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You do not need to apply for planning permission for repairs, maintenance or minor improvements, such as painting your house.

If you live in a listed building, you will need listed building consent for any significant works whether internal or external.

If you live in a Conservation Area, a National Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Broads, you will need to apply for planning permission before cladding the outside of your house with stone, artificial stone, pebble dash, render, timber, plastic or tiles.

Building Regulations

If you want to re-render or replace timber cladding to external walls, building regulations may apply depending on the extent of the work.

Where 25 per cent or more of an external wall is re-rendered, re-clad, re-plastered or re-lined internally or where 25 per cent or more of the external leaf of a wall is rebuilt, the regulations would normally apply and the thermal insulation would normally have to be improved.

If you want to insert insulation into a cavity wall the appropriate requirements will be applied to ensure the insulation material is suitable, and that in the case of some foam insulants the risk of formaldehyde gas emission is assessed. Read more about insulation.

Walls can be constructed in various ways by using timber frame structure or masonry structure. 

If using a masonry structure then two forms of construction can be used:

Cavity Wall

This is where there are two skins of masonry, the outer skin can be of brickwork or blockwork and the inner skin is generally of blockwork

The gap between the two skins will vary depending on the type of insulation that is to be used.  To stop the two skins from falling away from each other they should be tied together using wall-ties at appropriate centres.  These ties should also be resistant to corrosion.

The bottom of the cavity should be filled with lean mixed concrete with a slant towards the external skin or have a cavity tray installed that also slants towards the outer skin to ensure any moisture that could get inside the cavity will be directed away from the inner skin.

Solid Wall

This is where there is only one skin of masonry which can consist of brick/blockwork

The high standards of thermal insulation needed in buildings means that it is more difficult to achieve those standards with solid masonry wall construction.  Solid blockwork constructions may meet the requirements if allied with other insulation products and surface finishes.

Existing External Walls in Conversion Projects

Existing walls will need to be checked for their adequacy in terms of:

If they need to be upgraded, this may well involve the addition of a new internal skin - possibly constructed of lightweight studwork. The detail at the foot of the new skin will need careful planning to ensure that damp-proofing arrangements are sound and that any new timbers are protected from damp.


External walls are considered to be thermal elements (defined in Regulation 2a of the Building Regulations 2000 (as amended).

It is likely that a renovation of a thermal element will trigger a requirement to upgrade the thermal insulation of that element at the same time.

Fire Protection

Depending on the distance the wall will be from a boundary with an adjacent property, it may also need to provide resistance to fire (to limit the effects of fire spreading from or to adjacent properties).

The area of walls permitted to have reduced or undetermined fire resistance (known as "unprotected areas") - such as openings for windows or doors - will be dependant on how close these elements are to the boundary.

If the wall is also load-bearing, by virtue of supporting a roof or a storey above, it will also need to have fire resistance regardless of its distance from a boundary.

Thermal resistance and changes to 'thermal elements'

The walls having thermal resistance will limit the amount of heat the building will lose from the internal spaces, and gain from the outside environment.  The materials used will determine exactly how compliance is achieved and manufacturers can generally provide some form of guidance for their products.

Cavity Walls - The cavity can be fully filled with insulation or partially filled (consult the manufacturer’s before proceeding). If it is partially filled then an air gap is generally required, the size of which will varying depending on the specific products used for the wall construction and insulation. The insulation should go at least 150mm below the DPC level.

Solid Walls - These walls are generally insulated by placing some form of thermal element on the inside and/or the outside. The thickness of these products will depend on the thickness and type of block used.

Thermal Elements

Making significant changes to thermal elements (walls ,roofs or floors) would normally require Building Regulations approval and require the thermal insulation of the element to be upgraded to a reasonable standard. Walls are defined by Regulation 2(3) of the Building Regulations 2010  as being thermal elements.

The extent to which the work on the element is controlled and the amount of upgrading needed depends on the particular circumstances of the thermal element. Generally, when it is renovated then it should be upgraded, where it is cost effective to do so, to the standard set out in the Approved Document. See section 5 and Appendix A of Approved Document L1B.

The definition in Regulation 2(3) is extracted here for convenience from the Building Regulations 2010 

(3) In these Regulations "thermal element" means a wall, floor or roof (but does not include windows, doors, roof windows or roof-lights) which separates a thermally conditioned part of the building ("the conditioned space") from:

     (a) the external environment (including the ground); or
     (b) in the case of floors and walls, another part of the building which is:
          (i) unconditioned;
          (ii) an extension falling within class7 of Schedule 2; or
          (iii) where this paragraph applies, conditioned to a different temperature,

and includes all parts of the element between the surface bounding the conditioned space and the external environment or other part of the building as the case may be.

(4) Paragraph (3)(b)(iii) only applies to a building which is not a dwelling, where the other part of the building is used for a purpose which is not similar or identical to the purpose for which the conditioned space is used.

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