Building regulations are there for a very real purpose to make sure our buildings are safe to live in and, in more recent years, more accessible for disabled people and more energy efficient too. Many regulations have also been changed in recent years to ensure commonality across Europe so that materials can be traded across European borders.
So building regulations are constantly changing, and it’s up to you or your builder, architect or other craftsman to stay up-to-date with them. With a renovation project there may well be a conflict of interest between modern regulations and old materials and techniques.
If your property is listed, then it’s likely that there will be some leeway. As an example, one of the more recent changes to building regulations concerning electrics is that power sockets set into the wall need to be quite high off the floor. Apart from looking very strange, to those of us who’ve gotten used to seeing them near the floor, this could potentially wreak havoc with your dado rail!
Fortunately the building regulations apply only to houses built after each regulation is put in force, or major alterations of existing buildings. So if your renovation project involved adding a modern extension for a kitchen, it is likely that the regulations would need to be followed in that extension, but not in the rest of the property.
And as long as it can’t be seen and is removable, there’d be nothing to stop you putting modern insulation in the roof space, but it is very likely that a spray-on insulating layer would be frowned upon.
It’s difficult to give hard and fast guidelines about these or other situations, as there are so many building regulations and each renovation is different. But the key is to make sure these questions are resolved at the planning application stage. If your property is listed, these issues will be sorted out when you apply for Listed Building Consent (LBC) for your project.
Enforcement of the Building Regulations in all countries of the United Kingdom is down to the local planning offices in the various regional councils. Depending on the extent of your renovation, you may or may not receive a visit from the Building Control inspector who will check that you have complied.
With a renovation project this can be tricky as you will need to know the regulations that were in force when the house was built, although an architect should be able to help you there.
It’s Worth Making Sure
Remember, not conforming to the regulations can put you in a lot of hot water and the onus is on you to be aware of the relevant rules and what is expected of you, even if you are employing a builder and architect. The planning office will help you as much as they can and it’s far better to call or write to make sure than risk making a mistake.