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Building permit - Do I need one?

Minor structure, internal work, small addition, non-structural work, does this work need a building permit or are they exempted works?

"Do I need a building permit?" A simple question that needs to be asked before you start any building works.  

In all states and territories under their various Building Acts and Regulations allow some minor works to be exempt from requiring a building permit.

These generally consist of:

  • Class 10 buildings under 10m2, open pergolas metal sheds, shade sails etc.
  • Class 1 non- structural renovations that do not increase/decrease floor/wall area or affect the fire, ventilation requirements etc.

However, it is important that you check with the relevant building certifier or surveyor, local council and the state legislation before commencing any works.

Change of use

Question: Do I require a building permit to change a Class 10a garage to Class 1 bedroom when there is no structural work or change in the building area.

Answer: Yes, you will generally require a building permit as the termite barrier, waterproofing, energy efficiency, smoke alarm, boundary setbacks requirements, etc, are significantly different for the Class 1 bedroom.

Compliance with National Construction Code (NCC) and Australian Standards (AS)

Every state and territory has certain building works that are exempt from requiring a building permit, but even if that work is exempt you still have to comply with the relevant NCC and Australian Standards requirements in undertaking the work.

This is to ensure the exempted building works are tied down appropriately, don’t undermine the structural, fire, ventilation, waterproofing, energy efficiency, termite barrier system etc of any other building/buildings located on the lot.

What building work is exempt in your region?


Example of exempted building works under Section 6, Schedule 1 Building (General) Regulations 2008.

  • Fence less than 1.8m not including a pool fence/barrier.
  • Retaining wall up to 1.2m high
  • Small open building not more than 3m high
  • Swimming pool than can not be filled more than 300mm

New South Wales

Example of exempted building works under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt & Complying Development Codes) 2008 Clauses 1.15 & 1.16.

  • Must meet the relevant Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions of the NCC, or if there are no such relevant provisions, must be structurally adequate, and
  • Must not, if it relates to an existing building, cause the building to contravene the NCC, and
  • Must not be carried out on land that is a declared area of outstanding biodiversity value under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 or declared critical habitat under Part 7A of the Fisheries Management Act 1994, and
  • Must not be carried out on land that is, or is part of, a wilderness area (within the meaning of Wilderness Act 1987), and
  • Must not be carried out on land that is, or on which there is, an item that is listed on the State Heritage Register under the Heritage Act 1977, or that is subject to an interim heritage order under that Act, and
  • must not be carried out on land that is described or otherwise identified on a map specified in Schedule 4.

Northern Territory

Example of exempted building works under Part 1 Regulation 3(1) of the Building Regulations 1993.

  • Temporary offices and sheds used by builders on or about the site of any building on which building work is being carried out or used by contractors in carrying out works for any public authority on or about the site of the work and used exclusively for the purposes of that building or work
  • Any building classified as a Class 10 building to which electrical, plumbing or drainage services are not provided and that is less than 40m from any boundary, has an aggregate roof area less than 12 m2 and is not more than 2.1m above the mean natural ground level of its site; or not less than 70 m from any boundary, has an aggregate roof area less than 30 m2 and is not more than 2.4m above the mean natural ground level of its site
  • A fence that offers minimal resistance to wind loading such as a chain mesh or a similar kind of fence and in any event a fence that does not exceed a height of 1m
  • A pergola that has an area not exceeding 30 m² and that is not less than 50 mm from a building to which these Regulations apply and that is not attached or connected in any way to any building
  • Minor plumbing maintenance work such as the replacement of a component by a similar component but not including drainage work


Example of exempted building works under Schedule 2 of the Building Regulations.

  • Class 1b structures (that are not fences, retaining walls, a swimming pool or freestanding wall), and are not more than 3m above their natural ground surface
  • Sunshades less then 2m2
  • A tent with a floor area less then 100m2
  • unless otherwise required below (under any other regulation) Class 10 farm/agricultural buildings (other than pools) that are set back greater than 200m from any boundary.

South Australia

Easiest assessment method for minor structures is to use SA Plan tool (available in the link above).

  • Click on find out if you need approval
  • Click on the type of works
  • Enter address

The site will then advise if

  1. an assessment is required,
  2. if an assessment may be required and the parameters of when an assessment is required or
  3. that an assessment is not required.


Example of exempted building works under section 20(1)(a) of the Building Act 2016 – Directors Determination – Categories of Building and Demolition Work.

  • Non-structural repairs, replacement of components and maintenance of existing building
  • Awning, Blind, Canopy, Shade Sails less than 18m2
  • Replacement or changing of any false ceiling with lightweight material
  • Open screen enclosure of a balcony, deck, patio, pergola, terrace veranda or similar.  Must not act as a barrier to prevent falls.


Example of excepted building works under Schedule 3 of the Building Regulations 2018.

  • Class 10a building, less than 10m2, 2.4m high, non-masonry, setbacks vary.
  • Repair, renewal, or maintenance of a part of an existing building not including structural work.
  • Non-Structural alterations that do not increase/decrease the floor area or height of the building.

Western Australia

Example of exempted building works under Schedule 4 of the Building Regulations 2012.

  • Class 10a building, less than 10m2, 2.4m high, and not located in wind region C or D.
  • Repair, renewal, or maintenance of a part of an existing building not including structural work.
  • Non-Structural alterations that do not increase/decrease the floor area or height of the building.
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