If you’re thinking about releasing some cash from your property to fund a few home improvement projects, you could do worse than putting a basement in!
Rosie Caley and Marc Stchedroff of BasementWorks Ltd. give their
Top 10 Basement Conversion Tips
1. First decide how the new basement will be used.
[Rosie] “The starting point is to work out how the new basement will be used.” [Marc] “The added space created by a basement extension – if done cleverly – can be very flexible and be designed to change as the family grows. Basements are all about improving to save you the hassle of moving, and savvy homeowners are asking for high quality conversions that adapt with their lifestyles. A playroom and a nanny’s suite, for example, can transform into a teenage den and cinema/games room which later might work just as well as a private annex for an elderly parent.”
2. Good preparation and planning can maximise value for money.
[Rosie] ”The preparation and planning need to be done very carefully to get maximum value for money.” [Marc] “As a basement conversion is the chance to plan space afresh, it’s much easier and more economical to add the latest technology here than to retrofit it upstairs. So if you’ve always longed for a cinema screen, surround sound and your music playlists accessed at the touch of a button then now’s your chance.”
“As a London-based, specialist basement company, we offer a fixed cost for the structural work, including underpinning, basement excavation, steel work and screed. Now, the cost of fitting out the basement can also be fixed, if clients chose from our range of pre-costed fit out packages. This gives people a lot of security in the budget.”
3. You don’t need an existing cellar.
[Rosie] “People often think that it will be easier and cheaper if there is an existing cellar, but this is generally not the case. To make an existing cellar habitable the floor of an existing cellar will be excavated well below the final finished floor height, so all the perimeter walls still have to be underpinned. We usually need to go down 3.2 m to give a standard room height of 2.7m and because we still need to underpin substantially it doesn’t really make a difference to the cost whether there is a cellar there or not.”
4. Basements cause less disruption than other work on a house.
[Rosie] “In most circumstances, a basement can be dug underneath a house whilst the occupants remain there. Because we start by digging a light well at the front, and then progress under the house from there, it is possible to not enter the house until the very end, when the staircase and finishes are required to join it with the ground floor.”
5. Arrange living spaces and bedrooms near light wells.
“Living spaces and bedrooms need to be adjacent to a light well so they can have windows for natural light and ventilation, so it is best to have these at the front and/or back of the basement. The footprint of a typical terraced house is long and narrow with no potential for a side light well. The majority of London basement conversions are of this nature, but some semi-detached houses could utilize space at the side of the property.
6. Place ancillary rooms in the mid-section.
“Ancillary rooms less needy of natural light, such as laundry rooms, shower rooms, plant rooms and storage areas, as well as staircases, are usually best placed in the mid-section.”-
7. Embrace the modern – don’t replicate the floor above.
“When it comes to thinking about the architectural detailing, in general you do not want to replicate the style of the floor above because this can look horribly pastiche. There might be a beautifully detailed cornice or period tiled floors there, but it’s usually best to leave that behind and embrace the modern in the basement rather than attempting a bad match.”-
8. Use glass balustrades to establish entrance into a new space.
“A solid oak or walnut staircase with glass balustrades, very simple doors and square-profile moulding will signal your entrance to a very different space and establish a new character.”– -
9. Angle the staircase so you arrive in the centre of the space.
“The hallway should be one of the principal concerns. When you arrive you don’t want to feel as if you are in a basement. Consider angling the staircase or twisting it so that you are put into the centre of the space rather than facing a solid wall and at all costs avoid a design which features a long thin underground tunnel with box rooms leading off it.”-
10. Create the impression of increasing space by using a canted hallway.
“Depending on the architecture of the house, you may be able to introduce a canted wall to the hallway to create the impression of increasing space, while floor-to-ceiling glass panels move light around and create a feature in the hall.”
[Marc] “Sometimes the most spectacular area of an otherwise ordinary home is at its subterranean level – a trend that’s set to continue.”
Great mention for BasementWorks in ’Bridge for Design’ - Spring issue
“It seems that almost everyone is getting home cinemas, gyms and wine cellars and very likely these are located below ground. In fact, digging down has become di rigueur for those with family houses across London, so much so that planning applications in certain areas have doubled over the last few years.
However, how you do your basement [it] is just as important as the square footage added. It used to be the case that any subterranean space commanded lesser resale value than the above-ground accommodation, but basement conversions are so much more sophisticated now that they are valued at the same rate as the rest of the house.
The key is to make any habitable area into really superb living space – this can be the deciding factor as to whether you make a profit on your investment. Not that home refurbishments are necessarily all about profit, of course, but no-one would want to miss the opportunity to maximise their investment.
If the space is going to be turned into truly desirable living space, it needs to be well designed and not resemble a utilitarian rectangle carved up by partition walls. Space, light and air are absolutely crucial to the success of the excavation. You really don’t want a basement to feel like a basement, but a natural yet modern extension to your existing house.
To bring light below ground is always a challenge, but this can be done by creating carefully positioned lightwells both at the front and back of the property, and even at the side where possible.
Space planning and flow of rooms is also very important and it’s essential to utilise the staircase area so that the existing house doesn’t feel disjointed from the basement. A really handsome staircase using materials such as glass, metal, hardwood, stone and leather can make the downward journey seem much more open and inviting.
Family rooms and guest bedrooms are logically placed next to lightwells to the front and rear of the house to allow direct light in through windows and glazed doors, whilst rooms that do not require direct sunlight such as laundries, wine cellars or storage areas can be positioned to the centre of the basement.
Never skimp on the area allowed for the basement hallway; it shouldn’t be a narrow and cramped passageway, but a space that in itself is attractive and useful. Make the hallway an exciting visual experience with beautiful wallpaper, lighting and art because first impressions really do count.
As a basement excavation is the chance to plan space afresh, it’s much easier and more economical to add the latest technology here than to retrofit it upstairs. So if you’ve always longed for a cinema screen, surround sound and your music playlists accessed at the touch of a button then now’s your chance.
Another popular option is the wine cellar or wine room, which also needs technology since temperature, humidity and light need to be carefully controlled. Having the extra space allows you to make your wine collection spectacularly visible, which makes it easier to select the optimum bottle and show it off and enjoy the experience with your friends.
Most important of all, the added space created by a basement extension – if done cleverly – can be very flexible and be designed to change as the family grows. Basements are all about improving rather than moving and savvy homeowners are asking for high quality conversions that adapt with their lifestyles. A playroom and a nanny flat, for example, can transform into a teenage den and cinema/games room which later might work just as well as a private annex for an elderly parent.
Sometimes the most spectacular area of an otherwise ordinary home is at its subterranean level – a trend that’s set to continue.”