Building Plans Archives » Building Regulations South Africa
Feb 102014

City of Johannesburg Relaxes Swimming Pool Plan Submissions

POOL OK01 JHB – Swimming Pools, Boundary Lines and Plans

A Stunning Swimming Pool
Would you need to submit plans for a pool like this? See the post below.
Pool by Prime Pools

The City of Johannesburg’s Planning Department has confirmed that they have relaxed the by-laws relating to swimming pools and plan submissions. These regulations concern the submission of plans – namely when plans are required and when are they not required.

Following up on a query from a reader, Jadie Naicker, we contacted the national office of the NSPI (National Swimming Pool Institute) to find out what they know about the situation. The local Johannesburg manager, Myrtle, said that there were rumours of a relaxation, but that they had put a request to the council in writing for confirmation. By last week they had not had a reply, so she was unable to comment on whether these rumours were true or not.

We contacted the City of Johannesburg Town Planning Department and spoke to one of the building inspectors who confirmed that the swimming pool building by-laws were amended at the end of 2013.





POOL More 3MetersA JHB – Swimming Pools, Boundary Lines and Plans

Putting in a New Pool
If your zoning area allows you to build up to three meters from the boundary, then no plans are required, any closer than three meters then you must submit plans.

The regulations vary depending on zoning; the zone that the property is situated in. If the property is in a zone that has a building line restriction of three meters then any pool that is built within this three-meter line will need plans submitted. If the pool does not cross any of these boundary lines then plans will not be required.

POOL Less 3Meters01A JHB – Swimming Pools, Boundary Lines and Plans

A Pool Closer than 2 Meters
Depending on your zone, if you want to build a pool closer than 2 meters from your boundary, then you will need plans.
Pool by Prime Pools

In areas that do not have building lines set, the by-law requires that any pool built closer than two meters to the boundary must submit plans.

One of the main reasons for this is that the Town Planning Department must scrutinize the site plans and confirm to the building inspectors that there are not any services such as water supply, sewage or electricity supply amongst others that could be affected.

 Pool Safety

Security poolcover JHB – Swimming Pools, Boundary Lines and Plans

A Hard-wearing Safety Pool Cover

Public safety and swimming pools is a National Building Regulation and is applicable whether plans had to be submitted or not. Read more on our page SANS 10400 Part D – Public safety.

The City of Johannesburg put forward planned by-law amendments in 2009 to regulate safety around swimming pools in the Johannesburg area. In addition to the National Building Regulations Part-D, extra safety measures were mooted. These include issue of a permit by the Council and the fact that every outdoor swimming pool must be secured with a pool cover or fitted with a floating pool alarm device at all times when the pool is not use. The Council may exempt an owner from compliance with this section if it is satisfied with the efficiency of any other means of protection used.



Nov 272013

Great Bathroom Layout and Design Ideas

Bath Sharon 191 Bathroom Ideas

Over the years, the bathroom has earned a reputation as an area  unworthy of attention, probably because it has always been regarded as no more than a room in which to wash. Nobody can deny that this is still its most important function but, nevertheless, it seems a poor excuse for creating a whole generation of inhospitable bathrooms which offer very little in the way of comfort or ambience.

It is certainly possible to create a functional, hygienic and streamlined environment without sacrificing character and comfort. A bathroom is essentially a private area where one can close the door on the world and emerge soothed, refreshed and relaxed; a haven in which to bathe a tired body, restore flagging energy and unwind in blissful solitude. There are encouraging signs that more and more people are realising the full potential of this Cinderella room. Nowadays, bathrooms are designed as multi-functional envtronments which can accommodate a number of different activities – relaxation, reading, Iaundry, dressing and even exercise. To the uninitiated, creating or remodelling a bathroom may be a daunting prospect. The small selection of bathrooms below by Appleby Kitchens showcases the creativity that this company can give to any room in the house.

Bath Sharon 428 Bathroom Ideas

Bath Sharon 320 Bathroom Ideas

Bath Sharon 173 Bathroom Ideas

Bath Sharon 001 Bathroom Ideas

Bath Sharon 990 Bathroom Ideas

All these bathrooms were designed, manufactured and installed by Appleby Kitchens.

Contact Details:

Sharon Grant

Cell: 082 780 5104

Tel: 011 493 9663

011 493 6263

Fax: 011 493 8560

[email protected]


ApplebyKitchensBlu Bathroom Ideas


Nov 242013

Engineers Design Buildings for a Purpose

Riga Latvia Mall Roof Engineers Specs Are Vital

A roof garden can clearly be seen under construction on the roof of the mall in Riga, Latvia

Engineers around the world will design a structure based on the brief given to them by a developer. The basis for any good design is to have a structure that is “fit for the purpose” for which it is intended. Most international building codes, and this includes our South African National Building Regulations, are very specific in terms of requirements. For instance, our National Building Regulations (NBR) state:

“Any building and any structural element or component” must be designed to “provide strength, stability, serviceability and durability”.

It is also vital that buildings are designed so that if the structural system is in any way overloaded they won’t collapse with disastrous consequences.

The Regulations also state that these design requirements shall be “deemed to be satisfied” when buildings are designed in accordance with the relevant Part of SANS 10400, in this case, Structural Design.

Roof Design of Riga Mall

Even though the devastating collapse of the roof at Riga Mall in Latvia on Saturday November 23, 2013 is currently under investigation (as at 24th November) there is some certainty that a roof garden being constructed on the roof of the mall played a significant role.

The engineers who designed the mall roof clearly did not intend for the roof structure to carry the extra weight that was being imposed on it. Tons of soil, concrete pavers and possibly water features, as well as many people walking on the roof, would put tremendous additional strain on a structure that was not engineered to carry such loads.

So why are people surprised it collapsed?


May 272013

What the National Building Regulations say about Alterations and Additions to Existing Buildings

Additions366 Alterations & Additions

If you build onto an existing home you will need to submit plans and comply with the “new” building regulations, including Part XA which deals with energy usage.

In general, the National Building Regulations are not retroactive in their application. This means that if you are adding to or altering a building, you won’t have to ensure that the entire building complies with new regulations that have been imposed since the building was originally erected.

This will be of particular interest to people who are concerned about the implications of the new energy efficiency legislations and regulations

But if you need plans for any additions or alterations, then you will need to ensure that the new section of the building complies.

Part A of SANS 10400, General Principles and Requirements, deals with alterations and additions.

This part of the National Building Regulations states that where an application is made to make an alteration or addition to any building that was approved before this version of the Building Regulations and Standards Act (i.e. prior to 2008):

  • The  alteration must comply with the requirements of the Act, but “consequent changes to any other part of the building which would be necessary in order to make such other part comply with the requirements of the Act shall not be required unless in the opinion of the local authority such consequent changes are necessary to ensure the health or safety of persons using the building in the altered form”
  • The addition must comply with the requirements of the Act, “but no changes to the original building shall be required unless the addition :
    1. will affect the structural strength or stability of the original building;
    2. will render any existing escape route from the original building less effective; or
    3. will affect the health of persons using the original building.

Problems May Occur When Adding to Older Buildings

In addition to the above, the law-makers are aware that problems might arise when alterations or additions are carried out on buildings that were erected in compliance with earlier building by-laws.

In the case of such an addition the local authority (which is of course the body that will approve any plans that might be required for such an addition or alteration) might decide to treat the new portion as an entirely separate part. If this happens, then the alterations will have to be designed to comply with the National Building Regulations “without having any effect on the original portion of the building”.

This is not likely to happen often with alterations, though the local authority will decide “to what extent that part of the building which is not to be altered should comply with the National Building Regulations”. Generally they will be more stringent when it comes to the application of fire regulations (Part T, Fire protection), and particularly when it comes to escape route requirements. Since this doesn’t affect “dwelling houses”, it is unlikely to have any effect on residential buildings.

The regulations state: “It is obvious that a pragmatic and essentially practical approach is necessary.”

