For home owners looking to perform home extensions, finding the additional space can prove a challenge. Spare bedrooms and lofts provide viable options but basement conversion often serves as the most convenient and cost-effective approach. There's more room to work with than with a loft, and it's easily accessible from living areas of the home. Construction work undertaken in the basement will not be visible from street level, and usually won't affect the external appearance of the home in any way.
Aside from that, while a loft can be a suitable candidate for conversion into an extra bedroom or bathroom; a basement conversion presents a variety of options. A gym, a home cinema, a games room or even an additional living area with its own en-suite bathroom are just a few potential new roles for a converted basement. Houzz.com has a host of creative basement designs on display for those seeking ways to boost the value of their property.
What are the Challenges of Basement Conversion?
Converting an existing basement is actually a relatively simple procedure, and can usually be performed on a modest budget. In most cases, the only challenges you'll face when converting a basement into a habitable space will be improving the lighting and heating systems, and ensuring that the basement is damp proof.
Lighting Methods: Light pipes are a common method for filtering natural light through to the basement. These devices can be installed in an outdoor area, where they'll be able to capture natural sunlight and transfer it underground using reflective surfaces.
Window wells are another option. These are double-glazed windows that lie horizontally on the ground and allow light to pass through to the basement. They're also designed to prevent soil or water from entering the basement from outside.
Heating: A heating system for the basement will usually be electrical, as a gas system will have no means of discharging the emissions. Which.co.uk suggests creating a separate ring main for a basement heating system so as to avoid overloading your main system.
Damp Proofing: Cement basements will likely not need to be damp proofed as the cement already acts as a barrier, but timber or Victorian style basements may need to be lined with a specially designed 'water membrane' system.
What if I need to expand the Basement?
Things do get more complicated when your plans involve reducing the floor level of the basement to increase ceiling height, or creating an entirely new basement from scratch.
Obtaining Permissions: Whereas converting an existing basement only qualifies as “change of use” and therefore will probably not require planning permission, building a new basement will require both planning permission and Building Regulations approval, even if the exterior of the home is unaffected by the alterations.
Reducing the floor level of the basement also qualifies as expanding the size of the property and therefore may also be subject to approval, though you may be able to get away with minor alterations. You can find more information on planning permission requirements at planningportal.gov.uk.
Navigating Obstacles: Expanding the basement means you'll have to take into account the kind of land your home is built on. Diverting drainage systems, digging through solid concrete and navigating sandy or marshy conditions will all introduce challenges and ramp up the cost.
Higher Costs: According to homebuilding.co.uk, the cost of converting an existing basement ranges from £750 to £1,400, whereas lowering floor level raises estimated costs to the £1,500-2,000 range. Digging new basement space could cost from £2,000 upwards.
That said, expanding the basement may be necessary for it to suit your intended purposes, and building a new basement can certainly boost the value of your property in the long-term, especially in central London areas where space is at a premium.
For professional advice on whether undertaking such ambitious home improvements will pay off, be sure to contact the property market experts at Tepilo.com. As for finding a reputable contractor, you can pay a visit to the basements information centre, a website that specialises in providing information on basement development.