basement design

Creating practical space in the basement

Extending into the basement gives you the opportunity to create extra living space in your property that can be put to a number of different uses.

If you want to extend your property without reducing the size of your garden, an increasingly popular way of doing so is to use the basement. Whether you have an existing cellar to convert or you want to create an entirely new one, there are many basement design options that can give you extra space suitable for a variety of uses.

Let there be light

Many people worry that a basement room will be dark and gloomy, but there are many solutions available to ensure that it’s not. There are options to bring in natural light; this can be via light wells or light pipes to bring in daylight from a garden or courtyard, or making use of ground level windows. Good basement design will ensure that the living and working spaces are closest to the light source, whilst storage and other areas are further away from it.

There are also plenty of decorative tricks to enhance the use of existing light. Painting in light colours, having light coloured flooring, using features like glass staircases, or adding mirrors can all help to make your basement seem naturally lighter. Even for areas with no natural light available you can use the space as a cinema room, utility space or even a bathroom.

Basement suitability

Not all properties are suitable for a basement conversion, so it’s important to understand what’s involved. A key consideration is access to the site, or how easy will it be to remove excavated material, for example. Will the neighbours be affected by noise and dirt and are there any party walls for which special arrangements need to be made?

It’s also vital to understand local conditions. How stable is the ground and what is the geology like? It may be necessary to have a ground survey carried out before commencing work. This should take account of the position of any underground services like drains and utilities. The water table is important too. If there is an existing cellar, is it damp or does it have a history of flooding? These are not insurmountable problems, and there are plenty of modern solutions to keeping a basement dry, but they are issues that need to be addressed early in the process of creating a basement if costs aren’t to escalate later.

You need to consider how you will access the basement from your property. If excavating a new basement, will you need to steal some space from a ground floor room to create a staircase? Alternatively, will you need access to the basement from the outside to create a self-contained unit? You need to think about providing ventilation too – will ducting or fans be needed? This will partly depend on the use you intend to make of the space.

Your local planning officer or experienced architect or contractor should be able to advise you on all of these aspects.