Basement Conversion and Construction – A Round-up of the Latest News

Basement conversions that provide extra living accommodation and bathrooms are nothing new. In the nineteenth century, Parisian houses often contained an “oubliette”. Somewhat fancifully entitled a dungeon, up to the late twentieth century these basement spaces were used as lavatory and bathroom spaces. When not in use, the trap door entrance was covered by a rug. 

In a modern-day equivalent, a lady in Manchester who had occupied her home for a year discovered a trap door in the kitchen that led to a secret basement. It held an empty wine rack. 

Consider a Sprinkler System

The news for basement construction in London is that dungeons are definitely not in vogue, but safe, dry and light living space is. London Fire Brigade has been reiterating its stance that basements should have sprinklers installed to prevent fires and stop them spreading to the rest of the house. They make the valid point that although sprinklers might be expensive to retrofit, they are much less expensive when installed as part of a building or conversion project. So if you’re considering basement construction in London, it’s worth looking at sprinkler systems.

Meanwhile, the highest-profile basement disputes trundle on. It’s notable that these disputes often feature larger-than-life characters with wealthy lifestyles. Could it be that these people are a little less able to negotiate with their neighbours? And that because they don’t see or socialise with their neighbours, they tend to live as though they don’t have any.

At any rate, Piers Morgan, the TV presenter, and a whole bunch of other neighbours, are at daggers drawn with a basement builder who is a Google executive. If the details of the planning application are correct, they do seem designed to irk the neighbours. Apparently, the extension is to provide space for summer clothes storage. Cue incandescent residents who can’t see the justification for the work in order to store t-shirts. 

Check That You’re Using a Considerate Contractor

In reality, most basement conversions aren’t like this. People working with a responsible basement conversion company can expect advice on how to conciliate the neighbours. Most people are not looking for clothes storage – they have more pressing uses for the extra space. They explain this to the neighbours, apologise in advance for any disruption and go to great lengths to explain how they will minimise noise and disruption. They listen to people’s worries and objections respectfully and try to gain their trust. 

It’s really important that any company you choose to carry out basement construction work in London belongs to the Considerate Contractors scheme. You can use this fact to reassure any neighbours who are worried about issues like delivery lorries blocking the road. “Respect for the Community” is one of the leading tenets of the scheme. Contractors measure the impact on the community, try to minimise it, and follow a number of community-friendly working practices. So check that the company you’re thinking of using is a member.