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Building consent exemptions for low-risk work

Last updated: 12 September 2017

If you're planning to carry out building work you need to check whether a building consent is required. You can find a list of work that doesn't require building consent in Schedule 1 of the Building Act, in our Guidance document and an overview here.

You don't need a building consent for building work listed in Part 1 of the Building Act's Schedule 1 as it is deemed "low-risk" work.

Part 1 has 32 exemptions, and is split into five categories:

  1. general
  2. existing buildings: additions and alterations
  3. other structures
  4. network utility operators or other similar organisations
  5. demolition.

It is classified exempt work because it will not affect your building's structure or fire safety, and will not pose a risk to public safety.

Though the work in Part 1 can be done by anyone, you should consider employing a tradesperson for some or all of your project. 

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You should always check with your local council to make sure your proposed building work does not have any district planning implications as you may need to get a resource consent or some other permit. This will be needed before you can start any building work.

General work exempt from consent

We've produced guidance to help you understand the technical details of each exemption. You can read the examples in our Schedule 1 Guidance: Building work that does not require a building consent document, if you think your building work falls into any of the following exemptions.

Building work that does not require a building consent

Guidance on building work exempt from needing a building consent under Schedule 1 of the Building Act.

Schedule 1 guidance

1. General repair, maintenance and replacement

You are able to repair, maintain and replace any component associated with a building, provided that:

  • comparable materials and assembly is used, and
  • the replacement is in the same position.

However you need to refer to the guidance to check whether your work is exempt, as this exemption does not include:

  • replacement of a specified system
  • replacement of any component that could affect the building’s structure or fire-safety
  • repair or replacement (other than maintenance) of any component that doesn't comply with the Building Code
  • sanitary plumbing or drainlaying under the Plumbers, Gasfitters, and Drainlayers Act 2006.

2. Territorial and regional authority discretionary exemptions

Some councils have a policy to exempt certain building work under exemption 2.

This is the only exemption in Schedule 1 which requires your local or regional council to make a decision about any proposed building work. This exemption can be applied across a wide range of building work.

At one end of the scale, the council may choose to exempt simple, low-risk, repetitive-type building work.

At the other end of the scale, the building work could be for complex engineered projects where the construction will be designed and supervised by chartered professional engineers.

You should check your council's website to see if it provides information on exempt work in your area. You may need to submit a formal application.

3. Single-storey detached buildings not exceeding 10 square metres in floor area

This exemption covers the construction of small buildings such as:

  • garden sheds
  • cabins
  • sleepouts.

It also includes all work relating to the disposal of stormwater.

If you are providing sleeping accommodation in such a building, the facilities of an existing house or building must be readily available. The small, detached building cannot include cooking facilities because of the risk of fire.

Smoke alarms must be installed in all sleeping areas.

4. Unoccupied detached buildings

This exemption covers buildings that are:

  • not normally a potential risk to people
  • only used by people engaged in constructing or maintaining another consented building (such as a construction site office).

It also includes all work relating to the disposal of stormwater.

5. Tents, marquees and similar lightweight structures

This exemption allows you to construct, alter or remove a tent or marquee that is being used for:

  • public assembly (such as a school gala)
  • private use (such as a wedding reception).

However, this is only if the tent or marquee does not exceed 100 square metres and is not in place for more than a month.

6. Pergolas

Pergolas are simple-framed and unroofed structures which are often used as garden features.

For the purposes of this exemption, you can attach a pergola to a building, or construct it to be freestanding. There is no limit on their size, but they must not be roofed.

7. Repair or replacement of outbuilding

This exemption allows you to repair or replace existing outbuildings that are not intended to be lived in, such as:

  • carports
  • garages
  • greenhouses
  • machinery rooms
  • sheds
  • private swimming pools
  • farm buildings.

The building must be single-storey and not used by the public.

8. Windows and exterior doorways in existing dwellings and outbuildings

This exemption allows you to carry out any building work in connection with a window (including a roof window, whether it is fixed or opening) or an exterior doorway if it is to an existing building.

If the door or window is older than 15 years and you are replacing it because it has rotted out, then this work will not require a building consent.

