Building permit rules for sheds and sleepouts

Dec 15, 2020

New exemptions to the Building Code mean you can now build a shed or sleepout up to the 30sqm size without the expense of a permit, but read on to make sure your project fits within the rules.

Lakeside cabin office

Building consents are no longer required for a wide range of low-risk buildings including basic sheds and sleepouts up to 30m2.

The government added these new exemptions in August 2020 to reduce the amount of consents that councils have to process each year and save building owners time and money by not having to go to their local council for a consent for common, small building projects.

Building projects that are now exempt from needing a permit are:

  • Single storey, detached buildings up to 30m2
  • Carports with a maximum floor area of 40m2
  • Awnings, verandahs and porches with a maximum size of 30m2
  • Detached single storey pole sheds and hay barns

DIY people are now able to do more simple building projects by themselves. For buildings that require electric wiring to be installed you will still need to use a professional electrician. Same goes for any plumbing you want added to new buildings, this work will still need to be done by a professional plumber.

Before you get stuck into your building project it would be wise to do some research on the NZ Building Code, Resource Management Act 1991, Electricity Act 1992 and the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015. Your new building still needs to be compliant with the rules in New Zealand. Also check with your local council to make sure you are allowed to position your new building where you want and ask if there are any issues related to resource management or the district plan such as building close to a boundary.

Upland Sleepout cabin

Pictured above is the Upland Studio from Outpost Buildings. This strong relocatable design is great for sleepouts, offices or a hobbies room.


Single-storey detached buildings

Single-storey detached buildings include sleepouts, wooden tool sheds, greenhouses and other similar structures can be built without a building consent. Kitchen and bathroom facilities are not included in the exemption.

Options include:


    download CATALOGUE
    Cabin kitset assembly


    Pictured above is kitset assembly underway of a Lakeside Cabin from Outpost that has been designed by a professional engineer. The Lakeside Cabin kitset comes with pre-fabricated wall and roof framing.  


    How to comply:

    • A building must be more than its height away from all boundaries and the associated residential dwelling.
    • It can’t be higher than one storey 3.5m from the floor to the top of the roof. The floor can only be up to 1m above the supporting ground.
    • The design must meet the lightweight material technical requirements of the Building Code.


    If you’re building a sleepout it must be:

    • Close to a dwelling with potable water and sanitation
    • Can’t have cooking facilities in it because of fire risk
    • Must have smoke alarms
    • If you want to include a loft higher than 900mm off the floor, you will need to get a building consent.
    Please check with the practical guides to help DIYers comply with the Building Code at  


    Lightweight materials requirements

    To qualify for the new building code exemptions, you can only use ‘lightweight’ materials. Under the Building Code, ‘lightweight’ means using timber or steel for the structural framing, not heavier materials such as concrete blocks or panels. The foundations can be concrete. The roof and wall cladding must also be light.

    • Roof must weigh less than 20kg/m2

    • Cladding must weigh less than 30kg/m2


    Why you might still want a building consent

    Even if you don’t need one, getting a building consent gives you the added assurance that the work is compliant with the Building Code and it can be recorded on your property’s Land Information Memorandum (LIM).


    Settler horse stable with tackshed

    The Custom Designed Stable With Tack Shed pictured here is 33sqm so would need a building consent unless it was replacing an old shed on the same site.  

    Buildings bigger than 30 square metres

    If your new garden shed storage or sleepout is more than 30 square metres in floor area then you will most likely need a consent. There are however some cases that you may not need a consent; like if your new building is replacing an old one on the same site. The Outpost team can help you through the consent process if you do need to get one. Most of Outpost’s designs fall under the 30sqm category but some of our larger horse stables and custom designs may require a consent. The main purpose of a building consent is to make sure buildings are safe so many of the rules are focused on limiting the spread of fire between buildings and neighbouring properties and keeping people safe. The fact that most of the buildings designed by Outpost are relocatable makes them less likely to need a consent because they can be moved or repositioned on your site when/if you need to. We do still recommend that if you are uncertain at all then you should contact your local council to confirm.  


    Outpost cabins and studios

    Outpost cabins are engineer designed to meet NZ building code. They are strong, relocatable and will last the test of time in the toughest conditions. Made in NZ with heavy duty NZ timber framing. All our cabin and studio designs are less than 30sqm so are included in the new building permit exemptions. Outpost kitset cabins for sale are supplied with comprehensive builders plans and assembly instructions. We recommend that the assembly of these kitsets should be carried out by an experienced builder or tradesman. We hope that this information has been helpful - to learn more about our great range of sleepouts and sheds, contact us today.

    Click here to see our Sleepouts and Cabins

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