Water supply and drainage for buildings Archives » Building Regulations South Africa
Apr 032013

Stormwater Disposal – What the Regulations Say

stormwater 1 Stormwater Disposal

When the heavens open up and flood gardens and roads, you rely on storm water drains to deal with the excess water.

stormwater 2 Stormwater Disposal

The house on the far side of the road was totally flooded during a major downpour. The question is, whether the house was built with sufficient drainage to be able cope with all the storm water.

Property owners are responsible for the removal of storm water from their property. They may NOT simply discharge excess water onto adjacent land or into the street unless this is permitted by neighbors and/or the local council or municipality.

SANS 10400: Part R Stormwater Disposal

The law is very clear on the issue of storm water disposal, although sites used exclusively for “dwelling houses” are not as carefully controlled as larger buildings.

Note that a dwelling house is (in terms of the legislation) a single dwelling unit and any garage and other domestic outbuildings that are situated on the site. A dwelling unit contains one or more habitable rooms and it provided with both cooking facilities and adequate sanitary facilities.

Part R of the law states: “The owner of any site shall provide suitable means for the control and disposal of accumulated stormwater which may run off from any earthworks, building or paving.”

The legislation also states that the “means of stormwater disposal” used may be addition to, or in combination with any drainage that may be required in terms of F4(2). SANS 10400: Part F Site Operations is described in more detail in the section on site operations which you will find HERE. The relevant section – 4(2) – is also discussed below.

These legal requirements will be “deemed to be satisfied” if the stormwater is provided in accordance with SANS 10400-R (the SANS drawn up by the SABS for “The application of the National Building Relations”, Part R), which is available from the SABS (- CLICK HERE -)  for R147 + VAT.

The SANS deals with all types of storm water disposal, including rain water from gutters, downpipes, roofs, and paving, and any other excess water that may accumulate on the property.

In addition, the legislation states that it is the right of the local authority to demand that storm water disposal is provided in accordance with “an acceptable rational design prepared by an approved competent person” (the concept of a competent person is discussed in some detail on our sister site, ownerbuilding.co.za – CLICK HERE for the link to the relevant article). So if your local authority is of the opinion that a qualified person should design a stormwater system for your property they must notify you (or the owner of the property) and explain their reasons in writing, and demand that plans and particulars of “a complete stormwater control and disposal installation” for the site and any buildings on it, are submitted for approval.

The law also states that the regulations should not be interpreted specifically as requiring roof gutters and downpipes if another suitable means of drainage has been provided to remove or disperse rainwater from the roof of the building. There are alternatives that architects sometimes prefer.

Ultimately, all drainage must  be shown on plans submitted to the local authority, and it is up to the local authority to decide whether these are suitable and adequate for each individual site.

SANS 10400: Part F Site Operations F4(2)

Part F4 deals with preparation of a site that is to be built on. Point (2) states that when a building is to be erected on a site that is waterlogged or saturated with water, or where any building is going to be situated so that water will drain naturally towards it, drainage must be provided to direct the water away from the site or building, to a storm water drain, or somewhere that it can be disposed of in some other safe and approved manner.

SANS 10400: Part L Roofs

This part of SANS 10400 is dealt with elsewhere on this site – CLICK HERE for the link.

Waterproofing and runoff are dealt with in some detail in the relevant SANS for The application of the National Building Regulations.

Other SANS that deal with Stormwater Drainage

Additional SANS that deal with storm water drains and gullies are intended for the use of civil engineering construction and include:

  • SANS 1200 LE – Standardized specification for civil engineering construction Section LE: Stormwater drainage.

This is a drawing from the above SANS that shows how a precast concrete manhole for storm water should be built.Manhole Stormwater DisposalManhole dimensions Stormwater Disposal

  • SANS 10120 – A Code of practice for use with the above, including:
  1. Part 2: Project specification Section LE: Stormwater drainage
  2. Part 3: Guidance for design Section LE: Stormwater drainage
  3. Part 4: Typical schedule of quantities Section LE: Stormwater drainage
  4. Part 5: Contract administration Section LE: Stormwater drainage



Jan 062012

Burst Pipe Plumbing Problems can Result in Water Water Everywhere

BurstPipe5Jan775 s 300x200 Plumbing ProblemsIt was a case of water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink recently, when a burst pipe began to flood our rented home.

Tensions were high as water dribbled out from under the fridge. Another appliance was clearly about to give up the ghost! The bad news was that it’s the “best” of our three fridges, having been transferred from my mother-in-law’s Howick house only a year ago. We have one almost identical, but it’s changed its function to a full-on freezer. The replacement we bought when this happened some years ago is falling to pieces – literally, chip by chip. When the door disintegrates just a little more, we’ll be back in the fridge market yet again. So this was not good news.

What Happens When Water Leaks

Water has a devious nature, even when homes have been built according to building regulation requirements. It quite literally goes with the flow. The problem is that it is often impossible to assess the origin of the flow. That is why leaks can be such a huge problem.

In this case it seemed to be flowing from the fridge. But then on second thoughts, it looked as if it was coming from under a kitchen unit installed opposite the fridge. The entire bank of units is nearly 3 m long, and runs from steps that lead down from a guest loo that is located behind the kitchen, alongside the scullery.

Knowing that the house – or at least part of the house extension – was constructed without building plans, we figured it was quite possible that the water was coming from the cloakroom (so to speak). The fact that water was seeping out at both ends of the kitchen units seemed to confirm our suspicions.

Of course the know-all matriarch knew exactly what was going on!

“Your fridge is leaking badly!” she said on Day One… “It’s your fridge actually,” I pointed out.

Hearing chatter of a possible burst toilet or faulty water pipe a couple of days later, she pronounced: “Look, the toilet is leaking.”

“Actually no! It’s neither the fridge nor the toilet!” Like I said, water is devious.

By this time I had done a simple experiment using a towel and a sponge mop, and had ascertained that the flow was definitely from the direction of said fridge. The water that was seeping out the other end had reached its final destination.

BurstPipe5Jan776 s 300x200 Plumbing ProblemsI had also defrosted the fridge. Next we had to move the fridge. It was wet on the floor where the fridge had been, and the water seemed to be coming from the corner. My 21-year-old computer genius son was called in to help find the source. Since the inside floor of the cupboard just inside the scullery was already rotten to the core when we moved into the house – clearly due to flooding and probably due to burst pipes – he went to investigate the outside wall where he spotted water pouring from who-knows-where!

All we could do to stop the leaking water was to switch off the water supply to the house and hope that the owner’s agent would act immediately… which she did, though it only resulted in a temporary solution.

Plumbers and the Regulations

First of all, the National Building Regulations are VERY specific when it comes to plumbers and plumbing work. You’ll find the relevant clauses in Part A, Administration, A18 CONTROL OF PLUMBERS AND PLUMBING WORK.

It is clear as daylight that “No person shall perform the trade of plumbing … unless he is a trained plumber or works under the adequate control of a trained plumber or approved competent person.”

While the reasons are irrelevant when it comes to those who blatantly break the law by using untrained, unregistered people to do plumbing installations and repairs, the fact of the matter is that plumbing is one of the most expensive parts of any building process (if it isn’t then there’s something very wrong). Furthermore, if the proper procedures aren’t followed, people’s lives can be adversely affected in terms of health, injury and/or damage to property. However it would probably be difficult to hold a landlord liable because most lease agreements contain clauses that absolve him or her from all responsibility – even if it was in fact their fault.

So when a plumbing installation is done, plumbers have to use materials that have been approved by the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) and work correctly according to the National Building Regulations and various South African Nations Standards (SANS). Drainage installations must be tested by inspectors who work for the local authority before we are permitted to use the drains. Most local authorities also inspect all trenches and excavations before drains can be laid. They also insist that all plumbing and drain-laying is done, or overseen, by a qualified plumber who is registered with the Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA).

For the record, a trained and qualified plumber is defined in South Africa as an apprentice who has passed a Department of Labour plumbing trade test or a plumber who has a national certificate in construction plumbing at NQF Level 3. But even if somebody passes the required trade test or national certificate, they cannot claim to be a legit plumber unless they are registered with IOPSA. The reason for this is perfectly simple: to make sure that all plumbing work is done safely, in the proper way, according to industry standards.

If plumbing is done correctly in the first place, maintenance issues will be minimized and we should all live happily ever after.

Plumbers and Our Rented Property

I have previously described a couple of the very many leaks we have experienced in the past 16 months. The horrifying fact is that owners of the property (past and present) have clearly ignored the law!

I discovered just the other day that renovations completed by the current owner include two bathrooms that don’t incorporate a septic tank in the (unofficial) building plans. Furthermore the “builder” who isn’t a builder in the real sense of the word, was also employed to do the plumbing! When a registered plumber was called in, he refused to do the job unless a septic tank was built or installed. Needless to say he did not accept the job.

