How To Choose The Correct Building Licence To Apply For

How to choose the correct building licence to apply for.

“¿Obra mayor u obra menor?” Major or minor work?

It is a fact that town hall taxes for building licences can represent a considerable percentage of the budget in new constructions or refurbishments. 

Prior to beginning any kind of building work, the type of licence which will cover it, has to be defined, in order to calculate the costs to assume the obligations with the administration. 

Applying for a building licence is mandatory. Having the granted permission is the only legal way to proceed with the works. 

The question is how to classify the planned work. In general, building works in Spain are classified as minor or major works. 

What differentiates a Major from a Minor work

The main aspect, which differentiates a major from a minor work is whether it will affect the structure of the building or not. Any work including digging in the soil and requiring foundations are considered major works. 

Major Work

A major work is the kind of architectural project, which includes a high level of technical and building technology and is accompanied by an extensive document known as the execution project. This document needs to be approved by the regional chamber of architects, before presenting it at the town hall.

The following are examples of major works:

  • a new building,
  • a refurbishment (either partial or total where the work affects the structure),
  • the extension of the footprint or in height of an existing building,
  • changing of the roof,
  • changing the external appearance of a building,
  • adapting an existing building to provide accessibility for disabled users,
  • installation of a lift.

Changing the use of a building, such as converting a garage into a habitable space, is always considered major work. Major works are related to the functionality of any existing space. 

Major works require the granting of a licence from the town hall to begin with.  All major works are surveyed by a technician assuming the role of the site director, the director of the execution and the surveyor of the health and safety conditions. 

Minor Work

Other interventions characterized by their simple technique and scarce constructive and economic entity, are called minor works. In many cases the contractor´s quotation is enough to apply for a licence. 

Examples are:

  • Updating or changing the electricity,
  • plumbing or heating installation, 
  • interior refurbishment when the original layout is not altered and any intervention in structural elements are not included,
  • tiling,
  • plastering,
  • painting,
  • reparation of floors, walls and roofs

These are all considered minor works. 

Minor works can be applied through a quicker procedure, namely presenting a responsible declaration at the town hall. In these cases the resolution from the administration is not mandatory to begin with the work.

Is it possible to begin work without a licence?

The answer is very simply, no. 

Is it worth it to assume the risk? Building works without a licence would be stopped immediately by a town hall inspection. In the case of works violating the current regulations, the administration may order their demolition. In any case the fines can vary between €600 and €300.000, depending on the kind of infraction.  

Other actions, such as the installation of scaffoldings or skips cannot be catalogued as major works, nor as minor. They require special kinds of licences, and in the case of scaffolding the submission of a technical project, due to health and safety regulations. 


The difference between major and minor works lie in these three points: 

  1. The kind of technical documents to be presented at the town hall.  Either a full building project or a builder´s quotation.
  2. The kind of application to submit at the town hall and the documents accompanying it.
  3. The works, execution and health and safety surveillance. 

In any case, architects are prepared to provide further advice and assist during all stages of the building process.

Do not hesitate to contact us for any further assistance.

Javier Leonardo Rímolo
Rimolo & Grosso, Architects
0034 606616084
0034 962962324