2-bedroom granny flat 3.6m x 12m – what can go WRONG with DIY building

What can go WRONG with DIY building – 2-bedroom DIY granny flat example

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Many people are successfully completing DIY building projects using flatpack kits from Backyard Pods. Some DIY projects are built superbly and look stunning. When the project is a simple shed or workshop, a little DIY deviation from the rules for exemption might not matter too much. But if the DIY project is a certifiable or approved structure like a granny flat, DIY builders and owner-builders can get into strife if they don’t follow the approved specifications PRECISELY. This customer was very proud of building his DIY 2-bedroom granny flat – right up until the last moment when their occupancy certificate was REJECTED at the final inspection!

The scarcity of rental properties in Sydney has caused an increase in the number of granny flats being built to ease the shortage and create extra income for home-owners. Whether for accommodating family or as a rental property, a granny flat is usually a great idea, even in tight spaces like this driveway in Western Sydney. It’s quite easy to build a DIY granny flat if you’ve got sufficient building experience and the right tools.

Our DIY customer understood they would need professional help with the approval process to ensure they would eventually get an occupation certificate. Without an occupation certificate, the property could not be rented and no agent could list it for rental. The approval was achieved smoothly, with help from our architect partner in Sydney. Offers to help with project management were not accepted and from this point, the DIY owner-builder took full responsibility for all their construction decisions on their own.

Everything was going fine with the project until the time came for the final inspection. The occupation certificate was denied. Without realising the implications, our customer had deviated from the building height specification on the original plans by a significant degree! Unless the building height could magically reduce by 450cm (not possible by magic), there would be NO WAY to occupy or rent out the granny flat. In practical terms, it was ‘not fit for habitation’, non-compliant with the approved plans, and not exempt, meaning that without expert assistance it couldn’t be used as intended and couldn’t stay the way it was either.

By contrast, this DIY granny flat building project in the Blue Mountains is progressing beautifully towards certifiied occupation, rental, etc. The owner-builder is maintaining compliance with their approved plans for their 2-bedroom secondary dwelling.

Of course, any DIY builder or would-be granny flat owner in this position would be terribly upset to think their investment and work effort might have been wasted. Thankfully, the architect in our Sydney network advised on how the deviation could be submitted for a different kind of approval (eg: development application) despite being already built. This would only cause minor modifications although it would still cost more and take longer.

The message to any DIY builder is to make sure any approved plans or compliance requirements are met before you start making up your own rules. Councils and building certifiers in Australia are usually 100% strict about compliance with regulations – especially where habitable structures are concerned. If in doubt about an exemption for your project (no approval needed), getting approval, or making sure your DIY project is compliant, we can help. We have network partners who can assist DIY builders and owner-builders with the technical side of their project management. Don’t be shy to ask for advice – we would rather help people get their backyard building projects RIGHT THE FIRST TIME than hear about their issues later on.