While not related to plumbing directly, this same builder sealed one section of a roof from the inside! Seriously…  I dare not even think what would happen if these particular bathrooms were used on a continuous basis.

But back to the most recent leak that affects our home.

BurstPipe5Jan853 s 109x300 Plumbing ProblemsOn the positive side, someone was on site within two hours of us notifying the agent of the problem. I was assured that he knew the property. This puzzled me since it was a new name.

Funny how people can twist the “truth”. It turned out that he had never set foot on the property, but had a close relative who had worked for the dodgy “builder”. I cannot repeat what was said about the renovation-come-build because it appears a court case is pending!

The Leak Revealed

Having tracked the source of the flooding water to a corner of the kitchen, we were able to help the new (to us) plumbing expert find out where the leak was. It wasn’t too difficult since the water was pouring out on the outside at a position that coincided with what was clearly a poly-filled track down the wall for several metres, close to the geyser outlet pipe.

BurstPipe5Jan855 s 300x225 Plumbing Problems

Turns out he, like my son, is in IT. Plumbing? Don’t be silly!

BurstPipe5Jan859 s 225x300 Plumbing Problems

The temporary solution.

Nov 222011

A Review Based on Personal Experience

Owner Building Covers X4 s Pros and Cons of Owner BuildingHaving just finished totally updating the ever-popular title, The Complete Book of Owner Building in South Africa I am left wondering whether owner building is a good idea or not. We’ve completed the exercise three times, and not once made any money, or in fact even got our money back on any of the projects. So why would it be a good idea for you? You might perhaps see it as a challenge? Or maybe it is an opportunity for you to prove you can do it better than me.  Maybe you’d do it just because you can! If you get it right, you could save yourself a lot of money and end up with your dream house.

Now if you’re wondering why this would persuade you to buy the new version of the book (which will, I believe be available from Random House Struik sometime during 2012 … hopefully before the world ends), the one thing these building exercises did teach us was what not to do! With this knowledge, we have put together a title which hopefully will help you achieve your dreams. We have also discussed every aspect of construction in relation to the local national building regulations. And there are lots of good ideas and beautiful photographs of other people’s construction projects and finished homes and gardens.

Our First Owner Building Challenge

One’s first experience of anything is always special in one way or another. We had managed to buy two tiny seaside plots with a small inheritance, and decided to build on one and then sell it to be able to build something on the second – for ourselves, rather than resale. The first project, we thought, would pay for the second.

The idea is a good one, but firstly you need sufficient money to achieve Plan 1; and then you need to be sure that you will make money on it within your time frame. In reality, even many full-time property developers have to wait a while before they make money on developments. And they usually have multiple units to sell, so they make money back progressively, over time.

We had a minimal budget. We spent more than our budget. Then we needed to sell quickly.

A downturn in the property market hit us hard, especially since this building venture was in a relatively remote spot that was, at best, an up-and-coming holiday spot. The fact that 10 years down the line the area began to blossom, was irrelevant in the scale of things. It was too late.

PringleBayHse s Pros and Cons of Owner Building

Our little beach house

The house was basic, but sweet. We couldn’t afford decorative finishes, or even basic appliances (like a fridge and stove), so that we could at least make use of it – or rent it out and recoup some money.

We had to sell, and were becoming desperate. After an unsuccessful auction, a qualified professional in the building industry bought the property for a song. We didn’t get enough out of the project to build on the second plot, and eventually lost that too.

Going… going… GONE!

Our Second Owner Building Challenge

This time we did it correctly, or so we thought. Certainly it was as right as we could have done it, but because we were owner-building, the buck stopped with us. We had nobody else to blame for errors, even if we didn’t make them ourselves.

We bought the plot, secured the finance to build using a solid quantification and costing programme, and then got down to work.

So what went wrong? Two major factors worked against us.

  1. The so-called professional who helped to survey the site didn’t pick up that we were building on a slope. The property looked flat enough, and we weren’t advised to formally assess the slope.
  2. Nobody realised that our neighbour’s soakaway drained way into our property, until after our foundations had been dug – not even the municipal health inspector.

That was enough to destroy a half decent budget. Not only was the slope considerably more substantial than everybody seemed to think, but we had to move the entire build forward to avoid the health hazard of the illegal soakaway (or French drain) behind us. It didn’t occur to us that we might have a claim against our neighbour.

So we went ahead and built the house which, I have to admit, while spacious and full of architectural features (for example, we only used doors and windows scavenged from demolition sites) had a few other follies. The most expensive of these was a long – admittedly very handsome – passage leading from a glorious front door we had rescued from some huge wonderful building we never knew.

