11. Internal walls and doorways in existing building

Internal walls and doorway in a room

A building consent is usually not required to construct, alter or remove an internal wall or doorway.

What the law says

Subject to section 42A of the Building Act, Schedule 1 exempts the following from a building consent:

Building work in connection with an internal wall (including an internal doorway) in any existing building unless the wall is:

(a) load-bearing; or
(b) a bracing element; or
(c) a fire separation wall (also known as a firewall); or
(d) part of a specified system; or
(e) made of units of material (such as brick, burnt clay, concrete, or stone) laid to a bond in and joined together with mortar.

Guidance on the exemption

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 (such as brick, burnt clay, concrete, or stone) laid to a bond in and joined together with mortar.

Internal walls often contain bracing elements: altering or removing these walls could adversely affect the building’s structural performance. Some internal walls are also load-bearing: altering or removing these may reduce a building’s compliance with the Building Code’s structural performance requirements. Therefore, such walls are not covered by this exemption.

Building work relating to masonry walls is also outside the scope of this exemption. Masonry walls are heavy, and the consequences of their collapse if they are not adequately supported are greater than for timber-framed walls.

All new building work must comply with the Building Code, including with its structural performance requirements. Also note that, on completion of the building work, the altered building must comply with the Building Code to at least the same extent as it did before the building work was undertaken.

Load bearing walls

If you are considering building work that is close to or involves potentially load-bearing walls, it is important to get professional advice (eg from a chartered professional engineer, registered architect, building consultant or registered building surveyor).

Examples where this exemption could apply

An owner of a residential dwelling wishes to remove a section of internal timber-framed wall to make room for a new kitchen installation. After discussing this with a building practitioner, she is satisfied that the section of wall is not load-bearing and is not a bracing element. This building work does not require a building consent.
An owner of a commercial property wishes to build a metal-framed internal wall to provide privacy in a reception area. As the wall is not load-bearing, has no bracing element and is not a firewall, a building consent is not required.
The owner of a dwelling wishes to remove a non load-bearing wall between the kitchen and laundry to provide for an enlarged kitchen space. The timber-framed wall has no bracing elements and therefore the building work does not require a building consent.

Examples where building consent is required

A hotel owner wants to cut a new opening in an existing masonry wall to create an open-plan lobby and reception area. The owner seeks guidance from her local council and an architect. Historic plans are reviewed and the architect discovers that the wall is load-bearing. As the proposed alteration affects a masonry, load-bearing wall, a building consent is required.
An owner of a building wishes to install a door in an internal wall that is not load-bearing. However, the wall is made out of reinforced brick so a building consent is required.
The owner of a dwelling wishes to remove part of an internal metal-framed wall between the hallway and kitchen. She seeks advice from a licensed building practitioner who, after a quick visit to the house, informs her that the wall is load-bearing. Therefore, the removal would 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: