Home > Building > Cellars And Basements

Cellars And Basements

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 17 Jun 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Cellar Basement Tanking Damp-proofing

Underground conversions are growing in popularity, even through they are often the most expensive conversion of the lot. This is happening more in areas where there is a great deal of pressure on house prices and many of the houses are old stock so are therefore likely to have a cellar or a basement in the first place, such as London and other popular cities.

Cellar or Basement?

So what’s the difference between a cellar and a basement? A basement generally covers the whole of the ground floor, will have a separate entrance, possibly accessible from the outside, and some natural light and ventilation. This is because in the past they were proper rooms, used as kitchens and sculleries by the servants, and the access allowed tradesmen to visit without disturbing the household.

A cellar is simply a space below ground, probably only under part of the ground floor, with access from inside the house by a staircase or trapdoor and ladder. They were used for storing coal (or other goods) and might therefore have a coal chute leading into the space from the street.

Planning Issues

In England and Wales, planning permission is not normally required for the conversion of a cellar or basement into a usable room, unless it entails a change of use, such as turning it into a garage or home office. Building Regulations approval will be required for any structural work though. In Scotland and Northern Ireland the regulations are different so you’ll need to contact the local planning office to find out what they are.

The Building Regulations cover the standard of materials and construction used in the project and will make sure that the area is safe, specifying fire exits, for example, and adequate lighting, ventilation, damp-proofing and electrical and gas works. So although this might be considered a bit of a pain, it’s really a vital check to make sure your family will be safe.

Integrating the Garden

A basement is obviously a better bet for conversion than a cellar. Many successful basement conversions concentrate on enhancing access to the garden, for example with a kitchen-cum-family room in the new basement with wide glass doors to the garden. This frees up the rooms on the ground floor to be used as living space or bedrooms, depending on the demands of the family.

Costing the Earth

Major expense comes from two areas, structural reinforcement and damp proofing. Many Victorian properties have little in the way of foundations and this is often only discovered when the excavation begins, though experts will be expecting it.

Under pinning will then be vital but it can cost thousands so it’s best to get in a specialist builder or under-pinning firm to advise and quote. As with every other job that you are employing someone to do, get estimates from at least three firms before making your choice.

Holding Back Water

Preventing water from coming in may well be the most difficult part of the project. Rainwater will naturally fall down toward the new room and ground water may well seep up to it. Couple this with the water trying to get in through the walls, particularly if your guttering isn’t in good condition, and you can see that it’s vital to get this right.

The two main ways of tackling the problem are to take the water away with improved drainage and create a barrier to prevent the ingress of water in the first place (known as tanking) and it’s likely that most conversions will use a combination of the two. In some cases the drainage system will be supplemented with pumps if gravity isn’t going to be enough to do the job. Every situation is likely to be different so expert advice, again from at least three candidates, is critical.

Integrated Space

One of the benefits of using the basement is that it’s close to the living areas of the house. So, compared to a loft conversion, for example, the space can be more integrated into family life. Cellars have been converted into kitchens, dining rooms, playroom, garages and even offices and home cinemas! The only limit is your imagination.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • dilem
    Re: Adding A Porch
    We have a terraced house on which we would like to add a porch hoping it will reduce traffic noise coming from the road. There are exactly two…
    3 September 2019
  • Holland&holland
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    Were in the process of placing an offer on a very large welsh property. Built in the 1700s by a very well known architect. Its in a…
    26 April 2019
  • Junick
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    I own a cottage that we bought as a garage/store. It has no electric or water to the property but it was owned at one time by the…
    4 April 2019
  • Art
    Re: Adding A Porch
    Just bought new house need to build porch.. please contact on 07445430526
    3 April 2019
  • Ang
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    Hi We are buying a semi detached stone cottage built around 1814. It is not habitable . Are there any grants we can apply for ,…
    1 February 2019
  • Sheza
    Re: Renovating a Pond
    Hi I have a raised pond on my decking and I’m thinking of ways in how I could add to it so it’s bigger but I’m currently struggling in how I…
    26 January 2019
  • Dav
    Re: Adding A Porch
    Hi I've build a porch to the front of my home, it a detached house with a garage that comes out 600mm passed the front of my house which is included…
    13 January 2019
  • Mitch
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    @Vicky - you won't get a grant for this sort of revovation. No one is going to pay you to renovate your own home, sorry. Not these…
    17 September 2018
  • Dan
    Re: Adding A Porch
    Hi I’m thinking of building a porch on the front of my house and I was wondering if I can join it to my next door neighbors house because I’m in a…
    16 September 2018
  • Vicky
    Re: Getting a Renovation Grant
    Hi I am looking for funding to reinstate a farm house that is over 100 years old and has been derelict for 30years. Do you know who I…
    15 September 2018