Outdoor home building projects - checklist

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Sheds, decks, landscaping, and other outdoor building works

  • Shop around and know exactly what you want
  • Have detailed plans and specifications that suit your budget, your land and the regulations
  • Check with your local council if you need planning and building permits. You will need to contact your local council to find out what applies to your project. To find your local council contact details, visit Know your council.
  • Have a written contract with your builder, regardless of the size and price of your project
  • Before work starts, check with your home and contents policy insurer that you are covered for the renovations – you may need extra cover.

Outdoor building work on your property – for example, building a retaining wall, landscaping, paving, building a garage or gazebo, installing a swimming pool or spa – is covered by the same laws as other types of building and renovation work.

Swimming pools and spas

You must have a building permit for:

  • a swimming pool or spa deeper than 30cm (300mm), including above-ground pools and spas
  • pool or spa safety barriers, required by law for pools or spas deeper than 30cm (300mm).

Temporary inflatable pools and portable spas do not require a building permit. However, if they are deeper than 30cm (300mm) they must have a permanent safety barrier, which does require a building permit.

For more information about safety fences for pools and spas, visit your local council's website and the Victorian Building Authority.

For work costing more than $10,000:

  • the builder must use a written major domestic building contract
  • the builder must be registered with the Victorian Building Authority (VBA) – ask for their registration details
  • you may seek advice from your own experts to check your project – for example, a building lawyer and independent building consultant. A building consultant can independently advise you during the construction period, including checking the quality of work being performed by the builder and advising you if there are any issues. A building lawyer can help you understand and negotiate your contract even though seeking legal advice means you no longer have five days to change your mind (cool off) after signing the contract. View Getting out of a building contract checklist
  • pay the amount set by law for deposit and, as stages of the work are completed, the stage payments. View Paying for building work checklist.

Do not sign a building permit as an owner builder at the request of a builder or tradesperson who will be doing the work. They may be trying to avoid their legal responsibilities, such as providing insurance certificates and certificates of compliance.

Choosing a supplier

  • Decide exactly what you want and describe it in detail (photos are also helpful to show what you want).
  • Contact your local council to find out if the work will need permits.
  • Ask family or friends to recommend someone they have recently used (to confirm if they were happy with the work), or contact industry organisations.
  • Get the supplier’s details. Ask for their:
    • full name, not just their first name
    • physical address (not a post office box)
    • landline telephone number
    • registered business name (if they are required to be registered, get their details and check them with the appropriate authority – for example, the VBA).
  • Get at least three quotes for the same plans.
  • Understand exactly what the quotes cover – the cheapest may not include some items, or may only give a base rate that does not cover the cost of the actual materials and finishes you want.
  • Check references and inspect work they have done. Questions to ask the referees include:
    • did the builder or tradesperson start and finish on time?
    • were they able to communicate regularly and clearly with the builder or tradesperson about changes or quality of work?
    • did the price increase? Was this reasonable and agreed to?
    • were they satisfied with the quality of the work?
  • Ask to see a certificate of currency for public liability insurance, which will protect you or third parties against any damage the builder or tradesperson may cause.

It is essential to maintain good communication with your builder or tradesperson throughout the project – make sure you choose someone you can work well with.


Building a fence in Victoria is governed by the Fences Act 1968.

For information about fencing work, and preventing and resolving disputes, visit Fencing law in Victoria - Department of Justice and Community Safety.