Stress-Free Building


Stress-Free BuildingIt just needs a few small jobs to make it perfect. How do you know when planning permission is needed to carry out the work? Can you build a garage, put up a shed or paint your house bright pink?

Small scale work & planning permission
As a general rule, yes you can, most small-scale work on your house doesn’t need planning permission. There are, however, strict rules in relation to all building work and you should check these out thoroughly before you begin. The penalties for not getting all the paperwork in order can be pretty drastic. The planning authorities have the power to stop developments that don’t have the proper authorisation, they can make you take down any building that doesn’t have planning permission and they can also impose fines. If a genuine mistake has been made and building work went ahead without getting permission you can apply for retrospective planning permission or retention of the development. The main problem with retention is that you may have to do alterations to the work and this can be costly and could have been avoided.

When you are buying a house always check that the buildings and any extensions have the necessary planning permissions because you, as the new owner, will be liable for all planning issues. You also need to consider the Building Regulations, most of these relate to the design and construction of new buildings but they also govern certain changes to existing buildings. That’s the bad news, and the good news is that there is quite a lot of work you can do to your house without filling in any forms at all!

Exterior painting
Painting the front of your house, doors and windows is largely a matter of taste and to some extent trends. Unless you live in a building that has been listed for preservation because of its historical or architectural significance there are no regulations which dictate good taste. New building developments tend to choose neutral colours for exterior walls that blend in well with any brick work and roof tiles. The brochures for exterior masonry paints are dominated by muted shades and people tend to add a splash of individuality when it comes to choosing the colour of the doors and windows.

Landscaping: Patios, ponds & sheds
Work on the garden such as building a patio, garden pond or adding a shed are also exempt from the need planning permission, as long as they are not more than one metre above or below the ground level. The addition of window boxes, hanging baskets and garden gnomes is only limited by your imagination! What you plant in your garden is up to you. The local council or corporation will only intervene and cut down trees when they are considered to be a danger to road users or nearby buildings. The ESB have also a right to trim trees and overhanging branches if they pose a threat to supply wires. Large trees in a garden can cause problems with neighbours as roots and branches don’t recognise boundaries. If your neighbour’s tree is growing over into your garden you can trim the overhanging branches but you don’t have the right to cut it down. In a case where there is a dispute between neighbours about an overshadowing tree you can go to court to assert your “right to light”. You will have to prove that a tree that has grown to such a height over a period of time and has put part of your garden in the shade. The court will then judge whether your neighbour must remove part or all of the tree.

Adding a driveway
Access to safe parking spaces can be a nightmare in built-up areas. If you want to add a driveway to the front or side of your house with room for up to two cars, you can do so without permission. You are also allowed park a caravan or boat in your garden but only for a maximum period of nine months a year and the regulations state that nobody is allowed live in the boat or caravan during that period. So while you might be able to keep a few chickens in the caravan you won’t be allowed convert it into a granny flat!

Extension and conservatories
Adding an extension or conservatory to your house can give you that bit of extra space you really need. As long as the extension is to the back or side of the house you won’t need planning permission. There are two conditions to this exemption; you can’t increase the original floor area of the house by more than 40 square metres and the new building can’t be higher than the original house. Once you keep within these limits, the design and materials you use are a matter of choice. You can also build a front porch onto the house without permission. Again there are some conditions that apply, the porch can’t be bigger than two square metres and can’t be within two metres of the road or footpath. A porch is the only extension allowed to the front of the house which doesn’t need planning permission all other forms of extension must be to the side or the back of the house. If you wish to convert the garage or some other room into an office/bedroom for domestic use there is no problem. But if you want to change the use of any part of the house into flats or commercial premises, for example a creche, then you will need to apply to you local authority for planning permission.

Keep your neighbours informed
It is always a good idea to keep your neighbours informed before you begin any work on your house. Not only is it a matter of courtesy but it can help to avoid problems in the future. You might like to let them know if there will be building noise and how long it should last. It is also worth considering sharing costs to work on a common wall or driveway with a neighbour.


For further Information

  • You can get copies of the relevant legislation from the Government Publications Sales Office, Molesworth Street, Dublin 2 Ph: 6113111
    • “Local Government (Planing & Development) Acts 1963 – 1993”
    • “Local Government (Planning & Development) Regulations 1994-6” The “Buildings Control Act 1990” and the
    • “Building Regulations 1997” can be purchased from the Government Supplies Agency, 4-5 Harcourt Road, Diblin 2 Ph: 6613111
  • The Department of the Environment Planning and Land Section, Custom House, Dublin 1 Ph: 01.6793377
  • ENFO publish some very good leaflets giving information on planning issues, you can contact them at 17 St. Andrew Street, Dublin2 Ph: 1890 200191
  • An Bord Pleanala deals with issues in relation to planning appeals.
  • An Bord Pleanala, 64 Marlborough Street, Dublin 1. Phone: 01-858 8100 or Lo-call: 1890 275 175, Fax: 01-872 2684, email:

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