Their primary concern is the health and safety of those people using the building. But they advise local authorities that any decisions “should be within the context of what might be practical and economically sound in an old building. If an owner or entrepreneur cannot alter a building to suit his purpose at a cost which will enable him to have a reasonable economic return, he will probably not alter the building at all. This could lead to the perpetuation of a situation which might be dangerous but one which is in compliance with old by-laws and is thus perfectly legal. Such a situation could often be considerably improved by making certain changes that are practical and economically sound even though they would not provide the same standard as would be expected in a new building.

“Both the owner and the local authority will have to consider what they are trying to achieve with the Regulations and the answer should be tempered by the knowledge of what is reasonable and practical to require of an existing building.”



Apr 242013

Building a Masonry Arch

Arch Construct Masonry Arches

A masonry arch in the process of construction

Masonry arches can add immense character to homes, both internally and when used as part of the architectural style of the building. For instance in the house under construction on the left, large arched windows follow the same shape as the arched entrance that will welcome those entering the home.

But building any sort of arch, even one that forms part of a garden plan, needs to be undertaken with great care, particularly if it is to span a wide opening.

The most widely accepted method of building arches is to use a supporting formwork that is cut in the shape of a semicircle, or to use hardboard (that you can see lining the inner surface at the top of the arch above) that is kept in place with battens cut to length.

Standards for Masonry Arches

In South Africa, the construction of masonry arches is contained in Part K, Walls  of SANS 10400, which is, of course, a “deemed to satisfy” part of the National Building Regulations and National Standards Act.

Essentially, any circular masonry arch that has a span not exceeding 2,5 m must have an arch ring depth and proportions that meet the standards shown in the drawing below. Of course the walls that form the lower part of the arch must also be built in accordance with the Standard.

Part K Masonry arches Masonry Arches

Proportions for masonry arches

Construction of Masonry Arches

The Standard doesn’t give a lot of guidance, but it does say that the rise must be between 0,3 and 0,5 times the span of the arch. It also states that masonry units should be solid and that the arch ring should be constructed in either a header or a stretch pattern.

The depth of the arch ring should be no less than 200 mm where the rise is between half and two-thirds of the radius. It should be no less than 300 mm if the rise is greater than two thirds, but less than – or equal to – the radius. So a bit of basic mathematics is required here.

NHBRC Guidelines

The guidelines given in the NHBRC handbooks is basically the same as in the SANS.

Mar 272013

Rapid Urban Decay in Jozi Blamed on Illegal Building

Urban Johannesburg s Illegal Building Leads to ChaosThe City of Johannesburg has lost control of town-planning infringements, according to an article published in The Star newspaper at the beginning of February 2013. It seems they simply can’t stop them from happening.

The Accusations

In the article, Ros Greeff, the City’s member of the mayoral committee responsible for development planning and urban infrastructure, said that procedures were slow and not working. As a result, she claimed, they were leading to the rapid decay of many areas across the city.

This all came to public attention at a public meeting in Cyrildene (one of Johannesburg’s “better” suburbs) where angry residents voiced their concerns at the burgeoning number of building transgressions that have been occurring in the area. According to Ms Greeff, property owners are totally disregarding instructions, including court orders, that are issued by the local authority to stop illegal construction.

According to the article, the main concern in this part of the City is the building of additional rooms around residential properties intended to temporarily accommodate Chinese people moving into the country. The structures generally don’t comply with South African national building standards (SANS); but worse, they don’t adhere to proper health, sanitary or fire conditions either, and they inevitably cause overcrowding.

Both residents and ward councillors say that the City of Johannesburg has done absolutely nothing to stop this. They also maintain that telephone calls and emails that have logged many complaints get no response at all.

The current ward councillor for Cyrildene and Bruma, Alison van der Molen, maintains that in her ward alone, 1 200 transgressions of this type have been logged. She has stated  on record that not one of these has been acknowledged, and none have been acted upon.

She was quoted in The Star article as saying: “There are some old cases against illegal building going on in this area which date back to 2006 and which are still stuck in the legal system somewhere.”

The scary part is that in terms of the Municipal Systems Finance Act, the City’s council is obliged to provide feedback to all the complaints of residents. And this is clearly not being done.

Van der Molen says that residents and ward councillors have simply been ignored by the town planning department.

According to Rob Crawford from the local community policing forum, there have been no prosecutions or demolitions, and absolutely no visible signs of action that would discourage this type of lawlessness.

