So you’re considering a basement conversion, but not 100% sure whether your home is suitable, or if the end results are going to be right for your family.
Basement conversions used to be niche, but have skyrocketed in popularity in the last few years. This is partly because glazing has come a long way, meaning you can avoid your conversion becoming a dark hideaway, but they're also a very practical solution for people living in densely packed areas, such as London. And since they can add a whole new floor of living space, basement projects can provide a massive rise to your house price.
That being said, they’re one of the biggest projects you can take on. So before you rush on ahead, consider these points...
Is your basement suitable for conversion?
Before you start clearing out your boxes of memorabilia, it's worth checking how suitable your basement is for converting into a livable space. After all, it’s one thing to use it for storage, and another to actually live there. Here’s what you need to look out for...
Does your basement currently suffer from damp? Even small damp issues will have to be resolved before converting, and damp proofing can get expensive. However, leave damp untreated and you could have even bigger bills on your hands from things such as rotting wood.
No surprise, basements struggle to receive a lot (or any) natural light. However, you might be lucky and already have some windows in place. If not, you’ll have to calculate how you want to light this space. You might add in more light wells and windows, or go bigger and install a glass door to allow for garden access. There’s also the option of putting in a glass roof, though this is a big expense.
Conversely, not having light could work in your favour if you’re converting your space into a home cinema or swimming pool - fancy!
Because basements tend to be darker, you’ll need a decent amount of room to stop them from feeling claustrophobic. At minimum, you’ll also need at least 2.4 metres of head height. Fall short? You can always increase this by digging out and lowering the floor.
One hurdle you’ll struggle to overcome is if you’re basement is being divided into small rooms by supporting walls. These can be tricky (and costly) to remove.
How you get to your basement will be a big consideration. If you’re lucky, you’ll already have a staircase in place. If you don’t, you’ll have to consider where this will go and if you have enough space to accommodate it - not just in your basement, but in the rest of your home too.
Walls and Foundations
Period properties can be a bit of a blessing when it comes basement conversions. Unlike homes built after 1960, they tend to use timber-suspended floors, which are ideal if you need to dig down to extend your head height. Homes after 1960 tend to be made of sterner stuff, and can be more of a challenge / expense.
If you have any supporting walls it is possible to remove them, but you’ll need some good professionals on your side - not to mention a healthy budget. If you are removing supporting walls, or digging down into your foundations, you might have to get your building underpinned.