MeadowLnEnt s Pros and Cons of Owner Building

Our fabulous folly in the form of a three-metre wide passage and ultra-high ceiling. The front door, complete with windows was rescued from a demolition site. The unusual wall sconces were a gift from artist and metal sculptor, Carrol Boyes. The floor was ordinary SA pine floorboards, painted with PVA and sealed.

The slope also cost us, because the foundation wall at the back of the house ended up over 2 m (or 6½ ft) high. Then there was the fill which had to be transported to site to fill the void.

Apart from the obvious additional costs, the major impact of the follies and mistakes (be they ours or other people’s) was that we weren’t able to finish the build according to schedule. We didn’t particularly care, but the bank insisted we finish. Bank managers visited the site and introduced their own tough tactics.


When you owner-build you will negotiate draws with your bank. If they release 100% and you haven’t finished the house, you have a problem. This is what happened to us, and the bully-bank (totally within their legal rights) forced us to take another loan to finish ceilings and other things that we believed we could temporarily live without – including the lounge floor. The house was huge and large enough to temporarily board up the lounge. But the bank wanted everything complete, IMMEDIATELY, if not sooner.

Could we have said no? In retrospect probably yes. But they forced us to take a personal loan that we couldn’t afford to repay. Certainly today the relatively new Consumer Protection Act would have precluded them from doing this.

So we did put in some ceilings, including a glorious kitchen ceiling that incorporated a steel pressed section from a Victorian building that had been demolished in Claremont (Cape Town). Eventually the house was sold … and then sold again … I’m not sure how many times. Some years ago, when the house was on the market and there was an open-day show house, we discovered that a later owner had carefully removed the fill, and created an extraordinary double-storey home.

We wished we’d been able to buy it back again.

Our Third Owner Building Challenge

Now we knew it all! What could possibly go wrong?

In an endeavour to avoid potential problems, we employed an architectural designer to draw the plans, and a full-time builder to do the build. What we had “forgotten” was that the builder – at that stage also a friend – was the so-called professional whose advice led us to believe we had previously been building on a virtually “flat” plot. So retrospectively, we had only ourselves to blame.

But if the NHBRC had been in existence at that time, we would have been saved a great deal of heartache. Since we had to raise a bond to build, the contractor would have not have been acceptable to the bank unless he was a paid-up member of the NHBRC.

So what did go wrong?

In a nutshell, we were ripped off by a bogus builder. Sure this is what he did full time, but his reputation was so bad that when we later tried to sell the house, property agents wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole.

BergnDalHse s Pros and Cons of Owner BuildingIn the interim we’d had to call in a consultant to arbitrate (at considerable expense), because the workmanship was so bad. For example:

  • The wall on one side of the house was a brick course higher than the other, so the roof wasn’t quite level.
  • The walls inside the house that should have been bagged with plaster and been vaguely and unevenly smeared with a very weak mix. When we complained the builder set to work with a box of Polyfilla, in an attempt to even the surface.
  • Nails had been left protruding from exposed beams.
  • The brick-paved driveway was lifting and falling to pieces.
  • Worst of all, he had run out of money and wasn’t able to complete the build.

Eventually we did sell, and were able to repay the bond to the bank. But that was the end of it.

So would I ever owner-build again? And if I did, how would I do it differently?

I might, but only if I had the money to pay good sub-contractors and proven artisans that I could really trust to do a good job. And I would be sure to take every bit of my own advice given in The Complete Book of Owner Building seriously!

But for now I’m content to rent.

Nov 152011

Drainage, Plumbing, Sanitation and Water Disposal

drainage 035B s Drainage

Drainage and plumbing is not only what you see above ground. All water, waste disposal, soils and stormwater have to be drained away and treated to maintain safety and health. In many instances these pipes cannot be seen as they are buried underground and have to be installed by a qualified plumber using the correct pipework.

We get a number of requests asking us for the number of toilets, urinals, wash-hand basins and baths that have to be installed in buildings. This depends on how many people will live or work in a particular building. Part A20 states that:

“The occupancy of any building shall be classified and designated according to the appropriate occupancy class given in column 1 of table 1 and such classification shall reflect the primary function of such building: Provided that, in any building divided into two or more areas not having the same primary function, the occupancy of each such area shall be separately classified.”

There are two tables below Table 5 for residential accommodation and Table 6 for personnel in the workplace these are extracted fron the SANS 10400 Part P – Drainage.

Provision of Sanitary Fixtures Drainage

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.