“Some of our complaints go back five years,” he told The Star. “No-one cuts illegal connections. People add rooms as they please, causing overcrowding and health issues.”

Councillor Carlo da Rochas, whose ward includes parts of Bez Valley, Kensington, Bertrams and Observatory, concurs. He maintains that entire “villages” are springing up in backyards in his ward. As a result he regularly sends photos, reports and e-mails to the town planning department, but never gets a response.

“Town planning has lost control over our wards. I have illegal businesses in almost every block in my ward. Neighbours are losing money in their investments and the council, therefore, loses out on revenue.”

Ronaldo Sorban of the Observatory Residents’ Association said that the blight was spreading to his area as well, and yet again, he claimed that no-one was listening to complaints.

“The rot has to stop.”

It’s not all bad though. According to Ros Greef positive things have already been achieved in Cyrildene. For instance, a survey has been conducted and out of 85 properties visited, 32 transgressions were found, 27 of which were illegal accommodation establishments. Of these 22 have been handed over to attorneys for legal action, and two court orders have already been issued. That’s really GOOD news.

But, she says: “The by-laws are not tough enough and the city has not been proactive enough. Even when we are alerted immediately at the start of building operations, and we issue stop orders, we are ignored, and once they have put a roof on the structure… we can no longer evict as the high court has ruled that we then have to find the occupants alternative accommodation.”

Action to be Taken

The mayor of the City of Johannesburg, Parks Tau has asked Ms Greeff to put together a new task team to specifically address this issue.

“We are looking at solutions which will include immediate demolition by JMPD, transferring the matter from the high court to the magistrate’s courts, reintroducing fines, and involving the SAPS and laying of criminal charges.”

We wish her luck and success in her endeavours.

Mar 252013

Strategic Planning of Boundary Walls and Fences

Fence Palasaide Steel s Boundary Walls and Fences

A steel palisade fence on the street side boundary.

Boundary walls and fences are one of the most controversial topics facing homeowners. We are constantly contacted by people from all parts of South Africa who want advice – or have some sort of problem – relating to boundary walls and fences – often because neighbours have erected something that is offensive or clearly illegal.

There are laws that relate to boundary walls and fences, but more importantly, you need to check the boundary walls and fences policy followed by your local authority. Ultimately what you can and cannot do is up to them.

Boundary Walls and Fences and the Law

The two most important issues here are the position of boundary walls and fences, and ownership.

Positioning Boundary Walls and Fences

All properties are surveyed and pegged when land is zoned for residential use. But as soon as the land is built on, generally the pegs are removed. This is why it is so important to ensure that boundary walls and fences are correctly positioned in the first place. If there is a dispute between neighbours at any stage (and they could be completely different parties to those who owned the two properties when the wall was built), it may be necessary to get a land surveyor to resurvey the property according to the official diagram that is lodged with the Surveyor General in Pretoria.

If you decide to build a wall or erect a fence on the boundary, you may do so provided it is on your property. And this includes the foundationswhich of course will be wider and longer than the wall itself. The structure will then belong to you. [See minor building work for walls and fences that do not require plans.]

The law also protects the structure from any action that may threaten its stability. For instance your neighbour may not dig down next to your wall on his/her side if this is likely to wash away the earth if and when there are heavy rains. If he/she does some sort of excavation, they will need to erect a retaining wall (which will require plans) or some other structure that provides lateral support to the wall.

Ownership of Boundary Walls and Fences

Often, however, neighbours agree to share the costs of boundary walls and fences, in which case ownership is also shared.

In the absence of proof that a boundary wall is wholly on one or other property, ownership is usually presumed to be shared. Some local authorities state that each side is then owned by the property owner on each side; others say that the wall is owned jointly. If ownership is shared either way, neither owner may do anything to the wall – ie they may not raise it, lower it or break it down – without the other neighbour’s permission. If the structure is damaged in any way, both must share the cost of repair.

There are different laws that apply in agricultural areas (farmland).

Local Authority Boundary Walls and Fences Policies

While every local authority has its own policy for boundary walls and fences, there are many similarities. The information give here is based on the official policy of the City of Cape Town, drawn from a document that was published in 2009.

