Approved documents and guidance notes

Explains what approved documents are, where you need means of escape windows, where you need safety glazing, smoke detectors, choosing a reputable contractor and how to remedy unauthorised building works.

What are the Approved Documents in relation to the Building Regulations?

The Approved Documents, in simple terms, set out the way(s) in which you can ensure that you comply with the performance requirements of the building regulations. You can use another way of complying but you will have to demonstrate to the local authority how you will comply with these requirements.

The list below highlights the approved documents and guidance notes for many aspects of the building control process.  Please take time to view the documents, as they may give you information that can assist and save you time.

If you require clarification of any part of these documents or have any other building control enquiries, please contact us.

Approved Documents and Guides

  • Part A (Structural Safety)
  • Part B (Fire Safety)
  • Part C (Resistance to Contaminants and Moisture)
  • Part D (Toxic Substances)
  • Part E (Resistance to Sound)
  • Part F (Ventilation)
  • Part G (Sanitation, Hot Water Safety and Water Efficiency)
  • Part H (Drainage and Waster Disposal)
  • Part J (Heat Producing Appliances)
  • Part K (Protection from Falling)
  • Part L (Conservation of Fuel and Power)
  • Part M (Access to and Use of Buildings)
  • Part N (Glazing Safety)(Withdrawn)
  • Part P (Electrical Safety)
  • Part Q (Security)
  • Part R (Physical infrastructure for high speed electronic communications networks
  • Regulation 7 (Materials and workmanship)
  • The complete Approved Documents and guides can be accessed at the Planning Portal.

Planning Portal (external website)

Where do I need means of escape windows?

All habitable rooms to dwellings and extensions shall have a first floor window suitable for means of escape. This also applies to all ground storey habitable rooms, which do not connect to a hallway leading directly to an outside door.

To achieve the requirement the window should have an unobstructed openable area that is at least 0.33m2 and at least 450mm high and 450mm wide (the route through the window may be at an angle rather than straight through).

The bottom of the openable area should not be below 800mm nor more than 1100mm above the floor level.

The window must also have appropriate escape catches and hinges to ensure this clear opening is achieved. Also all windows should be accessible via a ladder.

Typical details to meet the requirements for means of escape

Means of escape (pdf 27kb opens in new window)

 Application Forms and Fee Sheet page

Where do I need safety glazing?

To comply with the building regulations, glazing requirements to what is called ‘Critical Locations’ (as indicated below) means there should be safety glass or guards to protect people from injury. The most likely locations for accidental impact, which could lead to cutting and piercing injuries are in doors, door side panels and low level glass in walls and partitions.

Critical Locations are considered to be

  • glazing in doors - wholly or partially within 1500mm floor level
  • glazing adjacent to doors - wholly or partially within 300mm of the edge of a door and which is also wholly or partially within 1500mm from floor level
  • low level glazing - glazing that is wholly or partially within 800mm from floor level

Critical Locations in internal and external walls

Critical locations (pdf 29kb opens in new window) 

Glazing in ‘Critical Locations’ should either

1. Break safely, if it breaks, i.e. laminated or toughened Class C safety glass complying with BS6206. Or if it is installed in a door or in a door side panel and has a pane exceeding 900mm it should be Class B of BS 6206.

Please note:

  • Ordinary wired glass is not safety glass
  • For double-glazing the rules apply to both panes
  • All safety glazing should be permanently marked in accordance with BS6206. The markings should still be visible after the glass has been fitted and the beading and pointing has been completed

2. Be robust or be in small panes, annealed glass (ordinary glass-i.e. float / wired or rolled glass) can be robust enough to prevent breakage, if the panes are small and the glass is thick enough. (See diagram 2 below).
6mm annealed glass provided it is in small panes may also comply (See diagram 3 below).

Glass dimensions (pdf 44kb opens in new window)

3. Be permanently protected. (See diagram 4 below)

Screen protection (pdf 27kb opens in new window)

 Application Forms and Fee Sheet page.

Do I need a smoke detector?

In most cases the installation of smoke detectors in dwellings can significantly increase the occupant’s safety by giving early warning of a fire outbreak. Building regulations now require the installation of automatic smoke detectors to new dwellings and loft conversions.

The guidance below covers most normal sized dwellings, for larger premises with storey floor areas in excess of 200m2 or for dwellings more than 3 storeys – you must make reference to the building regulations for further guidance.

Type of Smoke Detectors

All smoke detectors must be mains powered (preferably with a secondary battery power supply) and be designed to comply with BS5446; Part 1. Where there is more than one smoke detector required (see positioning requirements below), they should be interlinked together, so that they all sound the warning should one of the detectors pick up smoke.

