First Things First: Planning Permission – If you’re converting an existing cellar or basement in your own home to provide extra living accommodation, then planning permission is not necessary. However, if you plan to excavate out further or alter the exterior look of your home in any way, then planning permission will need to be obtained.
To avoid any problems, visit your local planning authority and talk your plans through with them. They’ll guide you through the process of applying for planning permission if necessary.
Make Friends with the Neighbours – Disputes over basement conversions in London have been well reported. Objections range from what people perceive as the sheer vulgarity of tunnelling out thousands of square feet under your home, to the noise and disruption it causes. In fact, the vast majority of objections are not to the planned works themselves but the day in day out difficulties of sound pollution and inconvenience.
To avoid any problems, you must be up front with your neighbours about your plans. Unless you live in a detached property, a basement conversion can have an impact your neighbour’s property – particularly if the work involves underpinning or structural supports. The Party Wall Act provides a legal framework for settling disputes over excavation works – make sure you draw up an agreement that both parties can agree to at least 2 months before starting any work.
It also makes sense to let any other near neighbours know of your plans, as they may be impacted by heavy machinery and noise.
Call in the Professionals – Converting your basement is not a DIY job. Tanking, excavation and reinforcement are all best undertaken by specialists who know the work involved and the conditions they are likely to encounter. Do your homework and ask for recommendations from friends and family. A good contractor will discuss all the pros and cons of the project with you.
Basement conversions are more expensive per square foot than the equivalent loft conversion, but their flexibility means that a well converted basement or cellar can add 20-30% to the value of your property.
Add Light – Getting natural light into your basement conversion is absolutely key to making your new living areas comfortable. The most effective solution is an exterior light well, but if you opt to install one, you must ensure it’s on your property and doesn’t obstruct a right of way.
You can also opt for interior glazed panels to borrow light from ground floor living spaces. Some of the more innovative and space saving options include fibre optic systems, or panels and ducts that use angled mirrors to trap and reflect natural light.
Keep it Bright – Using a bright, neutral colour palette will also maximise a light and airy feel to your new living space. Keep things streamlined and clutter free with plenty of integrated storage. Create a separate living area with its own access, a home office or the party den of your wildest dreams.