The official document Boundary Walls and Fences Policy acknowledges the fact that all fences and boundary walls that front onto public streets are “highly visible” and therefore have a direct bearing on the character as well as what they term the “visual amenity of neighbourhoods”.

Driven by an increased need for security, more and more homeowners are tending to install security devices on top of boundary walls and fences in an uncontrolled and haphazard manner. These devices take various forms and include different types of electric fencing, as well as razor wire, barbed wire and various kinds of ugly (though effective) spikes. Because of this, the City of Cape Town devised its policy in 2009, formally identifying which security devices may be utilized – and which should not be permitted.

At this stage, the City of Cape Town’s Building By-laws prohibited the use of certain materials including galvanized iron sheeting and asbestos sheeting (though it should also be noted that no asbestos materials may be used for building anywhere in the country), and barbed wire on street boundaries, but they did not make any provision for controlling security devices. While historically, the Occupational Health and Safety Act controlled the technical aspects of the installation of electric fences, there was no provision in the City’s Scheme Regulations to control the installation of security devices.

Their Boundary Walls and Fences Policy attempts to control the appearance of boundary walls and fences and the installation of security devices on top of walls and fences. They also point out that this policy precedes the formulation of a by-law.

The City of Cape Town’s Legal Mandate

As they state, boundary walls are considered to form part of municipal planning, which is a local authority competency in terms of Part B of Schedule 5 of South Africa’s Constitution. Note that this is why the decisions relating to boundary walls and fences are ultimately left to the local authority to decide.

In Terms of Section 156 of the Constitution, municipalities (or local authorities, including the various Cities – specifically Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban etc.) have the power to make and administer by-laws that will ensure the effective administration of all the various matters they have the right to administer – in this case, policies that relate to boundary walls and fences.

There is no provision made in the National Building Regulations to control the appearance and height of boundary walls. For this reason, control of the appearance and height of boundary walls has become part of municipal planning country-wide.

Rationale and Justification for By-laws Relating to Boundary Walls and Fences

Complaints Relating to Safety

In the absence of a standard policy throughout the city, or relevant by-laws dealing with these matters, The City Council stated that it was receiving complaints from members of the community concerning safety issues surrounding the installation of electric fences in particular. Specifically, concerns related to the safety of children and accidental contact with the live wires.

Complaints had also been received about the use of unsightly materials and the adverse impact that this has on the character and visual amenity of certain areas.

The document noted that the high crime rate was a concern to the community and that the protection of life and property had become a priority in most, if not all neighbourhoods of the City.

Boundary Walls and Fences Explained

A Definition of Boundary Walls and Fences

For the purposes of managing and assessing proposals in terms of their “new” policy, the City defined a boundary wall or fence as “any wall, fence or enclosing structure erected on or next to a property boundary and any other structures (including but not limited to security devices, for example spikes, electric fencing, barbed or razor wire) affixed to or on top of it.”

Specifications for Boundary Walls and Fences

There is now a list of specifications for boundary fences and walls that are:

  • located on street boundaries,
  • located on boundaries of public open space,
  • and lateral boundaries.

These must comply with the following requirements:

  • Solid boundary walls may not be any higher than shall 1.8 m on street boundaries, and no higher than 2,1 m on lateral boundaries.
  • Palisade-type fences may not be higher than 2.1 m on either street or lateral boundaries.
  • Fences may not be higher than 2,1 m on street boundaries.

[Note:  The National Building Regulations state that walls and fences to a maximum height of 1,8 m are regarded as “minor building work” and do not require plans. So whilst the City of Cape Town allows walls and fences to be a maximum of 2,1 m, unless they rule otherwise, plans will be required.]

  • The District Manager has the right to relax these height requirements at his/her discretion.
  • At least 40% of the surface area of any street boundary walls, including gates, if these are provided, must be visually permeable – ie you need to be able to see through close to half of the wall and gate.
  • Boundary walls and fences must be measured from the existing level of the ground that abuts the wall or fence. If the level of the ground on opposite sides of the fence or wall are not equal, the height should be measured from the higher of the two sides. If soil is retained by a boundary wall, the maximum permitted height of the retained soil is 2,1 m. This should be measured from the natural ground level in front of the wall. A balustrade wall not exceeding 1 m in height is permitted above the level of the retained soil.

