Spring into DIY with the New Building Consent Rules

With spring in the air, it’s time to strap on a tool belt and get stuck into a little home improvement. And this year, thanks to new building consent rules, DIYers have more shovel-ready options than ever before!

From putting up a backyard shed, to installing decking or new fencing, before donning a tool-belt, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the type of work you can and can’t do. When tackling DIY, you need to know the standards that need to be met, and if building consent is required.

And, recently, things have changed. New government regulations mean that some small projects no longer need building consent. Which means it could be faster, easier and cheaper to make your DIY project a reality.

In this guide, we look at the:

  • New building consent changes
  • Requirements of the Building Code
  • When a building consent is required
  • What you can and can’t do yourself
  • When to seek professional advice

Building consent changes

The good news for DIY enthusiasts is that recent changes to the Building Act provide greater scope to tackle projects, cut red tape and create an easier path to a range of home improvements.

At the end of August, the government removed consents for some low-risk building work. The changes are designed to save homeowners $18 million in consenting costs each year. It’s estimated they will lead to 9000 fewer consents, allowing councils to focus on higher-risk building work. The new exemptions cover:

  • Single-storey detached buildings up to 30m², such as sleep-outs, sheds and greenhouses
  • Carports, awnings and water-storage bladders
  • Ground-floor verandas and porches
  • Permanent outdoor fireplaces or ovens

Further detailed information on the new building consent exemptions can be found here.

The Building Code

However, before undertaking any DIY home building project, it’s important to be aware of the requirements set out by the Building Code. As it says on the government’s Building Performance website, all building work undertaken in New Zealand must meet the performance standards of the Building Code. The code states how a building must perform in everyday use, and covers factors including:

  • Structural stability
  • Fire safety
  • Access
  • Moisture control
  • Durability
  • Energy efficiency

Even if a building consent is not needed for your work, you must comply with the Building Code. As a starting point, you should get in touch with your local council to assess your plans and specifications, and to determine exactly what’s required.

Is a building consent required?

As well as Building Code compliance, you may also require building consent, depending on your project. Councils only grant consent when they’re confident the work meets the requirements of the Building Code.

Despite the recent changes, many building projects still require consent. They include:

  • Structural building, comprising additions, alterations, repiling and some demolitions
  • Plumbing and drainage, where an additional sanitary fixture is created (some repair and maintenance may be exempt)
  • Relocating a building
  • Installing a wood-burner or air-conditioning system
  • Retaining walls higher than 1.5m (3m in a rural area if designed by a professional engineer)
  • Fences or walls higher than 2.5m, and for swimming pools and their associated fences
  • Decks or platforms more than 1.5m above ground level
  • Sheds greater than 10m² in floor area
  • Some earthworks

You’ll also need to determine if you require a resource consent, or other local government permits. Note: if you undertake building work that’s not exempt, and don’t have a building consent, you are breaking the law. You can be fined up to $200,000 and, if work continues, up to $10,000 for every day the offence continues.

DIY Building Consent

Can I DIY?

Of course, if you’re putting up a shelf, or doing a spot of painting, it’s fine to DIY. But if a project is more involved and affects the structure of your home, or its weathertightness, it might be classed as restricted building work.

By law, only licensed building practitioners (LBPs) can carry out or supervise this type of work. You can read more about restricted building work here.

However, for some bigger projects, it is possible to apply for an Owner-Builder Exemption. But only if you are working on your own home and doing the work yourself, or with unpaid family and friends. In the tradition of No.8 wire, the exemptions are designed to ensure “the Kiwi tradition of DIY building work can continue”.

You will still need to apply for a building consent. Plus, all the work must comply with the Building Code, as it will be inspected as usual during the building process. Your DIY work will also be recorded on your home’s LIM for posterity, which could influence future buyers when it comes time to sell.

But even with an Owner-Builder Exemption, some specialised building work can only be carried out by qualified tradespeople. This work includes:

  • Plumbing
  • Gas-fitting
  • Drain-laying
  • Electrical work.

For more details on Owner-Builder Exemptions, click here.

Seeking out expert advice

Of course, if you have any doubts about your DIY abilities, it’s important to seek expert advice. And when hiring a professional, always do your research. Check their industry accreditation, get multiple quotes and ask for references.

The same applies when it comes to your choice of DIY Tools and Home Improvement Stores. It always pays to do your research and to shop around for the best deals. And this is where Canstar can help.

Our Customer Satisfaction Ratings for both DIY Tools and Home Improvement Stores are a great guide to the best value. To check out our ratings click on these links: DIY Tools and Home Improvement Stores.

Or to read more on the subject click on the button below:

Home Improvement Heaven: Mitre 10 & Makita

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