However, if you are replacing a window, roof window or door that has been installed within the last 15 years and it has failed (such as rotting), this work will require a building consent. Replacing a window or door that has failed its durability requirements with a similar window or door could result in the replacement also failing.

9. Alteration to existing entrance or internal doorway to facilitate access for people with disabilities

This exemption enables you to alter existing residential dwellings to improve access for people with disabilities.

Some common examples are:

  • modifying doorways to allow better wheelchair access
  • installing access ramps.

10. Interior alterations to existing non-residential building

This exemption allows you to make internal alterations to non-residential buildings. It does not apply to residential buildings and communal residential buildings such as:

  • hotels
  • retirement villages
  • camping ground
  • prisons
  • hospitals.

If your proposed building work either modifies or affects the primary structure of the building or any specified system (such as sprinklers, fire alarms or smoke detectors), then you will need a building consent. Your building work must not relate to a fire separation wall (firewall) or a masonry wall.

11. Internal walls and doorways in existing building

This exemption allows you to alter, remove or construct certain internal walls and doorways. However, your proposed building work must not relate to a wall that is:

  • load-bearing
  • a bracing element
  • a firewall
  • or a masonry wall that is made of units of material laid to a bond in and joined together with mortar.

12. Internal linings and finishes in existing dwelling

This exemption allows you to replace or alter any or all of the linings and finishes of walls, ceilings or floors of an existing building (whether single or multi-unit).

You are not required to use comparable materials in this exemption.

You should seek advice from an appropriately qualified building practitioner before you begin work to wall and ceiling linings.

13. Thermal insulation

This exemption allows you to do building work around installing thermal insulation in an existing building.

However, this exemption does not cover the installation of thermal insulation in an external wall of a building, as this may have weathertightness implications.

Installing insulation in internal walls that provide fire separation is also outside its scope, as this could adversely affect the building’s fire safety properties.

14. Penetrations

This exemption allows you to make penetrations of a limited size (with a maximum diameter of 300mm) through both internal and external building components without needing a building consent.

It also covers any building work associated with penetrations such as weatherproofing, fireproofing or sealing.

These small penetrations are typically necessary to install items such as heat pumps, home ventilation systems, extractor fans and a wide range of other building services which require wiring, pipes and the like to pass through a building.

This exemption contains conditions that relate to specific work. Check our Schedule 1 Guidance: Building work that does not require a building consent, for more details.

15. Closing in an existing veranda or patio

This exemption allows you to close in an existing veranda, patio or similar structure in order to convert an area into an enclosed space (such as a conservatory).

The size of this enclosed space must not exceed 5 square metres.

16. Awnings

This exemption allows you to carry out building work on an awning which is currently or will be attached to a building’s external envelope or exterior surfaces. They must:

  • be on the ground or first storey level of the building
  • not exceed 20 square metres in size
  • not overhang any area accessible by the public, including private areas with limited public access such as restaurants and bars.

You need to be careful in relation to the weathertightness detailing of such structures.

17. Porches and verandas

This exemption only covers building work to existing porches and verandas no larger than 20 square metres (this area includes any existing porch or veranda).

They must also be located at ground or first storey level.

18. Carports

This exemption relates to building work to roofed structures that are used for motor vehicle storage.

To be regarded as a carport, at least one side of the structure must remain open to the outdoors at all times. The floor area must not be greater than 20 square metres.

This exemption also includes work relating to the disposal of stormwater as it relates to the carport.

19. Shade sails

Shade sails are relatively simple and low-risk. You can undertake building work in connection with a shade sail made of fabric or other lightweight material, and its associated structural support.

It must not exceed 50 square metres and must be on ground level.

20. Retaining walls

This exemption allows you to build a retaining wall as long as it doesn't retain more than 1.5 metres (vertically) of ground.

A retaining wall is any wall constructed to retain or support the surrounding ground. It must also include ground water drainage.

21. Fences and hoardings

You can undertake any building work relating to fences (including garden walls) and hoardings up to 2.5 metres high.

Hoardings are put up around building construction sites temporarily to ensure public safety during the construction phase.