[Note: Plans are required for retaining walls.]

  • Where two intersecting street boundaries of any property enclose an angle of less than 135 degrees, the maximum permitted boundary wall height above street level within 4, 5 m of the intersection of the boundaries is 1 m.
  • Electrified fencing and other forms of security fencing must also comply with these requirements.

Important Provisions of the NBR
and Building Standards Act

The provisions of Section 4 of the National Building Regulations and Building Standards Act, No 103 of 1977 (ie the legislation), are applicable which means that prior written authority must be obtained from the City when erecting a boundary wall or fence. More specifically, Section 4 of the Act relates to: ”Approval by local authorities of applications in respect of erection of buildings”, and states that people must:

  1. get written approval from the local authority after plans and specifications have been submitted to the local authority
  2. submit all applications in writing on the form supplied by the local authority
  3. supply the name and address of the person applying for permission to build together with the necessary plans, specifications etc. required by the National Building Regulations and Building Standards
  4. be aware that anyone who contravenes the Act will be guilty of an offense and liable (if convicted) to pay a maximum fine of R100 per day for every day spent erecting and building illegally.

The Building Control Officer has indicated that the provisions of Section 13 of Act 103 dealing with work of a minor nature are also applicable.

Note that this is not a reference to the section in the Act that refers to minor building work

Section 13 of the Act relates to “Exemption of buildings from national building regulations and authorization for erection”, and it states that any building control officer may exempt property owners from the need to submit plans or authorize erection of a building in accordance with specific conditions and directions.

Note that the City of Cape Town has seen fit to draw attention to this section in terms of walls and fences (not only buildings as such).


Boundary Walls and Fences Policy. City of Cape Town, Directorate: Strategy & Planning; Department of Planning & Building Development Management; Development Policy & Processes Branch. January 2009.

Reader’s Digest Family Guide to The Law in South Africa. The Reader’s Digest Association South Africa (Pty) Ltd. Cape Town. 1986.

Nov 122012

Planning House Extensions

Whether you are building a new home or planning house extensions to an existing home, you are going to need building approval from your local authority. Even if you are simply opening up a wall or partitioning a room by erecting a new internal wall, most councils will insist on working drawings.

VDM front door1 Building Extensions

A self contained flatlet has been added on over an existing double garage and a patio created on the flat concrete roof over the front entrance hall.

They won’t worry about issues like matching materials or style, but they will consider all the elements that relate to building codes and building standards.

Extension Options

There are various ways that you can extend an existing house. For instance you can go up and create a second storey or opt for a more straightforward lateral extension. If the pitch of your roof is sufficient, you might be able to convert this into an attic room. Alternatively you could add a separate freestanding structure with a link to your existing house.

Having said that your local authority isn’t going to be bothered with style, this is an element that is essential if the extension is going to look good. Materials should also match or look as though they have been chosen carefully. This means that if yours is a facebrick dwelling, the extension should be built using the same finish facebrick. If it is plastered and painted, it is best to match the paint colour. This isn’t always as easy as it might seem, since paint colors fade and from time to time manufacturers change their specifications.

Planning for a Building Extension

Sometimes, but not always, people do plan for future extensions. This makes it a lot easier when it comes to adding on a room or converting space. As an example, where a future door is planned, building in a lintel at this point, and enclosing the door area with straight joints will make it easier to knock out the brickwork at a later stage. The fact that the bricks aren’t bonded beneath the lintel won’t be an issue, because the lintel will support those above.

Even so, you will need to be sure that the extension is correctly executed, with the correct foundations (unless of course you are going up, in which case you will need to have existing foundations that can take the weight of the new building extension), and where brick or block walls meet, these will need to be bonded, or joined in such a way that cracking will not affect the structure.

