Basements used to be incorporated into the building of most houses and other buildings, prior to the First World War, but that tailed off afterwards. Various factors, not least the expense of moving, increased difficulty securing mortgages and the uncertain housing market, mean that basements are very much coming back into fashion. With kids living at home long into their 20s, sometimes even later, families need more square footage for their properties. Businesses might also wish to extend their premises rather than plan for and implement an expensive relocation.
There are good reasons for digging down to create extra living space; there are also some restrictions and some disadvantages. Here, we look at both sides of the story.
Advantages Basements Bring
- Creating a basement space means increasing the overall square footage of a property without a corresponding increasing in its footprint. In other words, you wouldn’t be eating into your garden or external land to gain more indoor living space.
- They’re great for conservation areas, for instance, where planning permission for extensions is difficult, if not impossible to acquire.
- Constructing a semi-basement for a new building on a sloping site removes the need to level the ground and makes efficient use of the existing land.
- Basements can be energy efficient additions, as they effectively have no external walls to let heat out.
Disadvantages of Basements
- Underground, by its very nature, tends to be damp, so any basement will need professional waterproofing. If that fails in the future, it can be difficult and expensive to rectify. Choosing a reliable, trusted contractor with a good track record in the field will help reduce the chances of this happening.
- The costs of excavation and the demands of working underground can be high; and adding a basement to an existing property can be extremely disruptive.
- Proper attention needs to be paid to lighting, ventilation, access, drainage and having a safe means of escape in case of fire or other danger. Again, hiring a professional with experience in this area will mitigate many of these issues.
Do I Need Any Permissions from the Local Authority?
- If you’re adding a completely new basement to your property, then it’s likely planning permission will be needed. If you’re converting an existing basement area to a residential space, then there’s less likelihood that planning will be required. It’s always worth checking, or asking your builder to check, whether or not it’s necessary, though, before work commences. Rectifying the situation after the event is likely to be expensive.
- Building regulations will apply whether it’s a new basement or a conversion. Drainage, ventilation, damp proofing, ceiling height, water supply and electrical wiring will all be covered, as will a means of escape.
- You’ll also have responsibilities towards your neighbours where buildings adjoin or where your new basement relies on the land adjacent to support it. if excavations will take place, changes to retaining walls are involved or existing structures are demolished, then The Party Wall Act and Right of Support might apply.
If you’d like to explore whether adding a basement to a commercial or residential premises might be possible, why not speak to the experts at Tricourt Piling and Foundations Ltd? We’re experienced in all areas of groundworks and excavation, as well as pilings, foundations, drainage, reinforced concrete works, steel fixing and formwork, and underpinning. We work throughout Dorset, Hampshire and the South West.