Does your project require a building consent?

Usually one of the first questions before a project begins is whether the work requires a building consent or not. Building projects that don’t require consent fall under Schedule 1 of the Building Act 2004.

“The purpose of Schedule 1 is to exempt building work that is low-risk from requiring a building consent as the costs associated with obtaining a consent often outweigh the benefits”.

Generally the exemptions in Schedule 1 are for building work that doesn’t effect a buildings structure, fire safety or risk public safety.

Some relevant exemptions for homeowners

Anyone can carry out these projects on dwellings up to 2 stories high. However MBIE always stress the importance of seeking advice from professionals.

These exemptions apply to the whole country and therefore local councils and territorial authorities may have district plans that also restrict what owners can do with their properties. It is important to check local rules on site coverage, height to boundary requirements, boundary fencing etc

Repairs and maintenance

Repairs and maintenance on a home are generally exempt from requiring a building consent so long as the damaged materials have met the building code durability requirements.

Property maintenance - Country and Coast Construction Wellington

Examples they give on the website are:

Replacing a 20-year old profile metal roof cladding (eg corrugated iron or pressed metal tiles), where that cladding has achieved its Building Code durability requirement (ie it lasted more than 15 years) and the replacement cladding is a comparable component or assembly (eg profiled metal roofing).
Replacing old rotten wooden piles under a house with new treated timber piles in the same positions, as long as the work is not complete or substantial replacement.
Replacing, in the same position, any number of existing non fire-rated wooden doors and windows (joinery and glazing) with new aluminium doors and windows

Detached buildings less than 30m2

Construction of small buildings such as garden sheds, cabins and sleep-outs don’t require consent when built near an associated residential dwelling. Detached dwellings cannot contain cooking facilities, sanitary features or potable water storage. These must be readily available in the associated residential dwelling.

Outdoor project - Country and Coast Construction Wellington

All small detached dwellings must still comply with rules set out in the local district plan.

Decks and boardwalks

Decks, platforms, bridges, boardwalks and similar structures don’t require building consent where you can’t fall more than 1.5 metres.

The Building Code requires a safety barrier where there is chance of a fall greater than 1 metre.


Pergolas are simple framed, unroofed structures, often used as garden features. These structures are exempt from building consents and there is no limit on size however it cannot be roofed.

Repair or replacement of a garage or outbuilding

Replacing or repairing a carport, garage, shed, greenhouse, machinery room, private swimming pool or farm building usually doesn’t require a consent.

Repairs and replacements must be:

  • on the same footprint as the original building,
  • not be more than 1 storey high and
  • made from comparable materials

It is also important to note that these buildings shouldn’t be used for habitation purposes.

A timber weatherboard garage wall is severely damaged in an earthquake. The owner decides to replace the garage wall in the same position using pre-painted, profiled metal cladding.
The owner of an old concrete block garage, which has part of its roof missing, decides to demolish it. He replaces it in the same position with a new, prefabricated timber-framed garage with pre-finished steel roof and wall claddings.

Exterior windows and doors

This exemption allows you to carry out any building work in connection with a window (including a roof window) or an exterior doorway without needing a building consent. The exemption only applies if the previous windows or doors have met the minimum durability time frame as set out in the building code (usually 15 years for windows).

Country and Coast Wellington

All new building work must comply with the current building code.

An owner wants to upgrade their 20 year old single glazed windows with new double or triple glazed windows.
Removing a dwelling’s lounge window and covering the opening with external cladding and internal linings to form a wall with no opening.
Following earthquake damage, a builder decides to install a bi-fold door to replace a pair of French doors leading from the ground floor dining room of a 2 storey dwelling. As the wall opening for the new joinery is wider than the existing opening, they need to install a new lintel to span the opening.

Internal walls and doorways

Constructing, altering or removing an internal wall or doorway in a residential dwelling usually does not require consent.

Internal walls to be modified must not:

  • be load-bearing,
  • contain bracing elements,
  • be a fire wall or,
  • be constructed using masonry

It is best to get professional advice as the building must achieve at least the same compliance with the building code.

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.
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.

Internal linings and finishes in existing dwelling

Replacing or altering a dwelling’s internal linings and floor finishes does not require consent. This exemption doesn’t require you to use comparable materials.

Wall and ceiling linings are often use for bracing and fire resistance so if you are unsure it could be best to ask for advice.

Replacing a dwelling’s tongue and groove floor boards with particle-board sheets.
Replacing a dwelling’s plasterboard internal linings with new plasterboard.

Thermal Insulation – floor and ceiling only

An exemption applies when adding or upgrading the thermal insulation (such as pink batts, earthwool, expol etc) to the underfloor or ceiling of a dwelling. Interior walls may be insulated if they are not fire walls.

Exterior walls of a house do not fall under this exemption as there could be weather tightness issues when modifying exterior walls.

Retaining walls

An exemption applies to retaining walls up to 1.5m. The wall must not support any additional load other than the natural ground they are retaining (eg a vehicle on top, building or a steep slope behind the wall)

It is important to note that if there is a chance of a fall greater than 1m you may need to install a safety barriers. This depends on the purpose/use of the wall and how accessible the area above the retaining wall is.


Fences or hoardings up to 2 metres high usually dont require building consent.

Country and Coast Construction Wellington

You will still need to comply with the requirements of the Fencing Act 1978 for boundary fences. In many cases, district plans may also require you to obtain a resource consent for fences over a certain height (usually over 2 metres).


Pools and large storage tanks don’t require a building consent if they meet requirements for capacity and height-above-ground requirements.

This exemption is likely to cover many residential pools (eg. an in-ground swimming pool of 7 metres long, 5 metres wide and a metre deep).

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

Building work in connection with a tank or pool and any structure in support of the tank or pool, including any tank or pool that is part of any other building for which a building consent is required, that:

(a) does not exceed 500 litres capacity and is supported not more than 4 metres above the supporting ground; or
(b) does not exceed 1,000 litres capacity and is supported not more than 3 metres above the supporting ground; or 
(c) does not exceed 2,000 litres capacity and is supported not more than 2 metres above the supporting ground; or 
(d) does not exceed 4,000 litres capacity and is supported not more than 1 metre above the supporting ground; or 
(e) does not exceed 8,000 litres capacity and is supported not more than 0.5 metres above the supporting ground; or 
(f) does not exceed 16,000 litres capacity and is supported not more than 0.25 metres above the supporting ground; or 
(g) does not exceed 35,000 litres capacity and is supported directly by ground.

The requirements for restricting access to residential pools still apply and aren’t covered by this exemption.

Other work that doesn’t require building consent:

  • Ground moisture barrier installation (see Keys to a dry and healthy home)
  • Installing a carport less than 20m2
  • Small penetrations in exterior walls (up to 300mm) to allow for retrofitting heat pumps, extractor fans, pipes etc.
  • Installing an awning that is less than 20m2
  • Closing in an existing veranda or patio less than 5m2 to create an enclosed porch/conservatory
  • Installing a sign less than 6m2 surface area and lower than 3m from the ground
  • Private household playground equipment less than 3m high
  • Installing a spa pool with appropriate cover
  • Demolition of a detached building up to three stories high
  • Installing or removing a porch/veranda up to 20m2
Builders in the Hutt Valley - Country and Coast Construction Wellington

More exemptions

Part 2 and 3 contain more exemptions for work that doesn’t require a building consent outlined in the building act. For more information visit:

Part 2: plumbing and draining work that can only be done by an authorised person.

Part 3: building work that is only exempt if it is designed or reviewed by a chartered professional engineer.