How to turn your basement into a living space

If you are lucky enough to have a home with a basement in, which is just there, unused and ripe with potential, then your need for extra space is literally right beneath you. Basements are often the last place in a home that are considered for renovation, as they are often dark, damp and a little intimidating when it comes to home improvement projects. However, this position is just not a fair reflection of the enormous potential a basement has to become a bright, inviting bedroom, playroom, study or whatever else you had in mind. This article will offer some key tips for ensuring the project runs smoothly and the end result is one of which you can be truly proud.

What kind of room do you want?

Basements are perfect for the creation of additional living space, for expanding families. You might consider an entertainment room, with a home cinema or a versatile space incorporating play area for the kids and an entertainment hub with games consoles and TV for the whole family. You could also need a home office – which is definitely more likely now in the light of many of us working from home for the foreseeable future. There are certainly many options and another involves a fully functional utility room for the washing machine and boiler, as well as some storage space, to give your above ground area an airier, more spacious feel.

Fulfilling the regulations

Whether your basement conversion will require planning permission will depend on whether you are considering reducing your floor level. If not, then an existing basement conversion is unlikely to need planning consent. You will, however, need building regulations approval for all habitable basement conversions. You can enlist the help of a structural engineer to help ensure that any plans will fulfil these regulations and make sure that your building’s integrity is not adversely affected by your modifications.

Counting the cost

Assuming there is adequate headroom in your cellar your conversion cost should be comparable to a loft conversion, coming in at between £1,000 and £1,500 per square metre. There are additional costs to consider such as the structural engineer’s fees (around £1,500), the building regulations application (around £800), VAT and where applicable party wall surveys.

Beating the damp

Arguably the single most important factor in a successful basement conversion is waterproofing and ensuring that damp will not be a problem. The act of below ground waterproofing is referred to as ‘tanking’, which involves applying a layer of waterproof material like render on the walls in a few layers, linked to a waterproof screed on the floor. There are various materials that can be used for ‘tanking’ and it is worth asking advice as to which is most appropriate for your home. An alternative to ‘tanking’ does exist in the form of cavity drain membranes, that once installed act to constantly drain away even the tiniest of leaks and can be the most effective damp-proofing system.

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