We love our lofts, but what about digging down? Find out how a basement conversion could fit into your home improvement project…

It doesn’t take much searching to find a range of beautiful basement inspiration. Most of us are comfortable with building upwards, but what about the potential space in digging down? Read on to see if your next development should be upwards or downwards in your home renovation.

Basement versus loft conversions: the decisions

Without stating the obvious, if you’re already the proud owner of a loft conversion, it’s safe to assume that the basement is next on your list. However, if you have both options available, there’s definitely more to consider.

Loft spaces lend themselves beautifully to bedroom suites and studies, using the eaves and dormer spaces as an ideal nook to plan around. Cinema rooms can also be favoured at the top of the house, as long as you properly insulate against sound spreading into the sleeping rooms below. And don’t forget the most important part: space for the big screen. In a room typically full of angled ceilings, this can often be a bit of a challenge!

Lower down our list? Gyms can also have trouble in more confined spaces, as well as giving your house a bit of a rumble every time someone happens to drop a weight…

Is a loft or basement conversion more expensive?

Broadly speaking, our answer has to be basements. But if you already have a basement space and are simply looking for waterproofing and renovations, that’s far from the case. The main costs that can push basement conversions higher up your home improvement budget lie in their initial construction, so be mindful of your plans and how they suit your development.

Similarly, lofts can also carry a price tag if you’re looking to construct a new room from scratch, but as most houses already contain a loft space as storage, a simple renovation can quickly meet your needs.

The four most common scenarios for basement conversions

Generally, basements fall into 4 categories:

  1. You already have a basement and are happy with the size and shape, but it could do with a refurbish
  2. You have a basement and are unhappy with it. Perhaps the size, shape or head height aren’t comfortable for you? You may also want better outside access, or new light wells
  3. Your current house doesn’t have a basement and you would like to create a brand new space as part of a home improvement project (note: excavating a basement under an existing building counts as a lateral extension)
  4. You are constructing a brand new building with a basement addition as part of your design.

Do I need planning permission for my basement conversion?

This is an area that does need some attention. If in doubt, check with your local authority, but if you already have a basement space on your property that just needs refurbishment or improving, you’re fine to go right ahead.

Intend to create new access from outside or add light wells? Consult your local planning department. It’s a quick and easy way to get an expert opinion – as well as being free! A general rule of thumb is that if it changes the way your home looks from outside, planning will likely be needed. A very helpful resource and a good place to start is the planning portal. The LABC also has some very helpful guidance.

Why surveyors and engineers may be your new best friends

Digging down doesn’t come with its own problems for the unprepared. Historically, entire terraces of houses have been rendered structurally unsound by enthusiastic work! With good planning, you can make sure that this isn’t your story.

Make sure you start your improvement on the right foot. Always seek the expert advice of a party wall surveyor to gauge impact on your neighbours and find a structural engineer with the relevant experience.

As with all building and home improvement projects, preparation is key. Doing the homework and getting the paperwork straight will benefit you greatly in the long run, such as making sure that you have the correct insurances in place before anyone so much as picks up a shovel. Besides, you can shift your focus to getting started once you have your structural engineer on board!

It’s not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to basement conversions

Each basement project needs to be approached on an individual basis. Consider the type of project you’re looking to start, the desired end use, situation, budget and constraints. It’s important not to forget that factors like your property’s ground make up and water table are also key components in your planning. Is there existing drainage? Or perhaps shared services cross your land? A little bit of research can help shape how your home improvement develops!

Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t worry. Get in touch and one of our experts will be delighted to point you in the right direction and help you get your project off (or under) the ground!

Our expert builders at A. Mann Building Contractors are here to discuss your building project in Kent and Sussex. Please call us on T: 0330 128 1021 or email: ambuilding@hotmail.co.uk