember that the above regulatory regimes are separate, so need to be considered in their entirety.

The consequences

The consequences of not adhering to regulations/ permissions can be severe-

If you do not adhere to building regulations

  • The work cannot be certified which can hinder you from selling your property or renting it out in the future.
  • You can be fined or prosecuted
  • Even more seriously you compromise the safety of anyone who comes into the house, even for 5 minutes; leading to accidents and prosecution/ claims for compensation
Don’t end up behind the wrong sort of bars

Similar considerations apply to non-compliance with the CDM Regulations.

If you do not obtain the correct Planning Permissions you must either obtain permission post work or you can be forced to change the design or undo the changes – this can be extremely costly.

Alteration of a listed building without permission is a criminal offence – you could go to jail for up to 2 years as well as face unlimited fines.