Types of House Extensions

These include:

  • building a core house and then adding to it later according to existing plans
  • converting a garage into extra living space
  • converting an attic into habitable space
  • constructing rooms in a roof where there is no existing attic
  • adding or converting a cellar
  • adding a conservatory, sunroom or pool room, usually with glass
In all instances it is essential to ensure that your new house extension complies with building standards.

Develop a Core House

If you are building and you don’t have the means to build the size house you believe you need, an excellent solution is to build over a period of time. Thoughtfully designed, it will never look incomplete.

Below are three drawings that show how a core house (coloured yellow) may be added to over time.Build Stage1A s Building Extensions

In the first drawing, you can see that it is a simple, compact two-bedroomed home. Both bedrooms share a bathroom and they are both the same size. Each room has built-in cupboards and there is a laundry cupboard in the passage outside the bathroom. The living area is open plan, with a bar counter “dividing” the living space.






Build Stage2A s Building ExtensionsIn the second drawing, the kitchen has been extended, in such a way that existing plumbing is used, even though the sink changes position. An exterior door is added, linking to a courtyard with a washing line, and to a double garage. One section of the garage incorporates a storeroom, adjacent to a loo with a basin, accessible from the courtyard.  The main bedroom is also included in this phase, although it could, of course, be built on later, since it is at the opposite side of the house. An en suite bathroom and more substantial cupboards are also included in the new plan.















In the third drawing, an open-plan lounge-dining room has been added (blue), along with a new entrance way and a guest loo. A swimming pool has also been included on the plan, though this could also be a separate phase.Build Stage3A s1 Building Extensions

Convert a Garage

This can be a very convenient and reasonably easy way to extend a house, although local authorities are usually strict in terms of upgrading the existing finishes. For instance you may need to have a ceiling installed, and lighting and ventilation might need to be upgraded.

Add a Sunroom, Pool Room or Conservatory

There are companies that specialize in glazed structure (or one where a polycarbonate material is used) that fit this category, though you can also have something designed and custom built.

Go into the Roof

Many older homes were built with attics that were intended to be used for storage. You might need to add windows and insulate the walls and ceilings to make the space habitable.

If there isn’t an existing attic, and the roof is high pitched enough, you might consider building a room in the roof space. The basic concept is very similar to converting an attic, although structural alterations will be considerably more complex. If the pitch is not sufficient, you will have to extend the gable ends and increase the pitch of the roof.

In both instances you will probably have to add stairways that are easy to use.

In South Africa and other hot-climate countries, the roof space (and attic) in a house can become unbearably hot, so it is essential to pay attention to insulation.

Go Underground

Cellars are surprisingly uncommon in South Africa, but they are sometimes included in the design of a house, and may be added at a later stage providing the foundation walls are high enough. Generally it is easier to add a cellar where the house has been constructed on a slope.

Just remember that for a cellar to be converted into a habitable space (even if only as a playroom), it must be totally dry (there must be a damp-proof membrane between the brickwork and the soil beneath ground level) and have sufficient light and ventilation. Usually this will entail installing artificial ventilation and electric lighting.



Nov 152011

The Facilities for Disabled People

in our Public Buildings are Important

disabled ramp s Facilities for Disabled Persons

Ramps for disabled persons to gain access to public buildings are very important

Sep 192011


I never cease to be amazed by people who ignore building rules and regulations, particularly when the regulations apply to plumbing or electrics. Not only are plumbing and electricity two of the most basic facilities in our homes, and vital for everyday life, but when installed incorrectly, they can be downright dangerous. For this reason both plumbing and electric installations must be undertaken by qualified and registered professionals who understand and adhere to the regulations. For many years I assumed that it was impossible not to build and maintain a home without using qualified contractors. But seeing is believing; and as a result, I have many tales to tell. OwnerBuilding3D Cover1 s1 Burst PipesHaving written South Africa’s only book on owner-building has allowed me the opportunity to give new house builders some insight into what building a house entails, and point them in the right direction. I wrote the book after a build-your-own home project of ours ended in disaster. I WILL tell the story in this blog, but not in this episode. Rather than start at the beginning, in what I hope will be a useful, interesting and sometimes humorous series of blog posts relating to plumbing and electrics, I’m going to share a range of personal experiences, in the hope that it will spare others some of the pain, misery and immense frustration I have suffered over the years. I’ve been through an immense learning curve, and if you’re reading what I have to say right now, chances are you’re on your own curve.

