House extensions in London are tricky. First and foremost, getting planning permission is difficult; secondly, you frequently lose a significant chunk of the garden, possibly taking value from the house. By the time you take the building costs into account, you may not have added any value to your property despite months of building work; however, with the exorbitant stamp duty rates on house purchases and the currently problematic London property market, most people do not want to move.
More and more people are now looking at under-the-garden conversions; in fact, basement contractors in London are increasingly being asked to deliver extra living space that is either wholly or partly under the garden. In the leafier areas of outer London, where larger houses may have driveways, homeowners are also looking at building living space under the drive.
Similarly, the drab and underused front gardens of some London terraced properties can be used to house an extended basement conversion. This can use the light from the ground floor front garden to bring natural daylight into the conversion.
Think about ceiling height
The most successful under-garden extensions are dug deep enough to provide a good ceiling height. Basements with low ceilings are always going to feel ‘basementy’; however, you can create a really spacious feel with a higher ceiling, roof lights and light wells. Don’t worry about walking on the roof lights when you are using the garden, as they are tough enough to take an elephant! In a well-landscaped under-garden scheme, the flat rooflights can add an architectural style to the design; alternatively, if this is not required, they can be screened from the main house at eye level by clever planting.
Integrate the landscaping
With garden conversions, landscaping the remaining green space to make the most of it is very important. You may want terrace doors that enable you to enjoy a part of the garden that you have landscaped with a planted green slope. In effect, you are dividing the garden into smaller garden areas, each with a distinct character. Each will also have a microclimate and you may find that the warmth rising from the basement provides frost-free gardening, enabling you to grow specimens such as tricky fruit trees that would otherwise not survive the winter.
A less disruptive project
With an under-garden project, basement contractors in London can deliver a much less disruptive build, with benefits for both the homeowners and their neighbours. As the building work is not taking place within the house, there is far less transferred noise. If the basement is wholly in the garden, there are no structural issues for neighbours or for the householder.
It does not have to be one or the other, of course. A traditional basement conversion can extend under part of the garden, or the garden can be slightly shortened to provide natural light for the basement. The same goes for larger houses with driveways.
Space in London remains scarce and expensive. With typical inventiveness, Londoners are using under-garden conversions to keep their garden yet add extra living space.