Bowling alleys? Nightclubs? A car park for the Ferrari? With space in London at an all-time premium, Londoners are creating ever more impressive basements. In prime central London, where many houses routinely change hands for millions of pounds, the new approach for increasing the house value and space is by digging deep, below ground.
In Kensington and Chelsea alone, over 800 planning permission applications for basements have been submitted in the last five years. Only 10% of these were rejected, and those are almost always resubmitted. So what is this latest trend all about? Will it actually increase a property’s value or is purely for superficial purposes? With most London streets occupying vans, diggers, rubble bearing conveyor belts, dust and noise, are the disruption and costs really worth it?
Whether homeowners are worried about the hassle and expense of moving, or are simply looking into all the possibilities of an extensive renovation on a property, creating a new basement makes more sense than you might think. Unlike a loft conversion, which offers more space but restricted movement, a basement provides a near whole new floor comparable to the ground level – or perhaps even larger. Many property experts have estimated that an underground room or rooms can in fact add an extra 20 per cent in the central districts of London –an enticing option for those keen on creating additional room in an area where space is otherwise restricted.
Here’s some other things to think about in the development of a basement project:
Natural light and ceilings are key, with innovative ideas such as sun pipes and light wells to bounce natural sun light down into the basement ensuring the space will still feel light and airy, despite the lack of windows. Here are some of the best tips we could find to keep the décor warm, welcoming and a continuation of your home.
Lighting is key in making your basement extension usable for the whole family. As they tend to suffer with low ceilings and little natural light, try pot lights or track lighting. Add some bright bulbs to give the appearance of a large, light space. Why not add ambient lighting? By using floor lamps and wall lamps you can create shadows, replicating the effect of natural light.
Always stick to light fabrics and colours, white walls will give the feeling of a bright space. Try using art to incorporate colour on the walls. Why not add some funky cushions and throws to add different patterns and textures, giving the rooms a more multi-dimensional feel.
When it comes to flooring in the basement there’s one very important thing to consider, and that is damp! Try and avoid hardwood flooring, as the moisture in the air can cause the wood to exp
and and become misshapen. If you want the look of wood without the worry, then go for laminate or engineered flooring. If you are feeling that the room is still a bit plain and cold, then try a fluffy rug to add some warmth.
If you decide to embark on one of these projects then be considerate with your proposal and ongoing works to minimise disruption to the neighbours. After all, they will be there far longer than the work will be going on. Always speak to them before embarking on your project so there’s plenty of notice given and time to work things through. Try and explain the reasons why you want to renovate and provide some information on how it will affect them and reassurance as to how their property will be protected in the party wall act insurance you will be taking out. It is important to put their mind at ease. Advice on Party Wall Insurance and dedicated renovation insurance are key tools for your project too, make sure to talk to a specialist about the protection your property and your neighbours will need.
You will need to verify the renovation under the under the Party Wall Act 1997 more than two, but less than 12, months before you start work. You can settle the nerves of your neighbours by instructing a Party Wall surveyor and be talking out specific Party Wall insurance. It may be that you also need to provide for minor repairs to your neighbour’s property as a result of the works so get proper advice and don’t presume that it won’t happen to you.
Try and keep your basement in proportion to the size of your house, a maximum of 35 per cent of the above ground floor space is a good estimation. Given the increasing number of basement works, there is a growing sentiment that restrictions should be applied. So if you are living in Central London, it may be time to think about starting an application before the luxury may be taken away, as many feel it is time to cap the number of basement renovations allowed.