Obtaining Demolition Approval – What You Need To Know [Updated November 2023]

Obtaining Demolition Approval – What You Need To Know [Updated November 2023]

Tips and Advice

[Revised and updated November 2023]

If you’re thinking about clearing a residential property of an old home and starting again, there are few parts of the process more crucial than obtaining demolition approval. Still, I find regularly in my work that many people don’t realise just how important it is to do this step correctly, so I’ll give you an anecdote – here is something that I’ve seen happen far too often:

You’ve gone to an auction and purchased an old, rundown home, that’s literally falling to pieces! Your plan, of course, is to knock it down and start again – using the land below the decaying home as a blank canvas for your project. You figure you have a sound strategy worked out, after all we all know the old adage of buying ‘the worst house in the best street’. What could possibly go wrong?

But something did go wrong, as it does more often than you may think.

You discover that despite the fact that the building is (literally) falling to pieces it is protected under the Brisbane City Council’s Heritage Register or by its traditional building character overlay codes which means that it cannot be demolished. Now you’re stuck with a home that’s so run down that it will cost several fortunes to get it into liveable shape.

So how do you avoid this scenario? Well, before you buy any home for demolition, start by doing a little bit of research into the code.

demolition-approval seven hills new home after

Seven Hills New Home: The project located in Seven Hills is nothing but a statement. We created the design of this home around its demolition. Then we had to take into account the long sloping site. Our design intent was to create a warm and welcoming family home with modernistic style inspirations. We focused on providing a solution to a growing family.

Obtaining Demolition Approval – What You Need To Know

Building Overlay Codes

The Traditional building character overlay codes are part of the Brisbane City Plan 2014, which replaces the Brisbane City Plan 2000 – Demolition Control Precinct. The aim of the code (technically ‘codes’) is to preserve Brisbane buildings of historical significance, or character homes from certain eras, to maintain Brisbane’s unique architectural history. The code governs what you can and cannot do to your home, including when you can or cannot demolish it.

Of course, most homes are not affected by these codes. Most will be able to be demolished or removed without needing any planning approval from the Brisbane City Council. But it pays to be sure before you invest a lot of money in a home that you might be stuck with forever.

What Homes Can’t Be Demolished?

Any home that resides on a site in the traditional building character overlay codes where the entire building was constructed prior to 1946 or on a site in the Pre-1911 building overlay, will potentially have problems getting an approval to demolish. In particular the code applies to buildings:

  • Listed in the Heritage Register
  • On a site in the Traditional building character overlay codes where the entire building was constructed prior to 1946
  • On a site in the Pre-1911 building overlay
  • Commercial character buildings
  • On a site where demolition must be assessed under a neighbourhood plan

Even properties that have been deemed structurally unsound by a professional engineer are not always guaranteed of getting demolition approval. So, if you think your potential property might meet any of these characteristics, get advice before making any decisions.

demolition-approval modern new home carina heights

Carina Heights New Luxury Home Design: The Carina Heights new luxury home design began with demolition to its pre existing home. The clients believed starting from scratch on their design would produce them with their dream home and they were not wrong.

What Homes Can Be Demolished?

Homes that fall under the codes can still be renovated and improved, particularly where you’re planning on returning the home to its original state. And that includes demolishing certain parts of the home without any approval required at all.

For example, you can typically demolish any post-1946 alterations to help reveal the original home or to help return the home to its original appearance. This includes things like wall cladding, roof material, verandah enclosures and the like. You can also, in most cases, demolish things like doors, windows or balustrades. But you must replace those features with new ones that have an appearance and style in keeping with the traditional character of the home.

You also typically don’t need planning approval to demolish things like internal walls, stairs, additions or any separate freestanding outbuilding.

You may also get demolition approval for a pre-1946 home in the traditional building character overlay if a structural engineer certifies that the home is infested with termites. But please understand that whilst a termite-riddled home may be able to be demolished, one that is structurally unsound but not infested with termites might not get demolition approval – the council enforces the code very strictly!

demolition-approval new home

Worongary Luxury New Home: For this new home project in Worongary we created a luxurious contemporary design. We added onto the original blueprint of the home as the clients wanted to add a second level. Additionally, we wanted to make changes to modernise the entrance of the home.

Buying a Traditional Pre-1946 Home for Demolition

Traditional, pre-1946 homes can be absolutely beautiful homes – 0r they can be falling down wrecks. If you’re thinking about buying the latter, with your mind set on demolishing the home, make sure you ask yourself these questions first – they could save you a lifetime of regret!

  1. Is the property Heritage Listed or subject to the code?

The first thing you need to do is find out whether the home is Heritage Listed. If not, check if it falls under the Traditional building character overlay codes or the Pre-1911 building overlay code. You can find these through the Brisbane City Council Plan Interactive Mapping tool.

  1. Will you be able to obtain demolition approval?

Next you need to understand what demolition approvals are available in your particular circumstance, and whether or not you’ll be able to access them. This is when it pays to get expert advice before you go ahead with any purchase. Professional architects like my team can investigate any demolition or alteration restrictions that may be in place on the property. We can then inform you of any restrictions and help you make an informed decision from there.

  1. Will you be able to afford the time and resources required to undertake this process?

Going through the process of obtaining demolition approval is certainly doable, but it can also be time consuming. Our experts can help you understand the costs and the expected time to undertake the process, from start to finish – ensuring you know what to expect before you purchase any property!

demolition-approval on site

Getting Help With Your Renovation or Demolition

If you do find yourself with a heritage listed home, or wanting to purchase one, get in touch! Our expert team can offer you excellent advice on how to demolish, renovate or otherwise develop your home. When it comes to seeking a demolition approval, we can help you identify any issues that might pop up – and most importantly we can provide you with solutions to work around those issues. Of course, we’ll always work to maintain the historical and character integrity of your home.

At the end of the day, understanding your options before you buy is vital. You don’t want to purchase a dump in a sensational location, only to find that you can’t improve it. So if you’re in any doubt at all get professional advice, don’t risk getting a nasty surprise after you’ve purchased your home. Let us do the research for you so you’re aware of any potential problems right up front.

Remember – when it comes to building investments and projects, trying to save time and money in the short term will often cost you tenfold in the long run! Always do your due diligence.

Thinking of renovating or demolishing your home? We can help. Get in touch with our expert team today.

Dion Seminara Architect


We are experts at home design, renovations and new homes and ensure good value for money outcomes.

Hi, I am Dion Seminara, practicing architect and licensed general builder for 30 years as well as an environmental sustainable design (ESD) expert. I graduated from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) with honours, QLD in 1989. Registered as an architect in 1991 and registered as a builder in 1992, I am also a fellow member of the Australian Institute of Architects (AIA). Having received 12 ArCHdes Residential Architecture Awards, LJ Hooker Flood Free Home Design Award and the 2016 AIA Regional Commendation for Public Architecture, my expertise with both residential renovation (to all types of houses, especially Queenslanders, 50s/60s/80s), new contemporary homes and luxury residences has earned me a reputation as one of Brisbane's architectural specialists in lifestyle design architecture, interior design and landscape design.