Building in Your Backyard

Building in Your Backyard

Are you feeling a little cramped at home and looking to utilise some space from your backyard? Or perhaps you are thinking about ways to add extra income or value to your home? Before deciding whether to build a second dwelling, studio/retreat or a small second dwelling on your land it is important to understand what each of these are and what can best meet your needs.

Second Dwelling

If you are wanting to construct a building for someone to live there full-time (self- contained accommodation) then it needs to contain:

  • A kitchen sink;
  • Food preparation area;
  • Shower or bath, and;
  • Toilet and a basin.

If you are wanting to build a large second dwelling or have the ability for subdividing the dwellings then a planning permit is required. You will need to check that this type of development and subdivision is allowed in your area.

Any application for a second dwelling will need to show all necessary facilities are provided for both dwellings, including car parking areas and secluded private open space.

If you are looking for some more space, but don’t want the complexity of a full second dwelling application, or if you don’t have enough room to provide the necessary facilities, then you might want to consider if a studio or a small second dwelling would be better for your needs.


If the building doesn’t have all of the facilities of a dwelling, it is considered a studio or just an outbuilding. While technically taking out one of the four items listed above would mean that the building wasn’t a dwelling, generally councils are more stringent that that and will only allow you to have either a bathroom or a kitchen in order for them to be satisfied it won’t be turned into a dwelling.

If you are looking for some work/hobby space or for a teenager retreat, a studio might be just what you need. As an added benefit you might not need a planning permit, saving you time and money. As planning controls vary around Melbourne, you will need to speak with a town planner or council to confirm whether a planning permit is required for your project.

Small Second Dwellings

Recently the State Government changed the planning scheme requirements to allow small second dwellings of up to 60 square metres to be built without requiring a planning permit in many cases. Whether your property is suited for this will depend on the if there are any special planning controls such as flooding or environmental overlays. The small dwelling will still require a building permit and will need to meet siting, amenity and safety requirements. The small second dwelling can also not be subdivided. You can read more about the requirements and next steps on this page or contact your local council to confirm if your property qualifies.

Based on the different features of each of these types of buildings you can decide which one best meets your needs. If a studio or small second dwelling will fit your requirements, you may be able to bypass the need for a planning permit, saving time and money. Regardless of whether your building needs a planning permit it will likely need a building permit, so check with a registered building surveyor about that.

If you are keen to have a larger second dwelling or your project requires a town planning permit due to special overlays we can provide you with preliminary advice and guidance on the project. Contact us today.