Fortunately I have a long-suffering husband, and a son who both have a natural aptitude when it comes to things like plumbing and electrics. They are the ones who now fix the leaks and drips and broken connections. Until of course there is a situation like the one that occurred last week!


Proper Plumbing is Vital

One thing we DID do right when we built the “disastrous” home of our dreams was to get the plumbing right – because we DID use a qualified and registered plumber. But ironically, the plumbing was one of the reasons the building project went horribly over budget and resulted in us “losing our socks” so to speak.  In a nutshell, our neighbour’s plumbing was illegal, and so we had to move the build downhill, adding to costs.

In those days we lived in a rather up-market area of what could probably be called rural suburbia. The regulations were tight when it came to building and a whole lot else, other than the squatters who, like the now much publicised British “travellers”, claimed areas for themselves with little regard for consequence.

We now live in a much more rural area which is, in many ways, wonderful. But not when it comes to the plumbing we have inherited. Since we don’t own the property, we can’t check on the building plans; but I’m willing to bet that, if any exist, they bear absolutely no resemblance to what exists “on the ground” – or in the ground – or even in the air (which would take in the telephone and other communications cables).

BurstPipe1197 s Burst Pipes

This was an easy leak to find, unlike the new one!

Pipes pop left, right and centre, and most are sub-standard. The fittings that have been used are too! (Sub-standard that is). Most are so far from the building regulation requirements, it’s scary. Every time a pipe pops we lose water and as a result we waste water. It’s borehole water, so we aren’t paying directly, but popping pipes affect sustainability in the broadest sense of the word, and it costs money to pump the water. That is another irony; electricity costs soar if a borehole pump has to work overtime to keep up with even minimal domestic demands.

The Most Recent Leak

While the boys have stopped the recently leaking water, there’s a hole in a pipe that hasn’t yet been found.

A qualified, registered, and I believe reliable plumber has been to check the leak. He is not keen to tackle the job because the best scenario, he says, is to bash a hole through the wall to access the faulty pipework. The worst scenario is that the bath will need to be removed, the pipes fixed, and then the bath replaced and new tiles laid. He has also identified scores of issues that do not meet building regulations in South Africa.

We can hear water running constantly when all the taps on the property are switched off. There’s a pool of water that has formed near to pipework that emerges from a bath in one of the bathrooms. Unlike most conventional plumbing systems, where the pipes would be encased in concrete under the floor, these pipes simply disappear into the ground (deep down into real dirt). Access is via a wooden lid that at first sight looks like a laundry bin!

An explanation from a former neighbour of the original owner of the house, sheds a little light on the manner in which the house was constructed. Like Topsy, the house just “growed and growed”, as he “owner-built” at weekends using local labour – presumably the ones who buy a spirit level in order to be categorised a bricklayer!

Who knows who did the plumbing? Since the former owner ran off with the former neighbour’s wife, we shall probably never find out.

However, we do know that more than a year ago a linked pipe, in an adjacent bathroom to the one now in question, was leaking. The floor of this “adjacent” bathroom had to be lifted and the pipe was “fixed”.

Now, without inspecting the property, and not prepared to pay a paltry max-R3000 (about US$430) plumbing bill, the property owner has decided that the “plumber” who did the previous fix, and whose credentials are seriously suspect, “knows” that the bath won’t need to be removed to fix the problem – simply because he did the previous repair! It’s odd logic, but typical in the minds of those who tend to ignore our mandatory national building regulations.

This same so-called plumber “repaired” a stop-cock just a year ago, by removing the plunger! While the fitting hasn’t leaked since, we haven’t needed to use it to isolate the water supply until this major leak. Now we discover it doesn’t work at all! So our confidence isn’t at a high.

Within a week we hope to be able to use the two bathrooms again. But with the standard of plumbing, and blatant disregard for the need to adhere to construction regulations, we am wondering whether this old house extension could ever be repaired to meet current building standards.

All I can do is promise to let you know! Please come back soon, and feel free to share your similar experiences.