Number and Positioning of Smoke Detectors

Smoke detectors should be provided in the circulation areas of each and every floor of the dwelling. They should be positioned between the sleeping spaces and places where a fire is likely to start e.g. living room / kitchen and yet be close enough to the bedroom doors to effectively wake sleeping occupants.

Smoke detectors should be positioned so that there is one within 7.5m of every habitable room door. If your kitchen is not separated from the stairways or circulation routes by a suitable door, then you must also install a compatible heat detector interlinked with the other smoke detector system positioned as above in the circulation routes. Smoke detectors should preferably be fitted to the ceiling in a central position and at least 300mm from any wall or light fitting. Check the manufacturer’s instructions carefully when deciding where to position them - particularly if you are going to mount them on the wall.

Wall mounted detectors should generally be fixed between 150mm and 300mm below the ceiling. Smoke detectors should not be fixed directly above heaters, ducted heat outlets, or in bathrooms, showers, cooking areas or garages, where steam, condensation or fumes could cause false alarms to occur. Also they should not be fitted in very hot or very cold rooms e.g. boiler rooms or unheated porches, where air currents may move smoke away from the detector before it activates.
Always position your detectors so that they can easily be maintained, cleaned and tested - so don’t position them over stairs etc.

Smoke detector positions (pdf 46kb opens in new window)

Installation and Maintenance

Smoke detectors should be powered by a mains supply connected to a separate circuit on the dwelling’s distribution board (consumer unit). If there is any other equipment connected to the electric circuit, then the smoke detectors should also have an in-built battery back-up - which will operate the alarm if the power fails.

Note - If you use a battery backed-up smoke detector they can be connected to a regularly used lighting circuit as this avoids prolonged power disconnection. There is no need for special fireproof wiring. Always maintain, clean and test your smoke detectors regularly as directed by the manufacturer’s instructions.

  Application Forms and Fee Sheet page.

How do I choose a reputable contractor to carry out my building works?

When choosing a building contractor you should consider your choice carefully, you are advised to check them out carefully before employing them. If you engage a good reputable building contractor the potential for problems will be greatly reduced.

How to get a reputable contractor

  • Get recommendations - ask friends, family, neighbours and relevant trade associations if they know of reliable contractors who have experience in the type of work you are after
  • Find out if the contractor is a member of an appropriate trade association and check that they are with the association. A list of trade associations can be found in the rear of the local Yellow Pages - not all associations are reputable. Check them out also - look for ones with strict joining criteria, codes of conduct and clear complaints procedures. Some may offer forms of contract, protection schemes and warranties
  • Look for the Quality Mark - this means the traders have passed the checks needed for membership
  • Consult the Department of Trade and Industry web site
  • Choose established contractors with premises you can visit and ask how long they have been in business - if things go wrong you should then be able to contact them
  • Ensure you have addresses and details of the contractors if you need to contact them in writing. Remember phone numbers are easily changed leaving you with no way of contacting them
  • Check the contractors out; ask if there is similar completed work that they have carried out that you can view. Make sure you speak to the previous customers for their comments, were they happy with the work? Was it started and completed on time? Was the final bill in line with the estimate?
  • Check out any supplied written references and that it was your contractor who actually undertook the work. A contractor with a reputation to preserve is more likely to be around if you have problems later
  • Always obtain at least three quotations for the works and ensure these are in writing with a break-down of works to be undertaken
  • Don’t make assumptions about quality of fixtures and fixings to be supplied i.e. kitchens, bath suites, doors and windows, electrical provisions etc. If you have specific requirements ensure the quotation includes reference to them, this also helps in obtaining comparable quotations
  • Check the quotations carefully, compare like for like and examine what the contractor is providing for in the price. Don’t always assume that the cheapest is the best. Good contractors who refuse to cut corners will seldom be able to compete on price with those that do
  • Agree payment terms before the work commences - be careful on upfront payments - ensure you know what you are getting for any upfront payment. It may be difficult to get monies back. Contractors offering cash / vat free deals are not easily tracked down if things go wrong
  • Consider paying where possible by credit card - this gives you extra protection if the work is not satisfactory, because you may be able to claim for compensation from the card company
  • Be clear from the outset exactly what you want the contractor to do and then stick to it - changing your mind too often will probably prove expensive
  • Once you agree a price and start date, get a written contract and make sure you understand it and agree to all of it. Seek professional advice if you are unclear of any parts of it
  • Try to get as much as possible in writing, for example:
    1. Exactly what is included in the estimate (or preferably quotation)
    2. When will work start and how long will it take
    3. What payments will the contractor expect from you before the works are finished
    4. On what basis you will want to agree any increase in cost (before the money is spent)
    5. What arrangements will the builder make for your safety and convenience as works proceed
  • If your contactor won’t supply a contract, consider drawing one up yourself
  • Agree at the beginning to withhold a final payment until you are fully satisfied the works are complete and the local authority building control officer has issued the required completion certificate
  • Ask about insurance - make sure your builder has up to date public liability insurance
  • Never let your contractor start works without checking with the local authority planning & building control that all necessary approvals have been obtained
  • Also ensure that all conditions imposed on the planning and building regulation approvals are addressed before work commences
  • Finally ensure you obtain your local authority completion certificate, which will be required for any future house sale.

What do I do if things go wrong

  • Complain: give your contractor the chance to put things right. If you are still unhappy, put it in writing with a resolution deadline
  • Consider withholding payments - but check the contract you have with the contractor
  • Keep a diary recording all phone calls, conversations and events. Take photos of any work you are unhappy with recording the time and date taken
  • Get advice - speak to the Trading Standards Department, Citizens Advice Bureau, consult a solicitor, engage a chartered building surveyor or other suitably qualified professional person
  • If the contractor is a member of a trade association speak to them – they may offer an arbitration scheme
  • Speak to your building control officer, who may be able to assist on health and safety issues.

How do I remedy unauthorised building works?

Regularisation Certificates

Where building alterations or extensions have been carried out without having applied for a building regulations approval, it is now very common for such contraventions to come to light during the house sales search process. This can cause problems for the house seller not able to supply the buyer with the appropriate approval notice and / or completion certificate.

For works undertaken after the 11th November 1985 you can apply to building control to regularise the situation and obtain a regularisation certificate.

Note: this procedure is not applicable to retrospective planning permission and you are advised to consult the planning officer for advice. We cannot, however, regularise situations prior to the above date.

An owner is under no obligation to submit an application and equally the council are under no obligation to accept an application. As in most cases the work will have been completed and some opening up work may be required, it is the owner’s responsibility to arrange for this work to be carried out to allow building control to determine building regulation compliance has been achieved.

Work not complying with the building regulations needs to be corrected by the owner. The owner must be willing to comply with all such reasonable requests for opening up and remedial work to achieve building compliance. If the owner refuses to undertake work the regularisation procedure is ended, no charges paid will be refunded and no regularisation certificate will be issued.

Once building control are satisfied that the requirements of the building regulations have been achieved we will issue a regularisation certificate.


It is advisable to contact your local building control officer to discuss the requirements of this complicated procedure prior to the submission of the application to regularise. Request a regularisation application form (you may desire the services of a local architect or surveyor to assist you at this stage).

Make the Application

The completed application form should then be returned to building control and must also consist of –

  • Statement of the unauthorised works
  • Copy of a plan showing the unauthorised work (so far as is reasonably practicable)
  • Copy of a plan showing any additional work to be carried out to secure building regulations compliance (so far as is reasonably practicable)
  • Approximate date work was completed, which is important as you can only apply the regulations that were applicable at this completion date
  • Regularisation fee (No VAT is Payable – see our charges page)
  • Copies of the present scale of charges are available on request, with the charges depending upon the type of work that has been carried out

Application Processing

Once an application is deposited you or your agent will need to arrange for a site inspectionto determine what works will need to be uncovered in order for the building control surveyor to determine whether or not compliance with the Building Regulations has been achieved. Compliance needs to be with the regulations in force at the time that the work started. If the works are found to comply with the regulations a regularisation certificate will be issued i.e. works are found to be in compliance with the building regulations.

  • If the applicant is unwilling to open up the works, we may not be able to satisfy ourselves that the works comply and a regularisation certificate will not be released - a letter of rejection will be issued
  • If the local authority find that they cannot determine (or cannot determine without unreasonable cost or disruption to the owner) what work would enable compliance with the regulations, the regularisation charge is not refundable
  • If on opening up, additional works are found to be necessary to achieve compliance with the building regulations and the applicant is unwilling to carry these out, then no certificate will be issued until all works are corrected
  • Sufficient inspections will be carried out by your building control officer, as may be necessary to check the opening up works and/or remedial works to determine regulation compliance
  • Where a letter of rejection is issued, the letter will explain the reasons why a certificate cannot be issued, i.e. lack of opening up, refusal to remedy defective works, or the surveyor was unable to determine the works complied etc
  • In such circumstances the regularisation fee is NOT REFUNDABLE, as the authority will have incurred costs in considering the application
  • There is no provision for appeal on a regularisation certificate

  Application Forms and Fee Sheet page.