What building regulations apply when designing & building a wet room?

With the increasing popularity of wet rooms across both the residential as well as the commercial sectors, familiarity with, and an understanding of the current building regulations has never been more important. Building regulations approval, where necessary, ensures that the wet room has adequate ventilation, and drainage, is structurally stable and meets electrical safety standards. Failure to check or to adhere to these building regulations when installing a wet room may have costly implications, or worse still, may even result in the local authority serving an enforcement notice and a requirement to remove the wet room from the property.

1. Is planning permission required for the installation of a wet room?

No, securing specific planning permission for a wet room is not necessary. But planning permission is not to be confused with building regulations. The former relates more to how the building will look, whereas the latter is concerned with the design and construction of the building, and the requisite standards of serviceability and performance.

Building regulations approval is required when there are major works such as a new build, property extension or substantial structural alterations. When installing a wet room in any of these situations the building regulations will apply.

2. Do particular restrictions apply to the installation of wet rooms in listed buildings?

In listed buildings especially, it is critical to ascertain their grade status prior to planning the installation of a wet room. The restrictions on any building work, which are implicit in a listing status, are there to protect the historic significance of the properties. Whilst there is provision within a Grade 2 listing to bring a building up to a suitable standard, which may allow the installation of a wet room, the same cannot be said of a Grade 1 listing.

Liaison with the local planning department from the outset is essential in order to get guidance and advice on whether consent for any such proposed work will be granted, and under which conditions.

To find your local planning authority, please visit the Government’s Planning Portal.

3. Why is the Building Regulations Act 2010 relevant for the installation of a wet room and what areas does it cover?

The Building Regulations Act 2010 provides guidance for compliance with building regulations for work carried out in England. In Part A, the part which covers all structural elements of a building, section 1.3 states that any structural work for composite steel and concrete must apply with general rules, and rules for buildings. The same applies to timber structural work. Section 1.6 states that the design of timber structures, including floors, should comply with common rules and rules for buildings. This is especially pertinent for the installation of a wet room, for example, on a timber floor, where structural reinforcement may be necessary to ensure that it is properly supported.

Whilst a simple renovation of a bathroom and converting it into a wet room is unlikely to require building regulations approval, this is not the case where significant structural changes are being made. A re-configuration of an existing bathroom space, for example, which may require the moving and re-positioning of the toilet and/or drainage, is governed by the building regulations. Part A, section 1.10 of the Buildings Regulation Act 2010 briefly covers the structural appraisal of existing buildings for change of use.

Ventilation is key in wet rooms where significant amounts of heat, steam and condensation are generated. Part F of the Building Regulations Act 2010 requires that ventilation systems are installed and regulated to provide for appropriate airflow performance and energy efficiency. Continuous ventilation is now the preferred system to the intermittent fan.

Part H of the Buildings Regulations Act 2010 provides guidance on the safe installation and maintenance of wetroom drains, and addresses key points relating to:

– the required capacity of the foul water drainage system to carry the expected water flow from the shower at any point
– the size and fall (gradient) of pipework to accommodate this capacity
– the dimensions and types of traps and seals required

Finally, there are strict guidelines on the installation of electrical components and switches in bathrooms and wet rooms. Compliance with Part P of the Building Regulations Act is essential. This section states that no mains voltage may be fitted in a wet room, which includes not only light sockets and standard sockets but also electric shaving points. All lights need to be enclosed and mounted on the ceiling, with a pull cord switch, or alternatively, a wall mounted switch installed outside of the wet room. Heaters, both gas and electric, have to be mounted at a safe distance from the shower area and operated by a pull-cord switch installed outside of the wet room.

This document is intended to give a brief insight into the regulations that may apply to the installation of a wet room. However, we strongly recommend that you visit the Planning Portal, the UK Government’s online planning and building regulations resource, for more comprehensive information.

To find out more download our guide on ‘How to specify a wet room’.

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