Cellar Tanking

Going Underground: the benefits of converting your basement

If you ask most homeowners how their property could be made better, most would ask for more space. But in an uncertain property market moving house may not be an attractive option. You can of course extend, but that isn’t always easy. Perhaps you’re already using the loft and maybe you don’t want to sacrifice outside space to a conventional extension. So what can you do?

The world beneath your feet

An increasingly popular option is to extend downwards. Many older properties have an existing cellar or basement that is neglected or just used for storage, and it’s becoming increasingly popular to add basements to existing dwellings.

A basement conversion is attractive for a number of reasons. It utilises existing space, it doesn’t, in most cases, change the external look of your property, which means it usually won’t need planning permission, and it can be put to a number of uses.

A well-executed, well-lit basement conversion in London can also add value to your property. In city areas space is at a premium and so providing extra space in the home without sacrificing any of the garden, for example, will go down well with buyers.

Making it snug

In converting a basement there a number of things to bear in mind. The first is it must be made waterproof. Traditionally this has been by ‘tanking’, applying waterproof material directly to the walls. More recently the ‘cavity membrane’ has risen in popularity. This involves having a waterproof inner wall with a cavity behind it, allowing water to drain away, sometimes with the aid of a small pump.

For your basement to be habitable it also needs to be light. You can install a light pipe or make use of any existing windows. Even if this is not possible, there are plenty of modern lighting solutions that can make a basement space feel light and counter the effects of low ceilings and no natural light.

You also need to consider heating and ventilation. Check to see if your existing central heating system has enough capacity for you to extend it to heat the basement too. In an enclosed space you also need to consider ventilation. There are a number of ways to tackle this which can include extractor fans or positive pressure systems.

Finally, to comply with building regulations, you need to consider access and means of escape in the event of a fire.

Basement uses

When embarking on a conversion it’s always a good idea to have a clear picture of how you want to use the space. While a basement can make for a great teenage bedroom or an office for home working, often people have leisure uses in mind.

A basement is ideally suited for use as a home cinema, a gym or games room. These are spaces where it doesn’t really matter if there’s no natural light and you can take advantage of recessed LEDs and similar to create the right ambience.

Whatever you use the space for, choose the décor carefully. Sticking to light colours for walls, ceilings and furniture can help to make the space feel airy and welcoming.