Hi guys! It’s Naomi Findlay here, back for another round of renovation tips.
Are you ready to start renovating but not sure what sort of things you can and can’t do to a particular property? Have you found the perfect property but don’t know how close you can get to the neighbour’s fence when extending? Is the kitchen ripe for a refurb but you’re afraid if you knock down a wall you might end up in trouble?
It’s totally okay to freak out about these things because there are so many rules and regulations when it comes to construction. But I’m here today to let you know that those rules aren’t as daunting as they seem, and with a bit of preparation, you won’t be left with a half-finished renovation down the track.
Every renovation process is unique and depends on the scope and complexity of the project. And each of these projects – regardless of whether you are doing something cosmetic like sprucing up the kitchen or something structural like adding an extra bedroom and extending the living area – needs to follow a set of rules.
And if those rules aren’t followed – well, then you could be slapped with a building notice and forced to undo all the hard work you’ve done. But that’s why you’re here today, to avoid that scenario and instead earn a nice profit at the end of your renovations.
To make things a little easier, I’m going to break it down a little. In Australia, there are two main sets of rules and regulations. The first is called the Australian Standards (or AS for short), and the second is the Building Code of Australia (or BCA).
These are your two building bibles.
Unfortunately, these building requirements are not very small, so you can’t just read and memorise them in a day. But that’s pretty understandable considering they cover all the possible types of construction works that go on in Australia – they need to be thorough to ensure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to building and safety!
So, let’s take a look at each of these regulations separately.
Australian Standards (AS)
The Australian Standards (AS) can refer to mathematical things like specifications, or procedural requirements – they are used to provide a baseline level of safety for houses, buildings and everyday objects. That means anything from glass thickness, slip resistance, treatment of timber and building facades, to the reliability of toilets, taps, and the ovens and cooktops all falls under the AS.
For example, if you’re renovating a bathroom, there are many things that will have to comply with the AS. The AS isn’t just limited to your finishes like the basin, taps and toilet – although choosing those that have an AS stamp on them is essential, as anything you import from overseas that hasn’t been given the tick of approval will not be able to be used in your beautiful new creation. So, close that bargain international plumbing supplies website before you end up costing yourself twofold.
Beyond the finishes, you also have to take a look at things like waterproofing; if it’s an older home, the waterproofing might not be up to scratch with the new AS. Then there are the electrical outlets; water and electricity don’t mix, so you need to be sure that your updated bathroom doesn’t have the two cosied up together.
When it comes to actual quality of items like rangehoods, toilets, and taps, complying with the AS will fall under the manufacturer’s responsibility. It’s when you bring those items home and go to install them that it becomes your responsibility to comply – so, that slick, new oven needs to be installed by a licensed tradie, and that slick cooktop needs to have enough clearway between any rangehoods or flammable materials.
Building Code of Australia (BCA)
Commonly known as the BCA, the Building Code of Australia is in addition to the AS. The BCA generally covers the technical aspects for the design and construction of buildings – including renovations. While the AS will talk about window loading and thickness of glass, the BCA will tell you how tall your window sill needs to be.
Unlike the AS, the BCA is a lot less mathematical in its requirements – and that’s because it has been designed to be used by architects, builders, certifiers and engineers to make sure that the stairs, ceilings and balustrades in their designs comply, without getting overly technical.
For example, ceiling heights are set by the BCA. And to make things a little trickier, they’re not all the same number; each room, depending on how the space will be defined or used, has a difference ceiling height requirement.
If you’re looking at giving the old kitchen or bathroom a good makeover, then you need to take a look at how high the ceiling is at the moment. Once the renovation is complete, will the ceiling be at least 2.1 metres so that it aligns with the BCA? If you’re planning to add an extra bedroom, have you drawn up the ceiling to have a clearance of 2.4 metres?
That’s not to say if your existing bedrooms are lower than 2.4 metres, then you will have to bring them all up to the current requirements. But if you are knocking down a wall and extend the living area, then any of that new work you do should comply with the current rules – and that may mean raising the ceiling of the original part of the living area.
Just like most rules and regulations, the BCA changes from year to year – that’s because there are always new things being discovered, new safety practices being established and new materials being designed. But all this newness means that keeping up with the requirements can take some time. On top of that, the BCA also refers to the Australian Standards, which also change from time to time. So, if you already did you research five years ago for a renovation back then, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your current renovation will play by the same rules.
The other thing you have to keep in mind is that the regulations in the BCA are not all exactly the same across the board – New South Wales might have some differences when it comes to how close you are allowed to build to your neighbour than say, South Australia.
So, how do you make sure that your renovations don’t get slammed by all these rules and regulations? By doing your research, and also checking these things with your team of professionals, of course! Your building certifier will be an amazing asset in these instances, and will save you a lot of tears (and money) down the track.
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