Is Building Certification Required?

by | Jul 1, 2020

Is Building Certification Required?

We are often asked about building certification: if it’s needed and if so who does it. As a builder, we work with many different certifiers and to be honest, we still get confused about some of the details. It seems every project has a similar but different set of criteria. However, there are some general guidelines which we share here.

What is the Role of a Building Certifier?

Building certifiers complete building inspections and manage the approval process with relevant parties. In 1998, QLD privatised building certification and local governments ceased managing the process. Since then, owners and builders must engage the services of a private certifier.

When Is Building Certification Needed?

Building certifiers advise if you need a building approval. Always good to know before you start. Domestic works may need local government approval if works affect maximum height, setback or character of a building. Think heritage buildings. So again, always play it safe and check before you do anything.

New Builds

In general, new residential homes and sheds/garages need building certification. Homes are class 1a and sheds/garages are class 10. Small tool sheds, stables or similar structures up to 10m2 are exempt (unless you’re in a tropical area).


If you’re completing repairs and maintenance to an existing class 1a or 10 structure you may or may not need certification (helpful right?). Again, it’s always best to check but as a general rule of thumb, the following applies:

Repairs/Maintenance/Renovations that Don’t Need Certification:
  • Internal changes (but see section on plumbing below).
  • Retaining walls no higher than 1m so long as no loads are imposed above it. For example, a building or driveway.
  • Fences under 2m2. This does not include swimming pool fencing. Keep in mind if your fence is on the boundary you still need to get permission from your neighbour.
  • Minor attachments fixed to buildings. For example, a sunhood which extends no more than 1m from the building.
  • Construction of playground equipment no higher than 3m
Repairs/Maintenance/Renovations that Need Certification:
  • Any addition or extension to an existing structure or property
  • Shade sails, decks, patios
  • Swimming pools
  • Heritage listed properties may need permission to do anything and everything. This includes painting.

What Happens During the Building Certification Process

  1. Once it’s determined you need certification, you must engage a private certifier. This must be in writing and they must supply you with a quote.
  2. Your certifier will advise what documents are necessary to proceed. You may need documents such as an Energy Efficiency certificate and engineering certification.  You may also need a soil test and a slope stability test. 
  3. The certifier issues a development approval. This is a super important document. Read it and keep a copy of it. It lists the inspections and certificates required for final certification.
  4. The certifier or engineer completes the following stage inspections (if applicable):
    1. Footing
    2. Slab
    3. Frame
    4. Final
  5. Form 15s and Form 16s – Different aspects of the build will need certificates. These are Form 15s or Form 16s.

    Form 15s – issued for design and/or manufacture. For example, an engineer issues a Form 15 for the engineering design. The window manufacturer issues a Form 15 to say the windows meet Australian Standards. A frame and truss manufacturer issues a Form 15 for pre-fabricated roof trusses and frames.

    Form 16s – issued for the installation of items. For example, waterproofing needs a Form 16. Pest Control needs a Form 16. Smoke Alarms need a Form 16. This list is not comprehensive. It’s to give you an example of the types of works that need Form 16s. The trades that complete these aspects will give you these if you have engaged them directly. If you’re working with a builder, the builder will supply them.

  6. Once the builder reaches practical completion the building certifier completes a final inspection. If everything is in order, the certifier issues a Form 21. If the certification is for a swimming pool, the certifier issues a Form 17.
  7. The certifier lodges all documentation to the local government council on your behalf.


Plumbing is the only area which your local council still inspects and certifies. This is for all new builds and your plumber arranges it. With renovations, you need certification if it affects external drainage. Definitely speak to your plumber or builder about this so you know of extra costs upfront.

Most plumbing changes to existing homes is Notifiable Work with the QBCC. This means the plumber or drainer can perform the work without a local government permit or mandatory inspections. Instead, they need to lodge a Form 4/4A with the QBCC. Again, check with your plumber or builder to confirm if this is a requirement. If it is make sure you get a copy once it’s lodged. For more information on the Form 4/4A, refer to –

Why do You Need Building Certification?

Other than the fact it’s required by law, there are a few other reasons why you need certification.

  1. We have come across instances (mostly new builds) where home owners cannot get their homes insured without a Form 21.
  2. Most banks will not release the final payment for practical completion without a Form 21.
  3. You may not be able to sell your property without a Form 21

What We’ve Experienced & What We Recommend

During our time working with the QBCC we can honestly say that nobody (yes, that’s correct – 0% of clients) had all the correct paperwork in order. This is, by far, the biggest mistake owners can make. We cannot stress how important it is to understand what certificates you need and to get them from your trades or builder in the appropriate timeframe.

For example, once a tiler lays tiles, you can’t inspect the waterproofing. This means the only person who can issue the Form 16 is the person who installed it. If they have disappeared because the builder didn’t pay them, you’re stuck. If the tiles aren’t laid, you may find someone willing to come in and inspect the work and issue one. But once those tiles are down, it’s near impossible to get one retrospectively.

Another example: we had to complete a house on which the frames and roof trusses were already in place. The previous builder had gone into bankruptcy and was uncontactable. It turns out the trusses and frames were all manufactured onsite by the builder and the owner didn’t have Form 15s or 16s for them. The house was well past the frame stage with the roof on and plasterboard up.

Before you hire a builder or trades, talk to them about issuing Form 15s and Form 16s for the works. That way they know you’re onto it and there will be no issues at the end.

If you’d like more information on the building approval process you can go to



Detailed Scope of Works

Just like you need a blueprint, you also need a detailed scope of works. Here are our top 3 reasons you shouldn’t start works without one.

Buying Taps from Overseas?

Buying Taps From Overseas? Are you thinking of buying taps from overseas? It isn’t such a crazy question. With Instagram and Pinterest fueling our love of renovation, we’re exposed to products from around the world. And with everyone spending more time at home, online...

Cavity Sliders in Bathrooms

Cavity Sliders In Bathrooms There are two main defects we come across with cavity sliders in bathrooms: waterproofing and tiling. Both are prime examples of how something which seems simple and easy but can turn into a nightmare if not done properly. Defect One: Most...

Using Square Meter Rates

Why Can’t You Give Me a Square Meter Rate? As builders and renovation consultants, we are often asked to give an estimate using square meter rates.  It should be easy they say.  Yes, it would certainly save us a lot of time if we could just use square meter rates. ...

Asbestos in Your Home

Asbestos in Your Home Asbestos in your home is such an enormous topic for a simple blog but we share here relevant points and information sources. It goes without saying we are not experts in this area and can only share with you our experience. The only way to be...

Slip Resistance for Stairs

Are your stairs compliant? Read our latest blog to make sure they meet slip resistance requirements.

Benchtop Comparison

MARBLE PROS: Marble benchtops are considered to be one of the most beautiful benchtop options and they certainly have a timeless beauty.   It's a natural material so each slab is unique in pattern and colour.  It is also heat resistant as well as scratch and chip...

Managing Trades

Managing Trades Managing trades, regardless of whether it’s a DIY or builder managed project, is essential. It’s inevitable you will interact with trades. And whether you intend to or not, how you interact with them affects the project. Balancing Act As with any...

What is a Renovation Consultant?

What is a Renovation Consultant? A renovation consultant advises people on different aspects of their renovations. This could include advice on: Design in the planning and construction stages How to minimize costs during the build How to maximize the value of the...

Contract Types and QBCC Insurance

Contract Types and QBCC Insurance Please note, we are not solicitors, and this is our interpretation of the cost plus contract vs the fixed price contract.  Always seek legal advice prior to entering into any contract. In QLD, any building works with a value of over...