To check the height of your fence or hoarding against the 2.5 metre limit for this exemption, measure the vertical distance between the top of the structure and the supporting ground directly below.

Fences to swimming pools are outside the scope of this exemption and will require building consent.

21A. Means of restricting access to small heated pools

This exemption allows you to install a safety cover as a means of restricting access to a small heated pool that is a residential pool. 

The safety cover must:

  • restrict the entry of children when closed
  • be able to withstand a reasonably foreseeable load
  • be able to be readily returned to the closed position
  • have signage indicating its child safety features.

Furthermore, the top surface of every wall of the pool must be at all points at least 760mm above the adjacent floor or ground, and, the walls of the pool are non-climbable.

22. Dams

This exemption allows you to build small dams (for example on a farm). However, they must comply with the Building Code.

Large dams are not covered by this exemption. A large dam is one with a height of 4 or more metres and a capacity to hold 20,000 cubic metres volume of water or other fluid.

23. Tanks and pools

This exemption allows you to construct a tank or pool and its structural support, as long as various requirements are met. You can find the requirements in our Schedule 1 Guidance: Building work that does not require a building consent.

24. Decks, platforms, bridges, boardwalks, etc

You will not need a building consent for work on structures where it is not possible to fall more than 1.5 metres. This includes:

  • decks
  • platforms
  • bridges
  • boardwalks.

You must have a safety barrier if there is a fall of 1 metre or more.

25. Signs

This exemption allows you to undertake building work in connection with a sign (whether free-standing or attached to a structure) and any structural support of the sign, as long as:

  • no face of the sign exceeds six square metres in surface area
  • the top of the sign does not exceed three metres in height above the supporting ground level.

If you want to put signs on heritage or character buildings or in urban areas, you need to check with your local council first. Your council may have restrictions in its district plan on the type of signs you can construct without obtaining a resource consent.

26. Height-restriction gantries

This exemption only applies to height-restriction gantries, such as gantries that restrict vehicles over a certain height from going into a car parking building or beneath an underpass.

27. Temporary storage stacks

This exemption allows you to construct any temporary storage stack of goods or materials.

28. Private household playground equipment

You can build playground equipment to a maximum height of 3 metres, only if it will be used by a single private household.

29. Certain structures owned or controlled by network utility operators or other similar organisations

The exemption allows building work on certain infrastructure to be carried out. This building work is often located on public land and often crosses territorial authority boundaries.

This type of building work is usually designed, constructed, maintained and supervised by professionals within the industry or government agencies known as network utility operators (NUOs).

30. Demolition of detached building

This exemption allows you to completely demolish a detached building as long as it is no more than three storeys tall, regardless of whether or not it is damaged.

The work must meet requirements under Building Code Clause B1 to be carried out in a way that avoids the likelihood of premature collapse and must be done so as to avoid injury and damage to other property.

You should use skilled and professional building practitioners for major demolition work. You need to consider:

  • terminating services such as:
    • water
    • sewerage
    • and stormwater by capping and sealing them inside the boundary.
  • contacting the relevant service authorities to advise them of your work, including:
    • electricity
    • gas
    • drainage
    • water
    • transport
    • telecommunications
    • cable television
    • any other services that may be affected.
  • handling and disposing of hazardous building materials.
  • controlling silt runoff, excess noise and dust generated by the demolition work.
  • securing the site (such as with a temporary fence or hoardings) to restrict public access to the area and avoid injury to members of the public.

31. Removal of building element

This exemption applies to the removal of a building element (such as a chimney or roof, including cladding) rather than to the complete demolition of a building. The building must not be more than 3 storeys tall.

The removal must not affect:

  • the primary structure
  • any specified system
  • any fire separation (which includes firewalls protecting other property).

Like Exemption 30, all building work must meet the requirements of the Building Code, whether or not it is exempt.

If you are unsure about whether your building work is exempt from a consent, you should check our Schedule 1 Guidance: Building work that does not require a building consent

This information is published by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Chief Executive. It is a general guide only and, if used, does not relieve any person of the obligation to consider any matter to which the information relates according to the circumstances of the particular case. Expert advice may be required in specific circumstances. Where this information relates to assisting people: