In our previous post, we touched on some of the important questions you might want to ask yourself when preparing for a potential bathroom refurbishment. However, we focused mainly on important points that would gauge your readiness for said refitting and the possible outcome of the project. Today, we’ll get down to the legal side of things and explore the various permissions and approvals that you will need before any work can be done to your bathroom.

People tend to hesitate when they find out bathroom renovations have legal implications. By now, you may be second-guessing yourself since government processes are associated with long lines, lots of paperwork and fees. Don’t worry though, as long as you go through the proper processes, getting a building regulations approval is relatively painless. If your bathroom will definitely benefit from a good overhaul, don’t let legalities hamper your plans.

Building Regulations Approval versus Planning Permissions

According to the Bristol Council, most building renovations, extensions, repairs and maintenance work must be done in accordance with regulations. Of course, it doesn’t mean that every little change you make in your home requires government permission. With that said, homeowners may need to secure two things for bathroom renovations: building regulations approval and planning permissions.

Most people think these two mean the same thing, but they are actually quite different. There are projects where you need regulations approval, but not planning permission, while other projects might require both. Planning permission deals more with the environmental and aesthetic impact of a certain project, while building regulations approval focuses more on health and safety standards.

Planning Permissions for Bathroom Refitting

In general, the majority of bathroom renovations don’t require any planning permission, because they focus more on the superficial appearance of your property rather than any significant structural change. For minor bathroom-related projects like placing new tiles, repainting the walls and installing a new shower curtain, you don’t need to secure planning permission.

However, if your bathroom refurbishment entails making your bathroom bigger via a house extension, or if you’re trying to put a bathroom where there wasn’t one before, you will definitely need planning permission. Additionally, if you live in a terraced house or flat, it’s a good idea to get the necessary informal permissions from neighbours and landlord – to ensure that your bathroom renovation doesn’t cause anybody any surprise inconvenience.

If you live in a historical or listed building, matters are slightly more complex. You’ll need to contact Bristol City Council as your local authority before you proceed with any refitting planning. Even minor aesthetic changes may need to be approved prior to any action, in case it is the fittings themselves that are protected.

You can read more about the consent needed for potential changes to listed buildings, here.

Building Regulations for Bathroom Refitting

Again, for minor bathroom renovations that don’t entail knocking down a wall, messing with the plumbing or changing the current electrical wiring, no building regulations approval is required.

On the other hand, if you’re trying to build a new bathroom where there wasn’t one before, you will need to secure building regulations approval to ensure that the new room complies with Bristol fire and electrical safety regulations. The new room will be checked for structural integrity and proper drainage and ventilation. This is especially important if your new bathroom won’t be on the ground floor.

Your local planning authority will require a certificate to testify to your bathrooms structural stability. You can hire a surveyor or engineer to evaluate the room for you, and if they determine that the structure is suitable, they will give you the necessary certification that the authorities require.

Additionally, the room will need to be checked for proper ventilation. Your new bathroom should have an openable window – high windows can help disperse odours and condensation without compromising privacy. Should a window be impossible because of the home’s current layout, the building control body may ask the homeowner to install a mechanical extraction fan to facilitate proper ventilation.

Changes to the Drainage System

If your bathroom refit requires you to change your current plumbing system, you will need to undergo more steps to gain approval. You don’t need to get a lot of work done if you’re just changing your toilet and hooking it up to the same, old plumbing system. However, any large changes to your plumbing setup need to be checked for health and safety purposes.

Since toilets carry human waste, any plumbing pipe that connects your toilet to the output is considered foul water drainage. As such, they mandate extra care when being tampered with. If you make changes to the current system, you will need to hire a Bristol plumber to ensure that the pipes:

  • Are not blocked
  • Are sturdy enough to prevent leakages
  • Will not allow foul odours from the drainage system to flow back to your bathroom
  • Will not put your home at risk of flooding
  • Are properly connected to an output, whether it be a public or private sewer system, a septic tank or a cesspool

While professional plumbers are usually knowledgeable about the guidelines for drainage, you can guarantee complete compliance by familiarising yourself with the government’s Drainage and Waste Disposal Guidelines.

Electrical Changes to Your Bathroom

Any bathroom renovation that entails adding or making changes to your electrical wiring system requires special precautions by the building control body. This doesn’t include minor electrical work like changing a damaged socket panel or replacing an already dim bathroom light.

Regulations related to electrical safety are complex, and you need to follow a lot of guidelines. This may be too much information for a homeowner to handle, but the law doesn’t require you to know electrical safety regulations by heart. However, it is your responsibility as a homeowner to hire an electrician with the necessary certification. When scouting for an electrician to do major electrical installations in your home, make sure they know how to conduct a BS 7671 electrical installation self-certification. If not, you may look for a third-party certifier to conduct an inspection for you. If you pass the inspection, you will be given a Minor Works Certificate, which is necessary for your building regulations approval.

This may sound like a whole lot of work to you, but this is for your own safety. Successfully acquiring the necessary approvals and permissions necessary for your bathroom renovation means that your new bathroom will be perfectly safe, efficient and won’t put your loved ones at risk. Not only that, but the last thing you’d want to do is sink money into fitting your dream bathroom only to have to rip it out due to non-compliance.

Although the building control body does put the majority of the responsibility on the professional, they also hold the homeowner responsible for ensuring that all home refitting complies with government standards.

If you’re planning on refitting your bathroom, and this article has brought up more questions than it answers, don’t hesitate to ring us on 01179 619 021 to talk through any concerns, queries or advice.